Hotel Review: The Palazzo Las Vegas

PalazzoOh, Las Vegas. Love it or hate it. I, like most people I know, have their fill after 3 days. But nonetheless its bright lights, warm weather and slot machines always call my name every so often. So when the husband and I were looking for a quick break, we settled on the sunshine, pools and good restaurants of Las Vegas. Plus, it’s only an hour plane ride away from where I live, so off for a 3 day weekend we went.

I always find myself back at the Venetian when in Vegas. The all suite hotel has some of the nicest and most spacious rooms on the Strip. But this time we decided to expand our horizons and hop over to the Palazzo. Since it’s a sister property and connected to the Venetian, we knew we couldn’t go wrong. And as part of the IHG parent company, my Intercontinental aspire Elite status would be honored too – bonus!

Upon check-in, our room was upgraded and we were offered late checkout, two perks of my Spire Elite status. The room was as spacious as I expected, with a separate living area complete with a sectional sofa. The bathrooms are large too, with a tub and shower – something that is hard to find in most hotel rooms. The view overlooking the pool complex wasn’t too shabby either. Palazzo Las Vegas Living Room

One of the best things about Vegas is that there is so much to do right outside your hotel room. The Venetian shops are conveniently located in the hotel and are perfect for when you need to stay indoors on those hot 110 degree afternoons. Various restaurant options, shops and luxury boutiques can keep me occupied for hours. Some of my favorites this trip were Yardbird Southern Table for lunch, Canaletto for Italian, Mario Batali’s Otto for pizza and Carlo’s Bakery (of Cake Boss fame) for desserts.

Another reason why I love the Palazzo – the pools. There are 10 pools and 5 hot tubs to choose from between the Venetian and Palazzo. Each one has its own vibe, from relaxing to kid-friendly to the party scene at Tao Beach.Palazzo Pool

From the amenities to the great customer service, I was definitely not disappointed with my first stay at the Palazzo. It may just become my go-to Las Vegas hotel going forward.

Interested in staying here? I was able to find a great price for under $200 a night when booking directly through Palazzo.com.

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My 1st Airbnb Experience

I’m admittedly a little behind the curve on the whole Airbnb thing. As a travel blogger, I’m a little surprised myself that I’ve never rented via the popular site. What can I say? I tend to lean toward hotels (ideally luxury ones at that) for their services, safety and amenities. After rave reviews from my friends, who have used Airbnb rentals everywhere from Hawaii to Paris, I decided to give it a shot.

It was about 6 months ago that I started planning a trip to Italy. My husband and I would be doing the classic first timer’s Italy itinerary of Rome, Florence and Venice. The clincher? Our toddler was coming along for the ride. I know what you’re thinking. Who would want to bring their baby to such a romantic destination? Where we go, she goes, and I wasn’t about to skip a trip to Europe just because we have a baby! I knew that having a little one in tow meant naps, lots of dirty laundry and nightly bath time. The convenience of a private apartment with a kitchen and extra space was tempting, so to Airbnb’s website I went.

Since we had hotels in Rome and Venice locked in with points and hotel loyalty programs, we opted to rent a one bedroom apartment in Florence. While researching, I was really impressed with the search criteria options and being able to filter results for everything from family friendly facilities to amenities like internet and a pool.airbnb viewI was able to find a centrally located apartment from a super host, and it even included a crib. After reading the reviews, we decided to pull the trigger. Upon arriving in Florence, our hosts were gracious enough to meet us at the train station. The apartment was clean, spacious and perfect for our family of three. As every traveler knows, it’s nice to have a kitchen to eat a few meals in, and a laundry room to wash clothes. The location could not have been better – it was located on a quiet street within walking distance of restaurant, shops and Florence’s famous Doumo. The Mercato Centrale around the corner was super convenient and a go-to lunch spot. We were more than pleased with our choice of accommodations and I can gladly say my 1st Airbnb experience was wonderful!

If you’re ever in Florence, check out our new friend Alessio’s apartment. You won’t be disappointed!airbnb

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Hotel Review: Intercontinental New York Barclay

Intercontinental Barclay

I always love being back in New York, so when the opportunity came for a quick weekend trip to see old friends, I jumped at the chance.

