Girls’ Getaway to Nemacolin Woodlands Resort

Every year, my three girlfriends from high school and I take a trip to catch up on what’s going on in our busy lives. We all live in different cities, so we decided to pick a location that was within driving distance for all of us. Pennsylvania’s Nemacolin Woodlands Resort turned out to be a great meeting point. We picked a weekend that worked and booked our stay. LOBBY lobby1

I didn’t know what to expect as I drove the winding roads that led up the mountain early Saturday morning. After passing through the small towns that line the Laurel Highlands, I finally reached the main entrance. The long drive opens up to an awe-inspiring view of the resort. The main building where we checked in was nothing short of opulent. Glimmering chandeliers hung above elegant, vintage furniture. This place was so glamorous.

Our room was located in the Chateau building. On the walk to our room we passed through a hallway lined with framed Hermes scarves. How fabulous is that? Our room was pretty spacious, and the bathroom even had double sinks. room2 room1 - Copy

After a quick lunch at The Tavern, we were off to our appointments at the Woodlands Spa. We checked in and were given a tour of the facilities. This spa had it all. There was a large indoor pool, workout room, sauna and steamroom. We then put on our robes and went upstairs to a “quiet room” while we waited for our appointments. Is there anything more relaxing than sipping tea while sitting by a fireplace? We opted for manis and pedis, which turned out great. All the services they offer looked amazing, but were a little on the pricey side. A quick stop at the salon’s shop completed our day at the spa. I even discovered a new favorite brand of skin care products that they carried- Farmhouse Freshsalon1

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We then headed back to our room to freshen up before dinner. After an amazing meal at Aqueous, we were super excited to head over to the casino. I’m a gambler, so I was excited to see what this casino had to offer. It was quickly evident that smoking was allowed, which definitely put a damper on the experience. The casino overall is nothing to write home about, but it’s worth a visit.

It was just our luck that the weekend that had one of the worst snowstorms of the seasons being predicted. Word spread throughout the resort that it was supposed to hit earlier than expected, so we decided that our Sunday plans needed to be cut short. I was especially bummed that my plan to visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous Fallingwater, a mere 20 minutes away from the resort, was also axed due to the weather. Next time, right? We were even told that they close the mountain when the weather gets really bad, and we didn’t want to be snowed in (although I can think of a lot worse places to be stuck). We woke up early and headed over to Autumn restaurant for breakfast, which was a short walk from our room in the Chateau. Everything sounded amazing! I went with the crab benedict, which I had to get because you don’t see it on menus too often. My friend’s Just Peachy was amazing – brioche french toast covered in peaches and cream. So good! breakfast1 - Copy breakfast3 - Copybreakfast2 - Copy

We were sad to have to leave after breakfast, but we had a wonderful weekend at Nemacolin. How did I not know this place existed? Everything was luxurious (just the way I like it!) and the service was first class all the way. My friend loved it so much she even booked a return stay for her upcoming babymoon! With all the activities the resort offers, I definitely plan to come back and spend a few more days.

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Top 5 Places to Visit in New Orleans

Fat Tuesday has arrived, and I couldn’t be more excited! All the talk of Mardi Gras reminds me of my trip to New Orleans years ago. It’s such a great city, and there’s much more to it than parades, partying and beads.  So grab your king cake and paczkis and check out my top 5 favorite places in New Orleans.

 1. The French Quarter

My perfect New Orleans afternoon is spent strolling through the historic French Quarter. I love the old architecture and liveliness of this area. Walk through Jackson Square to hear jazz musicians and see street performers, then stop at Cafe du Monde for their famous beignets and coffee. Carriage rides throughout the square are a must do. new orleans2

2. Shopping on Magazine Street 

The shops that line Magazine Street make the area a shoppers’ paradise. I could spend all afternoon perusing the antique shops and clothing boutiques. Some of my must-visit stores include Make Me Up for beauty and skincare products, and Mignon Faget for jewelry. Take the Magazine Street bus up and down the 6 miles of the avenue to save yourself some time.

