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.

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.

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.

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.

Preparing for Travel

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Every time we go away for the weekend, I find myself with a laundry list of chores to do in the minutes before we have to leave for the airport. Given this, I’m sure you can imagine how I felt as I was trying to prepare for our two-week long vacation to Thailand.

As we were gearing up to go, I made yet another lengthy list for myself of all house chores that needed to be done. But instead of just tossing it out once our taxi arrived, I decided to hang onto it. This way, I don’t have to rack my brain each time we prepare to leave the city, state, or country, because I have my list all ready to go.

Here are the household chores I always complete before leaving on vacation:

  • Water all the plants and move them to a sunny space in the house
  • Clean out the refrigerator and throw all out perishables
  • Take out the trash
  • Close all windows
  • Put away all dishes
  • Check mailbox
  • Change sheets (nothing beats coming home to a freshly clean bed)
  • Do the laundry (same logic here)

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What other chores do you make sure to check off before leaving for vacation? Share in the comments!

Paradise Found: The Pimalai

If you read my Thailand travel diary, then you know that we fell madly in love with our hotel in Koh Lanta. And if you haven’t read my Thailand travel diary, then stop what you’re doing and give it a go–but then come back to this post, of course.

While we tried to be fairly frugal with our other hotels throughout the trip, we spared no expense when it came to our abode on Koh Lanta. We wanted to kick our shoes off and truly enjoy our time on the island, so a stunning hotel was definitely in order. And once we saw the Pimalai, we knew we had found the perfect paradise.

Bar none, the Pimalai was the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed in–from the delicious food and kind staff to the mesmerizing infinity pools and gorgeous architecture, every single inch of the place was magical (and so Instagrammable). What we loved most about the hotel is that we had everything we needed all in one place. Each day, we’d wake up and eat breakfast overlooking the sea and then head down to the beach. After securing ourselves a shaded cabana, we’d rent some paddle boards or sail boats (both of which were totally free, btw) and spend hours in the water.

For a little change of scenery (as if we needed one), we’d head up to the infinity pool for some late afternoon swimming and reading.

We’d then cap off the day with happy hour on the beach and some dinner. Each night on our way out of the beach restaurant, one of the waitresses would say, “See you tomorrow!” which made us so genuinely happy because she was totally right. Indubitably, we would be there tomorrow, and the night after that as well.

We also loved that the hotel had three different restaurants to choose from, plus quite a few in the surrounding town area. The Rak Talay restaurant down on the beach was our favorite because of the relaxed, casual vibe, but we also really enjoyed the fancier restaurant up at the top of the hotel. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, both Drunken Sailor’s and Pad Thai Rock ‘n Roll were crowd favorites, too.

As to be expected, our room was nothing short of breathtaking either. We had our own little bungalow atop a hill with a comfy bed, plush robe, and rain shower. What more could you ask for?

And how could we not talk about the spa? I tried to get a few treatments done while I was at the Pimalai because, well, vacation. It was super tranquil, super peaceful, and super pretty. See for yourself below!

We really wanted to take a cooking class while we were in Thailand but just couldn’t find the time to do it during the first leg of our trip. Luckily, life slowed down dramatically as soon as we arrived at the Pimalai, and we seemingly had nothing but time on our hands.

We ended up signing up for a cooking class on our last day at the resort and loved learning 1:1 how to make the dishes we’d been eating the whole trip: papaya salad, chicken curry, pad thai, etc.

As I’m sure you’ve gleaned by now, we had a wonderful time at the Pimalai and would go back in a heartbeat if given the opportunity. It–in so many words–was the cherry on top of an amazing trip, filled with memories that I’ll cherish forever.

Bay Area Exploring: Angel Island

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There’s nothing I love quite as much as a good weekend getaway in your own city–no flights, no missing home, no worries. The other weekend, Will and I decided to wake up early and drive out to Tiburon, where we caught the ferry to Angel Island.

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Neither of us had ever been to Angel Island before and were totally fascinated by its history (it used to be an immigration station) & panoramic views of the Bay.

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