Top Things to do in St. Thomas

Ever since I visited St. Thomas on my honeymoon a few years back, it’s become one of my favorite Caribbean vacation spots.  Here are my picks for things to do on the island.

1. Ride the Cable Car to Paradise Point: If you’re looking for the best views, take the skyride up to the top of Paradise Point. It’s a little pricey, but the postcard-worthy photos you’ll take of the harbor are worth it. Cable Car

2. Try a Banana Daiquiri: St. Thomas is famous for its banana daiquiris, which consist of bananas, rum and ice. So simple, and so good. The drink is said to have originated at Mountain Top in the 1940s. You can find them all over the island, and they are not to be missed.

3. Snorkel at Coki Beach: This beach is known for having the best snorkeling on this island, with clear, blue waters that are filled with tropical fish. Make a day out of it and visit  the adjoining Coral World Ocean Park beforehand.Coki Beach

4. Shop for Jewels in Charlotte Amalie: Main Street is full of shops selling diamond and gem stone jewelry in all shapes and sizes. With the duty free shopping, plus the fact that most places are willing to haggle on the price, you’re bound to find a deal.

A Short Stay in Antibes, France

AntibesDuring this month’s Eurotrip, we had the pleasure of visiting Antibes, France. My husband and I were on a week long tour of the south of France, and since we heard good things about Antibes, decided to make it a stop on our trip.

Getting to Antibes: Nestled between Cannes and Nice, Antibes is located on a prime stretch of the Côte d’Azur. Because we were traveling through the smaller towns of Provence in the previous days, we would be arriving by rental car. After a few hours of driving, we made it to the coast in the late afternoon. Traffic slowed the closer we got, with cars backing up as we neared the exits for Cannes. We found our exit and then headed through the town’s many narrow, one way streets en route to our hotel. Thankfully we had our GPS!

Where To Stay: After finding a great deal on the Marriott website, we chose to stay at the AC Hotel Ambassedeur Antibes - Juan les Pins. The first thing I noticed when walking in was the I was the sleek, modern look of the lobby. We were greeted by the friendly and helpful staff, checked in, then ventured up to our room. We were kindly upgraded to one of the hotel’s suites, which could not have been any better. The room included a living area and separate bedroom, along with a huge terrace. Lounging on the terrace’s cafe table was nice, and we could see the ocean at the end of the street. The spacious bathroom offered a separate bathtub and shower, along with double sinks (how often do you see that at a European hotel?). One of the most functional features the suite provided was a very large, open “closet” space that was able to comfortably hold all our luggage and keep it out of the way. It came in handy! We made sure we made use of the hotel’s amenities – mainly the indoor and outdoor pool, plus the sauna.  The location in Juan les Pins was also great. The beach was a ten minute walk from the hotel, with a park, shops and restaurants along the way. Lobby hotel suite living room terrace

pool pool

Where To Eat: We were celebrating our anniversary and wanted to visit a nice restaurant for the occasion. The hotel had great dining options, and their restaurant Fushi looked like one of the best. We arrived for dinner and chose a table outside. The meal started with a glass of local Provençal rosé, which was one of many enjoyed on the trip. We took the server up on his suggested meal, which started with a salad with tomatoes, cucumbers and goat cheese. Next up was the main course of duck. I’ll admit this was my first time trying duck, and I was a little nervous. It actually was very good, as was the accompanying vegetable tart. Dessert was a fresh fruit tart consisting of strawberries, apricots and cream. It was so good that my husband ate it all, which was quite the feat considering that he usually refuses to eat any fruit. The meal went down as one of the best we had our whole trip.

Fushi salad dinner dessertSadly, we were only able to spend less than 24 hours in Antibes, since we planned to get to Nice the next day. We just missed their annual Jazz festival by about a week! Although it was short, I’m glad I got to experience a small part of the town and its beautiful beaches.

