Chicago Travel Diary

I feel like I say this at the top of just about every travel diary post, but we were over the moon excited to travel to Chicago. It had been high on our bucket list for years, and it was time we finally made it happen!With three full days to explore the lively city, we hit the ground running every day in an effort to cover as much as humanly possible (no surprises there). Between the delicious food (hi, deep dish pizza!), stunning architecture, and thunderstorms that came out of nowhere, we were constantly entertained by all that the city had to offer…and infinitely grateful that we packed rain jackets.

Keep on reading to get all of my recommendations!

We stayed at the Chicago Athletic Association and absolutely loved it. As if its location right next to Millennium Park weren’t enough of a selling point, it also has a Shake Shack in the lobby. Yep, you read that right. Plus, by staying in the hotel, you get the perk of being able to head up to their popular rooftop bar, Cindy’s, at any time. More on that below!

Architecture River Cruise: This was the absolute best way to start our trip. Even though it was a little rainy during our cruise, we got an amazing lay of the land of downtown Chicago and felt so much more informed walking around during the remainder of our trip. I’d highly, highly recommend making the time (and spending the money) for this!

Lincoln Park: This park is so lovely, and the surrounding neighborhoods are too. We spent roughly half of a day making our way through the Conservatory, the Zoo, and finally to some shopping at Halsted and Armitage (more on that below in the ‘Shop’ section).

Millennium Park: Directly across the street from our hotel, we spent a lot of time both in this park, as well as observing it from our room. The Cloudgate sculpture (aka The Bean) is seriously cool in real life and we somehow managed to get a photo with no one else around. I still don’t know how we did that, but I’m so thrilled we did!

Art Institute: Just a block from Millennium Park is the spectacular Art Institute with a notable collection of Impressionist and Modern art. Though you’ll likely start in one of those two places, I’d also recommend heading downstairs to the miniature rooms section—it’s a little hidden gem!

The 606: Big fans of any sort of highline, we were eager to check out Chicago’s version. We started near Logan Square and ended in Wicker Park, where we got delicious smoothies and hung out listening to the cicadas buzz in the trees. It was a really peaceful end to the day and more than ensured that we got our step count in for the day.

Wrigley Ville: While there were no home games happening during our stay, we still made a point to head out to Wrigley Field to see the stadiums and buy Cubs merch. I’m now the very proud owner of a little boy’s baseball tee 🙂

Lake Michigan: It was v hot most days we were in town and if we had had any more time on our hands, I would have definitely spent it sunbathing along Lake Michigan. It’s so stunning!

Skydeck at the Willis Tower: Having learned all about the magnificent engineering behind the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower), we were really excited to head to the top on our last day. In retrospect though, I would say that you should skip this tourist attraction. Even though we purchased tickets online for a specific time window, we were forced to wait in line for 3 hours. Since we got there pretty early in the morning, we were able to swing it but it was one of the most disorganized, tiring travel experiences I have ever encountered. And to add insult to injury, our photos didn’t come out *that* great in the end. Save yourself the headache and skip it!

Miracle Mile: There are shopping opportunities galore along Miracle Mile, but I particularly enjoyed the local shops to Chicago, including Ikram and P.O.S.H.

Jayson Home: We were nothing short of obsessed with this design store. It’s a miracle I didn’t leave with two coffee tables, three rugs, and four candles.

Halsted and Armitage: Just a few blocks from Lincoln Park, this area of Chicago is filled with great shopping, delicious restaurants, and beautiful surrounding homes. Seriously, try not to take a photo of just about every house you pass on the side streets.

Breakfast:

The Allis at Soho HouseSituated in the heart of the West Loop, this breakfast spot is très chic. Highly recommend coming here for the avocado toast and staying for the vibes.

3 Arts Club and Café at Restoration Hardware: All I can say is “wow,” and that goes for not only the design of this place but also the crowds. If I could have done it over, I would have popped in a couple hours after they open, picked up an iced latte from the bar, and then walked around the property. Trust me, that’s the way to do it.

Lunch:

Portillo’s: Speaking of a crazy busy restaurant, Portillo’s was the definition of hectic. But the hot dogs were good, so I’ll give them that!

Parson’s Chicken and Fish: A favorite amongst locals, this was the perfect spot to come for a refreshing afternoon drink.

Pequod’s and Giordano’s: Going to Chicago without eating deep-dish pizza should be a crime. We heard so much about both of these places and had to experience them both for ourselves.

Summer House Santa Monica: Though we didn’t actually eat here, I thoroughly enjoyed its décor and was sincerely tempted by their cookies.

