What to Pack on a Cruise (featured on TravelFashionGirl.com)

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A few months ago, I was asked to write a few posts on cruising for TravelFashionGirl.com! The first is about packing for a cruise, specifically 7 things to bring!

Wondering what to pack on a cruise? With so many cruise dress code guidelines things sure can get confusing. 

A cruise ship is like a floating city. It has restaurants, entertainment, staterooms, and most everything you could want – but there are some limitations. So you don’t show up over packed or under prepared, here’s a list of what to bring and what to leave behind...

Read the rest of the article here!


A few other cruising articles:

This Week in Travel: Vol. 35

Monday, January 25, 2016

There are so many travel blogs & publications I read on a daily basis! Wanted to share some of my favorite links, articles, info graphics and tips from around the web this week.



THIS IS IN MY FUTURE. I miss the ocean so much, I can almost taste it! The snow is fun for about 5 minutes, then I want to be in a sundress again. 

I'm turning 30 in just about two months (!!!!!) and also want to celebrate with sand and sun. I'm thinking San Diego, since I've never been (and Southwest has direct flights). Does anyone have a suggestion for a great beach front hotel?

Anyway, hope everyone has a great week!
xo

Where We Stayed: Italy Edition

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Ah! Italia! With all your beautiful carbs and colorful coastlines. I miss Italy pretty bad, and think you all should visit. Right now.

I've had a lot of people ask me about where we stayed in Italy, as we used all Airbnb's for this trip (renting a room in Italy was culturally normal before Airbnb was even invented, so it makes a lot of sense). 


Airbnb was cheap, had so many great locations, and really worked for us on this trip. A few notes:

  • Every Airbnb renter in Italy will collect €2 per person per night in CASH when you arrive. This is normal and required by them. So be prepared with your Euro coins (this is at time of publishing, Jan. 2016 - please confirm with your host)
  • Many Airbnb's in Italy required you to check in by 8pm. If you're taking a later train in, you may consider staying in a hotel or double checking that your host is ok with this later arrival. Some people were flexible, others said it cost extra for a late check in. We found this was common, so make sure you do your research.

Where we stayed: Airbnb in Manarola, Cinque Terre

How I would describe this lodging: Quaint, cozy, terrace, great view, close to the train. Nothing in Cinque Terre is very "luxurious", so it's all very quaint. Think about it like staying with your adorable grandma who has an awesome view.

Why we stayed: Mainly because of the view. Who could resist the giant terrace right on the water?! But also, it was extremely affordable (under $100/night), had great reviews, and was less than 10 min walk from the train station.

Would I recommend it?: Definitely. Our host was adorable and sweet, the location can't be beat, and the terrace wins, for sure. Wherever you stay in CT (any village is wonderful!) make sure you're close to a train station and have a balcony! Absolutely worth it.

PS - Tips on choosing an Airbnb in Cinque Terre

Our balcony in Cinque Terre! 
The room (photo via Airbnb listing)
The view from our balcony, right up into the town. Amazing!
Where we stayedRome


How I would describe this lodging: Rustic meets modern, central, cozy.

Why we stayed: The price was wonderful, I loved all these wooden beams and that the windows opened up. This was also RIGHT by the Colosseum  so location was amazing. It was very centrally located and we had a limited time there - so it was great.

Would I recommend it?: Absolutely. Like I said, the location was top notch. Less than 5 min walk to the Colosseum and many other attractions. The apartment had such charm to it with the exposed beams and was very spacious.

Our view in Rome! loved how these windows opened up.
Rome (photo via Airbnb) 
Rome (photo via Airbnb)
Lounging in our Airbnb in Rome

Where we stayedFlorence


How I would describe this lodging: Modern, crisp, comfortable, great location, South side of Florence.

Why we stayed: I was tipped off by a friend to stay south of the river, and I am so glad we did. The San Spirito neighborhood is so close to everything but not in tourist land. Plus, just look at the place! For about $85/night, what's not to like?

Would I recommend it?: Absolutely. This host owns a few apartments and they were all lovely. I'd highly recommend this location to anyone who wants a more authentic experience in Florence.

Florence (photo via Airbnb)
Florence (photo via Airbnb)
                                 We loved this space!                Our 2Euro bottle of wine at a local restaurant
       
The bridge by our rental!
Where we stayedVenice



How I would describe this lodging: This was actually a Bed & Breakfast that was listed on Airbnb. Canal views, breakfast included, cozy, clean, great location.

Why we stayed: This room was in a good location and we liked that it had a canal view (harder to come by than you'd think!) for a good price.

