London Calling – Spotlight on Shoreditch

I’ve been bitten by the travel bug!  I don’t know about you, but as soon as I get a taste of vacation I want more.  As you know, I was just in London for a few days and it was the escape I needed.  I’ve been lucky enough to have visited London before and fell in love.  However this time around, I was looking for a slightly different experience.

When I was researching neighborhoods, I was intrigued by the east end.  There’s so much to see and do in London, but I was craving something off the beaten path and not so touristy.  Shoreditch became our home base for the week and was just what we were looking for.  It’s one of London’s up-and-coming neighborhoods and I can see why.  Shoreditch is a great mix of restored brick warehouses, gritty street art, independent coffee houses, eclectic restaurants and bars.

Here’s a run down of the places we went to and loved…

STAY

Ace Hotel:  Good location, fantastic rooms and great scene.  The lobby was always packed with people working on their laptops during the day and enjoying cocktails into the night.  And the rooms came with a turntable and records- bonus!

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EAT

Bottega Prelibato:  This hidden gem is divine and has incredible fresh made pasta.  The place is adorable and the staff is fantastic.  It’s tiny so be sure to snag a reservation.

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Dishoom:  Brick lane is known for it’s fantastic Indian food and Dishoom is the place to nosh.  The food was authentic and delicious.  Great spot and it’s always packed.

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Tramshed:  Celebrated chef Mark Hix is the mastermind behind Tramshed.  It’s known for the chicken and steak to share along with other really good apps and cocktails.  It’s also home to a gigantic Damien Hirst formaldehyde sculpture of a cow and cock which takes center stage in the open space.

Restaurants: Tremshed, London

SIP

Callooh Callay:  You will find this quaint cocktail lounge nestled within the mix of bars and restaurants on Rivington street.  Great spot, good vibe, and fantastic cocktails.

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Fix Coffee:  Love me a good independent coffee shop and this one did not disappoint.  Excellent coffee and a great spot to sit and sip.

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Boundry:  Beautiful rooftop bar that’s open all year round – can’t go wrong.  You can enjoy drinks, apps, and a beautiful view.

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SEE

There’s a lot to see in Shoreditch.  I loved all of the street art and was excited to see an original Banksy right by my hotel.  You can check out two Banksy pieces on Rivington Street, but be sure to check out the rest of the street too.

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Out of The Office

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Today is the day!  As of 7 PM, I’m off on a much needed vacation.  I’m going to do something I haven’t done in a long time: unplug from work and the blog. We’ll be spending the next few days exploring London and enjoying every moment.

If you want to keep up with my travels and tomfoolery, follow me on Instagram.   Look forward to sharing my adventures with you when I return!  Till then…

Packing the Perfect Carry-on

I loathe packing – I never know what I want to bring and am a notorious over-packer.  I’ve vowed on this next trip I would get my act together!

Today starts the official one week countdown till I touchdown in London town.  I’m so excited to go back to one of my favorite cities for a much needed vacation with girlfriends.  Since it’s a long flight so packing the perfect carry-on is a must.  I’ve included my essentials and a few tips below for your next trip.

First, lay out all of the things you need to pack so you don’t forget anything…

  1. Travel documents
  2. Snacks
  3. Tablet filled with movies and/or TV shows
  4. Over sized scarf
  5. Make-up and toiletries
  6. Headphones
  7. Reading materials
  8. Chargers
  9. Change of clothes
  10. Jewelry/valuables

Travel items

COCKTAIL KIT//COSMETIC BAG//TRAVEL DOC CASE//BAG//EAR BUDS//WRAP SCARF

Tip #1:

Utilize smaller pouches and bags to help you organize everything from your chords for charging to your toiletries.

Tip #2:

Pack the things you don’t need to get to right away at the bottom of your bag.  Sounds obvious, but I’ve been guilty of digging around in my bag having a panic attack that I’ve forgotten my passport.

Tip #3:

Sit back and relax.  I’ve discovered these adorable Carry On Cocktail Kits and they are fantastic for travel.  They have everything you need to craft a delicious cocktail in one cute container – all you need to do is purchase the booze.

 

 

Destination Vacation

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been consumed by wanderlust lately.  Long weekends away recharge and rejuvenate the soul and ignite creativity.  There are so many places I’d like to travel to, but have finally narrowed down my shortlist for the remainder of the year.  Now, where to first…

Vacation

London:  I visited this beautiful city a few years ago, but I have to say it still lives in my heart.  I absolutely love it and look forward exploring beyond Big Ben and Portobello road.

Seattle:  The Pacific Northwest is a favorite of mine and can’t believe I’ve never been to Seattle.  There’s so much to see and do in this city – where to begin?!

Montreal:  Bonjour belle!  I’ve heard so many wonderful things about this historic gem.  I better start brushing up on my French- oui oui.

Austin:  My love of country music, bbq and whiskey runs deep.  What better place to kick the dust up and get into a little trouble.  This has all the makings of a fantastic girls trip.

