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!

Wellness On-The-Go, My Travel Essentials

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Working and traveling simultaneously can take a lot out of a girl, and the first thing to fall by the wayside is taking steps to make sure I’m healthy. Subsequently, my sleep schedule on the road gets sporadic, and my stress levels go through the roof causing all kinds of fun outcomes, like skin issues (woohoo for pimples in the middle of my forehead!), unpredictable mood swings, and appetite changes that aren’t conducive to healthy choices. Slowly, but surely, I’ve added a few products to my arsenal to help with this, and a renewed commitment to using them while on the road has made travel even more enjoyable. I’m sharing with you a few of my favorites, including some brands I’ve been using for years. Hope you find value in discovering a few new products, and never hesitate to reach out with any questions!

RESCUE REMEDY

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This is a brand that I was fortunate enough to be introduced to more than five years ago. As some of you know, I was at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in 2013, and subsequently was injured as a result of being there. In addition to the physical repercussions of that day, the emotional processing that has to go along with a traumatic event is substantial. Cue trouble sleeping! Prescription meds knocked me out, but gave me horrible night terrors, so I started to seek alternatives to help me sleep, as well as help me manage unexpected stress. A family friend bought me the entire Rescue Remedy product line and told me to give it a try. Five years later, I am still using their products. My personal favorite go-to is the Rescue Pastilles, that just look like cough drops, and are easy to pack in your purse or backpack. They also have drops that you can place right on your tongue in a pinch, which I like to take when I feel myself getting uptight or stressed out.

SAGE TONIC

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My first client ever as an agency owner was Dr. Nada Milosavljevic of Sage Tonic. To this day, I’m grateful to have been introduced to her product line, including specially formulated teas, essential oils towelettes, and a mobile app. The entire line was created leveraging her expertise in Integrative Health (she is the Director of Integrative Health at Mass General Hospital), and is double Board Certified in Psychology & Neuroscience, and Integrative Medicine. Before meeting Nada, I was always skeptical of the power of essential oils and teas to help me feel better, but after reading her research and testing out the products myself, I’m a true convert! I religiously travel with her Clear Head Towelettes and Happiness Tea (it’s so tasty!), and I highly recommend taking a peak at her whole product line, which address other common conditions such as stress, inability to focus, sleep difficulty, and low energy.

CARE/OF

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Do you find it stressful to remember and prepare for travel when it comes to vitamins and supplements? I did, and would often forgo packing them because it was such a freaking hassle. When Care/of reached out to me to try out their service about 18 months ago, I was really excited — not only because it introduced me to new supplements that I now take daily, but their packaging is GENIUS. The package your daily ration of vitamins and supplements individually, and mail out a box on a monthly basis like a subscription. Right now I order the Vitamin C, Calcium Plus, Ashwagandha, Rhodiola, Iron, Evening Primrose, and Glow Trio. They also have Quick Sticks, which are perfect for frequent fliers. I typically keep at least a couple Gut Check and Extra Batteries sticks lying around to help keep my digestion on track and support cognitive health.

OLLY

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Another set of goodies I like to carry around with me recently are Olly gummies. A few of you actually recommended I give the brand a try, and I’m so thankful you did! Their sleep & stress gummies are actually incredibly tasty; it takes all the power in the world to not just snack on them at night… pretty sure I would never get up though! These differ from the other sleep products I mentioned, as they are a little bit of a slower burn, so to speak. I generally take a gummy an hour or so before bed, whereas the Rescue Remedy or Sage Tonic products I can take right before hitting the pillow. This is all just based on preference. Frankly, I sometimes take the gummies as a way to cut myself off from doing work until 3AM in my hotel room, and it’s a good way to make sure I’m getting at least 6-7 hours of sleep when I’m away from home.

As I mentioned, this is a system that I have built up over the last five or so years, and it has taken a lot of trial and error to figure out what works for my body and my style of travel. If you have questions about any of these products, definitely leave me a comment below, or don’t hesitate to reach out via email. Also, if you feel like sharing any ‘must-haves’, please do! I’m always looking for new brands and products to try out.

My First Time in Key West

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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.

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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?!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

On Nantucket with philosophy

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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?

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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

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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.

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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.

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

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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!!

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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.