3. Mardi Gras World

Visit this warehouse-like facility for a behind the scenes look at the making of Mardi Gras. The up close and personal views of the floats and their details are amazing, and you really see all that goes into the parades. Daily tours run throughout the morning.mardigras

4. Bourbon Street

This is a must-do for any first time visitor to the city. Yes, it can be rowdy and dirty, but no trip to the Big Easy is complete without trying a hurricane. Pat O’Brien’s is one of the places where you can get one, although you’ll have to fight your way through crowds of tourists. bouribon

5. Audubon Park

This beautiful park is a great way to spend a warm day. Take a streetcar to the park then walk along the Mississippi for the quintessential NOLA experience.audubon park

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Finding Authentic Fish & Chips in London

Rock & Sole PlaiceOne of the things I always make sure to do when abroad is to try local foods. So during my first trip to London, I knew I had to try and find authentic fish & chips. After a little online research and a good review from a guest at my hotel, the place was chosen. We stopped by Rock and Sole Plaice in Covent Garden on a chilly afternoon for lunch. According to its website, it was the founded in 1871 and is London’s oldest fish and chips restaurant. How cool is that? The place was crowded and the seating was minimal, but luckily we were able to snag a small table. We placed our order (cod for me and haddock for my husband), and waited with a couple beers. This place was no-frills, but with a lively atmosphere. We chatted a little with a fellow British diner who exclaimed that these are “proper fish and chips” and the place was by far his “favorite chippie.” I was anxious to find out if they were as great as he claimed.

The meal arrived after a short wait, and the first thing I noticed was how huge the portions were! Definitely enough for two people to share. The fish was good – crispy and not too greasy on the outside,  tender on the inside.  The fries were decent, but could have been better. I noticed that everyone around us had a few side items with their fish – mushed peas and curry sauce. They both seemed like popular choices, but I opted against trying them. The menu also offered local treats like jam sponge and spotted dick. Based on the unappealing names and the fact that I had no clue what these were, we chose not to order any dessert.

After a long day of being tourists, our meal hit the spot. On our way out I noticed a quote on the outside of the building – “There is nothing more British than Fish & Chips.” Glad I got to finally try some for myself, and I’d call my first fish and chips experience a success.

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Puerto Rico’s Must-Try Foods

Beyond the sun and sand, Puerto Rico really is a foodie’s paradise. Cocina Criolla blends Spanish cooking with Caribbean ingredients, and it makes for some unique and tasty dishes. Here’s my list of the top meals you must have when visiting the island.

1) Mofongo
This starchy mix of mashed plantations and meat is the first meal I order when I get to Puerto Rico. It’s hearty, garlicky goodness, and you can’t go wrong when shrimp, pork or chicken are added. You’ll find it on every restaurant’s menu, and I’ve had some great mofongo at Plato’s and Cafe Puerto Rico in San Juan. Side note – if you don’t like garlic, this dish may not be for you.pr food 14
2) Pork
From lechon to pernil, Puerto Ricans know how to cook their pork. Lechon, a suckling roasted pig, is the go-to for celebrations and large gatherings. Pernil is roasted pork shoulder that’s a centerpiece at holiday dinners. Both are juicy, tender and full flavor from sofrito, garlic and adobo. If you’re look for an authentic experience, head to a lechonera. The best ones can be found in Guavate. And where there’s pork, there’ probably chicharrones nearby. These are tiny pieces of pork belly that have been fried to crispy goodness.pork2

3) Frituras
These are fried fritters filled with meat, cheese or vegetables. Some of my favorites include tostones (fried plantains), alcapurrias and balalaitos (cod fritters). These finger foods are widely available from street vendors, along with at pretty much every restaurant. While they may be tasty, they’re probably not for the health conscious.tostones

4) Breakfast Sweets
I love pastries, and the island has some great ones. Mallorcas are one thing that’s not to be missed. Fluffy, buttery bread is rolled into something similar in shape to a cinnamon roll, then topped with powdered sugar. It’s also common to see them filled with cheese and ham. Be sure to also try quesitos, little cream cheese filled twists. If you can’t make it to Puerto Rico anytime soon, I found a pretty good recipe here. prfood11
5) Piraguas
Nothing’s better on a hot day than shaved ice covered in fruity syrup. Get one of these refreshing Puerto Rican snow cones from a piraguero, or street vendor. Watermelon and passion fruit are my go-to flavors.prfood4
6) Tropical Drinks
Rum is king here, and that means that there are plenty of tropical drink options to choose from. The pina colada was even invented in Puerto Rico! You’ll find drinks in exotic flavors like tamarind and coconut. Some of the best mojitos I had were at Raices in Old San Juan. You can read more about my visit to Raices here.

Tamarind mojito
Tamarind mojito
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Beauty on the Go: My Favorite Travel Items

If you travel a lot like me, you know it can be hard to fit all the items you need for your daily beauty routine into a suitcase. I’m always on the lookout for airport-friendly finds that won’t take up a lot of space in my bag. Luckily I’ve found a few great items that I can easily throw in my tote and go. These travel minis are sure to get you through security and last throughout your trip.

