A Look Back: 2017 Travels

2017 was full of adventures, and I loved every single one of them. My boyfriend and I took the biggest trip we’ve ever been on together at the start of the year when we headed to Thailand and Cambodia for 2 weeks. To say it was magical would be an understatement. Though our travels didn’t end there—we also managed to squeeze in a New Mexican getaway, plus a road trip through the South. Check out all of the beautiful places we visited—along with detailed travel itineraries—below!

Thailand and Cambodia // Los Angeles and Santa Barbara // New Mexico // Mendocino // New Orleans // Savannah // Charleston // New York

P.S. Check out where I went last year here.

Travel Talk

Planning trips is one of my favorite activities and over the years, I’ve gotten into a pretty solid routine with it. There’s much, much more to it than just booking a flight and calling it a day, so I’m rounding up some tips I’ve picked up along the way.

The most important part of travel planning is giving yourself enough time to do just that: plan. Here’s how I like to think about the planning process:

1 year out. At around this time every year, I like to look ahead to the next year and start plotting where I want to go. As I do so, I take into account the best times of year to visit, as well as what else I have going on at that time. For me personally, I try to go on 2 big trips a year (one every 6 months), and then smaller ones peppered in between.

6 months out. Once I’ve decided where I want to visit in a year, I’ll then make calendar placeholders for myself to make sure I don’t start planning too late in the game. For instance, if I know I want to go to Italy in June, then I’ll set a reminder for myself to begin looking into it in January. Once January rolls around, I’ll start digging into the big ticket items: flights and hotels.

3 months out. At the three month mark, I try to start making an itinerary. I’ve shared specific tips for how to go about crafting an itinerary before, so definitely check out that post for more in-depth advice. In general though, I like to reach out to friends or family who have visited this place before, search blogs and forums for must-see sites, and compile all of this into an organized document. Also at this time, I’ll make restaurant reservations for the popular places that book up very far in advance.

1 month out. With my high level itinerary already mapped out, I’ll set aside some time at the one month mark to review it with a fine-tooth comb. I’ll restructure my itinerary such that it’s arranged by day and further sub-divided into times of day (morning, afternoon, and evening). I’ll also make any restaurant reservations I haven’t already, as well as book tours, museum tickets, and the like. Lastly, if I’m traveling internationally, I’ll also order the necessary currency at this time.

1 week out. The week leading up to the trip typically has the most to-do’s, so I try my best to divide them evenly over the seven days, as too not feel too overwhelmed. At the start of the week, I’ll do a big drug store haul and pick up any items I’ll need for the trip (ie: special medications, travel size bottles, magazines, etc.). In the middle of the week, I’ll focus on cleaning—tending to both my apartment, as well as my laundry. Once my clothes are clean and I’ve done a thorough audit of the weather in my destination, I’ll start packing. Finally, the day before a trip, I like to get my nails and toes done, as well as tend to my house chores.

 

Charleston Travel Diary

The last (but certainly not least) leg of our trip through the south was Charleston, South Carolina. I’ve been dying to visit ever since one my favorite bloggers, Gal Meets Glam, moved to this charming city about a year ago, and am so excited we were able to squeeze it into our trip.

Like me, my best friend Calli had Charleston high up on her travel bucket list, so we invited her to join us for an extended weekend. Because there were three of us, we opted for an Airbnb to cut down costs but were so, so, so pleasantly surprised by how nice it ended up being. We really could not have asked for anything nicer, even from a hotel.

In total, we were in Charleston for four nights and three full days. And while there were still a few restaurants we weren’t able to try (looking at you, Xiao Biscuit!), we had plenty of time to do and see all that we had heard so much about.

Colonial Lake: This small lake reminded me a lot of Oakland’s Lake Merritt, so needless to say, I loved it.

South of Broad: I could spend the rest of my days just wandering through the South of Broad and probably never grow tired of the views. Around every bend is another stunning, historical home and photo op. Every single detail of the homes is breathtaking—from the porches to the landscaping to the shutters to the balconies, they are perfection. We particularly loved walking up Church Street, as well as peeking through the pineapple gates of the Simmons-Edwards House.