Dinner:

Ema: AKA the Mediterranean meal of my dreams. The cherry on top? Once you’re done with dinner, you’re smack dab in the bar scene and can pop into a couple to see what they’re all about.

Girl and the Goat: I read about this spot in nearly every Chicago guide I could get my hands on, so I came in with very high expectations. While it didn’t quite live up to the hype in my book, it was still a delicious dinner that I would recommend. Just maybe don’t go in expecting to be blown away 🙂

Au Cheval: My top priority next time I visit Chicago will be getting the burger from this spot. Given that the wait was 3 hours in the middle of the day, I’m guessing it must be pretty damn good…

Drinks:

Guthrie’s Tavern: This nondescript bar was maybe one of my favorite places we visited during our trip. We popped in after our visit to Wrigley Field and got a little tipsy while playing board games—what more could you ask for?

Cindy’s: Located on the rooftop of our hotel, this trendy restaurant boasted amazing views of Millennium Park and delicious drinks. The lines to get up to the top on Friday and Saturday were out of this world, so definitely make a reservation if you’re not staying in the hotel.

Cherry Circle Room: Also located in our hotel was this gem of a restaurant. We frequented the bar and were obsessed with just about every last detail in the place.

Well, there you have it! A whirlwind itinerary of the windy city. We had the best time exploring many corners of Chicago and can’t wait to come back someday.

Have you been to Chicago? Please share your favorite spots below!

Bay Area Exploring: Stinson Beach

When the weekend forecast calls for 80 degrees and nothing but sunshine, I always head to Stinson Beach. A beach town in Marin County just about an hour’s drive from San Francisco, Stinson is filled with everything you could ask for on a sunny Saturday—beautiful open beach, delicious food, and quaint shops. Plus, the drive there is absolutely breathtaking as you make your way down the mountain and onto the coast.

The town itself is very small (only about 2-3 blocks), so you can easily cover all of the shops and sites in a single afternoon.

My favorite spots for lunch are The Parkside Café and The Siren Canteen. If I’m in the mood for healthier options, I’ll hit the first one but if I am craving a burger and milkshakes, I always go to the latter.

Bay Area Exploring: St. Helena

I’ll take any excuse to drive the 1.5 hours to wine country over a weekend. So when my friend invited me to stay at her parents’ house in St. Helena, I of course exclaimed, “yes!”

I had been to St. Helena once before when my boyfriend and I drove from Yountville up to Calistoga for my birthday weekend, but I had never spent a full weekend there. I’m so glad I did though, as this quaint little town is so perfect in every way.

St. Helena and the surrounding towns are filled with great wineries—you really can’t go wrong with any one. We ended up going to Frog’s Leap Winery, which I will definitely be coming back to, and Alpha Omega. In between, we stopped for delicious sandwiches and salads from Dean & DeLuca and then closed out the night with dinner at Farmstead. Pro tip: If you buy a bottle of wine during your tastings, bring it with you to dinner and they’ll open it for only $5!

The next day, we grabbed coffee and pastries at The Model Bakery and then strolled down Main Street, popping in and out of shops as we pleased.

If you’ve never been to Wine Country before, I hope this will inspire you to make a trip of it sooner rather than later!

London Travel Diary

Believe it or not, I had never been to London before! So when I found out that our cruise docked just outside of the city in Dover, I couldn’t resist the chance to stay a few extra days and explore all that it has to offer. Ideally, we would have stayed for much longer and given ourselves plenty of time to not only explore London, but also the English countryside. But because we had already been traveling for 10 days on the cruise, we didn’t want to push ourselves over the edge. Instead, we booked a long weekend in London and tried to pack in as much as possible—keep reading to see what we did!

Tower of London: Three words: The crown jewels. We were so happy we carved out the time to tour the Tower of London, and would highly recommend adding it to your itinerary as well.

London Bridge: Another bonus of the Tower of London? The views of the London Bridge.

Museums: London is filled with amazing museums, and lucky for us tourists, most of them are free. During our extended weekend in the city, we were able to visit the Tate Modern, Victoria & Albert, The Wallace Collection, and Churchill War Rooms. The British Museum was also on our bucket list but we unfortunately didn’t make it this trip. Pro tip: Definitely reserve your tickets for the Churchill War Rooms in advance, otherwise you’ll have to wait for several hours since it’s a very small space.

