Mdina, Malta is a walled, hilltop town on the island of Malta in the Mediterranean, which stood as the capital of Malta until the Medieval period. Mdina is commonly known as the “Silent City,” its a UNESCO site, and Mdina is a hugely popular tourist destination in Malta. More importantly, its also Kings Landing from the first season of Game of Thrones!!!!
Prior to planning our trip to Egypt, I hardly knew anything about Abu Simbel. Yes, I had heard of it and I *kind of* knew what it looked like, but nothing more. At all. But, as soon as I dug into Abu Simbel, a visit was absolutely non-negotiable. Planning this “must do” activity turned out to be more work than anticipated, as its a flight from Cairo or Luxor or 6-hour round trip drive from Aswan! In any case, we worked it out and it was one of both Dan and my favorite activities in Egypt, rivaling even the pyramids!
Dan and I were very interested in trying Egyptian food, so in planning our trip to Cairo, we booked a food tour shortly after we booked our flights! For any foodies planning a trip to Cairo, this is a GREAT idea (especially if you are not Egyptian and/or don’t speak Arabic) because it allows you to try really local food from vendors who may not speak English and see the heart of old Cairo (which can be quite overwhelming!). Its also a good idea if you are taking a Nile River cruise, because the food on those cruises is usually not Egyptian!
Being so close to Italy, Italy heavily influences Malta’s cuisine. Pasta, cannoli, and pizza are everywhere in Malta, and we ate a lot of it. However, I kept thinking that it was just not as good as Italian food; a second best so to speak. However, when we dined at Sotto Pizzeria, I was completely blown away and had, by far, the best meal of the entire trip!
Sotto Pizzeria is located in Malta’s capital, Valletta, in a nondescript basement with only a small sign announcing the restaurant.
If you’ve been following this blog, you know that Dan and I checked off a big bucket list item earlier this year – visiting the Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt!! It was truly a 10-year in the making trip (due to safety concerns), and we loved every minute of our holiday! So much, in fact, that we are planning to go back in a couple years when the Great Egyptian Museum finally opens! While everything was fantastic, I was shocked at how difficult it is to find information about visiting the Pyramids, and Egypt generally, online; it was really tough! I put together this guide to help future travelers cut down on the planning stress! Note, this information is as of 2019. Definitely check for updates and more recent information in the future, as Egypt’s tourism industry is only moving forward!
En route back from Malta, Dan and had a little over three hours to kill in Heathrow’s Terminal 3 before flying back to New York via Virgin Atlantic. Since we flew economy class, we had two options for airport lounges via Priority Pass – the Aspire Lounge and the No. 1 Lounge. Since we had visited the Aspire Lounge (albeit in Terminal 5) previously, we decided to check out the No. 1 Lounge this time, as it was new and it gets pretty good reviews.
The No. 1 Lounge is part of a chain of lounges in the UK. The public can buy access to the lounge for 40 Pounds, and the No. 1 Lounge also accepts Priority Pass, Dragon Pass, Diners Club, and Wexas, and acts as a lounge for certain carriers. As such, it can definitely fill up and lock out Priority Pass members. To avoid this, the No. 1 Lounge offers an option for Priority Pass members to purchase guaranteed access for 5 Pounds/person. We did purchase this option, but it ended up being unnecessary.
The No. 1 Lounge is located post-security on the second floor of Terminal 3 of Heathrow Airport, just next to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse and very close to other airline lounges. It was easy enough to find, just follow signs for airport lounges and don’t get distracted in crazy Terminal 3! There is an elevator and stairs to access the lounge. Entrance was quick and easy with our Priority Pass, and there were no restrictions for entry at 11 AM on a Sunday morning in June.
Upon arrival, you are given a menu with hot meal choices for the day, a bit of general information on the lounge, and the wifi password.
Upon entry, the No. 1 Lounge is quite large with decent airport views (the exact same as the Virgin Clubhouse, only 1 floor higher). Just past checkin is a pretty large bar with bar stool seating. Just past the bar is a small buffet and coffee area with table seating.
Moving around the corner from the buffet area, there is a lot of seating, both nice sofa like chairs, tables, and seating overlooking the runway. While there was a lot of seating, it was pretty crowded. In addition to this area, there are a few private rooms that can apparently be rented out for private groups (or possibly airlines). We ended up in one of these rooms at a large table just in front or a large TV playing BBC. These small side rooms also had small fridges with soda and water.
Since we had limited time in the lounge, we decided to order hot food as soon as we sat down. Dan took our two menus to the bar, where all orders are placed, and placed our orders. The way the hot food works is that your menu is a ticket for one meal. We just missed breakfast, so I ordered the truffle mac and cheese and Dan ordered the bacon sandwich. Our food came out about 15 minutes later and both were quite delicious!! My only complaint is that the dishes were a little small… But we ended up lucking out and our neighbor gave us his menu (he was not eating) and we ordered a third fish wrap, which was served with potato chips and was SO good!! We were definitely plenty full at this point!
