Category Archives: Travel

A Weekend in Nashville

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My first trip to the Music City lived up to all the hype! The music is overflowing from every direction, the food so satisfying and the southern hospitality so warm and welcoming. Unfortunately it rained the 2 full days I was there, but that didn’t ruin any of the fun…

Live Music: The amount of talent everywhere is unbelievable…on every stage and at every hour of the day.

After stopping in just about every bar on Broadway, my favorite spots were Tootsie’s, Robert’s Western World, and Layla’s, which seem to be the holy trinity of famous honky tonks, all lined up in a row on the same block. For two solid afternoons, we bounced back and forth between all three, listening to everything from traditional to current country music from bands just like you’d picture: amazing guitar players, expert fiddlers and southernly charming lead singers.Here’s Jake Maurer, who asked us to “Cheers!” between every song to something like “his 87 year old grandma who still doesn’t use glasses…she drinks straight from the bottle!”

Seeing a concert at the Ryman Auditorium our last night was SO worth it and a major highlight of the trip! We experienced a whole other level of musicianship that left you walking away trying to comprehend just how much musical talent is in this city! The Ryman is right downtown and steeped in history, as it was first built as a church in the 1880’s (you sit in the original pews) and then housed the original Grand Ole’ Opry.

A night at Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar in Printer’s Alley proves that country isn’t the only talent in town! This spot is the perfect break from the rowdiness on Broadway that sets in after dark on the weekends. The 8-piece band we danced to brought the funk!

Food

My only regret was not being able to eat more! The food groups I hoped to eat were hot chicken, biscuits, tacos, and BBQ. II only knocked out 2 of the 4 – there just wasn’t enough time!

Hattie B’s is the infamous spot for hot chicken and absolutely worth the wait in line! When in Nashville, you’ve gotta eat hot chicken. Even the locals said this was the place you have to go. You pick white meat, dark meat, or a chicken sandwich and then a heat level from Southern, Mild, and all the way up to “SHUT THE CLUCK UP!”

Biscuit Love started in an air-stream trailer and grew into its own adorable restaurant. The bonuts (biscuit donuts) were unreal, as were the actual biscuits themselves. Do yourself a favor and wait in line for this place too…I ordered the Princess, their sweet and spicy take on hot chicken with a fried egg on a biscuit:

Five Daughter’s Bakery is known for the 100 layer donuts (their take on a cronut) and it’s 100% worth the additional calories you might think you don’t need! This bakery is so cute and the donuts are so memorable!

ACME Feed & Seed is a great place to kick-off your weekend in Nashville. Listen to live music, order a local beer and enjoy a hot chicken grilled cheese sandwich with peppercorn aioli and pickles on it! Sensing a hot chicken theme here?! After you eat on the first or second floor, make your way up to the rooftop for views of the whole city.

Drinks: The bourbon and beer just tastes SO right with country music and southern food!

Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery is one of several choices close to town to experience the Tennessee Whickey Trail. It’s got a fascinating and unique history, dating back to pre-Prohibition times. The tour was endearing and the tasting delicious.

Pinewood Social Club has excellent cocktails and such a hip vibe! It’s full of people dining, cocktailing, studying, bowling…basically, anything goes! There’s no wrong time or reason to be there. Easily my favorite drink of the weekend.

Neighborhoods

We stay in The Gulch, which bumps right up on the south side of downtown. It’s a trendy, fun area full of lots of action and a little whimsical inspiration:

12south has an adorable main drag to walk around and stop at some of the places you’ve surely heard of in one Nashville recommendation or another, such as Frothy Monkey for a rosemary latte, Five Daughter’s Bakery for donuts, Bartaco, Jeni’s Ice Cream, Edley’s BBQ, and a photo-op to affirm your love for the city:

Nashville, you were SO much fun! I can’t wait to see you again!

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We’re Moving to Toronto!

