Tuesday Travel

Paris

I’ll be honest. I’ve had a few difficult days. January is always a hard month for me. The one activity that helps when I’m feeling blue is good old research. Travel research, that is. In May, my girl and I are off to Paris. My last visit was fall of 2011.  I’m guessing quite a bit has changed so I’m asking  for a little help. What are your must do’s for shopping, eating, museums, day trips, etc. I purchased this little guide to help but would welcome any and all recommendations. Merci beaucoup!

Image Credit: Pinterest 

Tuesday Travel

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With the new year upon us, my mind seems to be filled with wanderlust and dreams of faraway travels. We have a few trips planned but I’m hoping to add a few more to the list. This sense of wander was sparked by reading Wildsam’s secrets for the best trip ever. As you know, I’m a huge Wildsam fan so their advice is always sage in my book and thus I just had to share.

  1. Focus on the Neighborhood. And not so much on the hotel.
  2. Start on the flight. Start the immersion into your destination on the plane. This one made me chuckle as K and I watched In Bruges on our flight to Belgium.
  3. Become a regular. Find your spot and go more than once. You will fit right in.
  4. Rise, shine and run. In other words, be active and take in your new location on foot.
  5. Break the law {sort of}. Travel is the perfect time to step out of your comfort zone and say yes to new experiences.
  6. Leave Room for the Holy Spirit. Be open to opportunities and invitations you didn’t plan on.
  7. Bring a $50 bill. This allows you permission to treat yourself to something good.
  8. Talk to strangers. Locals really do know best!
  9. Eat dinner twice. This really doesn’t need an explanation, especially for me.
  10. Don’t go ice skating. If you aren’t a museum buff, don’t spend hours of your trip to Paris at The Louvre. Spend your trip doing what you love.
  11. Easy on the Instagram. Focus on the experience, not taking the perfect photo.
  12. Book the last flight home. I couldn’t agree more.

Where are your travels taking you in 2016? I’d love to hear!

Tuesday Travel

baltimore

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday and were able to take a little time to recharge! We had a wonderful holiday in Baltimore. Before meeting K, I had actually spent quite a bit of time in Charm City as a dear friend lives near the old stadium. So to start off the week, I thought I’d share some of my favorite things in Bawlmer, hon!

Stay

Thinking back, this is the first time I’ve actually stayed at a hotel in Baltimore after nearly 10 visits. After two days with family, we treated ourselves to two nights at the Hotel RL, located in the historic Keyster Building in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. The hotel lobby is reason enough to stay here, boasting a lounge, game room, coffee shop/bar and performance space. And the room, modern yet cozy. Our bed was heavenly and we didn’t wake up the morning after Christmas till 10 am (might have to do with our early morning Christmas day but…)! I’m told the pancakes in the morning are delicious although I didn’t get to try them myself.

See + D0

Baltimore is made up of eclectic neighborhoods: Federal Hill, Fells Point (once the nation’s second largest immigration port); Canton, Locust Point, Roland Park and Hampden (just to name a few). Get out and explore as many as you can. My favorites include Hampden and Fells Point.

Baltimore has a rich history too. Make sure to visit Fort McHenry, the Peabody Library and the flag house, where the star spangled banner was sewn.

One of my favorite activities to do in Baltimore is see a movie as they have some wonderful theatres. Check out The Senator, an art deco theatre with a single screen located in the Govans neighborhood. You will feel like you are stepping back in time. My other favorite is The Charles. The 108-year-old structures which house The Charles boast a rich history. Designed in 1892, the buildings were originally designed to be a cable car barn and a powerhouse. In 1939, the Times Theatre opened on the site as Baltimore’s first all-newsreel movie house. The theater was re-named the Charles circa 1959 and recently went through a major renovation.

And during the holiday season, you must visit 34th Street, or as the locals call it Miracle on 34th Street, which this year celebrated its 69th year. Some of the best Christmas lights I’ve ever seen!

Eat

The food scene in Baltimore is off the hook, as Guy Fieri would say. A few places not to be missed:

Artifact Coffee – A wonderful coffee shop with a yummy egg sandwich. Add the special snake oil hot sauce for a little kick!

