Charleston just might be my new favorite city. The buildings are beautiful and the narrow streets create a historical but picturesque vibe. I loved it so much that I am going to recap all the highlights in this Charleston in a day post. I realized very quickly that coming back is most definitely a must. I know there is so much more to see and do.
Magnolia Plantations: This was the very first stop on our way into Charleston. I highly recommend checking out one of the many gardens/halls/plantations just outside of the city. There is a lot of history associated with these places as well as beautiful grounds. It can be pricier depending on what you choose to do but we had a great time just walking around.
Brunch at Butcher & Bee: This is the perfect brunch spot. The food was amazing and reminded me of home. They have healthy, delicious food that is reasonably priced and the atmosphere is very homey but modern. Also a plus was parking, since it is not directly downtown.
South of Broad: This iconic Charleston neighborhood is filled with picturesque houses skirted by extensive gardens. Beautiful houses line the streets, many of which have much historical significance. The streets are narrow and make if feel much older. We were there during the Garden Tours which actually was useful because they had lots of very friendly people stationed throughout the streets, helping you.
White Point Garden: While wandering the streets, we ended up at this park right at the water’s edge. Historically this is a great area to visit.
Jeni’s Ice Cream: This is actually the best ice cream I have ever had. There service was great and I recommend trying lots of flavors (they are all so good!).
King’s Street: The shops are a great stop that is not too far from South of Broad. Of course I had to find a great bookstore, Blue Bicycle Books. Other than that I just enjoyed walking the street and exploring a bit.
Dinner at Leon’s: Seafood is a must for any coastal visit. We didn’t want to break the bank so I found Leon’s which has great food (especially seafood) for very reasonable prices.
Sullivan’s Island: Our last stop, on the way out of town, was the beach. I had heard the area is very beautiful and can never resist an excuse for the beach. It was very windy but that actually made for some incredible views.
It was such an amazing experience and I highly recommend a visit. I can’t wait for next time!
Day 1: This first day was mostly just driving up to Ellsworth, ME from North Dartmouth, Rhode Island. We stayed in Dartmouth to make the drive a little bit easier. There was quite a bit of traffic so it took us five to six hours to drive there. After getting dinner we drove the 30 minutes to Beech Hill Pond where the house we rented was. The lake was so beautiful and pretty much all of the houses on the water have docks where was great because we were able to swim a bunch. A couple people ran into town to get some grocery’s and other necessary items.
Day 2: So for the second day we took it easy and got settled in. There was a great wrap around porch so after breakfast outside we blew up the tubes we bought in town and hopped in the water.
Day 3: This day was probably my highlight of the entire summer. We spent the day in Acadia National Park and it was absolutely beautiful. There are so many amazing trails with beaches, mountains and wild blueberries! We did a shorter hike called Gorham Mountain Trail which wound up one of the smaller mountains and provided some incredible coastal views. I would highly recommend visiting the park in the off season however because it was very crowded. Parking was so crazy that we decided to take the shuttle which was a good move (although in peak season the shuttle even gets full). It was just such a beautiful park and I am so glad we had the opportunity to visit. After our day hiking we headed to Bar Harbor to walk the town and enjoy some delicious food. The town is very tourist so it was also very crowded but it is so cute with amazing restaurants, ice cream parlors and artesian shops. We went to Geddy’s for lobster dinners and to Ben and Bill’s Chocolate Emporium for dessert (there as so many options though!).
Day 4: This was the most foggy and drizzly day we had. It is actually a beautiful way to experience Maine though because the harbors are so beautiful and peaceful in the fog. We went to Schoodic Point and drove around the beautiful coast. We made a point of visiting all of the artesian shops we could find. There were some amazing pottery studios and one right on the water. We walked around the tide pools after observing the artist’s work. We also went to a studio which made big granite sculpture out of the rock right there on the property. For lunch we ate some fried lobster, scallops and smoked salmon at a great little dinner on the coast.