Aside from order from the menu, which is a really fun option in an airport lounge, we also visited the little buffet area. We visited just as the lunch portion was going out. When we visited, the buffet consisted of a hot soup, a beet salad, a small lettuce salad with some vegetables, fresh fruit (whole apples, oranges, etc.), and some nuts and dried fruit. The nearby coffee bar doubled as a dessert bar and offered cookies and a couple different types of tea cakes. The desserts were really good and the buffet food was high quality, but I was looking for something a little more unhealthy on my last day of vacation….
While the hot food is understandably limited at the No. 1 Lounge, the drinks (well most) are free flowing (unlike the Aspire lounge). At the No. 1 Lounge, all alcohol beverages come from the main bar, and there are a lot of options. Seriously, Prosecco, numerous types of red and white wines, draft and bottled beer, and cider. There is also Champagne available for purchase. Between Dan and me, we tried the Prosecco, cider, and the Spanish Rioja red wine. I do not recall the brand of wine, but the Spanish Rioja was an excellent wine for a Priority Pass airline lounge.
In addition to alcohol drinks, the No. 1 Lounge offers complimentary bottles of flat and sparkling wine, a variety of sodas, juice, and a large coffee machine making all of the standard espresso beverages. These drinks are all unlimited and are self-serve via several small fridges spread out throughout the lounge.
The No. 1 Lounge has in lounge lavatories, which were clean and large enough to change and freshen up. The No. 1 Lounge also offers showers for 15 Pounds, nap pods for 20 Pounds, and apparently spa services! We did not use these features, nor did I see anyone else using them, but they apparently exist…
All in all, the No. 1 Lounge was a good lounge, and I think that I liked it better than the Aspire Lounge, but only slightly.
STEAL OUR LOUNGE
No. 1 Lounge Heathrow: Post-security in London Heathrow Terminal 3. Follow signs for Lounge F access. Directly above the Virgin Clubhouse. Open daily 4:30 – 22:30. From 34 Pounds in advance, 40 Pounds at the door. Priority Pass, Dragon Pass, Diners Club, and Wexas members have complimentary access. Showers are 10 Pounds extra for patrons with complimentary access. Pass members can also guaranty entrance for 5 Pounds per person online in advance.
As part of our Egypt itinerary in April 2019, Dan and I took a Nile River cruise with Emo Tours Egypt. While we are not cruisers at all (having only cruised once previously), we choose a Nile River cruise because it seemed like the easiest and quickest way to get between Luxor and Aswan, while seeing the sites in between. We very, very much enjoyed our cruise and cruising the Nile is SO GORGEOUS. But, there were certainly some things that surprised us about the cruise, probably because there is not a lot of information online about these cruises except “rah rah, you have to do it!” So, here is my complete review and guide of our cruise down the Nile River!
PROS: Easy way to get from Luxor to Aswan while seeing some sites in between, cruising down the Nile is amazing, generally safe and comfortable, Emo Tours Egypt tour guide was fantastic!
CONS: The food, limited activities on the ship, limited interaction with Egyptian culture.
Ah, Egypt! Dan and I spent 10 days in Egypt in April 2019, and we had the best time! By way of background, we have been wanting to go to Egypt for a long time, since 2008 to be exact, and we almost went in 2010, but opted for Turkey instead. Big mistake. The Egyptian Revolution happened in early 2011, and we have viewed Egypt as a bit too unsafe for Western tourists (or at least us) since. Last year, though, we started reading travel and news articles indicating that Egypt was once again safe. Soooo, we decided to go for it and booked tickets!
Spoiler alert, we had a FABULOUS time and already want to go back (but will wait until the new museum opens in Giza!). The ancient Egyptian monuments are more amazing than imaginable, and we really enjoyed the culture, food, and hospitality! If you have been thinking of booking a trip to Egypt, now is a great time to go and here is information for your booking based on our time there!
If you follow me or Dan on Instagram, you know that we FINALLY made it to Egypt earlier this year, visiting Cairo, Luxor, and Aswan, via a Nile River cruise between Luxor and Cairo. I will be posting about our trip and my tips and tricks shortly but, for now, here are some of my favorite pictures of this beautiful country (which you should ALL visit!)!
Dan and my friend, Hugh, is in the wine industry, so when we were in Rome, he sent us over a few dinner/wine bar recommendations to try while we were in town! Usually I am a little picky about people’s restaurant or wine recommendations, but this guy knows his stuff and introduced us to Portuguese wine, which led to our wedding in Portugal! Enter L’Angolo Divino, a wine bar near Campo de’ Fiori, which was definitely our hang out spot when we studied in Rome…. We called and made a reservation same day (and probably did not need a reservation).
Despite it being late December in Rome, we walked to dinner (it was mid 50s F!) and were promptly seated at a cute table next to a window overlooking the street. The restaurant is quite small and when we visited, all of the patrons seemed to be tourists. This was a bit unsettling, but it turned out great.
Over Memorial Day, Dan and I drove to Montreal (from NYC, 6.5 hours) to spend a glorious weekend eating and drinking far too much. Montreal is the perfect place for that. On this trip, we stayed at the Double Tree by Hilton in the Complexe Desjardins, which was very recently converted from a Hyatt to a Double Tree in December. Fun fact – we stayed at that Hyatt back in 2012! This time around, we were very excited to check out the new Executive Lounge a/k/a Club Lounge at the Double Tree, having really enjoyed the one at the Double Tree by Hilton in Santiago!