Would I recommend it?: Yes yes yes! Our host was wonderful and even made up a take-away breakfast for our last morning there. Worth noting, the bathrooms were not en suite so you did have to venture into the hall, but it was still very private.

Our room (photo via Airbnb)


Airbnb was a major hit for us! There were a lot of great places to choose from, and a really great price point! I wouldn't even consider a hotel (although I'm sure they're all so pretty!) because Airbnb just really worked out for us.

Where did you stay in Italy?
xo

Cracking the Cruise Dress Code (Featured on TravelFashionGirl.com)

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Here's another feature on cruising, on TravelFashionGirl.com - this post is about the dress code on a cruise.

Cruises are a very casual way to travel. However, the formal dining room is the one place where rules most certainly apply. Trying to decipher a cruise dress code can be cryptic if you’ve never sailed before. While guidelines can vary between cruise lines, these general rules apply. Read on to learn what to wear for casual and formal cruise dinner attire, as well as resort wear on board!
Read the rest of the article here!


A few other cruising articles:

Nashville Neighborhood Guide: Germantown

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Germantown! If you would have asked me 3 years ago if I knew some good places in Germantown, I would have told you the only time I'd been there was for a cool New Year's Eve party in a random warehouse. Sounds totally legit, right?

In the last couple of years, Germantown has really taken off. From the cool loft apartments, to the walkability of some of the city's hottest new restaurants, it's really become a hot spot. To be honest, I'm writing this post from one of my new favorite coffee shops, which just so happens to be in Germantown. More on that in a minute.

Germantown is just north of Downtown Nashville, but still on the south side of the river (if that makes sense).


There are so many great spots in Germantown, and it's easily accessible from Downtown and many other hot spots (like East Nashville and 12th South area). Let's talk about what to do in Germantown!


RESTAURANTS

5th & Taylor
Less than a year old (at time of publishing), 5th & Taylor was a fun date night this year. The cheese plate is killer and the low lighting makes you feel like you're in New York City. AND there's nothing I love more than a wait staff that can explain a wine list to you to help you pick a good glass of red ;) Reservations accepted (and suggested).


5th & Taylor lobby via 

312 Pizza
Chicago style pizza lovers, this is your place. Very casual, very delicious. Great beers on tap and they also have thin crust pizza! Please note it's not the place to go if you're hungry and ready to eat right now - the deep dish pizza takes about 30 minutes to cook.... so have a late snack before you dine or perhaps choose one of their appetizers.

Rolf & Daughters
Another beloved Nashville restaurant. This join will set you back quite a few bucks, but is quite popular with the locals. Everything is locally sourced and mostly home made. I'd say it's non-traditional Italian, but that may be a bad explanation. It was one of the first restaurants to put Germantown on the map, so check it out.

Butchertown Hall
One of the new kids in town is Butchertown Hall. They are a unique combo of German meets Tex-Mex (think tacos AND bratwurst).... which sounds strange but completely works - even for this vegetarian. They've got great cocktails and an amazing patio in the summer. They don't take reservations but it's a fun place to get a drink and brave the long wait times.


Butchertown Hall photo via
City House
City House is a Nashville classic. There's something on the menu for everyone, has the vibe of a very upscale restaurant, but the prices aren't insane. The decor is welcoming and vibe-y, and you can't meet a Nashvillian that doesn't love it! Make a reservation if you can.

Garden Brunch Cafe
Ok, so this technically isn't in Germantown - but I don't know what other neighborhood to place it in.... and it's right across the street. So we'll just say it counts :) Garden Brunch is this cozy little house with great southern cooking that meets brunch. Definitely try one of their Eggs Benedicts.... you won't regret it.

COFFEE

Barista Parlor
The newest member of the Barista Parlor fleet, this third store is taking over Germantown. BP is known for their moto friendly decor, airy spaces, and delicious pour overs. What's fun about BP is that they get new coffee from different places around the country all the time. You can find Damn Handsome, Counter Culture, Stumptown, and many more. You can ALSO find the ever popular Five Daughters Donuts at all of the Barista Parlor locations. YUM.  