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It’s official – Andrew and I are moving to Toronto! After 6 months of waiting, we finally got our work visas. Considering that we have only been in the same city a total of 8 weeks since getting married in September (Andrew living and working in Toronto, me living in New Orleans, working in Los Angeles, and visiting Toronto), this is exciting for a lot of reasons! Mainly, we are finally going to be able to answer the question “what’s married life like?”!!Canadian Visa

We spent an entire weekend searching for apartments, trying to find the right fit for us. We want to give this whole big city lifestyle a try, although I started to hyperventilate a bit when I saw how small these kitchens are…But we found this place downtown, that makes me feel so urban and cool! So okay, maybe I can slim down my kitchen equipment, part with my popcorn maker, Panini press , toaster…in exchange for floor to ceiling windows and living in the middle of the action!Toronto Apartment

This past month, New Orleans was absolutely electric in anticipation of Mardi Gras!! You could feel the excitement in the air. I was like a little kid cheering and catching candy from the 4th of July floats, only this time I had a margarita in one hand while trying to catch beads with the other :)Mardi Gras on Bourbon Street

I LOVED the marching bands and the illuminated floats in the night parades.

Mardi Gras Parade Float

Needless to say, February has been an action-packed month!! We are busy getting ready for the move across the border and trying to soak in as much of New Orleans as possible these last few days!

Favorite meal cooked in February: Turkey Chili – an old recipe that hit the spot in Toronto’s frigid temps (and it’s SO easy and SO healthy)

Favorite cocktail in February: I can’t get enough of these Blood Orange Margaritas!Blood Orange Margaritas

Laughed the hardest in February: playing Fishbowl with friends, but this time with a twist! We added two new rounds that had me on the ground dying laughing. See the original rules here, to which we added a 4th round, where the person has to act out a word under a bed sheet, and a 5th round, where the person can only use sound effects to get their team to guess the word.Fishbowl Game

Our Hawaiian Honeymoon

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A few people have asked “How’s married life so far?” Well, we spent 2 of the 3 weeks in Hawaii, so I can easily tell you it’s the greatest thing ever!! We left for our honeymoon adventure Sunday afternoon, the day after the wedding, to keep the party going. We spent the first night in downtown Chicago at The Drake and then before we knew it, we were on a flight to Hawaii Monday morning. After a full day of travel, we were wearing leis and kukui nuts!Maui / www.sarasfavoritethings.com

Our first week was spent in Maui, staying at The Grand Wailea. It was a beautiful start! Especially when we got to the room and found champagne and chocolate covered strawberries waiting for us – thanks mom and dad! We made it just in time for our first of many sunsets.Wailea, Maui / www.sarasfavoritethings.com

My favorite day on Maui was spent driving the “Road to Hana”. It is a twisty, windy narrow highway, passing over 46 one way brides and about 620 turns following the coast around the island. The drive itself would take about 4 hours without stops – but we spent 11 hours doing it. There are so many fun places to stop off along the way to do short hikes, swim under waterfalls, or visit beaches, that we ran out of time to do everything we wanted to.Road to Hana, Maui / www.sarasfavoritethings.comWe used this great iPhone app called “Gypsy Guide – Road to Hana” that uses GPS to locate where we were and narrate the trip with facts and recommendations on where to stop. We felt like we were on a treasure hunt because most destinations are unmarked so it’s exciting when you find the next stop! We saw a lot of these eucalyptus trees that look like they belong in a Doctor Seuss book:Maui / www.sarasfavoritethings.com

We loved seeing all of the lava formations along the coast:Maui / www.sarasfavoritethings.com

This is one of the little pools we stopped off to swim in. To my horror, Andrew jumped off the rocks to the right of the bridge here.Maui / www.sarasfavoritethings.com

This is the black sand beach where we stopped for a swim:Maui / www.sarasfavoritethings.com

And a little while later, hiked this narrow path to get to a red sand beach!Maui / www.sarasfavoritethings.comMaui / www.sarasfavoritethings.com

