Must Do’s in Manchester, UK

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Thanks to one of Virgin Atlantic’s latest routes, Bostonians can now hop over the pond to one of the U.K.’s increasingly popular destinations, Manchester! For someone who has been to the U.K. more than most, I was excited to explore a new city – checking out some amazing cafes & restaurants, exploring the bar scene, catching up on the latest street art, and making new friends! I was so fortunate to be traveling with two other influencers: Kira (@kiraamaa) and Marisel (@mariselmsalazar); we all got to pal around and experience the city together, meaning more food to try, different perspectives on art, and someone to cheers with at Bongo’s Bingo!! (I’ll get to that.) Below I’ve listed, what I think, are all the major must-do’s when you’re in the city, with some tips and tricks in there for good measure.

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We all know having a comfortable place to rest your head at the end of a long day of exploring is crucial. For those seeking a dose of luxury – I recommend staying at The Principal Manchester. High ceilings, big bath tubs, and gorgeous fixtures make this a perfect urban oasis. As an added bonus, they have a beautiful restaurant that is popular amongst Manchester’s most stylish. Be sure to get breakfast included in your rate, as their morning buffet is a tasty and convenient way to start the day.

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Manchester is a city with a lot going on. For any sports fan, grabbing tickets to a Manchester City or Manchester United game is a must. The rivalry in the city is always a fun topic of conversation at the pub, in a taxi, or anywhere really. And, what’s better than a city buzzing from an eventful match?! For a fun night out, I can’t recommend enough going to Bongo’s Bingo. When I first saw this pop up on our itinerary, I was a little skeptical – adult bingo?! But, trust me, this was such a fun experience. Thinking dancing on tables, inappropriate British humor, all the best song’s from the late 90’s and, of course, bingo. I didn’t win anything, but after a few drinks, dancing to B*Witched and making friends with our table mates, it didn’t matter.

There are so many tasty dining options in Manchester! Breakfast and brunch are taken very seriously in this city, so I suggest investing time in exploring this scene to start your days if your breakfast isn’t included in your accommodations. Some of my top picks include: Evelyn’s Cafe Bar where you should try one of their colorful lattes, Federal Cafe Bar in the Northern Quarter. They also just opened a location in Deansgate! Alberts Schloss for all of the tasty cocktails and big booths for brunch with a big group. They also have amazing flower installations in their front doorway that are perfect for photos.

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For all other meals, it’s really hard to go wrong. Where The Light Gets In is, as expected, a light and airy space with casual, but attentive service. Their dining room only seats 30 people, so a reservation is a must. If steak is more your thing, the Hawksmoor has your name written all over it.  This is a perfect spot for date night, especially if you have plans to head the the theatre after. A tasting menu is always a must-have on any culinary adventure; I recommend giving WOOD a visit. They only take two seatings on weekends for this particular menu, so book in advance if possible as well. and, if you’re like me, sushi is always at the top of my “to taste” list wherever I go. Umezushi does not disappoint. In fact, you may never be able to buy grocery store sushi again after a visit to this quality spot.

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Only have a short time in the city? Take a tour of Manchester with John Consterdine of Manchester Taxi Tours. He’ll take you to every corner of the city that is worth mentioning in the history books (and maybe even some scandalous history you won’t hear from the more formal sources). John happens to be a riot, as well, and kept the three of us jet lagged gals roaring in the back seat.

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If you’re looking for a good excuse to discover the city by foot, the street art is worth seeking out. In the Northern Quarter, street art can be found below your feet, on electric boxes, phone booths, abandoned buildings, and on store shutters. If you’re down for another tour, you can be guided around the city and see some art that you may not have noticed, or take to the streets yourself for a colorful journey!

Manchester is one of my most pleasant surprises since I started traveling. I didn’t really know what to expect, especially because London gets all the love, but this city was an absolute gem, and I can’t wait to go back!

Staying Healthy On-the-Go with ellura


There are bad days, and then there are ​really​ bad days. The ones where I find myself curled up on the floor of the shower in the middle of the night just waiting for a nearby pharmacy to be open, so I can get antibiotics to treat one of my four UTIs that year certainly qualifies as a ​really bad day. Sometimes those days get even worse — and it’s usually because I’m traveling while this is all happening. Imagine being in a country where you don’t speak the language, your pharmacist has no authority to call in a prescription, and you can barely stand up straight, let alone start knocking down doors in hopes of getting the medication you need to treat this common, but often taboo, condition. Long story short, UTIs while traveling suck.

When I first approached ​ellura​ about collaborating, I wondered, “Why is it so easy to chat about having a UTI with your group of girlfriends, but the minute I contemplate sharing my story to my followers I start to clam up?”  