White Point Garden: As you’re walking down Broad, you’ll eventually run into White Point Garden along the water. Some say this park is haunted, but I say it’s magical. We even saw a proposal happen in the gazebo!

Rainbow Row: The houses along Rainbow Row are basically Charleston’s version of the Painted Ladies in San Francisco—but possibly even more colorful and charming. You have to get a little creative with your positioning to take a proper photo, but once you nail it, it’s social media gold.

 

Sullivan’s Island: The beach will be calling your name in sunny Charleston and when it does, drive right over the Arthur Ravenel Jr. bridge and into Sullivan’s Island. We parked our car right near the lighthouse and spent the afternoon swimming in the incredibly warm water and popping into the shops on the island.

Middleton Plantation: There are quite a few plantations to choose from when visiting Charleston, but we received several recommendations for one in particular: Middleton. This old rice plantation in the lowcountry is nothing short of gorgeous, thanks to its oak trees draped in Spanish moss and views of the Ashley River. We purchased a general admissions ticket and so enjoyed our time spent wandering through the gardens.

Beckett Boutique: Calli and I wanted to buy just about every piece in this clothing boutique—that’s how good it is.

The Skinny Dip: Somewhere between a bar, café, and a clothing boutique is this cute shop. Don’t miss the patio on the second floor if you stop by!

Lily: This store will basically summon you in by the smell of the fragrant candles and perfumes inside.

Indigo Market: This charming furniture store is a bit of a ways from shops listed above, but just across the street from the delicious Butcher & Bee (more on that below).

Candlefish: Local to Charleston, these candles not only smell divine, but also come in a very stylish jar.

Charleston City Market: This place is tourist city, no doubt. But it’s also one of the country’s oldest public markets and spans four city blocks (!!!), so it’s worth a quick visit. Plus, I just loved the sweetgrass baskets galore.

Mac + Murphy: Can you say stationary heaven? The planner-obsessed organizer in me fell head over heels for this store.

Breakfast and Coffee:

Callie’s Hot Little Biscuits: Picture a scrambled egg, crispy bacon, and melted cheddar all sandwiched between two biscuits—hungry yet?

Black Tap Coffee: I don’t usually drink coffee, but I had to make an exception for the iced lavender latté. It did not disappoint.

 The Daily: If you’re in need of another breakfast spot in Charleston, look no further than here. Their homemade bread is incredible, so I highly recommend the avocado toast.

The Park Café: Without a doubt, this was my favorite breakfast in Charleston. The space is very cool—yet also very casual—and packed with locals doing their local things. Order the fried egg sandwich with a side of grapefruit and walk off the meal at the nearby Hampton Park.

Lunch:

Butcher & Bee: Funnily enough, we actually didn’t have this spot on our itinerary because it’s a bit of a trek on the north end of King Street (about a 10 minute Uber ride from Rainbow Row). But when nearly every person we met recommended it, we shuffled things around to make it work—and I’d recommend you do the same, too.

The Obstinate Daughter: If you make it out to Sullivan’s Island, be sure to also make a reservation here. The decor is beautiful, and the food is even better.

Leon’s Oyster Shop: All I can say is this place is worth the hype. Don’t leave without trying the stiam salad, fried chicken sandwich, and soft serve to finish it off.

Dinner:

The Grocery: The thought of the spaghetti squash and roast chicken is *almost* enough to make me book a flight out to Charleston tomorrow. In fact, as I write this, I’m simultaneously attempting to recreate this insanely delicious meal at home!

Le Farfalle: The patio filled with twinkly lights, and the focaccia bread filled with all things delicious, make this spot unforgettable.

Husk: We had heard so much about this restaurant before heading off on our trip, and while we certainly enjoyed our meal, it was not my favorite. If you only have a couple days in Charleston, I’d recommend taking a look at the menus for the places I’ve listed here to see what you’ll enjoy the most. If you do decide to come here, be sure to make your reservation long in advance and ask if they can set you on the second floor balcony!