On my 35th Birthday Trip in Rome, I lived out one of my greatest dreams – cruising around Rome in a vintage Fiat 500!!! Or a small metal death trap, as Dan called it… He hates danger. Our afternoon was absolutely fantastic and a unique way to explore the lovely city of Roma, Italia!
Roma Sparita is an absolutely delicious, well-known, yet casual, restaurant in the Trastevere neighborhood of Rome that frequently tops “best place to eat in Rome” lists. It doesn’t hurt that Anthony Bourdain LOVED this restaurant, so much that he would never disclose its name (although it was pretty easy to uncover). And, as some of you may know, Dan and I lived in Trastevere for a summer in law school and I LOVE LOVE LOVE Bourdain! Obviously, when we were in Rome over the New Year, I just had to have a meal at Roma Sparita and made a dinner reservation our first night.
One of the best, if not the best (a close tie with Roma Sparita), meals that I had on my 35th birthday trip to Rome was at Restaurant Roscioli. Restaurant Roscioli is quite well known in Rome, as both a delicious restaurant and a popular tourist haunt. Despite its touristy popularity, we booked a table for dinner on our trip, and it was so, SO good!
If you are planning a trip to Rome, Roscioli will likely pop up on a lot of “best restaurant” lists and if you are just walking around looking for a place to eat, Roscioli’s charming atmosphere will certainly draw you in – think meats hanging from the ceiling, Italian products stocking the walls, and lots and lots of people. We made a reservation in advance before we left home (recommended) for the wine cellar. Yes, you pick where you sit, and there are four options: (1) the counter bar; (2) the restaurant hall; (3) the wine cellar; and (4) a table in front of the deli counter. Avoid the wine cellar if you can’t do steep stairs and the counter bar if you do not want to sit on a stool. Otherwise, the “options” are all in the same building and use the same menu and kitchen. We opted for the wine cellar because, well, we love wine! I would also note that each reservation is strictly timed and you are only allotted two hours for dinner, which I hate and is very un-Italian. Since we had a late dinner, we were the last sitting for our table and were able to stay as long as we wanted.
On arrival, we were promptly shown to our table, which was down a steep set of stairs in, not surprisingly, the wine cellar. The tables were TIGHT, but that’s somewhat normal in Italy and we were sitting among some amazing and delicious bottles of wine. We kept spotting bottles that we would like to try. It was kind of a problem. The waitress gave us the menu and the huge wine list, and we set out to choose a bottle of wine! We also ordered a couple gin and tonics to start, and these were absolutely delicious. They were also served in the cutest glasses, and there are multiple fancy gins to choose from on their Gin and Tonic list!
After reviewing the wine list in great detail, we decided to ask for a recommendation on a Sagrintino. We ended up decanting a 2011 Montefalco Sagrantino at Dan’s choice. The wine was ridiculously good!
On the food front, Roscioli has a really good menu, from pasta to meat, to fish, the list goes on. We ended up ordering two entrees (aka starters in Europe). First, fresh burrata! Burrata is a fresh, soft cheese, reminiscent of fresh mozzarella but better in my opinion! I was going to order this regardless but, super lucky for us, it was still white truffle season in Italy and there was a special white truffle menu, and the burrata was on it!! So, of course, I opted for the white truffle burrata! For those unfamiliar, white truffles are the most expensive of the truffle family, and they are incredibly, incredibly delicious. They are also only available for a short time period between about November and January. White truffles are priced by weight and the waiter will shave it fresh onto your dish. We went to a white truffle festival in San Miniato in 2016, and black truffles have just never been the same. We were also pretty familiar about how white truffles worked.
In addition to the burrata, we ordered something that was similar to a hotdog slider, basically a very tasty local sausage on a small bun with a pickle and a delicious sauce. These came two to an order and were quite delicious. No truffles on these bad boys.
For my main dish, I initially planned to order to Cacio e Pepe, but I wanted a dish from the white truffle menu, which narrowed it a bit. In the end, I ordered homemade tortellini from Bologna, which were stuffed with pork, and topped with more white truffles! Like the burrata, the white truffle was freshly shaved onto my pasta! This meal, again, was AMAZING!
Dan opted for my original Cacio e Pepe order, so at least I got to try that! As expected, his Cacio e Pepe was beautiful and tasted amazing. It was also a huge dish! I will absolutely order this next time (assuming its not white truffle season).
Even though we had enjoyed so much food at this point, we could not pass up dessert since the food was so tasty! We ended up ordered a fruit plate with chocolate sauce for dessert, accompanied with these famous dessert cookies. We also did a glass of dessert wine – a 2014 Muffato della Sala. The fruit was excellent and a great way to finish off our meal. However, I would probably not order it again, as it looks like every table receives a similar, smaller dessert for free.