Steadfast Coffee
Steadfast takes the cake on my favorite new coffee shop this year. With their fresh coffee soda and their delicious drip, I love visiting this space. Heck, I'm here right now. They also serve up some of my favorite brunch in town these days and it's quite possible to find me here on a Saturday morning. :) They ALWAYS play great music (Dr Dre, Haim, Jimmy Eat World) which makes for a winner in my book. They also do beer on tap so it's a great place for happy hour. Park on the street for best results, as their parking lot is a bit of a s**t show. :) 


Steadfast Coffee photo via
The Red Bicycle
The Red Bicycle was probably the first place I ever went in Germantown, other than that warehouse NYE party. I got crepes with a friend and they were pretty dang good! They also do fun coffee drinks if you're into your lattes. The Celiacs in the house can enjoy any crepe us carb-i-vores can, because Red Bicycle has a GF crepe option! They also have a new location in Woodbine, but this is definitely the adorable original.

TO DO

Have you been to the new Nashville Sounds Stadium yet? It's soon nice! The old stadium was fine, but it could have been any 25 year old stadium. The new place has great lawn seats (for $7 most times!), and a really swanky bar area with fun lounge chairs and craft beers. They also had a nice wine selection. You can choose from your typical hot dog & popcorn from concession, or visit the artisan stands with street tacos and sauvignon blanc. Guess where I ordered from.... :) We really enjoyed going last year and can't wait until games start up again. Oh yeah, and they play baseball there. But it's just a fun night out. 

Farmer's Market photo via
Nashville Farmer's Market
Totally revamped in the last year is the Farmer's Market. Nashville has tons of local markets (like our Sevier Park FM, East Nashville FM, and the Franklin FM, just to name a few), but this farmer's market is set up in a dedicated facility and runs year round (the rest are seasonal, usually April-November). This market has all your local farmers, dairy and meat venders, but also has a great indoor market with some great restaurants. Including but not limited to, Jeni's Ice Cream, Sloco, and B&C BBQ. It's fun to wander, pick up a few veggies and a snack. I love the new farmer's market and am so glad they changed it! Last year, it was basically a run down flea market. Now the rule is you have to home make/home grow 80% of your product in order to be a vendor. It's great. Definitely worth checking out!

I'm loving all the new possibilities that Germantown has to offer. I also feel like there's something new every day! I think it's a great place to rent an Airbnb if you're visiting or at least coming by for a drink or meal. 

Have you been to Germantown since it's started booming? What do you think?
xo

PS - Other Nashville neighborhood guides


Updated January 2016

This Week in Travel: Vol. 34

Monday, January 18, 2016

There are so many travel blogs & publications I read on a daily basis! Wanted to share some of my favorite links, articles, info graphics and tips from around the web this week.

Did everyone have a good weekend? Ours was cozy. We had a really busy week, so I was happy to catch up on a few episodes of Downton Abbey (we didn't see last nights - no spoilers!!!) and eat home made soup. I made Kale & White Bean which is a favorite of mine. I didn't use a recipe (I rarely do when I cook), but it's something along the lines of this one, just without the bread (because I didn't have any, not because I'm above it).

I was inspired by Catherine to order the Warby Parker home try ons so I would actually check "eyes checked" off my 101 in 1001 list - and guess what! I have an eye appointment today and I believe I've already picked the frames I like. That's what I call getting it done.

What's on your mind today? I've got sunshine on the brain, as we're visiting my family in Florida soon. I've all but made a paper chain because my pale skin needs some Vitamin D. 

I hope everyone has a nice week!
xo












Where We Stayed: New Zealand Edition

Thursday, January 14, 2016

When we travel, we're not really consistent in the type of lodging we stay in. We definitely make decisions based on what type of trip it is, location, price, etc! Sometimes it's Airbnb, sometimes it's a hotel, sometimes it's a friends spare bedroom or couch :)


I was recently asked about where we stayed in New Zealand. We rented a car and drove around, so we stayed in a bunch of different places.

A few things to note: 

  • We stayed in a lot of "motels". Normally, I'd turn my nose up at a motel because that usually means super sketchy!!! But all the motels in NZ were really clean and beautiful, and I believe it means there are outdoor hallways, as opposed to indoor (which was really common).
  • We didn't do any camping, but there are definitely options. It's not free camping (where you just pitch a tent anywhere) except a few spots on the South Island, but you can make a reservation at a lot of camp sites. 
  • We did NOT rent any Airbnb's in New Zealand, and here's why: location. If we had stayed in Auckland (we crashed with Ashley, so no need for a rental), Queenstown or Christchurch, we probably would have  - but most of the places we stayed were kind of remote or just very small towns where there weren't options. 


Now - Onto the accommodation!