Day 5: Yesterdays tide pools inspired us to find some more the next day. We went to Mccellan State Park first to visit the tide pools. It is such a pretty area and we even met some researchers doing work on bird diet in tidal areas. Next we went to an area referred to as the reverse falls. It is an area where the river creates some rapids but they switch direction with the change in tide. It was pretty interesting and there is a great coast line there. We had burritos for lunch at a delicious Mexican restaurant. Next we drove to the Maine Sea Salt company and took a tour of their facility which was incredibly interesting. We also got to try out all their different salts (there were surprising numbers of different flavors). My personal favorite was the herb salt. They have several different smoked varieties as well, where they use different types of wood to infuse different flavors during the smoking process. Our final stop was Pebble Beach just further than the sea salt company. It is an amazing beach because it is made entirely of these smooth pebbles and the sound they make when the waves crash into them is one of a kind (so hard to even describe!).
Day 6: Most of this day we spent just hanging out on the lake. We did some more swimming in the cool fresh water and explored the area. For dinner we went to a Lobster Pound in Trenton. It was so delicious and quite the experience for me since I had never been to one before! We got some firewood on the way back and made s’mores. The evening was finished with some star gazing over the lake. It was a perfectly clear night so we were graced with an amazing view and lots of shooting stars.
Day 7: Our final day a rainy one but we made it out into town regardless. First we played mini golf outside Ellsworth (I lost but it was still a blast). We then drove around some more finding other art studios. We even met an artist couple who went to the same college at me! I had my last fix of lobster for the summer in the form of a lobster roll. We ended the day at the L.L. Bean outlet in Ellsworth where I bought a sweater and some cozy socks for fall.
Day 8: It was such a sad day to be driving back because the weather was so beautiful. We got a late start so I got to enjoy one last morning breakfast on the lake before packing up and heading out. The drive back to New Jersey took nearly the whole day. We did stop in Portland though for some lunch!
I truly cannot wait to go back to Maine. It has quickly become on of my favorite places with its gorgeous landscapes, cool weather and abundance of seafood. I highly recommend this trip. I do warn you however one week is definitely not enough time to see all of Maine. I could have stayed the whole summer!
Our big family vacation this summer was a trip back to Rhode Island and Massachusetts. I love this area and have missed our yearly summers there so much. I was thrilled to hear we would be going back this summer. As always we had such a blast renting a cottage in Westport, which took up most of our vacation time. Here are my highlights from our time there.
Sunsets at Gooseberry Point: Almost every evening we went out to Gooseberry point. It is a small peninsula that jets out into the Atlantic allowing for views of the Vineyard and some incredible sunsets. It was so beautiful. We would swim, fish and hang out on the beach for a little while and then walk over to the rocky coast to watch the sun drop below the horizon. This is definitely a must if you are ever in the area. It also is a good idea to go late in the day because the beach is much less crowded.
Quahogging in the Westport River: We dug for quahogs in the the river several days and found lots of them. We made some delicious clams casino and a great pasta sauce. We also found mussels in the smaller channels in the marshes at high tide. You do need a permit but it is really worth it and fairly easy to get enough for a delicious meal. We even found some oysters and scallops.
Fun in the sand at Horseneck beach: We had a couple incredible days at the beach building epic drip castles, surfing and creating our clam shell mermaid. Low tide is definitely the best time to walk the beach finding shells and sea glass and provides for lots of space for castles!
Farm stands on the back rounds: There are some really beautiful backroads between Westport, MA and Little Compton, RI that are home to some really great farm stands and unique little shops. Farm fresh food is available and it is so much cheaper directly from the sources than at the grocery store. The local grocery store, Lee’s, has pretty much everything but it is super expensive since it is a vacation town on the beach.
Jumping off the dock: This is definitely a tradition every time we come. We have so much family there and several have houses right on the Westport River so we always jump off the dock with the cousins.
Coastal walks: Just walking along the coast both at the beach and the more rocky shores was a major highlight for me. We had pretty good weather the whole time so we were able to make lots of adventures out of the coastal landscape.
Seafood at the best restaurants: This place has some of the best seafood restaurants I have ever been to. Its great because there are different price points as well. Handyhill Creamery is along the highway just as you are getting to the river and it is really cheap and absolutely delicious. There ice cream is amazing as well!!! The Bayside is our go to dinner place and they have a wide variety of options with yummy local seafood. There drinks were so good this time as well. I had got the goat cheese salad with scallops every time we went because it is the best salad I have ever had. The Bayside also sits right across from the ocean with a great ocean walk in between which allows for the most beautiful table wait. The Back Eddy is also pretty great with a nice view of the river. I highly recommend reservations here (also at The Bayside) because it gets really crowded. There is a lobster place across the river which has great lobster rolls for lunch and you sit right along the river.