All in, this meal was 1000%!!! I cannot go back to Rome without eating here, and I even joined their wine club! For those planning to visit, make a reservation in advance and review the menu (online) before you arrive to maximize your two hour dinner. There are a lot of options on the menu and it can be a little confusing. But don’t worry, the waitstaff is super nice and used to tourists. They will gladly assist if needed! In terms of price, this was our most expensive dinner in Rome, but that was due to my white truffles (about $50 US extra between the two courses – it was my birthday!) and an expensive bottle of wine. I would classify Roscioli as upscale but not breaking the bank.
STEAL OUR DINNER
Roscioli: Via dei Giubbonari, 21/22, 00186 Roma RM, Italy. Closed Sunday. Open Monday – Sunday, 12h30 – 16h, 19h – 00h. Reservations almost mandatory and can be made here. There are several options of “where to sit” in Roscioli. All areas serve the same menu prepared by the same kitchen.
Dan and I made our triumphant return to Rome Italy between Christmas and New Year’s to celebrate my 35th birthday!! We originally visited Rome in 2008 as a law school summer study abroad and LOVED it but, unfortunately, had not been back – despite having been to Italy many times over the last decade… Since my birthday is in late December – the 26th to be precise – we visited Rome between Christmas and New Years. I was a bit concerned about the timing, the weather, what to do, etc., but we ended up having the perfect trip and now I really want to go back!
Le Grand Colbert is an old-school Parisian haunt near the Louvre (and even closer to the Bourse (aka stock exchange)). Its also right around the corner from Ellsworth, an adorable restaurant that I recommend! Being old-school, Le Grand Colbert has been around for years – since 1900 (current owners since 1992) – and its everything that you would imagine in such a bistrot – gorgeous interior, fancy waiters dressed in full suits, and classic French fare. The building also has tons of history, originally dating to 1637. Be sure to check out the details in the small details, including the mosaic floor!
Doesn’t le Grand Colbert seem like the perfect spot? Well, its also, and somewhat unfortunately, quite popular with the tourist crowds due to the fact that it was featured in the hit American move, Something’s Gotta Give (GREAT movie though!). So while its a classic, you will not likely be enjoying a meal at Le Grand Colbert with Parisians, but with other tourists. Even then, however, Le Grand Colbert is a pretty fabulous meal in Paris, especially for those on a first time (or once in a life time visit)!
As you can probably guess, I dined at Le Grand Colbert on my Ladies Trip to Paris earlier this year, but my mother and I visited Le Grand Colbert way back in 2004 when I studied abroad in Paris! We loved it then and it was just as good this time around. One of the best things about Le Grand Colbert is its classic, and lengthy, Parisian/South Burgundy menu. You want something classically French, its probably on this menu. Le Grand Colbert also boasts a great wine list! Every table at Le Grand Colbert starts with olives, potato chips (my favorite!), and crusty French bread. We paired this with a 2014 Bordeaux from Haut-Médoc from that excellent wine list.
I started my meal with a bowl of French Onion Soup because well, I was in Paris. This one was particularly good and super cheesy! Highly recommended. My only complaint is that it was too much food for me, ha!
I then ordered a classic Parisian dish and one of my favorites, steak au poivre. This is basically a deliciously rare steak in a pepper corn sauce. My steak was served with a slice of tomato with Parmesean crust, really good haricot vert (green beans), and pommes frites! Super Parisian, and super delicious! Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of other peoples food, but other popular choices were the very fresh scallops, and the huge pot of moules-frites (mussels and fries)!
For dessert, because, Paris, I ordered a classic crème brûlée. It was served flaming, and it was absolutely delicious!
STEAL OUR DINNER
Le Grand Colbert: 2 Rue Vivienne, 75002 Paris, France. Open daily 12h – 00h. Reservations recommended and can easily be made online. Not cheap, but not as expensive as you would think. Below are some pictures of the large menu (but not all of it) for price point comparison. While touristy, I do recommend this restaurant and would absolutely eat here again. Le Grand Colbert is also good about reserving tables for large groups without issue, a plus for groups or families!
Ah, the Eiffel Tower. The definitive bucket list site in Paris. Completed in 1889 for the World’s Fair in Paris, its still the tallest structure in Paris and very popular with visitors, who can ascend to the very top on most days (the top is occasionally closed for wind). I’ve visited the Eiffel Tower many times of the years, and visiting it has changed significantly in the last 20 years. Gone are the days of picnicing in the Champs de Mars and gone are the days of buying a ticket on the spot. Now, due to increased security measures, tourists should plan their visit in advance to save precious Paris vacation time and ensure their ticket to the top! Here is my guide on visiting and dining on the Eiffel Tower (skip to the bottom for information on dining on the Eiffel Tower only) in 2019!
Ellsworth is an adorable little restaurant near the Louvre! With a little American flair and lots of Parisian flair, Ellsworth is fun stop not too far from a very touristy part of Paris. I have been to Ellsworth twice for lunch; once in the summer with Dan and once in the winter on my Paris Ladies Trip. I enjoyed both of my meals and will definitely return again!