Historical Sites in Westminster: Within about a 3-hour window, we were able to see the Buckingham Palace (and the changing of the guard’s ceremony!), Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and the House of Parliament. Unfortunately, Westminster Abbey was closed the day we were in the area but I’ve heard it’s just as spectacular on the inside as it is on the outside. As you’re making your way from one spot to the next, I’d highly recommend walking through St. James’ Park—the oldest royal park in the city—for a gorgeous place to rest your legs.

St. Paul’s Cathedral: An iconic feature of the London skyline with its huge dome, this cathedral is not to be missed.

Notting Hill: This was, by far, my favorite part of London that we visited. Simply put, it’s perfect in every way. The houses are jaw-dropping, the food is delicious, the shopping is top-notch. I easily could have spent an entire day just weaving through the streets, and wish that we had found a hotel or Airbnb in this area so we could have spent as much time as possible. With our limited time though, we were able to experience a lot—we started our Saturday morning at the Portobello Road antiques market and then made our way to St. Luke’s Mews and Chepstow Villas for beautiful pastel homes. Of course, we also did a lot of shopping so check out that section below for more.

Hyde Park and Kensington Palace: Looking for a peaceful way to spend a couple hours? Look no further than Hyde Park. The park is absolutely huge and there are so many pleasant spots, but we really enjoyed sitting on the lounge chairs by the pond and passing by Kensington Palace.

Columbia Road Flower Market: Depending on where you’re staying in London, this might be quite the trek for you but it is so worth it. After all, just think about all of the Instagram photo ops you’ll get while you’re on the subway over! If you do want to go, take note that it happens on Sunday mornings and it’s best if you get there early when the flowers are fresh. After admiring and smelling all of the flowers, you can then explore the Shoreditch neighborhood (more on that below in the shopping section).

Redchurch Street: Located in Shoreditch, a hip neighborhood in East London akin to Williamsburg in Brooklyn, Redchurch Street is filled with cool shops. We spent a couple of hours popping into stores like Labour and Wait, Modern Society, Goodhood, and Aida, and exploring through this up-and-coming part of town.

Spitalfields Market: Not too far from Shoreditch is Spitalfields market—a very cool indoor market filled with lots of vendors and delicious food.

Harrods: Wow. Just, wow. Never have I ever been in a such a chic and upscale department store. While you’re roaming through the halls, be sure to not miss “Shoe Heaven” or the food court.   

Notting Hill: While you’re in Notting Hill, definitely walk up and down Westbourne Grove for great shopping opps.

Chiltern Street: This quaint street is very small but is filled with some amazing spots—including clothing shops and restaurants.

Breakfast and Coffee:

Coppa Club: Not only does this spot have delicious food, but also unbeatable views of the London Bridge. Plus, just look at the comfy set up of their pods!

Farm Girl: I had seen this place all over Instagram before coming to London and knew that I wanted to check it out for myself. And let me tell you, it did not disappoint.

Albion: While we were in Shoreditch, we popped into Albion for some coffee and light bites, and loved it!

Lunch:

Borough Market: I’d give this market, which is one of the largest and oldest in London, an A+. Come for the grilled cheese from Kappacasein, and stay for just about everything else you could imagine.

Ottolenghi: As a lover of the Plenty cookbooks, I was very excited to learn that Ottolenghi had several restaurants throughout the London. As we were walking through Notting Hill, we stumbled into one and picked up a few goodies for the road.

Pubs: It goes without saying that a crucial part of the authentic London travel experience is pubs. With one on just about every corner, you’ll have many options to choose from on any given day.

Dinner:

Chiltern Firehouse: Upon learning that this is where Kate Moss comes for a glass of wine with friends, I knew I needed to check it out too. We made a reservation for dinner in the restaurant, but you could also just go for drinks on the patio.

The Palomar: Speaking of places that require a reservation, The Palomar is no exception to that rule. With tasty Middle Eastern bites right in the middle of the Mayfair neighborhood, this trendy spot will not disappoint.

Dishoom: I had read about this Indian restaurant on just about every single travel blog I encountered, so I made it a priority to try. While Indian food isn’t my favorite cuisine, I still really enjoyed our meal (and the ambience!) here.

High Tea:

High tea is an absolute must when in London—it’s just so fun to do something you wouldn’t ordinarily do. Sketch is the spot that just about everyone and their mom talks about, and while it’s certainly worth the hype, Charlotte Street Hotel is an excellent (and more affordable) option.

All in all, London was absolutely perfect. We could not have asked for better weather and left the city feeling oh-so-excited to return someday.