Other activities included some bird watching on the wildlife preservation, our day trip up to Newport and another to Worcester as well as some much needed time with the family. It was an incredible trip with many gorgeous location and fun activities.
Newport is one of the most picturesque and classic towns in all of Rhode Island. I mention in an earlier post our day trip to Newport’s Bowen’s Warf but I wanted to dedicate a whole post to what we did and what there is to do in Newport since it is such an amazing place that often finds its way onto many travel bucket lists. I have been multiple times before, mostly to visit the mansions and enjoy the beautiful flower shows. This time my sister and I left in the morning and shopped the boutique’s on the warf. We stopped for lunch at Gary’s Handy Lunch which was is cheap and quick diner food that was great for us since we had to meet our cousin shortly after. However, the dining opportunities are definitely ones to take advantage of here. The seafood is incredible and there are so many seaside views, it can definitely get expensive though. I would save for a few really nice delicious meals and find the cheaper places or grocery shop for the rest.
We found some great shops including the KJP store on Bowen’s Warf, Island Outfitters, Coast to Country and Vintage to Vogue. There are so many other great shops and prices definitely vary so check it out if you see something you like (you never know). Some shops like KJP have such beautiful decorations that it is fun to just have a look around and get some inspiration.
In the later afternoon we met up with Aiden and his family to do the Cliff Walk along the coast. It is beautiful because you get the amazing ocean views with gorgeous mansions on the other side. I highly recommend this and other than parking it is completely free (parking isn’t too bad). Along those same lines, visiting any of the mansions is a great experience. The Breakers is the most famous and has a great walk through tour available. I have done several in the past and I learned some interesting history for sure.
There are definitely many other things to do if you are doing a longer stay (which I highly recommend). There are sailing tours and boat rides along with many other fun water activities. Hitting the beach is also a must if you are there for a few days, it is beautiful!
Last week we drove to the coast for a day to grab our favorite milkshakes at Hoffman’s and walk the boardwalk in Spring Lake for Aiden’s birthday. We got down just in time to enjoy the ocean and eat sandwiches at Tom Bailey’s Market (seriously an amazing deli). The rain started just as a were leaving, making our timing impeccable because it didn’t just rain, it was a torrential downpour. Spring Lake is such a cute little town with some huge beautiful houses. I love just walking the streets and looking at the architecture and gorgeous gardens.
Spring Lake is a great alternative to the popular Ocean City on the New Jersey coast. There are great shops, rental houses and a beautiful beach. I have only ever eaten at Tom Bailey’s but I have heard great things about the pizza place and other restaurants in the town. Hoffman’s milkshakes are amazing but it does get so crowded. Try to go earlier, like take a break from the beach, because it is insane and very difficult to park starting around 3:00pm.
I seem to be drawn to blue and white right now. Almost all of my outfits have been some variant of blue with white. It is definitely a great combination for beach towns though! This dress is pretty old but so comfortable and great for almost any activity.
This past weekend brought many adventures, one of which was a trip to one of the antiquing capitals of the US. We drove through several towns along highway 40 to get the the small but rather well known Cambridge City. There is an abundance of antique shops lining the main streets. Our first stop was the one little shop that sells ice cream, fudge and other delicious treats. Main Street Sweets is so picturesque and you can even get lunch! We got ice cream since it was so hot out. After enjoying this adorable little shop we moved on through the antique shops lining Main Street. Almost every shop sold antiques and multiple vendors were housed in each shop.
I am not really in a place to be buying big things but this is such a worth it place to visit to find those decor gems. I bought two little vintage bird cards but had my eye on so many things! There were some great old hat boxes, clutches and pins that caught my eye and I am sure I will be back for another visit. I highly recommend checking it out if you are driving along I-70. Centerville is just ten minutes down the road and also has quite the number of antique shops and a few worth it restaurants.