Woodbury Kitchen – I would say this place put Baltimore on the map from a foodie perspective. Bringing the local ingredients of the Chesapeake to the table, WK is comfort food at its best. The fried chicken is the best! They have also launched a pantry line so you can take the tastes of WK home with you.

Parts & Labor – Part butcher shop, part hearth-fired restaurant, Parts & Labor is not to be missed!

Clementine – Every city needs a great breakfast spot. Clementine is Balto’s.

L.P. Steamers – The only crab shack you need to know about.

And, you must stop into a local grocery store and purchase a box of Berger cookies. A take on a New York style black and white cookie but better, I promise!

Photo credit: Pinterest 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday Travel

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Bull City. The New South. Home of the Blue Devils. It’s true; Durham is all of these things. Since I’ve never been to North Carolina, I had high hopes for our weekend getaway to Durham and I am happy to report, I was not disappointed!

Stay

We stayed at the hip 21c Museum Hotel located in the historic Hill Building {a 17-story modernistic skyscraper built between 1935-1937 and designed by NY firm Shreve, Lamb & Harmon, who also designed the Empire State Building}. This is the fourth location in the 21C Museum Hotel family, with the first opening up in Louisville back in 2007. The property hosts a free contemporary art museum, 125 well-appointed rooms and a beautiful restaurant on the first floor. Bonus, the rooms are stocked with our favorite Malin + Goetz products.

Our second choice was the recently opened The Durham Hotel. I’m told their rooftop bar is a must!

Do + See

Truth be told, the impetus for our trip south was to attend the 20th year celebration of the Duke women’s lacrosse program. That’s right. My girl is an All-American athlete whose name is forever etched into the walls at Cameron Stadium. Pretty cool, right? So, much of our first day was spent on campus at Duke. I am partial to my Mount Holyoke campus but have to say, Duke is beautiful. The trees, Gothic architecture, chapel. It’s all quite impressive. I had read about The Nasher Museum of Art but unfortunately we didn’t have time to check out the collection. But, we did get to see Krzyzewskiville, the tent city where students camp out for Duke basketball tickets. Now that’s what I call dedication!

Eat

In recent years, Durham has been named one of the tastiest towns in the South. Although we didn’t get to try every place on my list {Saltbox Seafood Joint and Pizzeria Toro}, we did manage to indulge is some delicious fare.

Cosmic Cantina – Every college town needs its go to Cantina and K swears that Cosmic Cantina has the best burrito. Now while I’m partial to my Bueno y Sano in Amherst, I must admit that Cosmic Cantina is quite good. The staircase on the other hand, beware!

Foster’s Market – A mainstay in Durham since 1990, Foster’s market is a dream gourmet market and cafe with plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. I had the pimento cheese sandwich. Delicious!

Monuts Donuts – Yes, I had to find the local donut place! We ordered a half-dozen including plain glazed {perhaps the best glazed I’ve ever had}, blueberry cardamom, chocolate and apple cider. A Durham must!

Cocoa Cinnamon – We never did make it to Cocoa Cinnamon for an afternoon coffee but I really wish we did. On the list for our next visit!

Watts Grocery – A great spot for Sunday brunch serving Carolina classics like grits and big biscuits. My eggs were a little dry but the fresh squeezed O.J. and homemade english muffin made up for it!

For my first trip to North Carolina, I have to say Durham is one great little city. One that has great energy, gracious people and delicious food. While enjoying our final meal in Bull City, K and I joked about retiring to her college town. We shall see about that!

Tuesday Travel

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For the longest time, I thought New York City was the place I was suppose to be. A city where the streets will make you feel brand new and the lights will inspire you {name that song?!}. There is a pulse and energy to New York that always draws me in. As luck would have it, my big plans of relocating to NYC never did work out {life is all about timing}. Lucky for me, New York is a quick and easy weekend getaway from Beantown.

 Stay

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The Marlton Hotel – K and I stayed here over the summer and absolutely fell in-love with this chic hotel nestled in the heart of Greenwich Village. Although the rooms are small {we stayed in a Queen Deluxe}, our bathroom was insane with a big tub complete with Cote Bastide products and plush robes. And the lounge in the lobby is the perfect place to meet friends for a pre-dinner cocktail. I guarantee we will be staying here again.

The High Line Hotel is also on my list of places to stay. The location is ideal and they have an Intelligentsia coffee truck outside. I’m sold!