According to the ​National Center for Biotechnology Information​, UTIs account for nearly 25% of all bacterial infections in women, and 50–60% of women will experience a UTI in their lifetime. Let that sink in for a minute. Empowered with these statistics, it’s no mystery why we can find 15+ different products in the local pharmacy to treat the symptoms of a UTI, but where is there a product outside of low-dose antibiotics that doesn’t have (for a lack of a better description) crappy long-term side effects for us and helps to prevent these from happening in the first place?

I asked myself this question… and then my physician… and then a urologist. For those who don’t know, UTIs can be caused by a myriad of circumstances. For example, staying in a wet bathing suit too long, wearing spandex (yes, really), some forms of contraception, using a tampon, immobility for a long period of time, and most commonly, being intimate. Doesn’t really sound like there’s much hope for us avoiding them, does it? Fortunately, for me, by the time I was asking my urologist this question, I was finally met with a solution. A supplement that I could take every day, or just in the instances when I think I would need it: ellura. For me, long flights and tropical vacations where I’m in and out of the water are both killers. Up until finding ellura, I had gotten used to traveling with an arsenal of medications to help in any circumstance, but now, I can just take this supplement and know that I am preventing another ​really bad day.

ellura also has a really convenient on-demand dosing: ellura Intimate, same formula, but comes in a smaller package and you can take it if you’re prone to UTIs around specific moments. (Intimate moments being the #1 reason: about 80% of women who get a UTI have had sex within the prior 24 hours).

You can learn more here about how ellura Intimate works. As cited on their website, ellura Intimate contains 36 mg PAC (proanthocyanidins) – the active ingredient found in pure cranberry juice concentrate (different from the cranberry supplements you find in stores) and shown to attach to UTI-causing bacteria so the bacteria doesn’t attach to your bladder and cause an infection.

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Now, it’s a relief to know that when I’m traveling, I’m in control, and not at the mercy of a nuisance that so many women are afraid to talk about. Our symptoms are so often minimized, but for those of you who have had the unpleasant experience of a UTI, you know the writhing pain and anger that comes along with this all too typical condition. After reading this blog post, I know some of you can relate to my story, and have probably had similar experiences. I want to be conscious of the fact that there is not one solution for everyone, but I am grateful that this is an option that I discovered that worked for me. If you’re reading this post nodding your head, and saying ​“Yassss girl, I feel you,” out loud, it might be time to start looking at another solution. I implore to do your research, talk to your doctor, and ask about ellura. It could be your new favorite travel buddy.  

New customers receive $15 off a box/bottle of ellura. Just enter my code: REGAN at or click here to apply to the cart.

A Day Around the Colosseum

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Visiting the Colosseum can be a bit of an overwhelming process, especially for a first-timer! Needing to get tickets in advance, debating whether to join a tour, navigating the crowds, finding food after… there’s a lot to consider! Fortunately, I have visited this historical landmark once before, and I had a few tricks up my sleeve. When I knew that this was something my boyfriend and I wanted to explore, it was a no brainer to stay nearby at the Palazzo Manfredi — the hotel with the best view of the Colosseum in Rome, and so close that you’re literally neighbors with the old training quarters with gladiators. How cool is that?!

We started our morning with a tasty breakfast, and as you can see by the photos, an even more appealing view. No question this is exactly how you want to start your day in Rome!

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After we were fueled up and ready to go, it was time to get our tickets. Luckily, we visited Rome in January, meaning smaller crowds during the slow season. Normally, I would suggest getting your tickets as far in advance as possible, but we were able to book same day with the helpful concierge team a our hotel. They printed the tickets our for us and we were able to skip the line upon entry. If you have an upcoming stay, I would advise reaching out to your hotel to have them book the tickets for you, as they know which options are best.

Once inside, you’ll notice that the arena floor is still under a massive renovation, while the top levels have been opened up to the public for the first time. This may hinder your ability to take unobstructed photos of certain parts of the landmark, but watching the renovation is pretty interesting! However, if this bothers you, you may be waiting some time until you can see the Colosseum as it used to be. In fact, it looks like they’re going to rebuild the arena floor to bring it back to it’s original glory. Not sure how I feel about this development, but it is imminent.

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While you’re meandering around, you’ll see groups of people on tours, often called ‘gladiator tours,’ or something similar. I have a love-hate relationship with tours; I think they’re a good idea for some and a bad idea for others. I typically fall in the latter group, especially when there are swarms of tour guides around wherever you’re visiting. In that vein, be sure to steer clear of those soliciting right outside of the Colosseum. They are typically a rip-off, and you’re better off booking your tour in advance with the recommendation of your concierge. If you’re rocking that AirBnB life, and keen on getting guided around the arena, I would check out these TripAdvisor reviews for the best options.

One thing to keep in mind that stinks about visiting the Colosseum, especially in the high season, is that you can’t spend as much time as you’d like wandering the columns. Your ticket is assigned with an entry and exit time to ensure that the halls don’t get too crowded. To that end, a tour may be a good idea. Knowing that your time is limited will definitely be the decision-maker for those of you visiting in the near future.