At the end of June I went on a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico with some of my family. It was such a blast and I definitely fell in love with the city. If you have never been I highly recommend it, the food is amazing and the art is definitely beyond words. Here is our daily itinerary! I will also add some other recommendations I received from friends even though we weren’t able to fit everything in.
Day 1: Drove down from Colorado and arrived at our hotel, La Posada around 2:30pm. The drive from the Denver area takes about six hours. We spent time just exploring the hotel and hanging out at the pool before heading to diner. We went to Mucho Gusto for diner which was recommended by a friend. The restaurant was just a five minute walk from our hotel and the New Mexican food was delicious. Before heading to bed we enjoyed some hot tub time.
Day 2: It was Saturday so we took La Posada’s shuttle to the Farmer’s Market at the Santa Fe Railyard. There was an artisan market going on as well with fairly affordable jewelry and art. The Farmer’s Market was definitely one of the biggest I have been to with amazing vendors. The Railyard in general is definitely a must! After some cider slushies and delicious bread we walked down Guadalupe Street which has incredible shops and some really great thrift stores (Double Take on Guadalupe and Aztec has a great selection). We were walking towards the Georgia O’Keefe museum when we found the Terracotta Wine Bistro just in time for lunch. The food was amazing! I had the best bruschetta with all sorts of spreads and their cold cucumber soup of the day. The wine was also incredible. From here we went to the Georgia O’Keefe museum which is definitely a museum worth the money. Her paintings are just so inspiring and I learned a lot about how she struggled with conforming to the current standard for artists and in order to keep her passion alive she needed to do something different (hence her unique style). On the way back to our hotel we walked through the plaza which is a great shopping location. Music was playing and there is also a lot of art here. For dinner we ended up eating at our hotel’s restaurant, Julia’s however we did have reservations at Restaurant Martin because some friends recommended it to us. Both are on the more expensive side but the food was amazing. We ate dessert first (not sure that was the best idea) but we were psyched about the cheesecake and chili chocolate mousse We jumped in the hotel pool to finish our day.
Day 3: Just after we started walking into town we found the French Crêperie which we spotted the day before se we decided on crepes for breakfast. This place was delicious but very crowded, we were really lucky to get a table. It is definitely worth it though, I shared one sweet and one savory crepe with my sister and both were delicious ( I think the savory-chorizo was my favorite though). We spent most of the day walking around the center of town, shopping and enjoying all the art. There are great open markets all around downtown, which are very affordable. The boutiques around the plaza are expensive and high end but they have some great art, jewelry and clothing (we mostly window shopped here). There are some great places with extensive hat collections and really pretty dresses and skirts. Walking around in the heat definitely took the energy out of us but we made a stop at the Kakáwa Chocolate House for an energy boost. This place was highly recommend by friends who live in Santa Fe and it definitely met the mark. They were great about samples so even though I didn’t want to order an entire cup of the drinking chocolate (their specialty) I was able to try several different flavors. The rose infused chocolate was my favorite but the chili was good as well. It is dark chocolate so its not as sweet as I expected which I really liked. Most of us ended up ordering ice cream because it was so hot out. If you get ice cream get hot fudge on top, it was the best hot fudge I have ever had. Our final adventure was a trip to Meow Wolf. This ‘exhibit’ is gaining popularity but if you are unfamiliar it is an interactive art exhibit in Santa Fe. It is so hard to explain but it is built in an old bowling alley and you are trying to figure out a mystery and at the same time the entire thing is an art exhibit. It was also recommended by friends and is so worth the experience. We ate dinner at Rooftop Pizza which is in the plaza. Another friend gave me this recommendation and I am so glad we went. The are more options than just pizza but the pizza itself is all really unique and delicious. We sat outside and got to enjoy a gorgeous view and sunset.
Day 4: Our last day was mostly the drive home however we did stop in Taos to visit the Taos Pueblo village. This was definitely an interesting stop and I am glad we went. It is very interesting because there is so much history involved in this town but it is also currently inhabited so it was so important to be respectful. We ate lunch at a restaurant just at the edge of town before driving the rest of the way back.
To do next time: Visit The Santa Fe Lavender Farm. This didn’t work out for us this time because we had limited time and the days they are open didn’t match up well for us. Make sure you check their hours first.