Do + See

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Whitney – You must visit the Whitney’s new home in the Meatpacking District. Designed by Renzo Piano and situated between the High Line and the Hudson River, this space is breathtaking and the views of the city well worth the price of admission. Plus, the art collection is insane. I suggest starting on the top floor and working your way down.

The High Line – A park like no other. This nearly 1.5 mile park, built on a long abandoned railway in Chelsea, is a delightful combination of wild, natural foliage, original and restored rails, breath-taking views, benches, and areas to relax. A New York City must!

Eat

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Many of my trips to NYC are planned around where I’m eating. Some favorites include:

ABC Kitchen – My absolute favorite spot in the city. The carrot and avocado salad is a must! Their sister restaurant ABC Cocina is on my list for our next visit.

Craft Bar – Located around the corner from Tom Colicchio’s Craft, Craft Bar is my go-to for a late afternoon bite and cocktail.

Jack’s Wife Freda – If you’re on Instagram, I’m sure you have come across a photo or two of this delightful cafe with two city locations. The poached eggs with grilled tomato and haloumi cheese is delicious! And be sure to check out their sugar packets. The cutest!

The Butcher’s Daughter – A vegetarian and vegan haven with a yummy juice bar next door. Their patio in the summer is where you want to be!

Clinton Street Baking Company – Blueberry pancakes is all you need to know… Oh and go early!

Dough – In my opinion, the donut has replaced the cupcake craze and Dough has some of the best. You must try the hibiscus.

Maman NYC – The cafe of my dreams. The blue paper coffee cups are just the icing on the cake at this quaint French cafe.

Haven’s Kitchen – Cafe, cooking school, event space. Haven’s Kitchen is not to be missed.

A few places on my list still to try: Russ & Daughters Cafe, Egg Shop, and Cafe Clover.

Let’s hear it for New York! 

Found

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I have a confession to make… I think about planning weekend getaways at least once a day. And on Fridays, this obsession is even greater as a weekend is upon us. And so today I thought I’d share my favorite travel guides and this week’s found item, Wildsam Field Guides, which The Wall Street Journal claims are “for the tireless seekers of the authentic.” Guess that’s me!

K and I bought our first Field Guide for our trip to Austin last fall and read it cover to cover {and sadly left in our rental car}. What I love about these guides is not only the design {perfect size to fit in your tote}, but the content includes a mix of prose and personalities, historical tidbits and local interviews. With each page, you feel like you are getting insider advice from a dear friend as these guides tell the true stories of a specific place.

Guides are currently available for Nashville, Austin, Detroit, San Francisco, New Orleans and Brooklyn. Word on the street is that a Charleston guide will be released later this fall. Planning a getaway to any of these fine locals, I highly recommend picking one of these up. Not only are they are wonderful resource, but the collection makes a beautiful little vignette on a bookshelf!

And wondering where the name WildSam came from? Go to your bookshelf and refer to Steinbeck’s East of Eden. The world was peopled with wonders.

Enjoy this weekend, dear friends!

Tuesday Travel

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Amsterdam. The final stop of our European adventure and the place that may have just stolen my heart. Known as the Venice of the North, Amsterdam is a city inhabited by more bikes than people. Can you believe that? K and I toured the city on bikes our final day and it was unreal how many bikers we had to compete with. What did I love most about the city? The air. It was just delightful. I think it’s due to the fact that the majority of the city is below sea level. It fondly reminded me of my island air. There is so much to see and do and eat in Amsterdam and I fear that K and I didn’t even scratch the surface. But, our favorite spots are below.

Stay

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We went back and forth on where to stay in Amsterdam. A house boat, a hotel, a city flat. In the end, we decided on this sweet canal house in the historic Jordaan neighborhood, which we found through airbnb. And what a terrific experience we had. I know several people have had varying degrees of success with this service but we lucked out. My one word of advice would be to read the reviews and all of them.

There were three hotels that K and I fell in-love with during our research and thus we decided to check them out by indulging in afternoon cocktails. The Conservatorium Hotel has a beautiful bar area and is a close walk to the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum and thus the perfect spot for a post-art cocktail. The gin and tonics are served in red wine goblets and are delicious and a little dangerous. The Hoxton, which opened this past July, is certainly the place we will stay on our next visit. The bar scene, decor and location make it a dream place to stay. Sadly, we didn’t make it to The Dylan, but their outdoor terrace looks insane for drinks.