Sephora body wash caps, $1

Kate Spade perfume rollerball, $24

Laura Geller retractable brush, $29

Molton Brown women’s travel set, $55

DevaCurl ‘One Condition’ travel conditioner, $7.95

Bobbi Brown travel size makeup remover, $12

Sephora express cleansing wipes, $4

One of my must-have products listed above, ‘One Conditioner’ by DevaCurl, is also included in the Trial + Travel kit. I’m giving away one of these fabulous DevaCurl sets to one lucky reader to keep their hair looking good on the go. To enter, just subscribe to my blog and leave a comment below. I’ll pick one winner at random soon. Good luck!

Trial + Travel Kit

 

 

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Bachelorette Weekend in South Beach

miami streetWhen the time came for my friend’s upcoming nuptials, we knew we had to celebrate her final month as a single woman in style. After mulling over a few destinations, we landed on Miami. What place could be better? It had everything we wanted – the beach, shopping, fun nightlife and luxury hotels. So we decided on a date and booked our flights to South Florida.

I headed down on a Friday morning for the long weekend and met up with the other girls at our hotel, the SLS South Beach. The hotel was fabulous, and had a great location on Collins. After getting settled in, we headed down to dinner at one of the hotel’s restaurants, Jose Andres’ Bazaar. The decor was elegant and the food was innovative. Some of our table’s standouts were the nitrogen caipirinha, smoked oysters, ceviche and deconstructed key lime pie. Bazaar
BazaarA stop at the Setai is always a to-do when I’m in Miami. So after dinner we stopped by this Asian-influenced, luxury hotel for some cocktails. Nothing is better than relaxing with a drink in their serene, water-filled courtyard. My must-have is their lychee martini. It’s not on the menu, but they’ll make it upon request. I also really liked their chili passion martini, which had a unique, spicy twist. After about fifteen $20 martinis later and some very fun conversations with the bartender, us girls were on our way. We headed back to our hotel to check out Hyde Beach. This place was packed. The pool was lit up and the music was good. Since we were all a little tired from our morning of traveling, we stayed for a few hours then headed back to our rooms.

The next morning we got up and made a beeline for the beach to soak up the South Florida sun. After lounging all afternoon, it was back to our hotel to get ready to go out. Saturday night to be our big evening out, since it was our last night in Miami. The plan was to get dressed up, drink some cocktails and go out dancing. This was a bachelorette weekend after all! The first stop was the Fontainebleau, one of the most popular South Beach spots. Dinner was at Hakkasan, located in the hotel. I’ve been to this Asian restaurant many times, and even went to the outpost in London. We had a few cocktails and shared plates of dumplings and their crispy almond prawns. It was now time to start the night. A short walk through the hotel led us to LIV. This super club is exactly what you’d expect – flashing lights, good music and a beautiful crowd. It’s something you must do at least once in Miami, and it was exactly what we needed. After lots of champagne and a night of dancing, we were ready to call it a night.

After waking up on our final day, we were in need of a good brunch. Lemon ricotta pancakes, french toast and a round of bloody marys at Tounge and Cheek did the trick. Some cuban coffee at a nearby stand and we were good to go. The afternoon was spent walking through the Lincoln Road Mall and exploring the shops. After a few hours, the time came to pack up for the airport. The time had come to head home and get back to real life. The weekend was amazing, and as always, Miami was a good time. mimai beach3 miami walk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chile, Here We Come!

santiagoIn a few short weeks I’ll be venturing to Chile. While I have family there and have been to the country a couple of times, it’s always been centered in Santiago. This time I’m looking to explore a little bit more. What’s on my dream itinerary so far? A winery tour, some fabulous meals and a little nightlife. Some day trips are also a possibility, most likely to the coast.

It’s been quite a few years since my last visit, and you never know how much things may have changed. So if you’ve been to Chile, I want to hear about it! What are the places I have to see or the foods I just have to try? I’m looking for any recommendations on the best restaurants, wineries, bars and cultural activities. Share your experiences and suggestions below. Looking forward to your ideas!

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Valentine’s Day Gifts for the Traveler in Your Life

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We all love a good gift from our significant other on Valentine’s Day, am I right? If you’re a traveler like me, you’re always looking for cute, yet functional take-alongs. I compiled my picks of the best Valentine’s Day gifts for the nomadic, yet girly, woman in your life.

Lipault Paris frame wheeled bag, $179.

Bric’s Bellagio Suitcase, $595.

J.Crew passport cover, $45.

Mulberry luggage tag, $120.

Aquiesse pink peony travel candle, $5.

Tory Burch cosmetic case, $94.50.