Lisbon Travel Diary

After making our way around Spain and Gibraltar, the next destinations on our cruise were in Portugal. I had already been to Portugal once before and loved all that I had seen, so I was very excited to have the chance to experience it again—though this time a little bit older and wiser.

While we stopped in two Portuguese cities, Lisbon and Porto, we had very limited time in the latter so I’ve decided to focus this travel diary strictly on Lisbon. If you find yourself in the area though, definitely check out Porto for a smaller town feel only a couple hours away by car.

 

Much like in Barcelona, we hit the ground running in Lisbon as soon as we were able to depart the boat in the morning. Since we were right by the water already, we decided to start our itinerary in Alfama, one of Lisbon’s oldest and most charming neighborhoods. Atop the tallest hill in the city is the São Jorge Castle, which offers stunning views of the city and of the peacocks roaming around the grounds. And if you remember from my Mexico City travel diary, the peacocks at the Dolores Olmedo Museum were the cherry on top for me so I was very excited to take even more peacock pics 🙂

After weaving in and out of the charming alleyways and streets leading to and from the castle, we made our way to three additional historic sites: Lisbon Cathedral, Santo António Church, and Praça do Comércio. All three are very close together and can be done within about 30 minutes—perfect for the tourist trying to squeeze as much into a day’s travels as possible!

My boyfriend’s sister and her fiancé are quite the foodies, so it came as no surprise that they found a more casual restaurant by one of the most famous chefs in Lisbon: Bairro do Avillez. The whole restaurant is beautiful, but the patio is a real show-stopper. Even if you’re not the biggest foodie, I’d highly recommend this central spot for the ambience alone.

Once we wrapped our lengthy lunch, we all could have easily headed back to the boat for a nice siesta. But because we only had the one day in town, we powered through it and made our way to the Bairro Alto neighborhood. Filled with cobblestone streets, gorgeous tile, and interesting graffiti, this neighborhood gives you an excellent sense of Lisbon’s architectural beauty. From the Church of São Roque to the Miradouro de São Pedre de Alcantara, there are also several attractions to not be missed, especially if you’re seeking more panoramic views paired with some sweet sangria.

Hope you found this travel diary helpful, and can’t wait to share my full London travel diary with you tomorrow!

Barcelona Travel Diary

Barcelona has been on my travel bucket list for years now, and I was thrilled to learn it would be the first stop during our cruise. While we only had about 12 hours in the city, we made the most of it by doing our research ahead of time and making reservations when we could. Keep reading for a full list of where we shopped, ate, and toured!

Knowing we didn’t have much time in this incredible city, we hit the ground running in the Gothic Quarter to start. Between walking along Las Ramblas, viewing Gaudí architecture like Casa Battló, and shopping on Passeig de Gracia, we spent close to 3 hours wandering through this part of Barcelona.

One of my favorite shops that we popped into was called La Manual Alpargatera and was filled with every kind of espadrille you could ever imagine. I easily could have left with 5 pairs, but made myself pick just one (no easy feat!).

After a quick lunch at the beautiful (and healthy!) Flax and Kale, we took an Uber up to one of Gaudí’s true masterpieces, Park Güell. Because we had purchased our tickets in advance, we were able to walk right into the park and up to the infamous scenic mosaic bench. While it was extremely crowded and pretty overwhelming, it was still spectacular and I’d highly recommend making this stop if you’re in Barcelona.

I guess you could say we were on a Gaudí kick because the touring didn’t stop there. Once we had finished taking in all that Park Güell had to offer, we strolled down hill to Sagrada Familia, a massive cathedral designed by Gaudí himself. Though I knew the cathedral would be striking from the outside, I didn’t expect it to be so magical on the inside as well. Hands down, it was one of the most stunning sites I’ve ever visited and am so thankful that we managed to fit it into our tight itinerary.

With only a few hours left in the day, we decided to unwind in Parc de la Ciutadella. It really was the most perfect green oasis and an ideal spot to rest our legs after walking 10+ miles (!!). Finally, we bid the city farewell over tapas and gelato at Bar Cañete and discussed how we would be coming back very soon—though next time for much longer than 12 hours.

European Cruise Travel Diary

Earlier this month, my boyfriend and I spent two weeks traveling around Europe by boat—something neither of us had ever done before! Alongside several of his family members, we boarded the boat in Marseille, France and made our way all the way up to London, England.

As you can imagine, we stopped in some beautiful coastal cities along the way and I will be sharing travel diaries for the ones that we spent full days (or more!) in: Barcelona, Lisbon, and London. Stay tuned over the next week as those posts go live and feel free to ask any questions about my cruise experience in the comments below.