Eat

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The food in Amsterdam is one of the reasons why I loved our time there so much. Great cafes, little bakeries, a restaurant in a greenhouse… the dining possibilities are endless. Our favorites include:

Kantijil – I enjoyed my first Indonesian meal from Kantijil. A little tip. They have a take-out spot behind the main restaurant and thus we decided to grab food to go to enjoy our first dinner at home in the canal house.

Winkel – The best apple pie!

SLA – If I could have brought a cafe home it would have been SLA. Meaning lettuce, this “green” cafe offers delicious salads, juices and soups.

Pancakes! – What waffles are to Belgium, pancakes are to Amsterdam. And Pancakes! is the place we were told not to miss. I tried the traditional bacon and apple {pictured above}. So good!

La Perla – Hands-down, the best margarita pizza I’ve ever had. Period.

De Bakkerswinkel – Great lunch spot. I recommend the toast with pea pesto and old cheese. Perfection!

Pluk – A sweet little juice bar in the Nine Streets area of Amsterdam.

De Kas – I had the most beautiful meal of my life here. And the setting, equally as beautiful. An Amsterdam must!

BUFFET van Odette – A charming cafe offering breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Foodhallen – Amsterdam’s version of Chelsea Market. The coolest part? They have a bike garage so naturally we had to ride our bikes here.

STACH – Gourmet food store, cafe and home to a brownie dipped in chocolate. It was so good, we went twice!

Vinnies – There is an old Dutch expression that “loves goes through the stomach” and Vinnies shows this through and through. We had our last breakfast at this neighborhood cafe and the eggs were sinfully good.

Do + See

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There are 75 museums in Amsterdam. K and I made it to three. But, I think we picked the not-to-be-missed ones. A visit to the newly restored Rijksmuseum is a must. Close by is the Van Gogh Museum. As luck would have it, on our walk from the Rijksmuseum to the Van Gogh Museum we stumbled upon a kiosk selling museum tickets. So, we purchased our tickets and followed the blue path over to Van Gogh. Thank goodness we did as the line to get in was insane. Speaking of line, the Anne Frank House is not to be missed but I recommend going around 6 pm. We only had to wait about 40 minutes.

You must, must, MUST ride bikes in Amsterdam. We were a bit intimidated by the sheer volume of bikers and thus decided to take our bikes to Vondelpark. I highly recommend.

Many asked and I am happy to report that we didn’t tour the Red Light District or a local coffee shop. Since I’m no longer in college, thought it was best!

Shop

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K and I had a blast walking around our neighborhood and the historic Nine Streets to do a little shopping. And let me tell you, that shopping in Amsterdam is some of the best. Our favorite shops include:

Restored – A shop filled with gifts for you and your loved ones. I fell in-love with a wallet here that I didn’t buy but may just need to call to have them send it to me.

Six and Sons – A wonderfully curated selection of clothing and accessories for women, men and the home. I picked up a pair of Danish sunglasses here that I just love.

Hutspot – Amsterdam is all about this pop-up stores and this is certainly one not to be missed. A barber shop and cafe make a great addition to this pop-up featuring new and interesting brands, designers, artists and entrepreneurs. A must in Amsterdam!

Sukha – This shop takes merchandising to a whole new level. The hanging tent bed above it just one of the many displays that will make this a shop you will never want to leave. A must in Amsterdam!

Pieters Zoon – Although this is primarily a leather goods store, K and I found a wonderful throw and picture frames that journeyed home with us. And the shop owner was just the sweetest thing!

Away

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Happy Friday, sweet readers! As you read this, I’m on a plane en route to a very special place. Washington DC. For a girl who use to visit this political epicenter once a month for work, it’s hard to believe I haven’t been back in nearly 3 years. Can’t wait to see all that is new in the city. As always, feel free to come along with me on this adventure on Instagram following #awaywithmay. I hope you enjoy this first weekend of Fall. I’ll see you back here on Monday!

Tuesday Travel

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As promised, today I am excited to share all the details from the first stop of our European tour… Brussels. Home to the European Union, TinTin, nearly 400 Embassies, and a beer hall with over 2,000 beers, Brussels certainly does have lots to offer. And while many suggested we skip Brussels and head right to Bruges, I am happy we decided to kick off the first two days of our vacation here. So without further adieu, here are my Brussels must-do’s.