We had the best dinner of our lives, hands down, at Mama’s Fish House. Andrew said it perfectly when we walked out – “Never have we spent more on a dinner, but my only regret is that I didn’t have room to order and eat more!” When we got to our table looking out over the ocean, our friends Elaine and Antonio had a bottle of wine waiting for us. It was so special!Maui / www.sarasfavoritethings.com

After a week on Maui, we hopped on a quick plane ride over to Kauai. Wow, this island is stunning! Within an hour of landing, I knew this island would be my favorite island! It’s just so lush and tropical and picturesque. We stayed on the north side of the island the first 4 days in a VRBO, with this view from our balcony. It was absolutely dreamy sitting here for eating breakfast in the morning or sipping champagne in the evening.Kauai / www.sarasfavoritethings.com

Our favorite beach on the north side of the island was Hanalei Bay, which is surrounded by Jurassic Park looking mountains. We did some great boogie boarding – my favorite!Hanalei Bay / www.sarasfavoritethings.com

Kauai is famous for the Na Pali Coast – it was unbelievably gorgeous! We first saw it hiking along the Kalalau Trail:Kalalau Trail, Maui / www.sarasfavoritethings.com

To really take in the coastline through, you need to go out on a boat (or helicopter!!) ride to see it all. Unfortunately, it rained most of the time we were out on the boat, but it was still gorgeous in a mystical kind of way.Na Pali Coast, Kauai / www.sarasfavoritethings.com

If it had been sunny, this is what we would have seen:Na Pali Coast, Kauai / www.sarasfavoritethings.com

We spent our last 3 nights on the south “sunny” side of the island at the Grand Hyatt Kauai, relaxing luxuriously and soaking up the last few days of the honeymoon. Discovering the multiple pools and beach front at the Hyatt, we canceled our remaining excursions to just unwind.Kauai / www.sarasfavoritethings.com

Have you heard of post-wedding depression? Turns out, it’s a real thing! I’ve been so sad all week that the best two and a half weeks of our lives are over! I have almost started crying several times, wishing we were either back dancing to the band at our wedding reception or lounging alligator style in this salt water lagoon…Kauai / www.sarasfavoritethings.com

Our wedding was dreamy and our honeymoon was pure heaven. I couldn’t have asked for anything better! It was amazing to spend 2 full weeks swimming, snorkeling, hiking, relaxing, and having fun with MY HUSBAND! Still getting used to calling him that :)

*A special thanks to Ginny Wagner for helping us plan our stay on Kauai and to Kelsey Stapp, Matt Weinberg, and Kiki Lyons for the Maui tips!

 

“Up North”, Wisconsin

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I spent two weeks of July hiding out “Up North” at the lake with my family, absolutely relishing in the peacefulness of the north woods! It’s hard to beat a summer day spent on the lake, swimming, water-skiing, and paddle boarding, followed by an evening of cocktail cruises, grilling, and camp fires. If not for the elephant-sized mosquitoes, I just might call this my favorite place on Earth! Every summer, for as long as I can remember, my family travels up to the top of Wisconsin to surround ourselves with pine trees, lakes, wild life, and the only kind of quiet you can find in nature.

For those of us from Milwaukee, it’s a bit of a hike to get up there, about 5 hours to get close to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where our cabin is. We had a beautiful sunset to watch for a good chunk of the drive this time…"Up North", Wisconsin

When you get “Up North”, every road you travel down is lined with vibrantly green trees."Up North", Wisconsin

One first look out the cabin over our little bay and the lake beyond, and we’ve forgotten the 5 hours we just spent in the car to get there."Up North", Wisconsin

This is my favorite place to be on the 4th of July, watching the fireworks on the lake and at the local airport. I’ve never seen such a big firework show – you can’t believe how many people “come out of the woods” to take it all in."Up North", Wisconsin

This year, my mom was very popular on the air strip with these bio-degradable Sky Lanterns she brought along. When, you light the base, they slowly rise up into the sky and drift away as far as the eye can see. We were as excited as little kids lighting these up!"Up North", Wisconsin