Manhattan has so many amazing hotels.For this trip I was looking for a good central Manhattan location that could easily get me to my favorite neighborhoods. With Intercontinental points to burn in my account from my new IHG credit card, I quickly found the Intercontinental Barclay. There were quite a few Intercontinental properties in Manhattan, but I chose the Barclay because of its Midtown location. Located less than 5 blocks from Grand Central, it was a convenient home base to get around the city.

Grand Central
The hotel is withing walking distance to Grand Central

The hotel has an old New York vibe, with a grand lobby and gilded ceilings. As an IHG card holder, I gained Elite Spire status, which meant a room upgrade and complimentary wifi. My room was comfortable, updated and very large by Manhattan standards. I loved the black and white floors, which are classic New York. I even had them in my very first NYC apartment. The bathroom was spacious, clean and modern. Simple amenities like a Keurig machine and nice toiletries were a nice bonus and really make a difference in my book.

From check-in to check-out, the service was great, with helpful staff that even remembered my name. Overall the hotel was comfortable, clean and safe. Have I stayed at nicer Intercontinentals? Yes. (Hello Willard Intercontinental!) But this hotel is definitely nice, and a great Midtown option. For the location, interior and price, this hotel is definitely worth a visit. IHG Barclay bathroombathroomIHG barclayIntercontinental Barclay

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Why We Should Love our National Parks

Muir woodsDid you know that 2017 marks the 100 year anniversary of the US national Parks? There are 59 official parks across the country, which means that there is likely one that’s close to you! Whatever your activity of choice is – hiking, camping or just sightseeing – there’s a National Park for it. We’re so lucky to have these amazing, preserved pieces of nature at our fingertips to help inspire new adventures. If you’ve been itching to visit your closest park, the US National Park Service is offering complimentary admission to all parks on April 15. Mark your calendars!

As a new Coloradan, as we’re called, I recently visited Rocky Mountain National Park. The drive in early fall made for breathtaking views, especially of the Aspen trees, and we actually crossed the Continental Divide! The park’s nearest town, Estes Park, has quickly solidified itself as one of my favorite little towns in Colorado.

During a recent trip to San Francisco, I was also lucky enough to make it to Muir Woods. It’s less than an hour from the hustle and bustle of of the Bay Area, but feels a world away. Added bonus, it’s also not too far from wine country, if you want to make a day out of it. 

Did you know that one of our parks is a rainforest? El Yunque in Puerto Rico is the only rainforest on US soil, and it’s definitely unlike any other National Park you’ve seen. While in Puerto Rico for my wedding in 2012, a short drive from San Juan transported us to a rainforest complete with waterfalls, beautiful plant life and tropical birds. 

I’ve come to learn how necessary the right equipment is for camping, hiking and other outdoor activities. I recently discovered Cotopaxi, and it’s become one of my go to outdoor brands not only because of their products, but because of their support of well being worldwide. They donate a portion of every sale to various charities that assist with global health initiatives, and these backpacks help provide the most aid. So great, right? They are supporting the 100th anniversary of our parks with the hashtag #ParkPride. Share your park photos!

Cotopaxi National ParksI would love to take a road trip to Yellowstone or explore the Everglades during my next trip to South Florida. What National Parks are your favorite, and which ones are you hoping to visit one day?

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Exploring Vail, Colorado

Since moving to Denver last year, I’ve been eagerly exploring my new surroundings. Not only is Denver an exciting city, but the mountains are just a few hours away! I grew up hearing about the natural beauty that Colorado has to offer, and heard stories of friends and family taking ski holidays to towns like Aspen, Vail and Breckenridge. With the mountains a short drive from my new home base, I was eager to get out and explore! So when a few friends came to visit from New York, it was the perfect time to head west to Vail.