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Dinner at New York’s Cafe Gitane

gitane1While in New York for the weekend, one of the things I was most looking forward to was a night out with my friends. When Saturday night rolled around, we had to pick a place for dinner. I left the decision making up to my fabulous NYC girls who are familiar with the hottest places. My friend Tiffany, writer of the amazing fashion and music blog Haute Turntable, decided on Cafe Gitane. After a long walk from the subway, we arrived for dinner around 8 p.m. at the small West Village restaurant. The nondescript exterior of the Jane hotel opened up to a charming part Moroccan, part Parisian cafe full of paper lamps, tapestries and colorful tiles. We sat down in the cushy sofas and took in the scenery. The place had a good vibe, and while full of models and hipsters, it was surprisingly casual and not pretentious.

martini
watermelon mimosa

We started with some drinks; a melon mimosa for me and their Lillith cocktail for my friend. The fresh watermelon juice in the mimosa was super refreshing and so good. The mix of gin, lemon juice and champagne in the Lillith was smooth and tasty, and I’ve decided that I’ll be adding lemon juice to all my champagne going forward. After the avocado toast appetizer (a must-try!), I took my friend’s advice and ordered the signature dish, the Moroccan couscous. It was huge! Definitely big enough to feed two people. I was pleasantly surprised with the mix of pine nuts, potatoes and raisins. The rest of the table opted for the spicy meatballs in tomato sauce (complete with a boiled egg), the heart of palm salad and the steak frites – all of which looked delicious! The service may have been a little slow, but the affordability of the meal made up for it.

I’m not sure how anyone could walk away and not want to return to Cafe Gitane. I’ve heard their brunch is amazing too, so I’ll be returning to check that out during my next visit.

brie

couscous
couscous
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Tea Time!

Tea Time!One quintessential English experience that we simply had to have in London was afternoon tea. I may not be the biggest tea fan, but when in Rome, right? (Or in this case, London).

After researching the best spots for afternoon tea, I complied a list of my top choices – the Thames Foyer at the Savoy, Palm Court at the Langham and the Goring. (Let’s be honest, the last one was picked mostly because it’s where Kate Middleton stayed the night before the royal wedding). They were all so fabulous. Cue the images of us enjoying our tea in facsinators and morning coats. Then I saw the price. 50 pounds per person was a little more than we wanted to spend on our first tea experience.

Luckily our hotel, the London Marriott Park Lane, had a wonderful tea service of its own. When we stumbled across a 2 for 1 promotion on a discount tea website, we booked it without hesitation. We arrived at 140 Park Lane Restaurant and were seated next to a window with a view overlooking a rain-soaked Hyde Park. Our server took our tea order; peppermint for me and earl gray for my husband. And then they brought out the goodies. Oh my. There were tea sandwiches, scones, pastries and more. It was heaven. I also discovered one of my new favorite things – clotted cream. It may sound unappealing, but a scone with clotted cream and jam may be one of the best things on earth. I was so obsessed. So much so that I ordered some off of Amazon when I got home. Seriously.

An hour later, content from our tea, finger sandwiches and desserts, we headed back outside into the rainy London afternoon.

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tea

Tea Time!

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An Afternoon at MOMA

I could spend a whole day in the Museum of Modern Art. When I stopped by on a recent trip to New York, I unfortunately was on a tight schedule. I arrived on a crowded Saturday afternoon. I was fairly certain that many were visiting for the same reason I was – to escape the blizzard outside. Since I only had about two hours to spare, I headed straight to the fourth and fifth floors. These floors house the cream of the crop in my opinion. From Picasso to Warhol to Kahlo, here are my ten MOMA must-sees.

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon | Picasso
Les Demoiselles d’Avignon | Picasso
Water Lillies | Monet
Water Lillies | Monet
Flag | Jasper Johns
Flag | Jasper Johns
Gold Marilyn Monroe | Andy Warhol
Gold Marilyn Monroe | Andy Warhol
Three Musicians | Picasso
Three Musicians | Picasso
Starry Night | van Gogh
Starry Night | van Gogh
One: Number 31, 1950 | Jackson Pollock
One: Number 31, 1950 | Jackson Pollock
Composition in Red, Blue, and Yellow | Mondrian
Composition in Red, Blue, and Yellow | Mondrian
Fulang-Chang and I | Frida Kahlo
Fulang-Chang and I | Frida Kahlo
Girl with Ball | Lichtenstein
Girl with Ball | Lichtenstein
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Where I Stayed in Paris: Marriott Champs-Elysees

When our one year anniversary rolled around, my husband and I had little doubt where we wanted to spend it. There was no better place in my mind to celebrate than one of the most romantic cities in the world. But when the time came to choose a hotel, we were overwhelmed with options. Modern luxury hotel or small boutique location? What arrondissement would be best?