Earlier this year with my mother, Dan’s mother, sister, and aunt, and our friend Pryor (frequently on this blog) and her mother went to Paris over Valentine’s Day. On this lovely Girls’ Trip, we took a food tour through Montmartre on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon – I’m talking sunny and 60 degrees! It was pretty great and a fun walk to explore a usually too touristy part of Paris!
Le Centre Pompidou (or the Pompidou Center in English) is Paris’ modern art museum. Located in the Marais neighborhood of Paris, the museum itself is a stunning work of modern architecture and worth a walk-by, even if you are not a modern art lover. Earlier this year when I visited Paris on a Girls’ Trip, I lunched at le Centre Pompidou’s upscale restaurant, Georges, located on the roof of the museum, with stunning views of Paris. Georges ended up being everyone’s favorite meal of the trip, and eating there was a blast. Highly recommended for visitors searching for a delicious, somewhat upscale meal in an Instagrammable setting.
Earlier this year, actually over Valentine’s Day weekend (ha!), I took a ladies trip to Paris with my mother, Dan’s mother, sister, and aunt, our friend, Pryor, and her mother! It was a little reminiscent of our 2016 trip to Italy, but without Dan Dan (SAD!) Since some of the group had never been to Paris and others had not been for years, I took the lead in planning. So, for your reading, and hopefully planning, pleasure, here is our itinerary, which I think is perfect for first time visitors to Paris!
As some of you may know, Dan and I spent a fabulous summer in Rome wayyyy back in 2008 (so long ago!). We lived in the very residential part of the Trastevere neighborhood that summer, not too far from the adjacent Testaccio neighborhood. In fact, I have vivid memories of being in Testaccio (and Trastevere!) and thinking that Rome was not at all a touristy city. How wrong was I? Despite Rome being super touristy, certain areas, including parts of Trastevere and Testaccio, remain local and largely devoid of tourists. When we went back over the New Year this past year, I definitely wanted to explore more of these areas.
Like its big sister, Buenos Aires, just across the Río del Plata, Montevideo is a meat lovers paradise. Beef is king, and often served grilled in a casual setting. Meat-eaters cannot leave Montevideo without enjoyed a grilled meat extravaganza at a paradilla. Like in Buenos Aires, You can find paradillas all over Uruguay, and touristy ones in the Mercado Del Puerto. We choose to go a bit off the tourist beaten path and visited Paradilla La Pulperia in the Punta Carretas neighborhood of Montevideo.
Paradilla La Pulperia, or La Pulperia for short, is an institution in Montevideo that is only open Tuesday – Saturday, 19h – 00h. The actual restaurant is not much more than a glorified bar surrounding the most amazing grill. You will find both locals and tourists at La Pulperia, and you should arrive right at 19h (when it opens) or prepare to wait a while for a table.
A “parrilla” is a casual restaurant serving all types of meat, are extremely popular in Argentina and other South American countries (hello, Uruguay!). Buenos Aires is home to several famous parrillas, and you really shouldn’t visit Buenos Aires without a proper meal at one. When Dan and I first visited Buenos Aires, we dined at a famous parrilla called La Brigada, and decided that this was the spot for our only dinner in Buenos Aires this trip!
If you are traveling between Buenos Aires and Uruguay, even for a day trip, chances are that you will at least look at taking the ferry across the Río de la Plata. Dan & I have done it a few times, and its much easier than one would think. Its also much quicker than flying between countries considering the time getting to the airport, security, etc.
Buenos Aires (BA), Argentina is quite close to Uruguay, only separated by the Río de la Plata. As such, a common and convenient way to get between BA and Uruguay is to take the ferry, generally referred to as the “BuqueBus,” between the two countries.
In fact, ferries depart several times a day between BA and Colonia, Uruguay and BA and Montevideo, Uruguay and back. The journey to Colonia takes a little over an hour, while the journey to Montevideo takes around 3 hours.
Dan and I found ourselves in Buenos Aries, Argentina for 24 hours in November en route to our wine-cation in Uruguay and Chile! Pro tip – its easier to get to Western Uruguay (Carmelo and Colonia) by flying into Buenos Aires and taking the ferry across the Río de la Plata than flying into Montevideo and driving (who knew?!). Since we had been to Buenos Aires on a previous visit and were short on time, we got right to down hitting our very favorite spots!
I enjoy a good tasting menu, especially ones not with NYC prices, and when I saw that a Santiago restaurant had been named as one of the 50 Best Restaurants in the World, I planned our first night in Santiago eat at that exact restaurant – Borago!!
When visiting Santiago, Chile last November, Dan and I took a day trip to Valparaiso, Chile’s uber colorful port city with a dicy reputation. We had originally planned to stay a night or two in Valparaiso, but the timing did not work out and I was satisfied with our day trip. In fact, since it was so easy to visit as a day trip from Santiago, I would recommend most visitors with limited time to visit Valparaiso via a day trip from Santiago.
Dan and I love a good lounge, whether its in an airport or a hotel, we love free food and drinks. We also really enjoy staying for free on hotel points. When we booked our trip to Chile last year, we immediately looked at all hotels where we could redeem points for our stay. The Double Tree by Hilton Santiago – Vitacura was a candidate and we ended up booking four nights here based on the point redemption and the hotel’s location. It didn’t hurt that Dan has Diamond Status at Hilton either.