We departed early Saturday morning for a short weekend getaway. After arriving around 10am, we headed to our hotel. After a lot of research, I chose the Four Seasons for its location near the entrance to Vail Village. Plus, you can’t go wrong at a Four Seasons property, right? We were greeted warmly and were able to check in early. After settling in, we were eager to start our day and ventured out to a nearby hiking trail. The walk took us through the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens  and on to more remote trails that gave amazing views of the snow-capped Rockies.vailVailrockiesHiking worked up an appetite so we made it back into town for lunch. We chose Mountain Standard, which overlooks a scenic creek and has since become one of my favorite restaurants in Vail. Good drinks, a nice atmosphere and one of the best octopus dishes I’ve ever had – what more could you ask for?
vail villageMountain Standard VailMountain StandardVail Village is a quaint town filled with ski shops, bakeries and restaurants. On any given afternoon it will be filled with local families, vacationers in their best fur coats, skiers and people just generally enjoying the outdoors. The alpine architecture really makes Vail unique and gives the town such charm. A little shopping on the way back to the hotel capped off our afternoon. It was then time for a few hours at the Four Seasons’ spa. One of the best things about the hotel was the complimentary spa amenities available to guests. Not to mention the pool with its gorgeous views! Four Seasons vail Post pool, it was a quick walk back into town to grab a bite to eat. After dinner and drinks at Sweet Basil, one of the most popular restaurants in Vail, we headed back to our hotel. It transforms at night, with lit up balconies complete with fire pits lining the central area of the hotel. It’s the perfect spot for a late night cocktail, and we capped off the night with s’mores on the patio – how fun is that? Four Seasons Vail at night

Although it’s known for its winter activities, Vail is amazing year round. Although I have yet to be back this Winter, I hope to return soon to enjoy the snow and scenery.

 

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2016: My Year in Travel

Like most travel bloggers, I am always looking forward to my next trip. The year ahead means an open calendar of new cities to see and more passport stamps to collect. The last few years I have been so lucky to be able to travel to beautiful, amazing places, and 2016 was no different. With the past year came an exciting cross country move, along with the adventure that is traveling with a baby. From South America to mountain towns in my new home state of Colorado, here are my 2016 highlights.

CHILE: I’ve been to Chile many times since I have family there, but this trip marked an important milestone – my daughter’s first international trip. Traveling with a baby is never easy, but thankfully the ride went off without a hitch! I also ventured to Pucon for the first time, a town in the southern Lake District that is an adventure lover’s dream destination. A visit to the Santa Rita winery in the popular Maipo Valley rounded out the trip. flying with a babypucon chile santa rita chile santa rita winery

SAN FRANCISCO: Believe it or not, I’d never been to San Francisco. When friends moved to the Bay Area, it was the perfect excuse to plan a trip! Although the fog ruined a chance at any clear photos of the Golden Gate Bridge, I still loved my first San Fran experience.  Muir woods

VAIL: Since transplanting to Colorado in early 2016, I was eager to explore my new state. I was spoiled to stay not once, but twice, at the town’s lux Four Seasons during the year. The mix of small town charm and alpine architecture has earned Vail the title of #1 mountain town in my book.
Vail Four Seasons

LAS VEGAS: I always love a quick trip to Vegas. This year’s visits were a little different…because our baby came too! We made the most of the pools, great restaurants and of course, gambling. I also stayed at one of my favorite Vegas properties, the Venetian, which is always a wonderful experience.   Venetian pool

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Baby on Board

Air travel is stressful. There are crowds to deal with at the airport, cramped quarters on the plane and rude passengers. Try adding a baby to the mix! But it doesn’t have to be as bad as you think. We took my daughter on her first flight at 2 months old. I was on maternity leave and felt like a hermit…why not go to Florida to see family, right? Since then she’s flown on over 20 flights. (We’re really taking advantage of the “kids under 2 fly for free” rule)! Some have been as easy as pie and some have been nightmares, but I always make sure I’m prepared and take it in stride. Here is what I’ve learned so far. baby on board
CHOOSE YOUR SEAT WISELY 
One of the worst things in the world is being stuck in a middle seat with a lap child. I learned this the hard way. As bad as that was, I’ve also been lucky enough to have an empty seat next to me, which you better believe I took full advantage of! When my child was younger and unable to sit on her own, I always inquired if there were open seats on the flight. A few friendly employees have rearranged my seating assignment and allowed me to place a carrier in an empty seat. You would not believe how nice it is to not have to hold a baby for 3 hours straight! If your flight has slim pickings, it may be worth it to upgrade to a premium seat or business class for added space. When in doubt, head to the back of the plane, where there’s most likely to be open seats.