The Ordinary: Even though I’m not much of a seafood person, this spot managed to leave me feeling full and impressed.

Drinks:

Chez Nous: This place wins the award for sweetest ambiance, bar none. I mean, just look at that handwritten menu! Though I do think it’s worth nothing that we had a pretty poor experience with the service here. We made a reservation long in advance and made sure to specify in the notes that we just wanted to order wine while there. When we arrived however, the hostess and waitress were both very confused by our decision to only order wine, which left us feeling unwelcome and awkward. That aside, the wine selection is fantastic and the outdoor seating cannot be beat.

The Darling Oyster Bar: This is the perfect place to come for a pre-dinner drink and app. If you enjoy a sweet cocktail, I’d recommend the Paloma.

Zero George: Yet another magical spot that falls high up on my list of musts for Charleston. We came for cocktails at sunset on the porch, and sipped them as we admired this stunning hotel.  

The Watch Rooftop Bar: A rooftop bar is an automatic win in my book, and this one did not disappoint. But then again, was it the rooftop or was it the fact that they were filming Southern Charmed while we were there? Guess we’ll never know.

Goat Sheep Cow: Cheese? Check. Wine? Check. Insta-worthy ambience? Check. This place has it all—just be sure you go to the one on north King Street, as the other one is just a to-go location.

Sweets: 

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream: The flavors here are out of this world, and they’ll let you sample as many as you want! Which, for me, is crucial because I like to sample no less than 10 flavors before deciding on just 1.

Sugar Bake Shop: This adorable little bakery is just up the street from the aforementioned cutest stationary store of all time. So basically, it’s cuteness overload in this corner of Charleston.

Savannah Travel Diary

Exploring more of the south has been on our travel wish list for a while now, especially after falling in love with New Orleans last year. So when we received an invitation to a wedding in the south—in New Orleans, funnily enough—we decided we’d make a trip of it and explore some new cities while we were over there.

There are so many southern cities that I want to see, but we ultimately decided on Savannah and Charleston for this specific trip. While I admittedly was a bit more excited for Charleston than Savannah leading up to the trip, my opinions totally switched after visiting both. Savannah is, by far, the most quaint and charming city I have ever visited and I loved every minute spent exploring it.

After the wedding in New Orleans, my boyfriend and I flew into Atlanta, rented a car, and drove it 2.5 hours to Savannah. The drive was so peaceful and pretty—I’d highly recommend it! Not including this travel day, we had a full 2 days in Savannah. While you could definitely stay longer, we felt that was enough time to hit all of the main spots, while still having time to relax and enjoy ourselves.

We stayed in an Airbnb near Forsyth Park, which was a great place to be in. I’d also recommend checking out bed and breakfasts near Lafayette Square.

Forsyth Park: Because we stayed in the southern area of the city, we had to walk through Forsyth Park each day to get to the various shops and restaurants on our list. But let me tell you, we were definitely not mad about that. This park is absolutely gorgeous—filled with fountains, oak trees, and gardens, it’s the perfect place to take a rest in the southern heat.

Mercer-Williams House: We did a tour of the Mercer-Williams house and it did not disappoint. It’s in a historic home in Savannah—and is supposedly haunted!—and the interior details gorgeous.

Bull Street: Walking in Savannah? It better be up Bull Street. Every single corner of Bull Street is spectacular, and you’ll run into so many stunning squares as you make you’re way up the city. A couple of my favorites were: Monterey Square and Whitfield Square.

Wormsloe Plantation: One of my closest friend’s recommended that we head out of downtown for an afternoon on Wormsloe Plantation, and I couldn’t be happier that we headed his advice. Like I mentioned, we rented a car, so driving the 25 minutes to this plantation was no problem at all. Even if you don’t have a car though, I’d highly recommend spending the money on an Uber to get out here. Simply put, the oak tree-lined was one of the more beautiful sites I’ve ever seen in my life.