My mom’s lifelong dream came true that night on our way home from the fireworks. Driving down the road about 50 yards from our cabin, we came across a black bear! It would be an understatement to say my mom was excited. She was crying. If I could reenact the moment for you, I would. The bear was so dark, that it felt like we were looking into a black-hole, only recognizing what was in front of us, by the outline of her body and the big paws padding across the dirt road. Needless to say, I started carrying my cell phone on my morning bike rides with mom after that!"Up North", Wisconsin

There’s nothing quite like jumping in crystal clear lake water, it’s refreshing in no other way I can describe. Even though I know that amazing feeling of fresh lake water running through my hair, I always act a bit traumatized taking that first jump!"Up North", Wisconsin

This summer, I mastered going in and out of the wake while slaloming, which was very exciting! Although truly, my brother Mike is the master, jumping the wake on 1 ski! He makes it looks so easy."Up North", Wisconsin

When you are up there, you see more wildlife than people. We have a family of bald eagles nesting and keeping watch on the island in front of our cabin, families of deer swimming back and forth from the mainland, and a pair of loons singing in our bay."Up North", WisconsinMy favorite time to be on the water is when the surface is glass, mirroring the sky and treeline."Up North", Wisconsin

Especially when you’re out on the boat with a fresh margarita in hand ;)"Up North", Wisconsin

Or when the sunset paints the sky pink and purple"Up North", Wisconsin

Contrary to popular belief, there is more to Wisconsin than cheese heads and beer…it’s a beautiful place to be!

Aspen in Winter

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Aspen has quickly become one of my favorite places to visit in winter! I visited again last week and was reminded again of what a charming town it is. Aspen is actually a small little city, but surrounded by 4 huge mountains to choose between and first-class dining to fuel all the activity. In case you are inspired to go, here are some of the things I love and recommend!Aspen Mountain / www.sarasfavoritethings.wordpress.com

Much to my surprise, we’ve never faced crowds on the mountains or waited more than a few minutes for a lift. There are NO lines! Because the Denver population has so many closer mountains to choose from, such as Keystone or Breckenridge, and it’s a 4 hour drive away, you are mainly surrounded by locals and a few other vacationers. The easiest way to get to Aspen is to fly into Aspen/Pitkin County Airport (ASE). The aspen airport is only 3-4 miles from the downtown area, about a $25 cab ride.Aspen Mountain / www.sarasfavoritethings.wordpress.com

It is a quieter city, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t nightlife. All the action of the town is centered around the main lift to Aspen Mountain, in a 4 by 4 block square radius packed with restaurants, bars and shops. It’s magical at night with all the trees lit up.Aspen Mountain / www.sarasfavoritethings.wordpress.com

The 4 Mountains: They are all connected by a free bus system and accessible with the same lift ticket. If you stay downtown at the base of Ajax, then Highlands and Buttermilk are a few minutes away by bus and Snowmass is a 30 minute bus ride.Aspen Mountain / www.sarasfavoritethings.wordpress.com

  1. Aspen Mountain (Ajax): This is our favorite mountain, especially on a powder day! If you stay in downtown Aspen, you can wake up, walk a few blocks to the lift and hop right on the Silver Queen Gondola. It’s for the intermediate skier and above because there are no green runs. It has a fully enclosed Gondola that goes all the way to the top, so you can enjoy nice long runs. We’ve spent the majority of our time on this mountain.
  2. Snowmass: This is the largest mountain with a large variety of runs from easy to expert. It’s the perfect option when you have a variety of ages and abilities in your group because everyone, no matter their level, will find runs they enjoy. It will take you a full day just to ride every chair lift.
  3. Highlands: It has a mix of different runs, but is most famous for the bowl that you have to hike uphill 45 minutes to get to. I don’t have to guts to ski down it or the ambition to hike up to it!
  4. Buttermilk: You will see this mountain driving into town and immediately notice the large terrain park, home to the Winter X-Games. Ironically, it’s a great option for new or beginner skiers because ¾ of the trails are green or blue.

