I had a really great feature in the Boston Globe over my recent trip to Mexico City. While the article focused more around the scares of traveling, which we had when we initially planned our trip, I’m so glad we went. The city could not have been more vibrant and I felt completely safe. Since I’ve had some inquiries around my trip, I decided to put a quick guide together for anyone that’s planning a trip.
I just got back from traveling around Mexico and I can’t wait to go back south! From swimming in the ocean, wind in my hair, feet in the sand and eating my weight in guacamole to leaving the beaches to head to Mexico City to fulfill one of my dreams of seeing Frida Kahlo’s house it was a magical week away. I can’t believe I almost canceled my trip after the earthquake hit. I was so devastated by the news that I wanted to use our trip to volunteer but the reality was donating money and tourism was what the city really needed. And to my surprise all of the attractions were open, the city was alive and in traveling all over the Mexico City I saw very little damage. Granted most of the accounts were in residential areas, none of the damage interfered with out trip and spirits were high as we walked the streets.
Right now many of the islands off of Mexico and much of the Caribbean have either no damage or are recovering and opened their ports, ready for our arrival. Now is a great time for tourism to help the islands rebound and return to normalcy.
Virginia boasts more than 280 wineries surrounded in plush greenery, mountain views and quaint towns. October is wine month in Virginia, there’s no better time to visit, especially with all the fun promotions and activities planned in anticipation.
Recently, we explored Middleburg, VA, it’s one of DC/VA‘s top wine destinations. Located in Loudoun County, an easy 40 minute easy drive from Dulles airport – you can rent a car or take a Uber/Lyft.
It’s the most beautiful time to explore wine country, the leaves are beginning to change and it’s very picturesque with beautiful colonial homes, antique shops and wineries. It’s also exceptionally dog friendly.
There are some really incredible properties you can’t miss, like Greenhill and Stone Tower Winery, which I could easily have spent the day at and many smaller wineries that are worth stopping by. We picked all dog-friendly wineries so we could bring Charlie, but regulations around dogs are always changing so make sure to call first and pick a beautiful day to spend outside with your pup.
How to Plan Your Trip:
There are over 50 wineries in the area, I visited 6 so there’s so much more to see and try. The Virginia Wine Board is a great resource to help plan your trip, check out their site at virginiawine.org.
Hiring a tour company is also an option, we worked with Bruce W. Schutte of Wine Pro Tours, who knows just about everything about Virginia wine, and is an exceptional resource for wineries in the area. His company picks you up from your hotel and drives you to the wineries of your choice for a very fun day of drinking without driving. Here are the wineries we visited:
Named one of the most dog-friendly cities in the US, Alexandria, VA did not disappoint. We spent the majority of the time in Old Town, a charming and walkable area filled with museums, restaurants, and great shopping. With dog bowls lining King Street, and dogs at every corner, Charlie could not have felt more at home. There’s also a free trolly that runs along King Street, which features a walkable (or trolly-able…) mile through Old Town with 200+ independently owned restaurants and boutiques.
What to do in Old Town, Alexandria, VA:
For starters, visit VisitAlexandriaVA.com or the Alexandria Visitor Center, located in the heart of Old Town at 221 King Street, they are filled with recommendations and able and willing to help you plan your perfect trip. You can also pick up a Key to the City Museum pass which is $15 ($49 value) and includes free passes to the Alexandria Black History Museum, Carlyle House Historic Park, Friendship Firehouse Museum, George Washington Masonic National Memorial Observation Deck, Lee-Fendall House Museum & Garden, Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum, Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, and The Lyceum: Alexandria’s History Museum, plus a 40% off discount coupon on the George Washinton’s Mount Vernon. Definitely call ahead to the museums for how pet-friendly they are but with Charlie in his bag, we had no problem with any of the ones listed below.
Explore the Waterfront and Founders Park
There are 18 public, off-leash dog parks in Alexandria (not including a bunch of private ones) and while I didn’t visit them all, Founders Park came highly recommended and was on the Alexandria Seaport/waterfront (which is a must visit). With riverside views of the Potomac, it’s a great place to walk the path or run around on the grass with your pup. You can book a boat ride on The Potomac Riverboat Company, which offers a variety of cruises including a 60-minute dog-friendly Canine Cruise on select days from May through September. If you’re in the mood for a picnic in the park, Society Fair and Windmill Hill Park came highly recommended. If you’re looking for a wonderful, pet-friendly seafood dining option on the water, Vola’s Dockside Grill is located in front of the Torpedo Factory Art Center on the Alexandria Seaport and is a great place to sit outside and people watch as the boats leave the marina.