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Jay Z may talk about staying at “Le Meurice for like 6 days,” and while that wasn’t necessarily in our budget, we did have a fabulous time at the Marriott Champs-Elysees. We chose it after a recommendation from a friend, who actually saw Marriott Chairman Bill Marriott when there. Hey, if it’s good enough for him, it’ll work for me. You can see the Arch de Triumph once you step out of the hotel, and the numerous trains within walking distance make for a great central point to explore the city. The area is pretty touristy (obviously since it’s on the Champs-Elysses), but it wasn’t unbearable. The marble bathrooms (complete with l’occitane goodies!) were the epitome of luxury, and the staff’s complimentary anniversary bottle of champagne was a wonderful touch. Overall we had a wonderful stay, and I’d stay again during my next trip to Paris.

Marriott Lobby

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Checking in at Miami’s Viceroy Hotel

The entrance
The entrance

When I was called to Miami for work and heard we’d be staying at the Viceroy, I was super excited. It was my first time at this hotel, and I’d heard good things. Since I’m usually in Miami for pleasure over work, I often stay in South Beach. I was excited to see a different area of the city, and this Brickell location was the perfect place to do it.

I arrived in the late morning and was unexpectedly greeted by the Easter Island moai that line the entrance. Once inside, I fell in love with the modern lobby and it’s funky accessories. Abstract sculptures, ornate furniture and bright colors keep your attention. The chandeliers are to die for. I want one in my foyer.

I ventured up to my room after check-in. The modern, elegantly decorated room was exactly my style. Did the interior designer know I was coming? There was colorful artwork on the wall, tufted furniture and a beautiful lattice room divider. The marble bathrooms and an in-room espresso machine were a nice touch. (By the way, why can’t all hotel rooms have espresso machines?). The beautiful view of the Miami skyline (especially at night!) was not too shabby either.

Since I was in town for work, I was bummed that I didn’t have time to check out the pool or spa. I was told the spa was designed by Phillipe Stark, which would explain why it looked so amazing. The breakfast at 15th & Vine was tasty and satisfying, with pretty quick service.

Overall, I have no complaints about the Viceroy. This hotel attracted a sophisticated crowd of what looked like both business travelers and tourists, which I take as a good sign. I’ll be trying to make it back again soon, although this time for leisure!

My room
My room
viceroy pool
The rooftop Fifty Miami Ultra Lounge
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Searching for Manhattan’s Best Pizza

You’ve probably heard of “forkgate” in the last few weeks, the stir created when New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio was spotted devouring a slice with a fork and knife. While it may be custom in many cultures to eat pizza with silverware, any New Yorker will tell you that slices should be eaten folded over with your hands. And thus, there lies the controversy.

Well all this talk of pizza in the news made me hungry. So while in New York, I decided to go on a little mission. I enlisted my husband (thankfully he loves pizza), and we went on a quest to find Manhattan’s tastiest pizza. Here’s where our journey took us.

Artichoke Basille'sArtichoke Basille’s

It was easy to decide where we’d first stop – Artichoke Basille’s. This East Village shop has always been a must-visit in my mind. You can’t go wrong with the namesake artichoke slice, and the crab pizza (yes, crab) is also amazing. Even better late night after a few beers at a local bar.

johnsJohn’s Pizzeria

Don’t be fooled by the nondescript interior and tattered booths of John’s Pizzeria. I’ve been to this Bleeker Street sit-down restaurant many times, and it has yet to disappoint. The coal oven is what makes this pizza so good, and my husband claimed that it had the perfect thin crust. It’s always busy so be prepared to wait, and they only take cash!

Two Boots

The third stop on our pizza tour was Two Boots. This place gets points in my book for unique ingredients and creative names for their pies like Mr. Pink, Bayou Beast and Cleopatra Jones. We stopped for a quick bite at the Grand Central location, but there are outlets all over the city. My favorite is the Larry Tate – a white pizza topped with spinach and tomatoes.

lombardis-pizza-new-york-ny-pepperoni-sausage-pizza-610x407Lombardi’s

Lombardi’s claims to be the oldest pizza place in New York. While that’s debatable, it is a fact that this place is a NYC institution. This is classic New York pizza. The best parts? The fresh mozzarella and the crispy crust. We ordered the pepperoni and sausage, and it was a meaty slice of heaven. I’ve heard mixed reviews about Lombardi’s, and while it may not top my list, it’s definitely delicious.

5 days. 4 pizza spots. Countless slices consumed. And our favorite? It was a tough decision, but Artichoke Basille’s was the winner in our minds. This was hard, but someone had to do it, right?

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