Stay

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Hotel Des Galeries. My most favorite hotel ever. The location, the decor, the pillows. Located around the corner from the Galeries Royales Saint Hubert, this picture perfect hotel is close to everything you will want to see in Brussels including the Grand-Place and Manneken-Pis. And although I was a bit worried when I saw just how close we were to the Grand-Place, I was pleasantly surprised by how quiet the rooms were. The bathrooms are breathtaking and are stocked with my favorite Malin + Goetz products. And, Comptoir des Galeries, owned by French chef Julien Burlat, is connected to the hotel and serves the most delicious continental breakfast.

Note: This photo was not our room but sadly my photo was a bit too dark due to the grey weather we encountered. These photos are from the hotel website.

Eat

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The first thing K asked upon our arrival was “what do you want to do?” To which I replied, “I want to eat a Belgian waffle!” Fortunately, the Gaufre de Bruxelles was around the corner from our hotel and let me tell you they have the best waffle EVER. Although there were cheaper options outside of the main square, these were euros well spent!

For those who know my girl well, they know she loves her beer so of course we had to find a spot to enjoy a traditional Belgian brew.

Across from the Manneken-Pis is an eclectic bar Poechenellekelder, filled with treasures and beer paraphernalia where I tried my first sugar beer. Quite tasty if I do say. After we finished the first {of many} beers, we decided to head to The Delirium Cafe {thankfully a stones through away from our hotel) to dive into their menu of over 2,000 beers. My girl was in heaven!

With a slight buzz and a bit of jet lag kicking in, we decided to enjoy a traditional meals of moules frites {mussels and fries}. Rick Steves was our trusted guide {or rather his book} and he suggested the touristy yet fun Chez Leon. We started with a simple tomato salad and then enjoyed a big old pot of mussels in white wine broth with shallots and garlic. So good and they provide plenty of bread to soak up all the broth.

While touring around the Sablon neighborhood on our second day, we stumbled upon a delightful delicatessen shop Claire Fontaine that had the most beautiful prepared lunches and decided to grab a few bites to enjoy at their little tables outside {three in total}. I highly recommend visiting this little shop, if even just to enjoy the smells.

Sadly, our dinner recommendation for our final night was a bit disappointing {Lola} but some places I had on the list that we didn’t get to try include: Les Filles and Mammouth.

Do + See

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One of the main reasons why K and I decided to keep Brussels on the itinerary was purely driven by our vices… she loves beer and I love chocolate and thus many of the things we did involved finding good beer and tasting delicious chocolate!

At the top of our beer list was a visit to Brewery Cantillon, which began brewing in 1900 and today uses the same method for crafting their Lambic beers. Although the Lambic {sour} beer is not my thing, we learned so much about the process. Did you know that spiders keep away harmful insects as they serve as effective predators to maintain a biological equilibrium in the brewery? With that, a Lambic brewer will never destroy a cobweb and killing spiders is very much frowned upon. How cool!

As for chocolate, there are so many different places to visit. My favorites included Elisabeth, a shop that represents several local Belgian artisans. Their belief: better souls make better treats! I picked up the most delicious dark chocolate Orangette. “One of the things you should try once in your life, is the flavour waltz of chocolate and orange.” And what a waltz… these didn’t make it back to the states with me. In 1919, Mary began as a chocolate shop that is now claimed to be the favorite of the Belgian royalty. It was in this shop that I learned what makes a true Belgian praline. What sold me here was not only the flavors and variety but the packaging. Perfect for all the gifts I needed to bring home!

As for the sights to see, there aren’t too many. The Grand Place, Notre Dame du Sablon, the Royal Palace and of course the Manneken-Pis, the statue of the little boy peeing. From what I’ve read, this statue represents the freedom and joie de vivre of living in Brussels. A place where happy people eat, drink… and drink and then pee. On this particular day, he was dressed in old army gear. Some days he isn’t dressed and other days he is. Just depends on your luck!

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Oh Brussels, you are certainly a place where we ate and drank quite a bit. Next time we visit, we will be sure to check out The Comic Strip Center and the Musical Instrument Museum.