The Best Things I Ate in Barcelona

It’s been less than a week since I returned from a few days in Barcelona, and I’m already missing the food! Like any good foodie, I had to try all the specialties of Spanish cuisine that Barcelona had to offer.  Here are some of the photos I took as I ate my way through Barcelona.

Paella: I HAD to get paella when in Barcelona, and the serving we found at a beachfront restaurant in Barceloneta did not disappoint. Shrimp, mussels calamari and clams…so good. Paella

Sangria: One of my summer drinks of choice is white sangria. Sadly, I did not find white sangria on any menus in Barcelona, but good ‘ol red was always available. I also discovered my new favorite thing, cava sangria. Sparking wine is wonderful. So is sangria. Mix it together and it’s the like the best of both worlds.Sangria

Jamón: Ham and ham and more ham. Jamón serrano and jamón Iberico. (What’s the difference? Find out here.) It’s everywhere. There are whole stores dedicated to it. My husband is obsessed with this delicacy, so needless to say we ordered it a lot. barca7 barca2

Tomato Bread: This is no ordinary bread. Catalan tomato bread, or pa amb tomàquetconsists of crunchy bread rubbed with tomatoes and olive oil. This local specialty is served with most meals, which is good because it’s super addicting!Tomato Bread

Sweets: Flan. Chocolate croissants. Crema catalana. All amazing. And one of the most unique treats I found was a churro donut. Yes. I combined it with my morning espresso and I couldn’t have been happier. churro

 

My First Impression of Nice

I just returned from a few days in Nice, France. I had an amazing time, but I admittedly didn’t know what to expect when I first arrived. I’d been to Paris before, but I soon realized that the south of France has its own unique vibe. Here are some of my initial observations of the town.

1. Everyone Walks the Promenade

Tourists and locals, young and old – the Promenade des Anglais was always packed. From morning to night, we saw people walking to the beach, couples strolling hand in hand and kids riding bikes.

Nice, France2. The Beaches are Rocky

If you’re looking to lounge on a sandy beach, Nice is not the place. The beaches here are made of rocks, which made tanning and wading into the water a little painful! Locals were a little wiser and came prepared with their padded mats and shoes.

Rocky beaches of Nice3. Nothing is Free

There was a fee to use our hotel’s private beach, its pool and its towels, and we heard this was the norm! There was even a charge for water in restaurants!

4. It’s a Resort Town

The town was a lot less less “glitz and glam” than I expected, and Nice is essentially a beach town. Its laid back vibe was evident from the first day we arrived.

My US Airways Flight: A Tale of Endless Delays

I’m writing this post as I sit on the runway of Charlotte’s airport, waiting for my US Airways flight to Barcelona to depart. Our original departure time was scheduled for 6:20pm. A departure delay and a gate change later, it’s currently 9:25pm with no signs of takeoff in sight. (This is in addition to the previous flight from Cleveland to Charlotte that was pushed back by an hour and a half). The rumors and reasons given for the delays ranged from a late incoming flight to re-fueling to weather delays. The latest updates revolve around “fuel issues” with the plane, which have been happening for the last hour.

The extra hours I had to kill raised some questions in my mind. When passengers pay a fare for a service with a previously agreed upon schedule, how responsible is the airline for sticking to those time frames? Because of all the delays, we are currently slotted to arrive at our final destination, Barcelona, three hours after planned. Losing hours of time that we had planned to use exploring Barcelona is a little frustrating, especially when you’re only spending two days in the city. If time is money, what accountability does the airline have when they waste your time? When you’re paying over $1,500 a ticket for a service and the service is not provided as well as expected, what rights do you have as a paying customer? Sure, I can choose not to fly them again, but does not giving my business really affect them?
One of the deciding factors when purchasing the flight was that fact that the airline had recently merged with my airline of choice, American. I can’t help but wonder if venturing outside of the One World Alliance would have been worth it to save the time and frustration. In hindsight, maybe I should have also given the airline’s horrible on-time stats more weight. Something to think about next time I’m shopping for flights. Will my negative experience thus far on US Airways ruin my summer Eurotrip? No. But it’s certainly made the trip get off to a negative start. Needless to say, I’m nervous to see how our return flight back to the states will pan out!

