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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TO START YOUR DAY
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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FOR A QUICK BITE
Some of you may recall the three-night trip giveaway I did with thefenway.com 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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NO FRILLS SEAFOOD
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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DATE NIGHT
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

SOMETHING SWEET
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!

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!