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If you’re lucky enough to score a late morning/early afternoon session at the Colosseum, that means you can enjoy lunch at Aroma in the Palazzo Manfredi when you’re done. If you claim to be a lover of fine dining like myself, this multi-course lunch will be right up your alley. Scroll down to see just a few of my favorite courses, including an apple dessert that still comes to me in daydreams, and wasn’t really an apple at all. If you are lucky enough to score a reservation, be sure to get the wine pairings – their wine program is impressive, and some of the funkier selections really surprised the palette and made for an even more adventurous dining experience.

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Fourteen (yes, fourteen!) courses later, I found myself in culinary bliss. To walk off lunch, I encourage you to take a stroll through Monti, stopping at the shops on Via Urbana, like LOL, and find your way back to the Colosseum just in time for an epic sunset. Finish your night kicking your feet up in the tub at the Palazzo Manfredi, and you’ve had yourself a perfect day!

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Why It’s Worth It To Stay in the Heart of Rome

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For the first night in Rome, it was important for me to stay in Center City. Why? Well, this being my second time staying in Rome for more than a day, I knew that I wanted to be out the door and walking distance to some of my favorite landmarks around the city. One of the biggest faux pas I see first time Rome-goers make is staying too far outside of the city, and ending up spending more on taxis getting to where they want to go, than their actual hotel room. Because of this, I ended up choosing the DOM Hotel, which is a intimate, 18 guest room property on historic Via Giulia. This former Claretian monestary, now chic boutique hotel, honors its history, while integrating modern design and art, like three original Andy Warhol lithographs.

The rooms are pretty spacious considering where you’re staying in the city, and in such a historical building. A jack and jill bathroom includes a spacious shower, and the high ceilings open up the room tremendously. Additionally, the hotel boasts a rooftop, which I’m sure is quite busy come summertime, looking down at one of the many squares in the Campo de’ Fiori neighborhood.

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Our plan for the first morning in the city was to eat a big breakfast, go to the furthest point we wanted to see that day, and work our way back to the hotel in time to freshen up for dinner at our favorite Roman spot – Roscioli Salumeria con Cucina.

Ultimately, I wanted to start our morning with an Audrey Hepburn moment on the Spanish Steps. Who doesn’t?! We took an Uber from our hotel to the top of the steps, but you can definitely walk along the Tiber River to start your morning, burn off your breakfast, and wait for your espresso (or tea for me) to kick in! From the Spanish Steps, we went to Caffè Greco – an 18th century cafe where Keats & Byron drank coffee at the marble tables. I highly recommend grabbing a hot chocolate and the panna cotta.

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After enjoying a sweet treat and a historic reprieve, it’s time to head to the Trevi Fountain. Fun fact: €3,000 are thrown in the Trevi Fountain daily! The coins are collected by the city and donated to charity. Head all the way down to the bottom right-hand side of the fountain for the most unobstructed view for a photo. Afterward, we walked to the Pantheon – it only takes ten minutes or so. If you have a hankering for amazing antipasti, grab lunch at famous Armando al Pantheon. Be sure to make reservations in advance, as they fill up quickly for the day. If you don’t make a res in time, you can also head to Pietro al Pantheon where they have some pretty big portions, tasty pasta, and fun decor to play I-spy with while you wait for your next course.

Finally, we took an obligatory stroll through the Piazzo Navona before heading back to the DOM Hotel. Unfortunately, we got caught in the rain, so didn’t get any photos, but it is a beautiful Piazza, and one of the most popular in the city. Once back in the hotel, the concierge gave us a few stellar recommendations for dinner. As mentioned earlier in this post, Roscioli Salumeria con Cucina ended up being our favorite dinner in Rome, and we were so grateful to the hotel team for pointing us in the right direction.

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At the risk of completely gushing about this restaurant, I’m sharing just a few of the highlights: The service was top notch. The cocktail program & wine list was beyond impressive. And, the food…. well let’s just say, we went back a second time during our five days in Rome it was that good. I recommend starting with the traditional tuna and artichokes, then enjoying the best cacio e pepe I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting, and finishing with their tiramisu.

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Staying in the heart of City Center is definitely the move (at least for a portion of your trip), especially if you’re looking to see a lot of the hard-hitting sites. Because the DOM Hotel is so close to many of the iconic destinations in Rome, this is the perfect property to start and end your day. There are so many other cute shops, restaurants, and Instagrammable buildings to see, but I feel like this is a great first full day in the city, and recommend following a similar itinerary, particularly if it is your first time in The Eternal City.


Where to Eat: Lisbon

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One thing my research on Lisbon didn’t prepare me for is just how good the food is! After walking up and down hills exploring the picturesque neighborhoods around the city, you definitely work up an appetite, and the food scene in Lisbon is more than willing to serve up whatever your heart desires. I’ve broken down some of my favorite places that suit any taste. Whether you’re looking for a coffee shop for a quick pick-me-up, a classic seafood joint, or something sweet, this guide has you covered!