Santiago is the capital of Chile, the long, skinny country on the Western side of South America. Chile is bordered to the right by the Andes mountains, to the left by the Pacific Ocean, to the North by the desert, and to the South by glaciers. Due to its isolated location, Chile is indeed unique and extremely proud of its country and local products. Side note – to protect this status, Chile is also very particular about what one can bring into the country (wine is allowed).
Dan and my wine-cation last Thanksgiving unexpectedly took us to Santiago, Chile after visiting Uruguay (mainly because of flight schedules to/from the US). Since we were in Chile, we absolutely had to engage in some Chilean wine touring, especially since we do not drink much Chilean wine. In fact, we really did not know much about Chilean wine at all.
I spent Valentine’s Day weekend in Paris, France this year, sadly without Dan (SORRY DAN)! It was a girl’s weekend, and we had the best time. I will be posting more about what we did, where we ate, how Paris is in February (spoiler alert, it was amazing and 60 degrees and sunny!), and how you can recreate our itinerary, but for now, here is a snippet of some of my favorite pictures!
The Canelones wine region, Uruguay’s most popular wine region, is located just outside of Montevideo. Since its so close to Montevideo, its definitely feasible to explore some of its wineries on a day trip from Montevideo. As you may know, Dan and I are big fans of Uruguayan wine, and we decided to fit in a little wine touring when we were in Montevideo last Thanksgiving!
A day trip to Canelones is very easy if you have a rental car; you can just drive from Montevideo and park on site. If you don’t have a car, some companies run tours from Montevideo or you could hire an Uber. We did not have a car, but we came across an offer from Bodega Bouza to participate in a 1/2 day tour with lunch and transportation to and from our hotel, and we signed up for it! The tour was very well run and I would absolutely do this tour again.
Dan and I spent Thanksgiving 2018 in Uruguay! We initially started in Western Uruguay and moved East after a few days. Particularly, after visiting excellent wineries in Carmelo, Uruguay (Western Uruguay) for as much Tannat as we could drink, we spent a few days in Montevideo before flying to Chile for more wine tasting!
Last November, Dan and I traveled to Western Uruguay to visit Dan’s favorite winery – Narbona! Prior to our trip, however, I really knew nothing about Western Uruguay, and not really not that much about Uruguayan wine. But, to our lovely surprise, Western Uruguay is home to a handful of vineyards and has even been referred to as the Tuscany of South America by the New York Times!
That being said, and while we had an absolutely wonderful time, I found it incredibly difficult to plan our winery visits in Carmelo. Aside from that old New York Times article, there is not much information online about Western Uruguayan vineyards, and even less in English. After doing tons of research on the area, lots of Google mapping, and Facebook messaging vineyards in broken Spanish, we successfully visiting five vineyards, and here is my guide to wine tasting in Carmelo, Uruguay!
Dan, my husband, and I first encountered Narbona wine several years ago at Salt Creek Grille in Princeton, New Jersey (a great restaurant – get the fries!). One of its managers, Hugh Preece, introduced us to Narbona’s 2011 Tannat, and we instantly fell in love with the wine. Side note – Hugh also introduced us to Portuguese wine, which eventually led us to getting married in Portugal…
Back to the wine, the 2011 Narbona Tannat was big, tannic and everything we love in wine. We proceeded to order numerous cases from various wine distributors in the US and, when they eventually sold out (possibly to us?), we decided that we needed to visit the Narbona vineyards in Uruguay. It didn’t hurt that I have been wanting to visit Uruguay for a while, and that Anthony Bourdain had recently visited Uruguay. In any case, we made reservations at the Narbona Wine Lodge over US Thanksgiving 2018!
On arrival, the Narbona Wine Lodge was everything we wanted and more! However, it was slow and definitely a place to get away from it all. And, it was difficult to find any reviews online so, here you are!
When in Prague earlier this year, since I had visited Prague before, I really wanted to do a day trip to a new city. I settled on Ceský Krumlov, which is a beautiful small town about 2 hours south of Prague, near the Austrian border.
I choose Ceský Krumlov based on the wild reviews of Rick Steves (with whom I have a love/hate relationship) and in in the hopes of visiting Ceský Krumlov before it is totally overrun with tourists – too late for that one! In sum, Ceský Krumlov was an easy day trip from Prague, but it was super, super crowded with tourists!
The Town And Its Sites
Ceský Krumlov is truly totally cute and looks like a fairy take town. Ceský Krumlov is also quite compact, and wandering around Ceský Krumlov itself is its main attraction. I recommend allotting at least a 1/2 day for Ceský Krumlov and at least an hour to simply wander the town. That being said, I would probably not spend more than 24 hours in town.
Nuremberg, Germany is a super cute town (well, on the larger side for a “town”) in southern Germany, about an hour train ride from Munich. Dan and I, as well as our friends Tinh and LaKenya, visited Nuremberg for a fun Fall weekend before hitting Oktoberfest earlier this year. Nuremberg was pretty, interesting, and a convenient place to explore before diving into Oktoberfest!