National Park/Tongariro Alpine Crossing (North Island)

Where we stayedDiscovery Lodge, National Park, NZ

How I would describe this lodging: Modest hotel, simple, clean, great location & price. We stayed in the motel bedroom, but they also offer fancier chalets or simpler camp grounds :) 

Why we stayed: It was one of the closest places we could get to the actual crossing. Plus, major bonus, they offered a shuttle service for the crossing (you do the hike one-way, so you need to be dropped off and picked up). We were able to keep our car at the hotel while we did the hike, and were picked up/dropped off directly to our door. It was easy and simple, especially since we were leaving at 5am.

Would I recommend it?: ABSOLUTELY! If you plan on doing the Alpine Crossing (which is New Zealand's best day hike for sure!!!), it's the best place to stay. 




Napier/Hawk's Bay (North Island)

Where we stayed: Shoreline Motel, Napier

How I would describe this lodging: Clean, very simple, balcony view.

Why we stayed: We wanted to check out all of the art deco charm Napier has to offer (seriously, it's gorgeous!). I loved the idea of this hotel because it had a balcony, which was lovely. Our other choice was the Art Deco Masonic Hotel, which was so charming, but sadly booked. I did love our little Shoreline experience. We got a bottle of wine on the way in and drank it on the balcony! A really nice way to unwind after a lonnnnng hike! We also considered staying at this winery, but we only had one night and left the next morning, so I wanted to see all of the beautiful Art Deco buildings Napier is known for.

Would I recommend it?: Absolutely. The price was very cheap (about $80/night) and I loved having the little balcony. It was walkable to a lot of great restaurants, and close to the main Art Deco strip. 


View from our balcony at the Shoreline

Abel Tazman National Park/Nelson (South Island)

Where we stayed: The Sails, Nelson

How I would describe this lodging: Absolutely gorgeous, modern, chic, lux, underpriced, balcony/court yard, mini kitchen.

Why we stayed: We tried to stay closer to Abel Tazman Nat'l Park (where we went sea kayaking), but the options were few and far between. I am so glad we stayed in Nelson! Not only was this "motel" (seriously, not a motel) so beautiful and relaxing, the town of Nelson itself was incredibly charming.

Would I recommend it?: It was one of my favorite hotels I've ever stayed in. We got a 1st floor courtyard instead of a balcony, which I was bummed about at first, but the courtyard is completely private, where the balcony can be seen from the road. This is a family run place, and they do an amazing job. Once again, bring yourself a bottle of vino for the patio. We stayed in the "studio suite" (which is their smallest), but it still had a mini kitchen, which was helpful for us having road trip food.






Franz Josef/Fox Glacier

Where we stayed: Franz Josef Oasis

How I would describe this lodging: Modern, chic, relaxing, great breakfast, in-room fire place.

Why we stayed: This place looked really nice, I'm not gonna lie. And the price was right. Franz Josef is a really small little town, so there's not a ton for options, and many were really run down. This is "out of town", but it's really not even a 5 minute drive, so we didn't care. It was way nicer than anything "in" town. 

Would I recommend it?: Definitely. The "motel" (once again, I wish motels were this nice) seemed pretty new to me, so everything is chic, white, and modern. There's a gas fire place in the room which was so cozy after hiking glaciers all day! They also did great food, which was a bonus, since there wasn't a ton to choose from in town. We did dinner room service once and the breakfast buffet (very European style buffet - breads, cheese, musili, eggs, coffee, fresh fruit, etc) twice and it was wonderful. We were sad to leave.





Milford Sound/Te Anu

Where we stayed: Distinction Te Anu Hotels & Villa, Lakefront Dr.

How I would describe this lodging: Hotel & villas, standard, good location, ocean view or garden view available.

Why we stayed: Our original plan was to stay IN Milford Sound (which is about 1.5hrs away), but all of the lodging (there isn't much) was booked up, as it was Easter weekend. In the end, it actually worked out well because we did a hike on our way out to Milford, and Te Anu definitely has more options for dinner, gas, and groceries. Milford is extremely remote, so it was nice to visit and have a place to go to dinner that evening.

Would I recommend it?: Yes, but I think you could find something a little better. We were limited because of the holiday weekend. We stayed in the garden villa, which was the most affordable, and was fine - just a little outdated. It was clean and worked. I did enjoy the rose gardens outside and the location in Te Anu, which was close to restaurants and the water (we took a few evening walks). However, I think there are nicer places for a similar price if you do some shopping. ALSO - we stayed in the Lakeshore Dr location, but there is one other Distinction Te Anu, which is cheaper but had awful reviews. Be advised.




There you have it, my review of hotels and motels to stay at in New Zealand! Do you have any favorite places you've stayed in NZ?
xo