Wine Tasting in Chile’s Casablanca Valley

wineryWhen I learned I would be visiting Chile again for a wedding, I knew a winery visit was definitely a must. Chile’s one of the top wine producing countries, and as a wine aficionado, visiting local wineries has always been on my Chile to do list. I’d been many times before, yet had never made a stop at one of the country’s many vineyards. This time it was a priority, and I couldn’t have been more excited. A few wine regions surround Santiago, the city that would serve as a home base of the trip. After a little research, I learned that there were many potential regions to visit. From the popular Maipo Valley to the San Antonio and Cachapoal Valleys, the options were vast. Since we were planning on making a day trip to Vina del Mar, the Casablanca Valley, situated northwest of the capital, was the perfect location. After reading online reviews, we settled on Casas del Bosque. We enlisted a few local friends, made reservations and planned to head towards the coast for a Sunday afternoon of wine tasting. We all attended a wedding the night before that ended at 5 a.m. (which the American in me was not used to!), so it was a little hard to rise and shine. The slow start to the morning, coupled with the long drive to Casablanca, meant we would probably miss our reservation. We decided to give the winery a call to inquire about other times. Luckily they were very accommodating and were able to a schedule our visit for a later time. We pulled up to Casas del Bosque in the late afternoon. The sun was shining and the weather was perfect. A short drive up the winding entryway revealed pretty vast grounds. Guests were relaxing in lounge chairs throughout the property, drinking wine and taking in the sunshine. We walked up to the main building to check in. Since we arrived later than planned (which is not uncommon for me, if you ask my friends), we opted out of the scheduled tour and decided to just do a tasting. It took place inside the 242 Aromnas Bar, and included samples of 4 wines. The four of us were seated with another party, which included some researchers from Cornell University. The wines included red and whites from the vineyard’s Reserva, Gran Reserva and Private Reserva lines. We were told the interesting story of the carmenere grape, beginning with its “exile” from France. It was looked over in favor of more popular grape varieties, and was brought to Chile. After being mistaken for Merlot for many years, producers realized they actually had carmenere grapes in the 1990s, and the majority of carmenere has been made in Chile ever since. Very informative, right? The tasting was fun, and my non wine-drinking husband even had a good time. My favorites had to be the carmenere and the sauvignon blanc, and we even took home a bottle of the latter. photo 1 wine tasting

After the tasting session, we were able to explore the wine cellar and walk around the grounds at our own pace. We also learned that the vineyard offered a few unique options. Their picnic experience provides a basket filled with food and wine that you can enjoy on the grounds, and a bike experience allows guests to bike throughout the winery. Definitely something I’d love to do on my next visit. Everyone we encountered was great, and despite our time crunch, we had a wonderful afternoon at the winery. More information can be found on their website, or you can email tanino@casasdelbosque.cl to schedule a visit. 010 007 005 grapes 014 wine cellar

Ten Unique Travel Accessories Under $10

1. Packing Checklist: This list will make sure you don’t forget any of the necessities.

2. Travel Laundry BagGreat for separating dirty clothes from the rest of your suitcase.

3. Bottle Protector: Keep your wine and liquor safe on the return flight home.

4. Squeeze Pods:  Disposable pods of necessities like lotion, hand sanitizer and shaving cream are super convenient.

5. Mini Sewing Kit: For when you need that safety pin or extra button.

6. Credit Card ProtectorThis handy card sleeve protects you from identity theft.

7. Travel First Aid Kit: Medicine and band-aids are always useful.

8. Laundry Soap Sheets: Mix these small sheets with water for instant detergent.

 9. Travel Scale: Perfect for making sure your bags don’t exceed airline weight limits.

10. IdentiGrip Luggage Tag: This padded tag conceals your contact info and makes your bag easily identifiable.

 

 

My Brazil Bucket List

The World Cup is officially underway and it seems like everyone (especially my husband) has futbol fever. Our plans of heading south to Brazil to see the action in person fell through, but Brazil still tops my list of countries to visit. These are my top to-dos in Brazil.