COME PREPARED My pre-baby packing checklist looked much different than it does today, and certainly did not include diapers and formula. Don’t leave home without an adequate supply of snacks, diapers and clothes. Now that my little one is a toddler, I have learned that the iPad is my best friend on a long flight, so I make sure it’s loaded with Sesame Street episodes. I also take the Baby Bjorn as a carrier option.

flying with a baby

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF FAMILY BOARDING Most airlines allow passengers traveling with small children early boarding, usually after first class boards. This allows you to not only check your stroller at the gate without a line of anxious people breathing down your neck, but also the chance to get situated in your seat and unload your necessities with ease. Family boarding is especially important on Southwest, where being the last group to board almost guarantees a middle seat.

PREPARE FOR TAKEOFF Have you ever changed a baby in an airplane bathroom? Trust me, it’s not fun. My pre-boarding ritual includes a diaper change and a fresh bottle. Making sure your baby is changed and fed will hopefully prevent an emergency trip to the lavatory. And since changes in pressure can affect children’s ears, a bottle or pacifier can help ease the transition as you ascend.

DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP My husband and I often fly together, but I’ve also flown alone with child in tow. As you can guess, it’s MUCH easier to have that extra set of hands. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! I’ve asked TSA agents to assist with pushing my bag through the conveyor belt and opening my stroller. It’s worth asking for help if it makes getting through security a little easier.

EXPLORE AIRPORT FACILITIES Thankfully many airports are becoming more family friendly, with designated play areas and women’s lounges. A recent long layover in Dallas went smoothly thanks to their Junior Flyers play area. SFO and O’Hare have great playgrounds, the latter designed by the Children’s Museum of Chicago. Beyond the obvious amenities, we love the AA Admirals Club lounges for the play areas we’ve come across in the Miami and LAX locations. Check online to learn more about your airport’s facilities.

bbay DFW kids club

Flying alone with my little one has shown me that there are nice people out there. Without fail, people have offered help every time, whether it’s to carry my bag or grab something from the overhead bin for me.  A flight attendant once said she’d hold my baby if I needed to use the restroom. And during an uncharacteristically fussy period, a nice woman seated behind me told me to hand over my little one. She was a pediatrician and must have noticed that I needed a break! Yes, you may get a few eye rolls when you’re heading down the aisle, but I’ve never encountered a rude fellow flyer. Try not to worry to much, flying with kids isn’t as hard as it seems.

 

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My Favorite Travel Beauty Kits

Unlike my husband who travels light and is fine using the complimentary soap provided by the hotels, I have to have my luxuries when I’m staying away from home. It’s not always easy packing the necessities, and no one wants to lug around their full size shampoo and body wash. Thankfully a few of my favorite brands offer convenient travel sets for girls on the go. Here are the products I make sure to include in my luggage.Molton Brown

Molton Brown Jetsetter KitMolton Brown is an iconic English brand that has the most luxurious scents (I’m obsessed with Japanese Orange!). I take this toiletry kit with me when I want to feel pampered on the road. The glam pink bag doubles as a makeup bag too!

Malin + Goetz Essential Kit: One of my favorite Miami hotels, the Mondrian, stocks their bathrooms with this brand. The Essentials Kit full of 1 ounce necessities is usually in my bag during overnight flights for the face wash and moisturizers. Bonus points because they are paraben free and contain no dyes or perfumes.

Bliss Sinkside Six Pack: I first discovered Bliss after staying at a W hotel, and I’ve been in love ever since. This travel kit includes their best products – Lemon + Sage Body Butter, Soapy Suds, face wash, shampoo and conditioner. The best part is that they’re small enough to fit in a carry on bag for quick weekend getaways.