    Aspen Mountain / www.sarasfavoritethings.wordpress.com

    Photo: Antonio Martinez

Lodging

  1. Find a condo on vrbo.com. Not only is it much more comfortable and fun than a hotel room, it’s also economical. Most condos you find on vrbo will go through a management company, such as Gondola Resorts, that might provide free transportation from the airport to downtown. The condo allows you to make meals at home, which is convenient for breakfast. Plus, no matter how determined you are to party, skiing is exhausting – and sometimes it’s fun to just stay in and play cards in front of a fireplace! As an added bonus, most places have a washer/dryer.
  2. Downtown Aspen is the only place I’ve stayed. It’s best to stay near the Silver Queen Gondola, at the center of town, for a short walk to the mountain and to be close to the action. The downtown area is full of great dining and nightlife. Plus, there is a sizable grocery store in the middle of town, City Market, which has anything might need. The bus stop in the center of town will take you to any of the other 3 mountains for free
  3. If you are vacationing with a group of people where the skill levels are better suited for Snowmass, you might consider staying there instead. There are a ton of condo and hotel options.Aspen Mountain / www.sarasfavoritethings.wordpress.com

Dining – These are my favorite spots in downtown Aspen:

  1. White House Tavern – This is hands down my favorite place I’ve eaten in Aspen. You know that when a menu has only 12 total items on it, there is nothing that isn’t over-the-top being served. I had the best chicken sandwich of my life, which was the perfect mix of comfort food and sophistication. The “lettuce” was kale and cabbage mixed with chilies and honey mustard. I died. Next time I’m in Aspen, I will eat here multiple times so I can try one of everything on the menu.Aspen Mountain / www.sarasfavoritethings.wordpress.com
  2. The Meatball Shack – As the name suggests, they serve meatballs, and you just might find yourself wanting to lick the plate. Awesome place for local drafts, fun cocktails, and creative meatball appetizers to share like ‘buffalo chicken balls’ or ‘General Tso’s balls’. Very fun rustic, but hip atmosphere.Aspen Mountain / www.sarasfavoritethings.wordpress.com
  3. Sundeck – sits on top of Ajax mountain and on a clear day, looks out over the Elk mountains and Highlands mountain. Even if you don’t ski down Ajax, it sits right on top of the Gondola so you could make the trip up for the view and the classy cafeteria-style food (think seared tuna salad or lamb curry).
  4. Paradise Bakery – get a muffin or cinnamon roll and sit outside at one of the tables facing the mountain. Even in winter, if you have a sunny morning, it’s beautiful to eat out in the fresh air and watch people skiing down the mountain. (If you want more of a meal, Poppycocks is close by and has delicious oatmeal pancakes.)Aspen Mountain / www.sarasfavoritethings.wordpress.com

Tips

  1. Do some pre-trip ski conditioning. If you want to make the most of your trip, you want your legs to be able to outlast the long runs!
  2. Make a packing list! Ski trips end up requiring a lot of equipment, especially if you bring your own skies or snowboard. Some things on my list are trail mix, cards/games, iPod speakers, detergent/dryer sheets, and sturdy hiking or snow boots.
  3. Buy your lift tickets ahead of time on Liftopia. You can get a good deal that either includes rentals or $20 a day to the restaurants on the mountain.
  4. Drink a lot of water. Andrew and I always wear our Camelbaks on the mountain. You don’t realize how thirsty you get skiing, especially on warmer day, and these allow you to keep hydrated.
  5. Hit the slopes right when they open. The best skiing is at 9am when the lifts start and the snow is either fresh powder or still nicely groomed. By mid-afternoon, your legs are tired, the snow is getting choppy, and it’s time for après ski!
  6. Treat yourself to good food – you earned it!Aspen Mountain / www.sarasfavoritethings.wordpress.com