Other food recommendations: We really wanted to go to Tomasita’s for dinner because it was highly recommended but they closed on Sunday which we were pretty bummed about (three people recommended it separately). I was told to order a “swirl.” Tia Sophia’s was recommended to me for breakfast/brunch and we did pass it while walking, it is right downtown. Coyote Cantina apparently has great food and amazing views of downtown. Jambo is a really good African restaurant but it isn’t right downtown. I have also heard that the Tea House is a great lunch place (or coffee/tea).
For many people Colorado is seen as an outdoorsy, hiking destination. The mountains definitely live up to their reputation and probably exceed it. Many hikes are incredibly difficult especially on the well-known 14,000 foot mountains scattered throughout the state. There are a few however that are very suitable for beginners both in length and difficulty. I would note that these are the hikes that I have seen lots of people get altitude sickness on. If you are traveling from out of town (or think you might get altitude sick) be especially cautious when designing your itinerary and remembered that it is always better to turn around if a member of your group is very sick, even if that means you will not reach the summit. Here are the two best 14,000 foot mountains, in my opinion for beginners:
Mount Bierstadt. This Colorado mountain sits at 14,065ft tall and is located just south of the mountain town Georgetown (about an hour west of Denver). This is easily the shortest hike of all the 14er’s I have climbed. This is a shorter hike because you drive so far up, starting at a much higher elevation but beware because parking here can be difficult. Because it is easy and one of the most accessible it is very crowded, especially on weekends. I would say as long as you start early (which is necessary on a fourteener anyways due to the variable weather) you will be totally fine and stress free. The climb itself is steadily uphill since you start so high. It took our group about four hours to do the whole thing and spend time at the summit.
Grays and Torres. These are separate 14,000 foot peaks but most people do them both together since they are very close together, separated only by a short saddle. This hike is definitely longer, taking us around six hours to do both peaks. It is a total of 8 miles from the trailhead up and back down. This one can also be crowded depending on the weather so I again recommend getting an early start. The other great thing about these mountains is that they are also relatively close to Denver with an hour and half drive to the trailhead.
Both of these hike are incredibly beautiful with amazing 360 degree views of the mountain ranges. I highly recommend climbing one of these peaks if you are up for the physical challenge because those views are definitely worth the challenge!
Most people would not think of Nebraska as a destination. It is more often that long state you drive through to get to places like Colorado, Tetons, Utah etc… Cornfields line the roads for hundreds of miles great a flat and uniform landscape. It is generally a predictable place that is not known to be necessarily exciting and fun. In Nebraska’s far west just before reaching Wyoming are the Nebraska sand hills. Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge is about 30 miles north of the small town, Oshkosh and south of Alliance. Although it is not a sublime place is is rather picturesque and serene. There is so much incredible wildlife and so many adventures to be had. Although many may still not chose this as a destination I highly recommend stopping by if you are driving through.
We were up there helping a professor with some research but regardless of who you go with, there is lots of wildlife to see. We took several drives around the refuge and found lots of mud turtles, painted turtles, several species of lizards and lots of birds. The sunsets and sunrises are beautiful! I didn’t get any pictures but here is the link to a previous post I did with pictures from the last trip I did.
I just got back from the most incredible trip to the Bahamas! Here is a short version of our daily itineraries.
Day 1: We flew out super early in order to maximize our first day in Nassau. We arrived at 11:00am and got to the Atlantis marina by lunchtime. We had some time to spare before setting sail so we hit the pool and walked around for a while. Around 4:00 everyone had arrived and we were ready to leave. Boating out of Nassau was interesting because there were so many ships, big houses and palm trees. Our destination was pretty far so we all took naps as the boat rocked back and forth through the open waters. I woke up around 8:30pm to the most amazing conch chowder, which was a great way to start at boating trip! We had arrived at our destination.
Day 2: This was the official start to our research in the Exumas. We pulled up close to Leaf Cay where we would begin our research. One of the captains drove us over to the island in the skiff. Our professors taught us how to catch and process iguanas and we hit the ground running. The island was beautiful with a long stretch of beach which we worked on for most of the day. This island in particular gets a lot of tourists coming to see and feed the iguanas. We caught and process 149 iguanas in our first day which was pretty amazing!