Where to Eat: Helsinki

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A few years ago, the Washington Post, published a piece titled Helsinki’s food scene, coming on strong’ , and it was in that moment that I knew the modesty of the Finnish would only work to my benefit when exploring the relatively uncharted food scene in Helsinki when I finally had the chance to journey to the great north. As they have begun to catch up to their Nordic neighbors in notoriety, it’s no surprise that Helsinki is becoming less and less of the “best kept secret in Europe” when it comes to cuisine, and more of a seasoned hand as it will.

But! That didn’t stop me from doing some serious exploring, trying to find some of Helsinki’s best gems – largely with the help of a team of local Finn’s who pointed us in the right direction. Below, I’ve listed out some of the best cafes, lunch spots, and decadent dinner hotspots that are all worth a look on your next trip to Helsinki.

CAFES

Kappeli Cafe – Eteläesplanadi 1, 00130 (Pictured above)
If you’re looking for a little nook in the heart of Helsinki, look no further than this Kodak-worthy cafe. Located literally smack dab in the center of town, Kappeli offers a tasty variety of pastries, coffees and tea. Try to snag one of the round booths completely encased in glass for a 360-view of the city moving around you!

SIS. Deli+Cafe – Kalevankatu 4, 00100 
For a traditional Finnish breakfast, SIS offers a cute little buffet style option. If you’re gearing up for a big day of exploring, this casual cafe is one of the best ways to start your day. Also, this is a great spot to post up should you want/need to do a bit of work on your travels. You won’t be the only person with a laptop open, which is always a good feeling.

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Cafe Regatta – Merikannontie 8, 00260 (Pictured above)
Known for their famous hot chocolate and rustic abode, this has to be one of the most photogenic places I visited during our stay. As a non-coffee drinker, this was a particularly enjoyable reprieve for me, and the fact that they had a crazy ice sled on the water outside that we could push with our new Finnish friends was an extra bonus! To make the experience even more special, take your hot chocolate outside to the fire pit to circle around and swap travel stories with friends.

Café Köket – Aleksanterinkatu 28, 00170
This café, bar and lunch spot by the Seante Square in the Kiseleff House is another great casual spot that won’t break the bank. Köket serves a yummy breakfast buffet and a lunch buffet during weekdays , and for those who are brunch-inclined, they have you covered on weekends.

LUNCH SPOTS

Bronda – Eteläesplanadi 20, 00130 
With a heavy-handed Mediterranean influencer, Bronda offers an amazing 3-course (and sometimes 5) tasting menu at lunch!. The space is found on the corner of Eteläesplanadi and Korkeavuorenkatu with massively high ceilings and large windows, making it any food Instagrammer’s dream, but also just a cool spot to pull up a chair for an hour or two. Many dishes here are meant to be shared, so the more the merrier!

Juuri – Korkeavuorenkatu 27, 00130 (Pictured below)
You will thank me later for this one! If you are interested in trying fine Finnish cuisine, look no further than this unpretentious little spot. The staff is super knowledgeable and was able to assist with questions and making some key selections that are sure to melt in your mouth. The a la carte menu is good, but the real treat is the sapas, small tapas-like dishes excellent for sharing. By Finnish standards this place is not super expensive for the quality of food, but be prepared to spend more than a few dollars for this tasty experience. Note: Menu changes every second month.

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EGG – Kanavaranta 7 B 3, 00170
Looking for faster and lighter fare for lunch? This healthy hot spot is great for those on the go, searching for a tasty option that leaves you feeling energized and satisfied. The wild board omelette is a great choice, and they have an ‘all day breakfast’ if you didn’t quite make it in time for your hotel’s spread. Bonus: this spot is close to the Uspenski Cathedral!

Fat Ramen – Hietalahti Market Hall‍‍‍‍‍‍, Lönnrotinkatu 34, 00180
Ohhhh how I love ramen. I once squealed meeting one of my favorite ramen chefs like I was meeting Mick Jagger or something, so know that I take this dish seriously… but not too seriously.  This place fast casual noodle bar located in Hietalahti Market Hall – which is a cool spot worth checking out regardless. It is the first ramen shop in Helsinki focusing its menu solely around ramen. During lunch this quaint restaurant offers a variety of hand-made ramen bowls, which are known for always having the best ingredients of the season and ambitiously combines Asian and Nordic flavors.