West Bluff Drive: Just about a 5 minute drive from Wormsloe Plantation is yet another stunningly beautiful site: the Skidaway River. West Bluff Drive is situated right along the water and is filled with some of the most beautiful homes.

River Street: We spent about an hour walking up River Street, popping into stores and admiring the Savannah River. Savannah’s Candy Kitchen is one store in particular that can’t be missed. Try the pralines and thank me later.

Palmetto Bluff: On our way to Charleston from Savannah, we stopped by Montage Palmetto Bluff and almost fainted when we got there. Despite what you’re thinking, it wasn’t from the heat (though it was really, really warm), but rather from the breathtaking grounds. We wandered all around the hotel property and made a pact to stay there some day.

Alex Raskin Antiques: This amazing antiques shop is right in Monterey Square and is not to be missed.

Number Four Eleven:  From toiletry bags to towels, this shop has it all—and will monogram it for you, too. My boyfriend and I left with his & hers toiletry travel bags.

Shop SCAD: The Savannah College of Art and Design has a huge presence throughout the city, and this store gives you a peak into the incredible work being created there.

Savannah Bee Company: This store may be the sweetest of them all—get it? Sample all of their delicious honeys and leave with one, two…or maybe even three.

The Paris Market: Have you ever seen a cuter storefront? I haven’t. Pop in here for some coffee and home décor inspiration.

Chocolat by Andam Turoni: Treat yourself to some of the most delicious—and by far the prettiest—chocolate in Savannah.

Breakfast:

The Collins Quarter: Between the gorgeous decor and the delicious food, the Collins Quarter is an A+ in my book. I ordered the avocado toast and a chai tea latte.

Clary’s Café: In the chance that you can force yourself to eat breakfast anywhere other than the Collins Quarter, come to Clary’s for an authentic southern meal.

Lunch:

Mrs. Wilkes Boarding House: If you ask anyone where to eat lunch in Savannah, they’ll more than likely say Mrs. Wilkes. And while there’s no avoiding that it’s a commitment (you’ll likely have to stand in line for about an hour before being seated), it’s so worth it. They seat whole tables at a time and serve everything family style—and when I say everything, I actually mean everything. At any given time, the table will have multiple helpings of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, cream corn, stuffing, salad, and biscuits, and you can always ask for more! Once you’ve had all the fried chicken you can take, you just pay $22 and go on with your day!

Sandfly Barbecue: This spot is a Savannah staple and happens to be just down the road from West Bluff Drive.

Dinner:

The Grey: My boyfriend discovered this gem on a whim one night and it ended up being our favorite spot for dinner. Whatever you do, don’t miss this place.

The Wyld: Ok, I know I’ve said a quite a few places were my favorite, but this one may just take the cake. It also came to us as a recommendation from my close friend and was probably the most “local” thing we did the whole time we were there. Come for the delicious seafood, stay for the bocce ball.

Drinks:

Gryphon Tea Room: Just across from Shop SCAD is this trendy tea room. The building was once an apothecary, as well as a bookstore, and they’ve done an amazing job of maintaining both histories.

Rocks on the Roof: During your stroll up River Street, take a break from the heat at this rooftop bar overlooking the water.

The Olde Pink House: This was one of my favorite spots we visited while in Savannah. Not only is the exterior what Instagram dreams are made of, but the building itself has such a rich (and haunted!) history. We just went for drinks downstairs, but heard the food upstairs is great.

Sweets:

Leopold’s Ice Cream: No description necessary. Go, sample all kinds of flavors (including the tutti frutti), and enjoy a refreshing ice cream cone while walking in the heat.

Mendocino Travel Diary

 Any time there’s a long weekend, I try to get out of town and explore somewhere new. But when there’s a holiday weekend and our 8 year anniversary all in one, we definitely head out of town—and to a beautiful place at that.