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While the merits of breakfast being the most important meal of the day are debatable, there’s no denying the joy of starting your morning with a tasty latte and a snack (or two). I was so thankful when several of you mentioned that I had to check out Hello, Kristof on Poço dos Negros. This cozy little cafe with an interior that would make any designer swoon is a perfect spot to post up.

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Grab a matcha latte with oat milk and any of their toasts for a bite that will wake the senses and start your day on the right foot.  If you find the cafe to be a bit crowded, you can walk down less than a block and find yourself at Break; also carrying tasty toasts and a killer matcha latte to boot, this nondescript restaurant appeals more to locals than its trendy neighbor. I recommend trying the shakshuka or any of their baked goods (while they last). Coincidentally, the third place for breakfast that is worth a stop is also on this same street. The mill features colorful plates with equally vibrant food. This Australian-Portuguese café puts a spin on the Lisboan classics and boasts a specialty coffee menu fit for a caffeine connoisseur.

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Some of you may recall the three-night trip giveaway I did with giving one winner an escape to Lisbon almost a year ago today. It also included an experience at the TimeOut Market , host to 24 restaurants, 8 bars, a dozen shops, and even a music venue. When I was in Lisbon, I knew I had to stop here to taste as many concepts as I could! This a great place to gather with a group of friends, or grab a quick bite on the go. It’s also perfect if you’re traveling with an adventurous or picky eater because you can order from several concepts at once, meaning everyone’s happy! Don’t be fooled by the casual setting though — this valhalla of cultural cuisine packs a flavorful punch and with a touch of refinement.

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Looking for something more traditional? There are plenty of seafood locales that skip the pomp and circumstance, and focus on the thing that truly matters… the food. Looking into the windows of Zapata, you’ll see the daily catch, with a variety of selfish, including prawns, clams and barnacles. For the seasoned traveler, the appeal of a restaurant like this doesn’t only lie in the fresh, simple taste of traditional dishes, but also in the company at neighboring tables.

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One of the more popular restaurants with this reputation for straightforward food without embellishment is Ramiro. Popularity grew after Anthony Bourdain’s visit to the restaurant while filming No Reservations. Not much has changed since his visit, however they now have tablets for ordering instead of physical menus, and there are definitely more tourists there than before. The service is transactional, but quick, and food is brought out as it is prepared. Typically, they are known to have a line out the door, but we used this as a late-night food destination, meaning we didn’t have to stand outside before chowing down around midnight. Prawns and clams were quickly devoured, but the real gem of this spot is their steak sandwich, or locally known as a prego. Honestly, I could probably eat an entire dinner completely comprised of this savory, mouthwatering snack.

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My boyfriend and I have different approaches when it comes to dining out. He famously says that he is “too big for tapas”, meaning small dishes and more refined cuisine don’t quite fill him up, whereas I’m perfectly happy chasing gastronomical experiences, which may mean smaller plates. I have a feeling the men in your life may feel the same way, making eating out with your loved one a little complicated abroad. However, with the help of the concierge team at the Palacio Belmonte, we dined at a few restaurants during our time in Lisbon that we walked out both smiling at the end of the meal.  The first, being Taberna Bairro do Avillez. One of the less fancy iterations of José Avillez’ many restaurant concepts in Lisbon, this place cooks “hearty” small plates in a laid-back atmosphere.

But, one date night stands out amongst the rest. Across the Tagus to Almada you will find yourself with one of the best views in the city in what feels like the middle of nowhere. The restaurant we were headed to is called Ponto Final. Normally, one can take the ferry across the river, but our schedules didn’t quite align with the departure times. Instead, our Uber dropped us off at the start of a long walkway, which led to a 50m tall elevator. You take the elevator down and walk along the ocean on an open, unlit walkway. The ten minute walk feels like ages, and then you start to wonder if there is even a restaurant down this path at all. “Are we walking into a scene out of a horror movie?!” Those words left my mouth just as we reached the final corner. And to our surprise, we were met by small storefront with glass doors, and home to a restaurant with classic Portuguese dishes served family style, a formidable wine list, and some mango desserts that would knock your socks off. I think that was one of our favorite nights together as a couple, and I look back on it fondly. If you’re visiting with a loved one, I hope it serves a little magic to you as well.

Pasteis in Lisbon

There is no visiting Lisbon without snacking on something sweet. Pastéis de nata is breakfast for most locals, but visitors usually devour them at all hours of the day. I became partial to the ones served by Manteigaria, but other options like Versailles, Pastelaria Alcôa, and Confeitaria Nacional are sure to tickle your tastebuds just the same. While the pastéis de nata were sinfully good, there was one dessert that had us crawling back for seconds; in fact, it ended up being our breakfast on our way to the airport. The cake from Landeau Chocolate. Holy smokes. If you take any advice from this blog post, it is to not only go to Landeau, but to get your own piece, and don’t share a single bite with anyone else. You will not be disappointed.