Explore Rio de Janeiro

There’s so much to see in Rio. On my to do list is taking the cable car to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, climbing up to see the famous Cristo Redentor statue up close and personal, walking the wave-patterned sidewalks of Copacabana and sitting on Selaron’s steps. Rio de Janeiro

Discover Salvador

How beautiful is the colorful colonial architecture of Bahia’s capital?salvador

Lounge on a Florianopolis Beach

Floripa is one of the most popular resort towns for a reason. Its beaches are said to be some of the best in Brazil. florianolpolis

Take in Iguazu Falls

Like Niagara Falls, but bigger and better. The majority of the falls may lie in Argentina, but the views from Brazil’s side still look breathtaking.Iguazu Falls

Live the Fancy Life in Sao Paulo

The chic Hotel Fasano.  The high end stores on Rua Oscar Freire. The fabulous rooftop of the Hotel Unique. Sao Paulo has everything you need for luxury living. Hotel Unique

What cities or experiences are on your Brazil bucket list?

Honeymoonin’ in St. Thomas

ST16Last week was my two year wedding anniversary. It had me thinking back to the amazing time I had during my honeymoon in St. Thomas. After our destination wedding in nearby Puerto Rico, we took a quick flight over to the U.S. Virgin Islands. The flight may have been just 30 minutes long, but it was the morning after our wedding, and we were exhausted. All we wanted was to get to the resort and begin to relax. We landed at the airport, hopped on one of the safari buses that are prevalent on the island, and made our way to Marriott’s Frenchman’s Reef resort. We checked in and were ready for some R&R. A mini emergency arose when I realized that my suitcase was no where to be found…because it was still at the St. Thomas airport. In our post-wedding sleepy haze, we had completely forgot to grab our checked bag! The seasoned traveler in me was put to shame. A quick regroup and my sweet new husband was on his way back to the airport to retrieve the bag. Luggage fiascoes aside, we got settled in and were ready to see what the resort had to offer. The massive complex housed numerous pools, a private beach, a spa and free activities like kayaking and snorkeling. It was just what the doctor ordered. After a day at the spa and a few hours lounging in the infinity pool, we had completely settled into laid back island life.

Lazy mornings at the beach were followed by strolls through the capital, Charlotte Amalie. Our resort had complimentary ferry service that dropped us off right in the middle of the action, which was an added perk. Even though it was technically the off-season, this downtown area was still packed with people. A morning outdoor market was worth a quick walk-through, and I was able to pick up a cute beach cover-up and some local spices on the cheap. St. Thomas is known for it’s duty free shopping, and Charlotte Amalie is the place to go if you’re looking for jewelry and gemstones. Streets and alleyways are lined with jewelry stores selling necklaces, rings and loose stones – all at a much lower price than you’d at your local jeweler. There was a lot of browsing, but I left sans any new bling. We then walked up the famous 99 steps to see the hilltop attractions. A quick stop for banana daiquiris at a hilltop bar was the perfect way to beat the heat. They’re very popular on the island and I highly recommend them! The rest of the day was spend visiting restored Danish homes turned museums like Haagensen House, and visiting the shops and art gallery of the Pissarro building. It was actually the birthplace of the impressionist artist, which the art nerd in me loved. A stop at the infamous Blackbeard’s castle was a must, although it was a tourist trap. Although kitschy, it was fun, and a climb to the top offered great views of the harbor. The day was capped off with dinner at Oceana in Frenchtown, followed by drinks at the waterfront Hook, Line and Sinkerst thomasSt Thomas 99Steps Blackbeard's Castle St Thomas

The next morning we were off to explore other parts of the island. Shopping is always on my list, so checking out Havensight was a must. Rows of upscale shops by the likes of Gucci and Louis Vuitton mesh with bistros and bars, all overlooking the massive cruise ships and luxury yachts in the harbor. A little retail therapy and a nice lunch made for the perfect afternoon.

