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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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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Alessandra Ambrosio’s Jetsetting Style

alessandra ambrosio

When the opportunity arose to meet Victoria’s Secret Angel Alessandra Ambrosio at a recent store event, I couldn’t pass up the chance. She was visiting Easton Town Center in Columbus, Ohio to launch Victoria’s Secret Sport’s new incredible front-close sport bra. (The bra is awesome, by the way. Ladies, go try it out!). Obviously I’m jealous that she’s so effortlessly stunning, but I’m also envious that part of her job involves traveling the world. I was lucky enough to ask her a few questions about her globetrotting lifestyle, favorite destinations and travel essentials.

You just returned from vacation in Hawaii. What did you do there? Just relaxed and enjoyed the beaches and water. We all went surfing.

Where did you stay? The Four Seasons Maui. It was perfect!

What’s your favorite destination? Brazil, where I’m from. I get to see my friends and family.

What are your travel necessities? Headphones and my iPad. I fill it with movies. I also use the mineral water facial spray from Evian.

What’s your dream destination? Tibet.

Any essential plane reading material? I always bring a book and lots of magazines.

What’s your best travel tip? Make sure to sleep on the plane! It helps ease jet lag.

 

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Sun, Sand and a Beach Wedding

When my brother announced that he was getting married in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, I was super excited. Who wouldn’t love another reason to visit the beach? Then he told us that the wedding was happening on a Tuesday. A Tuesday? Who gets married on a Tuesday? Regardless of the day, I planned my trip to the South. Given my lack of available vacation days, it was going to be a quick trip. I booked my flight using my husband’s extra Delta miles (thanks, hubs!) and was off for 2 days of sun, sand and a beach wedding.

I arrived the airport in the early evening and was ready to get to the condo I’d be sharing with my mom, sister and a friend. It would be like a slumber party every night! It’s safe to say that the kitsch factor is alive and well in Myrtle Beach. Theme restaurants like Planet Hollywood (I didn’t know those still existed!) and family-friendly entertainment venues lined the main road from the airport. We were headed to North Myrtle Beach, which was thankfully a little removed from the hustle and bustle of the main part of town. The Wyndham Ocean Boulevard was exactly what we needed. It had two beds, a kitchen, washer & dryer and a separate living room with a sofa bed, which I quickly claimed. An oceanfront balcony overlooking the water wasn’t too shabby either. The beach was a short jaunt from the hotel’s entrance, right over the sand dunes. I love the dunes and tall grass that are unique to the coastal Carolinas. So pretty! Days were spent lounging by the beach, with trips to local restaurants for fresh seafood. When in Rome, right? The whole town was full of vacationers enjoying the beach life. I settled in and took advantage of the opportunity to relax poolside and by the ocean for a few days. beach beach Beach drinks

The wedding was the next day and was right on the beach. A little rain and a lot of wind didn’t stop the late afternoon ceremony from going off without a hitch. It was short and sweet, with the ocean serving as a beautiful backdrop. Dinner was held at Martini restaurant in North Myrtle Beach. The atmosphere was classy and mello, with a live jazz musician. The menu was great. As their name would imply, the huge selection of  martinis was impressive. I went with a blueberry lemon drop and a cajun dirty martini, which had a spicy kick. Both unique and so good! Beyond the drinks, the food and service were amazing.beach wedding Airport

Next morning rolled around, and it was time to take off for the airport. Even though the trip was only two days, it was great seeing friends and family, and everyone had a blast at the destination wedding!

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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.

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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.

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Touring London’s Kensington Palace

Entrance to Kensington PalaceAt this time last year I was visiting London, and the anglophile in me is longing to be back in London Town. As a follower of the royal family and all things British, one of the must-visit places on my itinerary was Kensington Palace. The palace has been home to many famous kings and queens over the years, and has its place in English history. At the time of my visit the historical compound, built in 1605, had just finished a massive refurbishment and was reopened to the public. It was a horribly rainy London day, so planning to spend an afternoon indoors worked out well.

As we walked towards the entrance, excitement rose as the famous main gates came into view. Once inside, we were greeted in a central area, then sent along our course through the exhibits and wings. The inside seems to have received a modern update, with new photos and trendy art installations. The first stop was a central corridor containing portraits and photographs. I instantly recognized framed shots taken by Mario Testino, specifically one from William and Kate’s engagement shoot, plus a well-known photograph of Diana from 1997.

We then ascended the King’s Staircase and walked past its lively mural of George I’s court. The staircase leads you to the King’s State Apartments. Here we were able to walk through numerous rooms and chambers, all filled with art and ornate details. You’re then taken through the Cupola Room and the King’s Drawing Room. It’s amazing to think that past monarchs and world leaders once gathered in these corridors. Keep an eye out for intricate carvings near the fireplace and the beautiful tapestries that line the walls. Don’t miss the King’s Gallery, which houses the Royal Collection. The dial over the fireplace was used to tell which way the wind was blowing, and it stills works! I was told the room hasn’t changed much since it was completed in 1727.

The next permanent exhibit, Victoria Revealed, follows her life from birth to death, all in the home where she was born and raised. Visitors can see mementos from her childhood, including photos, clothing and toys.  Various quotes tell the story of her life in her own words. It was interesting to hear about what was dubbed “the Kensington system” – the rigid set of rules that Victoria endured until she became queen. Her love story with Albert is also explored, and her wedding dress is even on display. Did you know that she lived out the last 40 years of her life in the isolation of the palace after being widowed?

The next stop would have been to explore the palace gardens, but we decided against it, given the rainy weather. I can only image how beautiful the sunken garden and surrounding area would look in full bloom on a summer day. After the tour, we stopped at the the Orangery for afternoon tea. A serene view overlooking the gardens and a mix of tea, scones and pastries was the perfect end to our visit.