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Have another recommendation of where to eat in Lisbon? Let me know in the comments below 🙂

Sharing Walls with a Castle at the Palacio Belmonte

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Within the walls of the São Jorge Castle, this previous noble family residence, now serves as an oasis to sophisticated, but not pretentious, world travelers in Lisbon. A typical guest at the Palacio Belmonte is not looking to be burdened by bellhops touting top hats, or for the comfort of knowing fellow guests are in rooms with identical amenities. No, instead, they’re looking for connection with fellow intrepid souls who appreciate the finer things in life, such as a property that boasts ten unique suites, 1700’s Portuguese tile covered walls, a carefully curated contemporary art collection.

One of the many perks of calling this one-of-a-kind property home during your stay in Lisbon is your proximity to popular sites without feeling like you’re being overrun by site-seers. Less than a 5-minute walk away, you find yourself at the base of the the São Jorge Castle, which is perfect for a few hours of exploring and getting the best views of the city.

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Starting your morning in Bartolomeu de Gusmão Terrace Suite, named one of the most beautiful suites in the world by Condé Nast, you are treated to natural light spilling into your first floor living area, complimented by spectacular views of blue water and the red roof covered skyline of Alfama dancing in the windows. Breakfast is brought to your suite at an hour of your choosing; meaning you have ample time to take advantage of your bath robes and claim victory over a crossword puzzle. While we elected to devour our morning sustenance inside, you can take it to the top of the tower where you have an unparalleled perspective of the city from your private terrace. This lookout not only serves as the best place to start your day, it is worth ending there with a cigar and night cap as well. Bonus: you can purchase Cubans in Chiado for those inclined to give into their inner Groucho Marx.

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After you’re done taking in the city from above, it’s time to tour the hilly streets of Lisbon. Workout equipment would be wasted at the Palacio Belmonte because, as the owner likes to point out, “the entire city is a gym,” thanks to its many ups and downs. Strap on your sneakers or boots and get ready for lots of walking, while simultaneously snacking up on Portugal’s most famous dessert, Pastéis de Nata. Cafes featuring their own iteration of the custard filled pastry, paying homage to the original recipe birthed in the 1830’s abound, and there’s no harm in trying them all during your urban hike.

Chatting with alfacinhas (Portugal’s affectionate nickname for Lisbon city dwellers), you’ll be pointed to their favorite bookstore, like Livraria do Simão, or the most underrated miradouro in Lisbon, or an off-the-beaten-path tinned fish shop like Conserveira de Lisboa. Of course, if you’re looking for recommendations, you can always ask the personnel at the Palacio Belmonte; they provided us with the best guidance during our stay.

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After a long day, it bodes well to return to the ballroom with a good book, grab yourself a complimentary cocktail while you challenge your travel companion to a game of backgammon, or thumb through their CD collection to bring familiar (or new) sounds back to your suite to set the mood. However you choose the close our your evening here, it is sure to be a memorable one — as will your stay.

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A Royal Stay in Lisbon

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When I was searching for a spot to stay in Lisbon, I wanted a unique property, and something felt like an oasis without being too far from the center of the city. A few of you have actually asked me how I search for the hotels that I stay in, and to be honest, it’s not really that complicated. It’s a combination of “thumbing through” Instagram, browsing Mr. & Mrs. Smith, reaching out to friends for personal anecdotes of their recent stays, and checking TripAdvisor & Telegraph reviews. I cross-section all of my research on these platforms, and usually end up with a list of 5-15 properties that suit my fancy. Okay, so maybe it’s not the most straightforward. But, I generally like my system and find that it directs me to one-of-a-kind experiences, and accommodations that meet my needs.

Ah yes, my needs. My mom likes to joke that she loves traveling with me because the places I stay in “aren’t horrible”. (Yes, this is dripping in sarcasm). It’s no secret that I have a pension for luxury, personal service, and show-stopping amenities. Enter the Olissippo Lapa Palace.

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Situated on a hill, with a view of the Atlantic Ocean, and old world vibes that are apparent the minute you pull up to the property, Lapa Palace was the ideal start to my trip to Lisbon. From the ornate tile composition at the entryway, to an impressive lobby that transports you back in time to when this property was an actual palace, this Lisbon retreat was a welcome sight after our red-eye from Boston.