Our last day was spent on the East end of St. Thomas. I don’t know about you, but I love a good aquarium, and Coral World didn’t disappoint. The marine park featured outdoor exhibits where you could get up close and personal with sharks, turtles and stingrays. It even had an underwater observatory. Nearby Coki Beach was within walking distance, and decided to spend the rest of the day there. This beach may be a hike from the main areas of the island, but it’s worth a visit. They say this spot offers the best snorkeling in the U.S. Virgin Islands. This was the only beach on the island where we encountered very persistent locals selling everything from food to flip flops. It’s mostly an annoyance, and not dangerous. After spending our final day soaking up the Caribbean sun, it was back to the hotel to rest up for an early morning flight. Our short honeymoon was amazing, but I could have spent much longer in St. Thomas. Visiting the other islands of the U.S. Virgin Islands is next on my list! ST THOMAS Coral World Coki Beach

 

Santiago’s Top 5 Sights

Chile may not be as popular for tourists as its larger South American neighbors, but it’s definitely worth a visit. The capital city, Santiago, has everything that you’d want to find in comparable places like Buenos Aires – culture, history, good food, nightlife. If you’re a first time visitor, there are a few spots you must check out. Here’s my list of the top 5 places to visit.

1. Cerro San Cristobal

This hill overlooking the city offers some of the best views of the city and, on a clear day, the snow-capped Andes. The funicular ride is a fun way to get to the top, and a stop at the nearby zoo is also a good way to spend the afternoon. Santiago

2. La Moneda

Chile’s presidential palace was the sight of the start of the infamous coup d’état in the ’70s, so this site is a must for any history buff. If time allows, take a free guided tour for an in-depth look. la moneda

3. Mercado Central

Looking for an authentic, cheap lunch? The market is a great place to try local cuisine at a good price, or just walk through to see the overflowing stands of fresh fruits and seafood. Look up for a glimpse of the classic wrought iron architecture. mercado central

4. The Bellavista neighborhood

Strolling through this artsy neighboorhood is one of my favorite ways to spend the days. The area has good shops and restaurants, and is also home to one of Pablo Neruda’s home, la Chascona. Bellavista Chile

4. Plaza de Armas

This square started as the original Spanish settlement of Santiago in the 1500s. Today it’s a lively plaza filled with locals, tourists, performers and street vendors. Visit the centuries-old cathedral or the  historic national post office, both located in the square. plaza de armas

5. Cerro Santa Lucía

This beautiful park is full of fountains and greenery, and is a nice escape in the middle of the city. Perfect for a stroll on a warm day.Cerra Santa Lucia

My Paris Food Diary

Oh, Paris. One of my favorite cities. Beyond the culture, architecture and romance of the City of Light, there’s the food. Macarons, crepes, baguettes, escargots, foie gras. It’s all amazing. The French are known for their rich gastronomy, and it’s evident everywhere you look in Paris. You can’t walk far without passing an amazing patisserie, fromagerie or boulangerie. I’ve visited some memorable shops and restaurants on my last trip to Paris, and gathered some of my favorite foodie photos and cafe shots. Enjoy!

blog18 440 (2) 436 (2) paris from paris cheese KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA french 383 (2) 382 (2) 356 (2) 303 (2) 550 (2) 574 (2) 566 (2) 569 (2) 663 (2)

One of the Best Restaurants in Cleveland

Greenhouse TavernI’d heard a lot about the Greenhouse Tavern in Cleveland. It was named one of the 10 Best New Restaurants by Bon Appetit, and the chef, Jonathan Sawyer, is a James Beard Award finalist. (Coincidentally, his mom also teaches in my hometown’s school district). Fellow chef Michael Symon even named it one of his top places to eat in Cleveland. My friends raved about this gastropub’s farm-to-table freshness and innovative menu for months, so I had to try it out during a recent trip to Cleveland.