Coola Mineral Suncare Travel SetCoola Suncare is my must have for  beach vacations. I love that they offer organic and mineral based products, plus their travel sets are TSA friendly. I usually pick up their sunscreen at Sephora before taking off to a tropical destination.coola suncare

 

 

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Afternoon Tea at the Sanderson

Whenever I hear that someone is visiting England for the first time, I always recommend afternoon tea. So when my friend and I took a much needed girls trip to London, I knew we had to schedule tea time. It was my friend Lindsay’s first trip to the UK and I wanted to show her a quintessentially British experience. I’ve had tea before at Fortnum & Mason and at the Marriott Park Lane (you can read about that visit here), and both were wonderful. But since this was a girls trip, we decided to go all out. Champagne afternoon tea for two, please!

I had heard about the Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea at the Sanderson Hotel. It sounded exactly like the fun experience we were looking for, so I made a reservation and was pumped to see what it was all about.

The Sanderson is located in the West End and was a short walk after our afternoon of browsing on Bond Street. The hotel itself is chic and modern and was designed by Philippe Starck. Afternoon tea takes place in the hotel’s courtyard, which made for beautiful surroundings. Once seated, we could really see the Alice in Wonderland theme come to life with whimsical dishes, teapots adorned with Kings and Queens and vintage books. sanderson tea

We of course started with cocktails, and then came the tea. The tea options were displayed in beautiful glass jars and the names were true to theme . I opted for the “Queen of Hearts,”, while my friend chose “White Rabbit.” The spread had the traditional fare like finger sandwiches and scones, but also included beautifully crafted Mad Hatter-themed sweets like marshmallow mushrooms and sponge cake in the shape of a clock.
COCKTAILSsugar tea timetea

We stayed for a little over an hour and left on a caffeine high from all the tea. The staff was wonderful and overall it was such a fun, unique experience! lindsay tea time

Prices start at £48 a person. Reservations are recommended and can be made on the Sanderson’s website

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Passport to Style

You’re going to fly, so why not be stylish when doing it, right? Passport holders are a great way to show your personality, plus they provide protection for all the wear and tear that comes with traveling. These covers are not only stylish, but also functional, and are sure to add a little touch of luxury to your next trip.

 

passports adrienneaway

Kate Spade New York Cedar Street Passport Case: Who doesn’t love black and white polka dots? Like everything that comes from Kate Spade, this passport holder is cute and chic at the same time.

Ted Baker London Leather Passport Holder: Nothing is better than a classic leather case in a bright hue.

Flight 001 Passport Case: Flight 001 makes great travel accessories and this understated case is perfect for anyone.

Liberty London Passport Cover: Bright patterns make traveling so much more fun.

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Partying in Brazil: Top 4 Hot Spots

BrazilBrazil is a paradise for tourists – sandy beaches, brilliant sunshine and hospitable locals helping to create a wonderful atmosphere the year round. But it’s not just the sights and scenery you should absorb on your trip to the South American powerhouse. The party vibe is one to make the most of too, and with plenty of amazing cities in which to let your hair down, you’ll love the opportunities available.

Whether you’re in Brazil as part of a gap year or visiting for just a few weeks, welcome to the party capital of the world, as described by Made Man. From the carnivals, to the top quality nightclubs, take a look at four of the very best cities in Brazil for cutting shapes on the dancefloor.

Rio de Janeiro

Where else could we possibly start than Brazil’s second largest city and with it, the party-lover’s paradise? It’s not just the tourists who find themselves awake until the very early hours of the morning, but the locals too. Plus, to really soak in the terrific vibes – head down to Ipanema Beach to drink caipirinhas and watch the sunset in all its magnificence. Don’t worry, you’ll probably see it rise too, albeit with slightly blurred vision.

Florianopolis

If you find yourself in Florianopolis you’re in for a treat. Whilst it may be a popular resort for Brazilians and Argentinians, it remains relatively unknown to the rest of the world. But that doesn’t mean the party atmosphere is anything but fantastic. Enjoy the local Sertaneja music or head to the Confraria club – the hours will simply roll by. There are day parties to consider too – with P12 a popular location for all round the clock festivities.