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There’s no shortage of beautiful parts of the property to ooh and ahh at, including a fountain several stories high built into the side of the hotel & an outdoor pool and patio perfect for sunbathing, but there’s also quite a few amenities that make this stay a true value. For starters, the weather wasn’t quite warm enough for us to enjoy the outdoor pool, so taking a dip the indoor heated pool is a pretty sweet alternative. Their gym was pretty sizable, especially for a European property – most of them you can barely fit two people working out, but there were a good amount of machines and swanky locker rooms. Given the number of pieces of chocolate cake from Landeau I ate, and the portions sizes at Ponto Final, I was grateful to have a dedicated space to break a sweat.

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If I’m pulling the trigger on a hotel, as opposed to an AirBnB, I also need to have breakfast included. That’s kind of a non-negotiable for me because there are so many benefits to having breakfast where you’re staying: 1) you don’t have to worry about scouring your neighborhood for a spot to eat – especially on days that you’re planning a lot of sightseeing, 2) there’s a hard end time to breakfast, meaning you don’t sleep in too much and waste your morning on your trip, and 3) they’re often open earlier than other breakfast places in the area to cater to business travelers. This means if you have a scheduled activity starting pretty early in the morning, you don’t have to go through the whole thing hungry. All this well-deserved pump up talk about breakfast leads me to saying that Lapa Palace has a pretty impressive spread in the morning. I genuinely enjoyed starting my days with a pot of tea, some bacon, and fresh cut mango. I mean… doesn’t get much better than that!

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The icing on the cake, though, is really the view. Walking into our room, and out onto our balcony took my breath away when we first arrived. And, there’s something about that first impression that just stays with you.

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At the end of our stay, I was a bit sad to leave the friendly staff and pink walls of Lapa Palace, but even the view on the way out is a good one! Driving through the gates one final time and down the hills of Lisbon wasn’t the worst way to end our time in that part of the city. If you have a chance to stay here, I’m sure you’ll feel the same.

Yes, You Need to Go to Puerto Rico in 2019

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In late 2017, Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico and Dominica, leaving the large majority of the affected areas totally devastated. San Juan and surrounding communities have begun to bounce back, while the entire island is still struggling with the destruction in the wake of the storm. More than a year later, economists have estimated a$43 billion dollar economic impact, entire communities in southeast Puerto Rico are still struggling with housing and basic infrastructure needs, and nearly 4% of the population has actually left the island in hopes of finding a better quality of life.

When I was invited to travel down to Puerto Rico last month, I confess, I had an initial hesitation — not because I was concerned about my safety, or because I was averse to witnessing the aftermath of Maria, but I thought to myself, “Is this really a trip I want to recommend to my readers and followers right now? Is Puerto Rico ready to support the type of tourism that is needed for them to continue on the road to recovery?” But, then I remembered how eager I was to see San Juan as the thriving community I had heard it to be from friends & family who had visited pre-storm. The stories of community, generosity, and kindness superseded that of worry and devastation. Less than a day later, I confirmed the trip.

A few weeks later, I hopped a direct flight from Boston to San Juan (JetBlue flights are as low as $133 right now) and found myself in Old San Juan, surrounded by color, smiling faces, and countless corners to explore. For the trip, home base was the Hotel El Convento, a renovated convent with a storied past, in the middle of the city. The property boasts cheery yellow walls, exposed mahogany beams, a courtyard perfect for lounging, and welcome drinks that will put even the weariest of travelers in a good mood. Their suites are expansive, and the rooftop plunge pool overlooking the city certainly didn’t hurt either.

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On subsequent days during our trip, I also had the pleasure of exploring the Condado Vanderbilt (including a spa appointment that was top notch) and La Concha Resort & Spa. If you’re looking for accommodation situated on the beach, either of these make an enjoyable option. As an added bonus, the Condado Vanderbilt also is home to one of the tastiest dinners on the island courtesy of 1919 Restaurant. Their poolside dining is also quite delicious, giving you an excuse to not move from your beach chair all day long, if you so desire.

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Outside of the hotels, dining options abound in San Juan, and I encourage you to put your ‘foodie’ hat on and take part in the many culinary adventures that await.  So many of you kindly reached out to me prior to my trip to recommend tasty spots (thank you!), but the restaurant that kept coming up was Marmalade, and for good reason! Getting a reservation can be tough in the high season, so be sure to plan ahead, but just like many of you, I couldn’t recommend this dining experience highly enough. Don’t leave without trying the white bean soup, and if you are vegan or vegetarian, be prepared for so many options that are rarely found in restaurants of this caliber.

If you’re looking for something a bit more low-key than Marmalade and 1919 for dinner, you can eat your way through all the Puerto Rican classics at Lote 23, a gastronomic oasis located in San Juan’s art and music district known as Santurce. Essentially, you make your rounds from stand to stand eating that proprietor’s prized dish. Send your friends out on a mission to collect what they think the three tastiest items will be (including drinks!), and come together for a smorgasbord that is simply satisfying. Everything I tried was delicious, so you really can’t go wrong!