FOR DINNER

Savotta – Aleksanterinkatu 22, 00170 Helsinki (pictured below) 
If you’re looking for a more traditional, and fun, Finnish experience, Savotta is a great spot to try. With a step through the threshold, it’s no question that the decor is meant to pay homage to Finland’s roots. The name Savotta means ‘logging site’, so servers are dressed to play the part of men and women who would work in the forests and thousands of lakes over the years. The food and decor tap in to local nostalgia and showcase decades of tradition right at your table. The street level dining rooms face the Helsinki Cathedral by the Senate Square, so it’s a perfect spot to end a day of exploring the city!

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Ravintola Werner – Bulevardi 12, 00120 Helsinki
Set in what used to be one of the biggest publishing houses in Helsinki, Werner boasts a massive open fire grill, perfect for all the needs of preparing Nordic-style fare. Don’t miss their beef tartar or mussels to start the meal, and then be sure to grab anything that you could wish to have cooked over an open flame. Stick with classics like the salmon, or if your traveling with a hungry companion, the beef entrecôte for two is a must!

Restaurant Savoy – Eteläesplanadi 14, 00130 Helsinki
Last year this Helsinki staple celebrated 80 years of service! Located right in the heart of town, Restaurant Savoy isn’t just a place to have dinner, but rather to have a dining experience. This popular locale oozes old world glamour, and is perfect for anyone who wants dinner with a view. Situated on the top floor overlooking the park, and featuring classic fare, makes this the ideal setting for a special occasion, but is also great for ambitious diners who enjoy meticulous plating, top notch service, and just overall good food. If the price tag scares you, they also do a fabulous three-course lunch worth taking a look at.

Have any dining recommendations in Helsinki I didn’t mention? There are so many good places that I know I missed a few. Leave me your favorites in the comments below!

Luxury in Brussels: Hotel Amigo

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Sometimes the hardest part about traveling abroad is finding the perfect place to stay. Luckily, I didn’t have that problem when planning my trip to Brussels at the end of last year. Having spent and extended amount of time in Brussels several years ago, I knew without question that being near Grand Place was imperative, and having a comfortable and spacious home base would be essential after long days of exploring. When the opportunity came to stay at the Hotel Amigo – I couldn’t say no! The hotel is a Rocco Forte property, synonymous with luxury and notorious for offering the epitome of sophistication during your stay. Other properties in this hotel group include Hotel Savoy in Florence, Brown’s Hotel in London, and The Balmoral in Edinburgh. Needless to say, they are in amazing company.

The other fabulous part about this trip, was that I was able to bring my best friend along – my mother. I was particularly excited to be able to treat her to a stay at the Hotel Amigo because let’s face, every mother deserves to be treated like a queen, especially mine. As a kid growing up in a single-mother household, she always raised me to spend money on two things: travel & good food. We took trips to places like the Dominican Republic, Ireland, Vancouver, Thailand, and more together. Talk about amazing Christmas gifts!!! This trip was an opportunity to return the favor, and I wanted her to have the best experience possible. Fortunately for me, the team at the Hotel Amigo beyond exceeded my expectations. From friendly service, mind-blowing dining experiences, and premium amenities, I truly felt like I was #winning at giving my mom an introduction to Brussels she would never forget.

We stayed in a Junior Suite for the entirety of our stay, which was a perfect size for us. Plenty of space for taking breakfast in our room before embarking on a our daily journeys, loads of closet space for the massive amount of clothes I packed for only 4 days *facepalm*, and cute little nooks to relax at the end of a busy day to recap on our favorite sites, and enjoy a few moments of reprieve before falling into the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept on to do it all again the next day.

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The most comfortable bed and perfect place to rest our heads at the end of the day.
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The view from our Junior Suite – looking down toward Grand Place.
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A spacious bath tub is a must for any luxury stay – this one didn’t disappoint.
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My favorite concierge of all time, Haluk Sahin.

By far, the most memorable part of my stay at the Hotel Amigo, were my exchanges with Haluk Sahin, one of the concierges at the Hotel Amigo. Not only did he keep my mom and I on-time for trains and our flights (we have this nasty habit of cutting it close for all travel), but he was truly the “experience architect”, as I like to say, of our stay. Every detail that we would need taken care of for an awe-inspiring experience in Brussels and beyond was executed flawlessly. Beyond that, he truly became a friend during our short visit, and was a willing participant when my mom and I shared our stories of what crazy thing we got up to that day.

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If you’re looking to explore Brussels, I couldn’t recommend the Hotel Amigo more. You’re walking distance to all the major sites, and are sure to feel at home every time you walk through the doors.

If you need ideas of things to do and see on your next trip to the European Capital, be sure to check out my Weekend in Brussels guide here.