Manaus

Perhaps known more for its Amazon Forest and extreme temperatures, the city of Manaus doubles up as a superb party place too. With plenty of memorable bars and clubs to whet your appetite, there really is something for everyone. And as you’re in Brazil, why not listen to Samba music all night long at the Lappa Bar? Friday is live music night, so definitely the time to really indulge yourself in true Brazilian culture. It’s not just the dancing you’ll enjoy – with happy hour offering a buffet and two beers to really get you going.

Sao Paulo

Where could we possibly end our journey of Brazil, than with the country’s capital? And with Sao Paulo itself, you have one of the few places on Earth where you’ll wake up at 4am and party ‘til 4pm. Not even Rio can keep up. And you have an amazing choice of partying locations in the city too, with megaclubs able to hold thousands of revelers. There are also some upscale venues , including the ultra-exclusive Bar Secreto – boasting a lineup of DJ-spun electropop and MPB.

And there you have it. Heading to Brazil in the next few weeks or months? Then make sure to check out these four party hotspots and make the most of your tour through this amazing country.

 

 

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A Wedding Weekend in New York

I just got back from a weekend trip to New York, and as any one who’s visited New York City knows, a few days is just not enough. I lived in NYC for a couple of years after college, so going back is always a thrill. I was in town for the wedding of an old friend, and I couldn’t have been more excited to be back. Fall is my favorite season there, so it was the perfect weekend to visit. The early September weather brought a little chill to the air, which is exactly how I like it. I was looking forward to catching up with friends, visiting a few restaurants and taking in the liveliness of the city.

I arrived Friday afternoon, and after settling in at my friend’s apartment, my first night in NYC was underway with drinks at Gallow Green atop the McKittrick Hotel. Upon entering, you’re transported to a 1920’s speakeasy, then lifted to the top floor via elevator. This Chelsea rooftop is covered in greenery and flowers to the ceiling – it really is an oasis above the city. The drinks were pricey and it was a crowded Friday night, but it was all worth it. We then headed to Cookshop, near the High Line, for dinner. A yummy meal of oysters, homemade pasta, wine and girl talk capped off a good night.Gallow Green

The next morning was wedding day, so the day started early with a visit to Drybar for some pampering. This was my first Drybar experience, and I was impressed with the atmosphere, tunes and complimentary mimosas. I left with a fabulous blowout and was ready for brunch at Sarabeth’s. This brunch institution’s eggs benedict were a perfect start to the day, even if we did have to wait awhile to be seated. A little shopping and a pit stop at the must-visit Levain Bakery on the Upper West Side (try the cookies or cinnamon brioche!) made for a solid afternoon.

eggs
brunch @ Sarabeth’s

levain

Saturday’s night wedding took place at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. We were lucky enough to get the chance to explore the gardens before the ceremony. It’s 250 acres of tropical flowers and native plants, and I was surprised that such a large  place existed in the middle of the Bronx! Beautiful weather made for a beautiful outdoor ceremony, and everything was perfect, from the food to the drinks, and everyone had a blast dancing on the outdoor dance floor.NY Botanical gardenWedding

The next morning I was off to Laguardia for a flight back west. As with every visit to New York, I wish I could have stayed longer.

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My Brazil Bucket List

The Olympics are officially underway and all eyes are on the host country, Brazil. Our plans of heading south to see the action in person fell through, but the country still tops my list of places to visit. I’ve always been drawn to the beaches and friendliness that is talked about about so much. There’s so much to see, and with close friends who are Brazilian, I hope to make it there in the next few years with our friends as tour guides! In the mean time, I’ll just have to plan my trip and wait. Here are the activities on my Brazil bucket list.

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?

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My Beach Packing List

florida beach

Summer has arrived! Like a lot of Americans, my summer agenda usually includes a trip to Florida. So I headed south to the beaches of Florida to visit family, eat good seafood and, of course, relax on the beach. While a bathing suit and shades are staples, my packing list has definitely expanded now that there’s a baby in tow for my trips! Here’s what’s in my bag.