What would vacation be without a few cocktails? A must have for drinks is Santaella – a local hot spot that hosts a cool crowd even on week nights. Don’t leave without trying the Tamarind Margarita, and one of their many tasty desserts. La Factoría is also an institution that cannot be missed. The multi-room bar has been dubbed one of the world’s top 50 bars, and is  home to the famous Lavender Mule. Have a few for me on your visit, and stay for dancing until the wee hours.

For my final night, I enjoyed a few drinks at La Factoría and made my way back into my comfy bed at the Hotel El Convento before waking up early to wander around Old San Juan with my camera for a few hours. Below, see just handful of about 100 photos that I took, and loved, from my meanderings in this historic part of town.

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After just a couple days on-island, it’s clear: Puerto Rico is poised for a serious comeback. San Juan was absolutely thriving, and deserves to make it onto your travel list for 2019. The friendliness of everyone I encountered on my trip has me already craving to go back! I genuinely feel like I’ve made great friends, and was so thankful for all of their guidance and recommendations for a memorable stay in their community.

Have plans to make your way to San Juan or other parts of the island next year? Let me know if the comments.

Luxury in Nova Scotia’s Northumberland Shore

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Earlier this year, my boyfriend and I journeyed up to Nova Scotia, and for a portion of our trip, we got to explore the Northumberland Shore. It was our first international trip together (although, does Canada really count?!), and I wanted to enjoy a bit of luxury with him. After some extensive research, I found Fox Harb’r Resort, located in a little town, Wallace, on the northern coast of Nova Scotia. Known mostly for their golfing (the course has hosted the likes of Tiger Woods, Charles Barkley, and swing coach, Hank Haney), it is a mecca in the warmer months for those looking hit the links. However, I am no golfer; I’ve been brought to the driving range a few times by family members, but never took to the sport. Fortunately, Fox Harb’r boasts tranquil views, has a spa that rivals other resorts I’ve stayed in around the world, and a sporting clay course, which I was especially excited for! Essentially, this destination is a must-visit in Nova Scotia, whether you’re the type of traveler who checks a bag of golf clubs, or not.

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The surrounding area is very quiet. But, after a bit of googling, we did find a breakfast spot that we ended up loving on our first morning  — Whirligigs. A giant pot of tea, eggs benedict ,with salmon, of course, and some homemade pastries fueled us up for a day of exploring around the area. Much like any other restaurants in the region, you don’t need to make a reservation, you just stop by and will be treated like you’re at home.

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Our day consisted of hitting a few local gems, including Seafoam Lavendar Farm, where I picked up a few goodies for my mom, and Rushton’s Beach featuring a picturesque path to the water, and if you’re lucky, you’ll spot a wide variety of birds as well. If you’re looking for a place to enjoy a packed lunch, or just go for a stroll, Rushton’s is an ideal option.

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After a bit of exploring, we made it back to our suite, and enjoyed a soak in our massive tub. I would love to go back up here in the winter time and sit in a bubble bath watching the snow fall one day with a cup of tea in my hand. Sigh. We crashed soon after our soak, and frankly slept like babies.

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The next day we woke up slow, enjoyed a cup of tea on the balcony and got ourselves ready to enjoy a round of shooting on the resorts sporting clay course. This particular property has a 15-acre shooting course and a five-stand. We opted for the five-stand to fine tune specific types of shots — I still need a bit of work on the rabbit. We even turned it into a competition, naturally. I obviously won with flying colors (even though my boyfriend would try to convince you otherwise!). If you have never gone shooting before, starting at a place like this, with trained professionals, different types of guns that suit your body type, and detailed instruction, is always how I would recommend to start. Even as someone who has done a decent amount of shooting in my day, I always enjoy coming to a place like this to sharpen my skills and have a bit of fun.

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After some shooting, it was off to the spa. We treated ourselves to a couple’s body scrub and massage – yasssss. Their staff was incredibly professional; we left feeling relaxed, and as smooth as a baby’s bottom! If you haven’t experienced a body scrub treatment before, I highly recommend!! I get routine salt scrubs at home, and it is a serious game changer for my skin. After our treatments, it was time for a swim. As you can see from the shot below, their pool is housed in a gorgeous building full of light and space to relax with a good book. I’m still working through my book now, but was happy to tick off a couple chapters.

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Then, it was back to enjoy the sunset from our deck. The ocean seems to go on forever up here, and I loved getting the drone out, so I could see even more of the property that we didn’t have time to explore on foot. We ate dinner at a local hole-in-the-wall in town that night, crushing a burger and pie. Can’t go wrong with a little comfort food! The next day, we got a final workout in and checked out in the early afternoon. Our flight out of Halifax wasn’t until later that night, so we made a quick trip to Jost Vineyards to try (and buy) some local wine, and have a quick lunch. The Great Big Friggin’ Red was one of our favorite wines, but I also found myself really enjoying the L’Acadie Blanc, as well. Before this trip, I had no idea they even made wine in Nova Scotia — this was a pleasant surprise and a great way to end the trip!