We were able to score a reservation on a Saturday night, something I was told is not an easy feat. We arrived at the restaurant in the popular East 4th area and were promptly seated upstairs. I’d describe the decor as hispter chic – eclectic with bikes fastened to the walls. We were lucky enough to score a window seat overlooking the street scene below, which made for some good people watching.menu

The menu is split into first, second and third courses. The firsts feature small bites, the seconds are shareables, and full entrees make up the thirds. Some interesting items could be found on the menu like beef jerky spaghetti and carrot frites. I decided to skip the famous roasted pig head for the more subdued gnocchi with mushrooms. I’m always impressed with a carbonara-like raw egg, and this pasta didn’t disappoint. The devils on horseback, or bacon wrapped dates, were a favorite of my table mates. We were all told that we had to try the wings, so the decision to order the crispy chicken wings confit was a no brainer. I’m glad I did. I’m not usually a fan of wings, but the crispiness of the skin and the heat from the green onions and jalapeno made these memorable. I can see why they are so popular. A friend’s pommes frites with rosemary were also a hit at our table.  green3 green5
friteschocolate barAfter dinner we headed up to the rooftop bar. The warm weather made for perfect rooftop lounging. The atmosphere was fun and laid back, with string lights and good cocktails. I highly recommend an after-dinner drink on the roof.  A stop at nearby Chocolate Bar for martinis rounded out the night. I still have to try the Fred Flintstone short ribs with the buttered popcorn pot de creme for dessert, both of which I heard are amazing. I’ll definitely be back next time I’m in Cleveland.

 

 

Jetsetter Style

Up, up and away

My good friend Tiffany runs the popular fashion blog Haute Turntable. There she waxes poetic about the latest styles, her favorite music, her travels and her overall fabulous life in New York. I recently sat down for a quick Q &A with her to get insight on the best travel tips, accessories and destinations.

Favorite Destination: Mykonos or Napa Valley

Favorite Airport: O’Hare (I like the layout)

Favorite Airline: Virgin

Favorite Hotel: My favorite thus far has to be the Auberge Saint-Antoine in Quebec City. It is so cute and quaint, yet has a modern feel!

Travel Necessities: Hand sanitizer, ballet flats, yoga pants, a good hoodie and an iPhone charger.

Carry On Bag: My ride or die bag is my red suede Burberry carry all.

Essential Plane Reading Material: Lately it has been People Style Watch, Vogue, or Rachel Zoe “Living in Style”

5 things you bring on a plane: Chapstick, Gum, Bose Headphones, Neck Pillow, Hand Lotion

What do you always seem to forget? Cash. I always have to get cash out when I touchdown at the airport.

Favorite travel app(s): I would say the Virgin app to check into your flight and check statuses.

Most embarrassing travel moment: I ALWAYS sit in the wrong rows and seats. I once got into it with a woman for like 5 minutes adamant that I wasn’t in her seat, but I definitely was.

What’s your dream destination? Bali or Australia & New Zealand

Best travel tip: Be a smart packer. I used to over pack and it made my life hell. Now that I travel so much for work, I have learned to pack versatile items that can be mixed and matched.

You can find Tiffany at hauteturntable.com or on Twitter and Facebook. Visit her online and say hello!

London calling

London calling

NYC

At home in NYC

napa

Relaxing in Napa

Travel essentials

Travel essentials

A New Type of Airport Lounge

 

lounge

When traveling through Cleveland recently, I was tipped off to a new feature at the airport. Cleveland Hopkins Airport is the newest location of an Airspace Lounge, a new type of lounge made for all travelers.

These lounges are quite different from the airline lounges you’re used to. For one, they are open to any flyer, regardless of the airline they’re flying. For only $20, flyers receive unlimited coffee, tea, soft drinks, juice and espresso. Each guest also gets a credit to use towards any of the food or drinks on the menu. The interior is sleek and modern, with lots of windows that allow for cool views of the runway. One of my favorite features has to be the WiFi and power outlets, which we all know can be hard to come by at a lot of airports! This place is something I know I would have used on a recent 6 hour layover in Miami.