Sunglasses: Classic aviators like Oliver Peoples’ “Benedict” sunglasses are always in style, and polarized versions keep my light eyes safe in the sun.

Weekender Tote: My Fold-Over Weekender bag from Thirty-One Gifts is large enough to hold all my stuff, is super durable, plus comes in a cute pattern to boot!

Beach Towel: I found a stylish striped version from Serena & Lily that includes fun tassel accents. Perfect for long afternoons lounging on the sand!

Babyganics Outdoor Essentials Duo: One of my favorite baby brands, Babyganics, sells a mineral based sunscreen that’s safer for little ones. It protects against the strong Florida sun and comes in convenient travel sizes.

packing list

 

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One reader will have a chance to win their very own tote, courtesy of Thirty-One. It comes in 5 patterns and can even be personalized! Just comment below with what you always pack in your beach tote and you’re entered to win. Good luck!

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An Afternoon In Monaco

During a trip to the South of France, I knew I had to visit Monaco. I had heard so much about the glitz, the yachts, the casino. After stays in Antibes and Cannes, we ended up in Nice for the tail end of our trip. With Monaco a mere 20 kilometers away, I had to check it out for myself.

My husband and I set aside a day to make the short trip east. We would head out in the morning, spend the afternoon and early evening in Monaco, and head back to Nice before dark. With only an afternoon to spare, we tried not too pile too much on the agenda. There were a few items on the must-see list – the Prince’s Palace and the Monte Carlo Casino (of course!).

After a little research, I found that the most recommended way to get to Monaco is by public transportation. At less than 2 euros, the cheapest options are buses that run frequently throughout the day. Other than a private helicopter, it’s also the easiest way to get there! We caught the bus from the Port of Nice, which is beautiful in its own right. The journey included winding cliffside roads that, while frightening at times, were some of the most picturesque views I’ve ever seen. We passed the seaside towns of  Villefranche and Eze (also worth seeing) and 30 minutes later, we were in Monaco.

port of nice
Waiting at the Port of Nice

We departed at the 1st stop in Monaco, named Place d’Armes. This seemed to be the best starting location, since it’s right near Monaco-Ville. We started by climbing up Le Rocher, or “The Rock.” From here you not only get amazing views, but also can venture to the Palace and the Oceanographic Museum. We were able to catch the changing of the guard, and select rooms are even also open to the public. A few photo ops at Port Hercule at the base and we were off to explore on foot.

Monaco
Worth the trip!

Along with cafes and shopping, I promised my husband we would fit in a few of his destinations. So from the Port we ventured to a museum housing the Prince’s private car collection. While I’m not a car fan, it was pretty cool to see the personal collection of Prince Rainier’s. There were notable vehicles dating back over the last 100 years or so, and at only $10 to enter, it was a economic way to spend an hour. Next on his list was the famous hairpin turn of the Monaco F1 Grand Prix. It’s nestled in front of the Fairmont Hotel, and the course even meanders underneath the property. After checking this out, we accidentally discovered a nice garden, with beautiful greenery and a few Botero statues.

fairmont monte carlo
The next stop was the famous casino. Monaco actually has quite a few casinos, if that’s your thing, but the Monte Carlo Casino is by far the most well known. It’s situated right in the heart of Monte Carlo and you’ll know you’re in the right place by the mobs of tourists taking photos and the Lamborghinis parked out front. There was surprisingly no dress code in the afternoon, and although not as large as I thought it would be, it was definitely grandiose. Splurge on a few glasses of €20 champagne and take in the old school glamour.

casino monte carlo
Monte Carlo Casino

Dinner in Monte Carlo and lots of people watching later, we were ready to make the short trip back to Nice. I would have loved to have seen the Jardin Exotique and the cathedral atop Le Rocher, but there was just not enough time. Monaco warrants an overnight stay, and the Hotel Hermitage and Metropole are calling my name for a return visit!

 

How to get from Nice to Monaco: Catch bus #100 (labeled Monaco/Menton) from Place Messina, the Port or other stations in Nice. Regional TGV trains also will get you there, although you’ll miss the amazing scenery along the way!

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