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When I first started planning my trip to Nova Scotia, I was worried that the trip wouldn’t be my ‘speed’. Don’t get me wrong, I love nature, long drives, and good views, but if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I also love a little bit of pampering, good food, and a touch or two of luxury. The experience we had in the Northumberland Shore proves that with a little research, you can always build a vacation that is perfect for you, and I’m thankful that we got the best of both worlds on this trip!

Travel Guide: Philadelphia

Living in Boston, the city of brotherly love has always been one of those elusive destinations that was too far for a day trip, but not quite far enough for a weekend. When the Ritz Carlton offered to have me visit, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to discover a city I had only previously visited on work trips, and haven’t really had a chance to explore.

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Dress: Becken, Bag: Aspinal of London, Boots: M.Gemi

One of the perks of staying at the Ritz is the fact that you are smack dab in the middle of City Center, meaning you can walk everywhere. There’s a couple of great breakfast spots, coffee shops, and landmarks less than a 15-minute walk away. The most notable landmark is City Hall, which not only boasts some seriously breathtaking architecture, but has a pretty fun history as well. You can book guided tours, or just walk around (and through) the building yourself. IMG_3050Processed with VSCO with m6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with m6 preset

Even if you aren’t staying at the Ritz, it is always a good idea to swing in to see their show-stopping lobby, grab a cocktail at the bar, or even sit down for a tasty meal at Aqimero.  The restaurant serves as a perfect place to post up for a business lunch, or enjoy a few snacks before heading out for your evening. I recommend the charcuterie board and the baos.

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My trip to Philly wasn’t all vacation, so I did need to find a few spots where I could post up and catch up on my emails. One of the tastiest, and most focus-inducing, discoveries was the oat milk matcha latte from Elixr Coffee on Sydenham Street. They have a decent number of tables, and it really was the best matcha I’ve ever had. Note to self: drink more tea lattes with oat milk — yum! Next, I fueled up over at P.S. & Co. with an açai bowl. If you’re looking to eat and do work, you have to snag one of their window seats, though. They don’t allow laptops in any other part of the cafe.

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Sweater: Artizia

One of my favorite things to do in any city is explore their street art. Not only does it make for fun photos, but I’m always in awe of the creations that artists manage to achieve on buildings around the city. Philly happens to be known for the wide selection of street art, and it is definitely worth giving yourself half a day to explore. You can find out a ton of information on the Mural Arts Philadelphia website, and they even have tours if you don’t want to build your own itinerary of pieces to see. 

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Sweater: Madewell, Coated Denim: Paige, Boots: M.Gemi

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Speaking of art, there is an inspiring installation in Philly called the Magic Gardens. I actually discovered this place when I was searching on Pinterest for things to do (and photography) in the city. And, what a gem this was! I am always such an advocate for using Pinterest when exploring new places, and the Philly Magic Gardens experience was no exception. This little nook in the South Street neighborhood took 17 years for artist, Isaiah Zagar to excavate and design – a large portion was done so under the radar. In 2002, the Boston-based owner of the lots discovered Zagar’s installation and decided to sell the land, calling for the work to be dismantled. (Noooooo!) Unwilling to witness the destruction of the now-beloved neighborhood art environment, the community rushed to support the artist. After a two year legal battle, his creation, newly titled Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, became incorporated as a nonprofit organization with the intention of preserving the artwork at the PMG site and throughout the South Street region. 1

Needless to say, this was one of my favorite items on the agenda in Philly, and I’m really glad the installation lives on!

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Sneakers: Converse, Dress: Derek Lam 10 Crosby

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The next day, I woke up and spent the morning in the Club Lounge eating breakfast and responding to emails. Luckily, later in the day I had a chance to connect with a former Boston-based blogger, who is now located in Philly, Jenny from Chocolate & Lace! I’m always so grateful for the community that Instagram cultivates — and am forever inspired and empowered by the creators I get to meet. She suggested we have lunch at Parc in Rittenhouse, which in her words, is the quintessential lunch spot in the city. And, what a tasty lunch we had. I highly recommend the crab & avocado plus the steak tartare to start. I had mussels as my main dish, and was stuffed to the brim by the end of the meal. If you’re interested in snapping pics when you’re dining, make sure you ask for a seat next to the window (or outside in the warmer months).

Processed with VSCO with m6 presetIMG_3053These were just a few of my highlights in Philadelphia, but I feel confident they’re a good jumping off point if you’re looking to plan a weekend in the city. If you’re in need of other restaurant recommendations, tips on where in the city to stay, or some of my favorite photogenic spots, don’t hesitate to leave a comment or shoot me a DM on Instagram!

Also, want to say a special thank you to the team at the Ritz Carlton, Philadelphia and Visit Philly for making this trip extra special!