My mom has a Toyota Prius, and when she first bought it a few years ago she said it was like driving a magic carpet, it was so smooth and quiet. It wasn’t until this road trip driving a 2017 Toyota Prius Three, that I fully understood this comment. For the eclipse we decided to fly into Atlanta and drive to Nashville (about a 4 hour drive), making a stop in Chattanooga, Tenessee, the half way point, to see the legendary Ruby Falls. Not only is the engine so quiet, but the car is also insanely fuel efficient, which I really appreciated considering all the miles we were about to drive. It was less than a half a tank of gas to do the trip one way!
We started in downtown Atlanta, which wasn’t very exciting, except we did stumble on a fabulous Mexican restaurant called Alma Cocina, that’s worth a visit if you’re in the area.
Little Five Points
What we were told this would be the Williamsburg, BK of Atlanta and it did not disappoint. The artsy area filled with funky bars and restaurants, coffee shops, juice bars, tattoo shops and vintage stores was a fun area to walk around, and so inexpensive. Ragorama is a huge second hand store, where I thrifted 3 designer belts (Gucci, D&G, and Ferragamo) for $24 – $33 each.
Less grungy then Little Five Points, Atlantic Station is a pretty part of town and great area to eat, shop, walk around and catch a movie.
Well, today was pretty much the best. James and I have been planning this Nashville trip for almost a year. Ever since he got wind of the Eclipse and that Nashville would be one of the best viewing spots. We’re big SPG members so we booked at the Westin Nashville, it’s a newer property downtown and absolutely gorgeous. Grandious lobby, with really cool music design elements like picks embedded in the counters and belt buckles on the headboards of the rooms. The hotel has two bars (we frequented both), one in the lobby the other on the roof, which is two levels and features a pool with incredible views of the city. It was the perfect spot to watch the eclipse from and the hotel threw a really fun viewing party complete with a specialty eclipse cocktails and glasses.
I’ve always wanted to do the drive from LA to Las Vegas, and frankly hit some of the top nature destinations surrounding Vegas. This year when Cosmoprof invited me to their beauty conference (beauty lovers you should know about them, it’s the worlds biggest and best beauty trade show), I decided to drive from LA and partnered with Volvo to test out the S90 for the week — skip to the bottom of this post for the full review. Sans traffic it’s about a 4 hour drive and a beautiful drive surrounded in dessert, mountains and Joshua Trees — or at least it is when you hit Nevada. Once you’re there isn’t a shortage of natural wonders and national parks and recreations. With only a few days in town we opted for day trips about 30 minutes to an hour outside the city. It’s amazing how quick you can go from Sin City to natural wonder.
Seven Magic Mountains (30 minute drive)
It took 4 years to build this $3.5 Million public art installation by Ugo Rondinone which is 7 pillars of color blocks in the desert. It’s a visual paradise and fashion bloggers dream for a backdrop. It’s an easy drive 20 miles south — about a 30 minute form Las Vegas, free and open to the public without restriction.
One of the highlights of my road trip in California was visiting Costa Mesa. Located in the heart of Orange County, circled by Anaheim (where Disneyland is), and some coastal beach favorites like Huntington Beach and Newport Beach with an easy drive to Laguna Beach and San Clemente. It’s 10 – 20 minute proximity to all the big name OC areas I’ve been wanting to visit made it an attractive destination but it was their culinary, art and shopping scene that gives this city it’s distinct personality. Being only an hour outside of Los Angeles, and San Diego (it’s the perfect half way point), it was an especially attractive weekend destination and one I look forward to visiting again. Named the City of the Arts for it’s extensive public art on display throughout the city and Segerstrom Center for the Arts which is the leading performing arts center offering artistic and educational programs as well. You should check out the Art Walk while you’re there! The video above takes you on a quick tour of all the below shopping and eatery’s on my list!
Where to Shop:
The shopping scene is Costa Mesa is off the chain, especially considering it’s home to the internationally regarded South Coast Plaza mall which is probably one of the largest attractions and makes Costa Mesa an international destination. (It’s like the United Nations of shopping lovers in there). However, in a see of malls, plazas and shopping centers there is something for everyone. Three major shopping experience stand out all unique in their own right.
South Coast Plaza, a renowned international destination for shopping and dining, celebrates 50 years of quality. It has come a long way and expanded since opening with Sears in 1967. It’s also the first Nordstrom location after Seattle. Today, it is home to more than 250 prominent boutiques, critically acclaimed restaurants and carries a mix of stores from Forever 21 to Chanel. Its unparalleled collection of diverse retailers, includes Bottega Veneta, The Webster, Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels to Hermès, Gucci, Roger Vivier, COACH, Henri Bendel, Dolce & Gabbana, Sephora, Zara, UNIQLO and more, along with its customized concierge services, they also have a VIP Suite which I show off in my video. The window shopping alone makes it feel like a fashion museum.