This location opened last year, and there are also outposts in Baltimore, San Francisco and New York’s JFK. I didn’t use the lounge since I was pressed for time, but I’ll definitely be checking it out next time I’m in Cleveland. Have you visited an Airspace lounge? What do you think of this new concept? Let me know your thoughts!

24 Hours in Vina del Mar

vina del marI’m a big fan of day trips. Whenever I’m visiting another country, I always research any interesting towns or attractions nearby that may be worth visiting. On a recent trip to Santiago, Chile, I wanted to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a day for a more laid back atmosphere. My husband and I recruited our local friends and decided to drive northwest from the capital to the coastal town of Viña del Mar.

Combined with its neighboring city of Valparaíso, the region makes up the third largest metropolitan area in the country. I heard good things about the city from every Chilean I talked to, all of which referred to it simply as “Viña.” The trip to the coast was full of winding roads that passed through mountains and by the numerous vineyards of the Casablanca Valley. We arrived after about an hour of driving and got settled into where we were staying. It was around lunch time and we’d had a long drive, so we went up a little north to the Reñaca neighborhood for lunch. Driving along the winding road that ran parallel to the Pacific brought not only views of the water, but also strolling vacationers, beachside food stands and surf shops. The cliffs that lined the coastal highway had restaurants, stores and apartments etched into the land, which was a cool sight to see. A long flight of stairs took us up to Punta del Este, a quaint restaurant across from the ocean. I knew that when in Viña I had to have seafood, so I wasted no time selecting things to try.  I chose garlic shrimp and machas a la parmesana (razor clams with parmesan). I was super excited to see the ever-present pebre brought to the table. This salsa-like mix of peppers, onions, garlic and coriander is served with bread at every restaurant in Chile, and it quickly became one of my favorite things. My husband had one of his favorite things, locos, or abalone. Between the rest of the diners at the table, most of the major Chilean specialties were present, including ceviche, seafood empanadas and caldillo de congrio (conger eel soup). seafood

After lunch we wanted to explore the city on foot. The pace here was a lot sl0wer. I noticed a lot of people walking leisurely on the streets, lingering in coffee shops and enjoying long lunches. We walked along the beach and got some great views of the historic Wulff Castle. It almost appeared to jut into the sea. The beach was empty, as the summer high season was over, so I was told it was not as lively as it usually is. After browsing some local shops, it was time to head back to get ready for dinner.

In typical South American fashion, the night started late. We arrived around 9:00 pm at Cap Ducal, a hotel and restaurant styled to look like an old ship, weathered exterior and all.  The large windows allowed for great views of the water, and we were lucky enough to score one of the coveted tables near the windows. We ordered some Chilean wine and opted for more seafood. When in Rome, right?castillo wulffVina

A short walk across the street after dinner led us to Casino Viña del Mar. My husband knows that if there’s a casino nearby, I’m going to want to check it out. The interior, with its crystal chandeliers, was old school elegance. It was filled with the standard blackjack, roulette and slots, and the dress code seemed pretty fancy. Less than an hour was all we needed to lose money, so we left to go to the adjacent club, Ovo. After trying out another local bar and too many terremotos later, it was time to call it a night.

The next morning we were in need of breakfast, so we walked over to Amura Cafe, a cute cafe and bakery located withing walking distance of our condo. We filled up on espresso and breakfast pastries like croissants filled with manjar, Chile’s version of dulce de leche. It was soon time to head back to Santiago so we packed up and hit the road. Side note – gas stations are few and far between on the highway from Viña del Mar to Santiago. We were in a rush to get back to Santiago and almost ran out of gas! We managed to arrived safe and sound in Santiago, and it was off to the airport for our flight back to the U.S. vina coffee vina beach 048