Touring the palace is a great way to spend the afternoon, and it’s a must-do for any history buff visiting London. I’d recommend at least two hours for the complete tour. More information, plus a link to purchase tickets online, can be found on the Kensington Palace website.

london3 london2 london state aprts london victoria revealedPARIS LONDON 155 (2) london 4 queen vic london4 london1 london outside

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What to Eat & Drink in Chile

Empanadas
These crispy, cheesy turnovers are one of the first things I need when I get to Chile. Cheese empanadas. Meat empanadas. Seafood empanadas. The possibilities are endless. Go the traditional route and try pino filling, a mix of beef, olives, eggs and raisins. empa empanadas2

Completos
I’m not one for hotdogs, but I can appreciate one every once and awhile. Hotdogs with ketchup and mustard at a backyard BBQ is quintessentially American, but Chileans sure know what they’re doing too. They take a standard dog, then add awesome toppings like avocado, tomatoes and mayo. It may sound crazy, but it works. 800px-El_tremendo_chilenísimo_COMPLET

Seafood
With over 2,500 miles of coastline, trying local seafood while in Chile is a must. Try some local specialties like razor clams, congrio (eel) and locos. And don’t ask for Chilean Sea Bass – it’s called corvina here.Machas a la parmesana

Alfajores
These heavenly creations are comprised of manjar, which is similar to dulce de leche, sandwiched between two cookies. Homemade ones are the best kind, but you can also find them in bakeries, street carts and grocery stores.alpha

Local Fruits
Chile has some pretty unique fruits that I love. Chirimoya and the caramel-flavored lucuma are two of my favorites. What? A fruit that tastes like caramel? Yes, and it makes for an amazing gelato and smoothie flavor. There’s also a plethora of tasty juices made from the more common peaches, apricots and papayas, just to name a few.pepino dulce

Pebre
This salsa-like creation is made from tomatoes, onions, garlic, coriander and olive oil. You’ll see this condiment everywhere, and Chileans eat it with everything!pebre

Pisco
Pisco is a brandy made from grapes that is super strong. One of my favorite drinks is the lime flavored pisco sour, but it’s almost more common to see piscolas – pisco mixed with soda. And if you want a really fun night, try a terremoto, or earthquake. This concoction is made with pisco, wine and pineapple sherbert, and you’ll think you’re experiencing an earthquake after a few.pisco sour

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Chile’s Best Souvenirs

Whenever I travel abroad, I’m always trying to find cute, unique gifts to bring back for friends and family. My recent trip to Chile was no exception. I ventured to markets, malls and even the grocery store in search of great gifts. Here are some of my top picks on what to bring back from Chile.

Wine & Pisco: Local wines like carmenere, along with the popular grape brandy pisco, can be found at wineries and grocery stores at reasonable prices.wine

Alpaca Wool Items: Wool from alpacas in the Andes is super soft, yet durable. Gifts like socks, hats, ponchos and gloves are widely available and provide lots of warmth. photo 2 

Ceramic Pieces: Handmade ceramic goods like plates, house numbers and wall decor are beautiful and unique. Some shops can even customize an item on the spot with a specific name or number. photo 5

Lapis Lazuli: This blue stone is very rare (it’s only found in Chile and Afghanistan), and the intense color looks great as jewelry or figurines. Find it at markets like Los Dominicos Villagelapiz

Leather Goods: South America is known for its beef, so it’s no surprise that there’s an abundance of leather belts, purses and wallets. You can find these items everywhere from high end department stores to small artisan craft markets.photo 1

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One of the Best Meals of My Life

dinnrWhen it came time to pick a restaurant for dinner during our stay at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in western Pennsylvania, my girlfriends and I had a few on-site options to choose from. We went with the stylish Aqueous, one of their fine dining options.

This restaurant is located in the fancy Falling Rock Hotel, which is the resort’s AAA five diamond property. We arrived at the time of our reservation and were seated promptly.  This place was beautiful. Floor to ceiling windows. Elegant, romantic lighting. I kept thinking that this place would be an ideal restaurant for a special occasion dinner. The fellow diners were sophisticated and dressed well.menu

Everything on the menu looked amazing, from the drinks to the dessert. We chose martinis from their extensive drink menu, and my dirty martini was one of the best I’ve ever tasted. My friend went with the steak tartare for an appetizer, which was presently nicely on a slate plate. The spinach salad that my other friend ordered contained bruleed brie, which was a nice touch. Yes, cheese that was sugared and torched. It was the little details like that (which I always notice), that really impressed us. When the time came to order, we all had one item on our minds – steak. We were waiting all day for this meal to order a nice cut of meat, and Aqueous’ beef did not disappoint. I opted for the strip steak, and my table mates chose the filets. Each entree included an “opportunity,” which is their fancy name for a side dish. A sauce was also included, with horseradish cream and chimichurri sauce being some of the standout options. Our meals arrived quickly, and we were starving! The steaks were cooked perfectly and were delicious. It was hard not to finish every last bite. Given that everything we had tasted thus far was amazing, we had to find room for dessert too. We shared sorbet and mini cheesecakes topped with poached pears, and they were the perfect ending to an incredible meal.

All the special touches we encountered throughout the meal really showed that this restaurant knows their food. We were a table full of foodies, and none of us had one bad thing to say. Prices were also pretty reasonable for a restaurant of this nature. This upscale steakhouse was turned out to be the perfect choice for dinner, and I highly recommend it if you ever find yourself at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort.    dinner3 dinner4 dinner5

 

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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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