California was one big road trip for me starting in Los Angeles to Palm Springs for Coachella with stops in Pioneer Town and Joshua Tree, two must-dos if you’re in the Palm Springs area before taking a tour of Orange County. I’m not a light packer when it comes to music festivals and being on the road for three weeks didn’t help… that, coupled with James’ stuff, a compact car was unrealistic.
Fortunately we partnered with Volvo to try out the 2017 Volvo XC60, which we basically lived out of. We had the T6 AWD Inscription trim – it drove like a dream, so much that at one point I looked down at the speedometer and found myself pushing 90, when I felt like I was going maybe 60. It’s incredible how quiet it is, smooth and solid feeling no matter what speed you’re going.
It was one of the most comfortable rides through Joshua Tree and the timing could not have been better. With all the rain they’ve been experiencing there were wild flowers blooming that hadn’t budded in decades. With so many colors, it was beautiful! We stopped to climb the rocks, walk some trails, stroll through the cactus garden, and even met a snake along the way. Enjoy the drive with us in the video above, More on the car and photo gallery below!
For the past few years I’ve seen non-stop incredible photos of Iceland 0n my Instagram feed — images of the Northern Lights, Blue Lagoon, the Icelandic horses, and so many natural wonders that I knew I had to go. I felt overwhelmed though trying to figuring out what to book. With just a plane ticket (booking was the first step!), I started reading articles, reviews and asking advice of friends so here is the quick and easy guide to what I did, and what’s on my radar for next time.
WHERE TO STAY: Downtown Reykjavik, Room with a View
There are loads of hotels all over Iceland but if you’re limited on time, downtown Reykjavik is ideal. All of the tours pick up from there and it’s a really cute scene, filled boutiques, restaurants, popular attractions and life. We stayed at Room with View Luxury Apartments, which was the most ideal location. In fact if you’re looking at other hotels see how close it is to this one since it doesn’t get anymore prime and right. Although dubbed an apartment, it’s more of an upscale hotel suite complete with a kitchen, doorman and helpful staff to accommodate any bookings. There’s also a steam room and Jacuzzi on the property! We were a party of 4 people and one thing I learned is two double beds in a hotel basically doesn’t exist. This was the only hotel I found that could accommodate us in one room. I highly recommend emailing them in advance your needs. We ended up with 3 single beds and one double bed in our huge, beautiful, dream apartment with 2 bathrooms suite that was cheaper then booking two rooms somewhere else.
How to Get Around:
Your options are basically, taxi, car rental, bus, ferry or tour buses (more info HERE). I highly recommend renting a car, we used Lagoon Car Rental which was wonderful. They picked us up from the airport and drove us 5 minutes away to the car location and made it all super quick and easy! And also through a wi-fi router we had internet in the car the whole time. Renting a car made the most sense for us since we were a party of 4 and getting to/from the airport to Reykjavik is about a 45 minute drive and pricey, so is the Blue Lagoon (we were quoted $40 each way from Reykjavik, although they have ticket options that include a shuttle). Reykjavik is a very walkable city so we basically used the car for day trips and otherwise found easy street parking and did tours. The tours pickup from hotels in Reykjavik so that part was easy.
We rented a Renault Talisman which had plenty of space in the trunk for all of our stuff. Some people prefer a 4×4 SUV but I found the roads really well paved and since we were doing tours (all listed below) for more of our nature excursions, and the weather was mild, we were more than fine in a regular car. If you are doing more off roading and driving yourself around the country (especially in harsh weather) you may want to consider a 4×4.
WHAT TO DO IN ICELAND:
Blue Lagoon and Thermal Baths
I could not leave Iceland without visiting the Blue Lagoon Geothermal Bath. It’s one of the 25 Wonders of the World and with good reason, it’s incredible! Most people visit on their way to the airport or leaving it since it’s on the route from Keflavik Airport to Reykjavik. Pre-booking is required and they also offer massages in the water which is apparently incredible! They have different ticket rates, all of which get you the same access to the Blue Lagoon and access to the mask bar for the Silica Mud Mask — everything but the Standard Ticket also gets you the Algae Mud Mask (you can learn more about the ticket options HERE). Both of these skincare products are two of Blue Lagoons top selling skincare products, and they have a store on site (as well as at the airport and downtown Reykjavik) where you can purchase the whole line. I highly recommend the masks as well as their lip balm — pretty much all of it is incredible and makes for a great gift! There are two restaurants, a cafe and more formal dining option on the property. There is also a bar in the water to purchase drinks.