This year, we decided to spend our long weekend along the Mendocino Coast. We had seen photos and heard a few stories from friends about Mendocino, but we had no idea just how deeply we’d fall in love with it. To say it was a perfect weekend would be an understatement, and I’m breaking down everything we did below.
Day 1: Since Mendocino is about a 3.5 hour drive from our house, we decided to take Friday off so we could take our time getting up there. The first stop we made was in a small town called Boonville. It was no less than 110 degrees outside so we weren’t really able to do the exploring I had hoped for, but we did grab delicious sandwiches from Boonville General Store and a sweet, refreshing treat at Paysanne afterward.
Our second stop of the day was Navarro Vineyards, a seriously stunning winery with delicious wines. After doing their tasting, we purchased a bottle of their Gewürztraminer and then made our way to our hotel in Mendocino, the Sea Rock Inn. With expansive views and quaint cottages, this place looked perfect on paper but was even more stunning IRL. I seriously cannot recommend it enough—every little detail was perfection. Just look at our adorable cabin below!
We closed out our first day with sunset drinks and dinner at Little River Inn. Pro tip: Order your drink at the bar and then enjoy it outside on the deck.
Day 2: To kick off our second day, we woke up early and hit the hiking trails to beat the heat. The views from Russian Gulch State Park were breathtaking, as is a nice walk through the Mendocino Headlands. From there, we made our way into what may be the sweetest town I’ve ever seen. Between the Victorian homes with white picket fences, adorable shops and cafés, and ocean views, it’s no wonder that we spent a couple hours just taking it all in. There aren’t a ton of great lunch spots to choose from but we loved our salads and iced coffees from the Goodlife Café and Bakery.
After a solid shopping sesh (my favorite shop was Honey & Ro!), it was the perfect time for a beach sesh. Best part? Big River Beach is just a few steps away from town and was the dreamiest place to spend the rest of the afternoon.
The dreaminess continued with happy hour at MacCallum House. As soon as we walked in and saw the massive white windows and wraparound porch, it was love at first sight. We didn’t have a chance to eat here, but it looked like the perfect place to spend an evening. Instead, we ate dinner at the Ledford House, which is the ideal spot to catch the sunset and listen to live jazz, but is a bit of a drive from town.
Day 3: On our last full day, we traveled north to Fort Bragg, a much larger town just about 10 miles from Mendocino. To be totally honest, I’d say you could easily leave this off the itinerary and opt to spend yet another afternoon in the oh-so-charming Mendocino. But if you do decide to venture to Fort Bragg, here are the top spots to hit: Glass Beach, MacKerricher State Park, Jenny’s Giant Burger, and Pacific Star Winery for a $5 tasting in Adirondack chairs overlooking the ocean.
I guess you could say we saved the best for last for our anniversary dinner because our meal at Wild Fish was one for the books. Whatever you do, make your reservation in advance because the restaurant is teeny tiny and fills up quickly.
Day 4: Though it took significantly longer, we ended up driving all the way down the coast to go back home. Along the way, we stopped whenever we saw something that caught our eyes with our favorite places being: Point Arena Lighthouse, Bowling Ball Beach, Bodega Bay, and Nick’s Cove for fish and chips.

I’m already looking at the calendar to see when we can spend another weekend in magic Mendocino. If you’re looking for more long weekend destinations, check out my travel guides for Big Sur and Seattle.

Look Back on Summer Adventures

From beaches to bougainvillea, this summer has been filled with so many memorable adventures. While our trips to Santa Fe and Southern California, as well as our weekend getaway in San Francisco, were certainly the highlights, we’ve also really enjoyed staying local and soaking up the sun. I’m planning to savor every second of this last month of summer, but here are some of my favorite photos from the season thus far.

Bay Area Exploring: The Presidio

I was long overdue for an explore day around the Bay Area, and for this edition, I headed out to the Presidio neighborhood of San Francisco. We parked right around Sacramento and Laurel Streets and were confronted with the most stunning houses I have ever seen. Ever. Period.

If you’re a fan of the HGTV show House Hunters, then you’ll understand when I say that I could have spent all day long in this neighborhood, attempting to peek inside the windows. Home goals right here.