Hello and happy 2019 to all my friends, followers, and readers! I have been a little MIA since Thanksgiving due to the holiday season and trips to Buenos Aires, Uruguay, Santiago, and, most recently to Rome to celebrate the New Year!
I’ll be posting a lot about my recent trips and general travel information, but for now, here are some of my favorite pictures from magical Rome!
Happy Thanksgiving!! This year, Dan and I are celebrating at Dan’s favorite winery – Narbona in Carmelo, Uruguay. But last year, we celebrated in one of our favorite countries – Ireland! Particularly, Dublin & Galway – you can read about it here. In any case, I thought I would give you all a little gluttonous throw back regarding our food tour last Thanksgiving in Ireland.
Prague’s Vaclav Havel Airport is home to four Priority Pass lounges. When we visited in October, we spent a little over an hour in the MasterCard Lounge in Terminal 2. We had an enjoyable time and would definitely go back without question if in the Prague airport.
Prague is filled with delicious food – from high end Michelin starred restaurants to super casual and inexpensive ones. You will absolutely have a difficult time allocating your meals amongst the options. Despite my deep research on the best places to eat in Prague earlier this year, Dan and I stumbled on a fabulous restaurant while strolling along the Vltava River -Mánes Art Restaurant & Terrace.
As you may know, Dan & I love a food tour. We find them as a great way to experience a lot of local dishes without doing much of the legwork, and we do them on almost every trip (see our tours in Kuala Lumpar, London, Mexico, Paris, Siem Reap, Singapore, Venice, the list goes on… ). Yes, we really do love a good food tour.
When visiting Prague, we found Prague Food Tour via a Google search before we left home and took its evening Delicious Food Tour on our second night in Prague. Prague Food Tours is owned by couple George and Leona, both natives of Prague, and this particular tour took participants on a walking tour through central Prague, stopping at four locations over the course of four hours, and eating and drinking a lot! Since the tour is four hours and the owners/guides are Prague natives, we also received a lot of information about Prague and we were welcome to ask questions! We met in the early evening in central Prague and dove right in to the “food” portion of the tour!
Prague is fabulous. But its also super touristy. And super congested,, especially around its main tourist sites, such as the Old Town Square and Hradčany castle. While I loved Prague, there were definitely more than a few times when I just wanted to lose the tourist hoards and enjoy the city.
Cue Nový Svet. Nový Svet is a charming neighborhood in Prague behind Hradčany Castle. For whatever reason, Nový Svet lacks the crazy crowds in most of Prague, yet retains loads of classic European charm. We ended up in Nový Svet somewhat on a whim – I had read about a “local” coffee shop there by the same name, and Nový Svet was recommended by our tour guide in Ceský Krumlov. We ended up fitting in a stop on our past day in Prague.
Prague has a popular dining concept, whereby, rather thank picking up meat from a butcher shop, diners order and eat at the butcher shop. Who would have thought?! Clearly, I (or rather, Dan) was super interesting in trying this out in Prague. I initially thought that waiting, ordering, and eating at a Prague butcher shop would be stressful and confusing, but it turned out to be super easy and ridiculously delicious! We went back for a second night!
Ah, Prague. For certain, one of the most beautiful cities in the World. Also, one of the most crowded with tourists. Seriously, SO MANY TOURISTS. In any case, Dan & I spent a really lovely long weekend in Prague in October 2018 with our friends Meghan and Tinh!
I first experienced Prague in 2004 (!!), when I was much younger studying abroad, much less traveled, and had barely even heard of Prague. I visited over Halloween weekend in 2004, and I remember it being the most exotic place that I had ever visited. Now all of that has changed, but Prague does still retain a certain Central/Eastern European charm that I really love. In my opinion and experience, Prague is a great destination for travelers who have been to a few “bucket list” places and are ready to brach off, at least seemingly, to a less visited destination.
As you probably gathered from my previous post about the American Express Centurion Lounge in Mexico City, Dan and I did a bit of lounge hopping when flying back from our trip to Mexico City earlier this year. We had a bit of time to kill in the airport (although not as much as I would have liked…), so we first hit the American Express Centurion Lounge and then jumped to The Ground Lounge Elite, a few minutes walk from the Centurion Lounge, via our Priority Pass.
Like the American Express Centurion Lounge, the Grand Lounge Elite is airside not too far from the departure gates. The entrance is marked by a visible sign and entrance is complimentary to Priority Pass members. We checked in quite quickly despite the lounge being crowded.
American Express offers a series of airport lounges in the US, as well as a few outside of the US, which are complimentary for certain cardholders, including American Express Platinum cardholders. Since I have the American Express Platinum, I enjoy free access to these lounges. I first experienced a Centurion Lounge in Buenos Aries Ezeiza Airport (EZE), and have been a bit obsessed ever since. The Centurion Lounges in the US are rumored to be much nicer than the international lounges, but I, unfortunately, have not visited enough of these lounges to make a firm decision.