Feel free to pass along your recommendations for food, drink and fun in each city.  What’s on your vacation list?

Keep your Sanity During the Holiday Travel Season

Tis the season for kindness, generosity, and merriment.  And then you arrive at the airport to angry sweaty people and invasive security scanners that make you resent the holiday season.  For the past 9 years, I’ve had the luxury of traveling back home for every holiday.  Needless to say, I like most people are not looking forward to the endless crowds and delayed flights.  However, I’ve found a few helpful tips to keep my sanity while traveling and hope you find them useful as we move into a busy travel time.  And remember, you’re not alone!

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  • Leave early: Being a city dweller myself, you never know how traffic or the impending security line is going to be.  Best to give yourself some extra time to account for the unexpected.
  • Dress Comfortably: Layers are your friend and bring an over sized scarf just in case you need to cozy up.
  • Pack Snacks: Being hangry just adds another element to an already stressful day.  Grab a few protein bars, turkey jerky or almonds to help satiate your rumbling tummy.
  • Stay Connected: Download the latest travel apps to help while you’re on the move.  You might also want to check out one of these:
    • FlightStatus gives you real-time updates on delays, baggage numbers and more
    • GateGuru gives you approximate times you’ll spend in security
    • SitOrSquat provides you with the cleanest bathrooms when you’re on the road
    • Waze gives you real-time traffic and road info
  • Travel Early or Late in the Day: Flight stats show planes traveling earlier in the day have a better on-time performance.  And if your flight is cancelled, you will have an option of taking a flight later in the day.  If you’re driving, it’s best to drive when everyone else is asleep – early morning or late at night if you’re a night owl.
  • Pack Light: I’m terrible at following this rule, but having a carry-on really helps expedite the airport process.  If you struggle with packing like I do, I’ve found the PackPoint packing list builder app to be extremely helpful.  It generates a customized list of what you should pack based on your agenda, weather, etc. – Brilliant!
  • If all else fails, know when to give up and have a cocktail 🙂

A Taste of Napa

I just returned from the most incredible wedding for my dear friends Jaime and Marc in Napa, CA.  She looked exquisite and it was the perfect backdrop to the start of their marriage.  When we heard the wedding was going to be in Napa during harvest season, I instantly went into planning mode.  To ensure we made the most out of the long weekend, I put together a spreadsheet (nerd alert) to help us maximize our Napa experience.  I’ve been fortunate enough to have been to Napa before and did a lot of research on planning the perfect trip and thought I would share some tips with you.  Pop open your best Pinot and happy planning!  Cheers!

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  • Getting Around: Securing a rental car and designated driver is a must!  Napa is full of options from Uber cars to limo drivers.  My sister introduced me to a service called Destination Drivers who are fantastic.  They charge an hourly rate and will come directly to you.  The best part- they will drive your rental car around so you don’t have to.   I’ve had the best experience working with them.  All of the drivers are professional and local which offers a great perspective and recommendations on hidden gems.
  • Sippin’: Some wineries allow walk-ins, but it’s always a good idea to have a few reservations lined up to maximize your wine tasting experience.  If you’re traveling with more than 5 within your group, they usually require a rez.  The wineries love having guests and are always happy to try to accommodate.  There are so many wonderful vineyards and tasting rooms to visit, but here are a few of my favorites:

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  • Good Eats: What goes better with wine than food!  There’s no shortage of restaurants that range from high-end to grab-and-go.  Here are a few of my faves:
    • Oakville Grocery: This little gem is the oldest continually operated grocery store in California.  Their sandwiches are beyond amazing- the crab cake sandwich is a MUST.  And you can’t go wrong with their salt and vinegar chips- swoon!  Grab your sammy, a glass of wine and sit out on the picnic tables to enjoy the view or head out to your next tasting.
    • The Boon Fly Café:  Breakfast, lunch, or dinner- it doesn’t matter this place will not disappoint. The rustic cuisine and contemporary roadhouse atmosphere are the perfect mix.  Whatever you do, start with the signature Boon Fly donuts.
    • Bottega: Chef Michael Chiarello- need I say more.  But I will…you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but some of my faves are:  Insalata di Cavolini di Bruxelles, Polpo alla Griglia, and Pollo alla Diavola sul Mattone.  If you’re looking for something other than a wine, the cocktail with vodka, pomegranate ice cube and basil is LEGIT (see below).
    • Bouchon Bistro and Bakery:  This intimate French restaurant offers a bistro style atmosphere and upscale cuisine.  As if it couldn’t get any better, they own the bakery next door!  They serve the bread baked daily in the restaurant- perfect for soaking up every last drop of broth and sauce.  Some of my favorites:  Salade Maraîchère au Chèvre Chaud, Steak Frites (Duh), Moules aux Poireaux (save some bread for that goodness), Pommes Frites (say yes to the truffle), Choux de Bruxelles, and the macarons from the bakery are perfection.

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