As I mentioned before, our Mexico City trip was alllllll about the food! For our second food tour of the trip, we signed up for an evening food tour through the Navarte neighborhood with Eat Mexico. Navarte is an old school neighborhood in Mexico City with a bit of hipster flair; it’s also where our tour guide grew up!
Ahhhhh, one of my favorite, if not my FAVORITE, restaurant that we ate at in Singapore on our honeymoon (sigh, take me back!) was Birds of a Feather! Birds of a Feather is a bit of a swanky sit down restaurant on Amoy Street in the Chinatown neighborhood of Singapore. We walked from the Intercontinental, and it took us close to 45 minutes.
Dan and I visited Kampong Plouk, one of Cambodia’s Floating Villages, for a few hours one afternoon after doing some temple exploring in Angkor and the BEST lunch at The Hut! Unknown to us (although we did specifically request to visit the Floating Village), it was dry season and the experience on the Floating Village was certainly different than we imagined, in more ways than one…. In any case, it was quite interesting to visit the village. I can only imagine what it would look like not during the dry season!
On our honeymoon earlier this year, Dan and I had hoped to have dinner at the famous Cuisine Damnak Wat; however, it was closed during our visit to Cambodia!! In looking for a comparable restaurant, I came across The Sugar Palm in Siem Reap. While I am not at all confident it is comparable to Cuisine Damnak Wat, The Sugar Palm was an excellent choice for dinner on our honeymoon!
The Sugar Palm is set in the Wat Damnak neighborhood of Siem Reap. We took a tuk tuk from our hotel, and we ran into a bit of difficulty finding the restaurant. Eventually we arrived, just in time for our dinner reservation.
Dan and I visited Angkor, including the famous, Angkor Wat, earlier this year on our honeymoon. The entire trip was totally fabulous, and you can read more about that here. But, this post is about what to wear!! I was sort of clueless when it came to deciding what to pack for Angkor. I certainly wanted to ensure that I was comfortable and fully able to explore all of the temples in Angkor without issue, but I also did not want to look like I just came from the gym…. I mean, pictures!!
Angkor, commonly referred to as “Angkor Wat,” is the humongous, impressive, UNESCO recognized temple complex in Northeast Cambodia. Dan & I had been wanting to visit Angkor for years, and we finally visited in February 2018 on our honeymoon! Of course, I had to write a post about our experience, so here you go! If you are thinking of going there on a honeymoon, I thought Angkor was a perfect mix of adventure, romance, and beauty!
Merced Market is Mexico City’s (and North America’s) largest market and it sells anything and everything that one could possibly need. Located on the fringe of the Zocalo neighborhood, a visit to the Merced Market can be overwhelming, and possibly a bit scary, especially for non-Spanish speakers. As such, Dan and I booked a tour of the Merced Market with a local tour company – Eat Mexico – to eat some good food and explore the market.
While Milan is not a super touristy city, the area surrounding the Milan Duomo and the Galleria Vittorino Emanuale II will make anyone think otherwise. This area is Milan tourist central and a great place to get pick pocketed, scammed, or just overcharged for food and drink. Enter, Liuni Panzerotti, a tiny, local restaurant jammed into the center of touristy Milan (just a block away from the Duomo). You should definitely plan to grab a snack here.
As many of you may know, the Guinness Storehouse is an iconic stop in Dublin, and a visit to the Guinness Storehouse is a must for any visitor to Ireland! The Storehouse is located an easy 20/25 minute walk from central tourist-Dublin and its open every single day. I’ve been a couple of times and, most recently, went on the Guinness Connoisseur Experience tour last November. This post is meant to give visitors some more information on visiting the Guinness Storehouse and the Guinness Connoisseur Experience!
To plan a visit to the Guinness Storehouse (or a pilgrimage if you are like me…), set aside a minimum of three hours to arrive and explore the entire Storehouse, longer if you plan to eat a sit down meal or take the Connoisseur’s Experience (highly recommended for true Guinness lovers!). In planning your visit, know that the Guinness Storehouse tour is not an actual brewery tour (there are no public Guinness brewery tours), but an experience to fully immerse visitors into the world of Guinness. And, its where I first discovered Guinness 10 years ago…!!
Dan and I ate lunch at Ard Bia at Nimmo’s in Galway, Ireland a few years ago when we visited Ireland with our mothers. At that time, we had no reservation and showed up on a whim for lunch. We were probably lucky that they had a table, and all 4 of us loved Ard Bia at Nimmo’s and still talk about it to date! What was so great about it? I have a difficult time explaining, but Ard Bia was cosy, friendly, and kind of felt like we were in someone’s home.
The Petronas Twin Towers are one of Kuala Lumpur’s top tourist attractions, located right in downtown Kuala Lumpur. Built in 1993, the Petronas Twin Towers are 88 story twin skyscrapers connected by a skybridge on their 41st floors. The Petronas Twin Towers are the tallest twin towers in the world and, fun fact, were the tallest buildings in the word from 1998 – 2004.
Langkawi is a Malaysian island off the coast of Malaysia on the Malaysia-Thai border. As expected, Langkawi is very much a beach destination, but it does have a few tourist attractions, including the Langkawi Sky Cab and Cable Car!