Day 3: The winds were very clam so we took the opportunity to go to Flat Rock Cay which is an island that is much more exposed to heavy winds and big waves. The beach is also harder to pull up to, requiring calm winds. The island is very beautiful and there are some of the most amazing shells I have ever seen here. The iguana population is much smaller on this island and the weather turned pretty nasty halfway through the day limiting our iguana catching abilities. It started to rain hard and we tried to wait it out but it just kept coming so we ran back to the skiff and rode back to the Beacon Won. In the afternoon skies cleared giving way to great swimming weather and an amazing sunset.
Day 4: Our research team split in two to cover more ground and my group went back to Leaf Cay. We caught lots of iguanas and had some really great time to swim.
Day 5: We hit Leaf Cay once last day. It was an incredibly successful day in terms of research but the evening definitely took a turn for me. I was netting iguanas with a professor when I fell into a hole, spraining my ankle pretty badly. Other than this though the day was an amazing one!
Day 6: Due to my injury the day before I stayed on the boat for the day and assisted the Utah State professor and graduate student with their lab research. It was interesting to learn about their research and protocols. We took a swim in the blue Caribbean waters in the afternoon to break from all that lab work.
Day 7: This was the second day for the group on U Cay. It is a beautiful island that has a long sandy beach and incredible tide pools. I spent some time in the morning exploring the tide pools for a long day of processing. It was a great place for swim breaks though! We say an eagle ray swimming through the clear blue waters right near us. A group of us swam back to the boat which was super fun!
Day 8: We left Highbourne after breakfast and sailed further south to Bush Hill Cay. It took several hours but we arrived in plenty of time. There is a coral reef near the cay so it took some navigating (of our captains!) to get in close to the island. We got to the island and ate lunch before breaking off to go in search of this species Cyclura rylei which is a smaller species with longer claws and much more agile necks. The skiff ride back was pretty long because they had moved the Beacon Won to a much better place to anchor.
Day 9: Our last day in the Exumas! Although it was the last day, it was one of my favorites. We had some great iguana catching but also amazing views from the top of Bush Hill Cay and some fun on the beach later in the day. We arrived on the skiff with lots of iguanas to process from the day before and it was incredible because the species on Bush Hill Cay has so many different color morphs. There were yellow, red, blue and many mottled iguanas. We got to see two Green Sea Turtles swimming along the shore. I snorkeled near the turtles and got to see lots of colorful fish and some interesting corals. Several of us hiked to the highest point and the 360 view was truly incredible.
Day 10: A friend woke me up at 5:30am to watch the sunrise. We jumped in the water and enjoyed watching the sky fill with yellows, oranges, pinks and blues. A crew member interrupted our bliss, informing us that the heads were going to be emptied. With that we got out of the water as fast as possible. Fresh coffee was ready when we got out so we enjoyed that while waiting for breakfast. I spent the morning reading and journaling on the top deck while we journeyed back to Nassau. The return trip was about six hours so there was lots of time for some relaxation in the sun. We arrived at the Bay Street Marina around 3:00pm which gave plenty of time for showers and some exploration of Nassau. A group of us walked down Bay Street checking out the shops. Our designation was the Straw Market down by the cruise ships, which is a great place to get fairly cheap souvenirs so long as you can bargain (it can be a very intimidating place). We ate at The Green Parrot which is just inside the marina and the seafood was delicious. Fresh conch fritters and Mahi made for the perfect last Bahaman dinner. We walked across the bridge to Atlantis after dinner to walk through their aquarium and get ice cream. I stayed at Atlantis when I was young so I definitely remembered the underground tanks of fish and beautiful architecture. We walked through the aquarium and the casino, back out to the village which is kind of an outdoor mall. We got ice cream, which was delicious, however I would recommend getting ice cream at a shop in Nassau because everything in Atlantis is expensive.
Day 11: Those ten days went so incredibly fast! The end came quickly but the last morning did not disappoint with amazing views of the harbor over that highly anticipated cup of coffee. We flew out of Nassau around 11:00am and stopped in Atlanta, reaching our final destination by dinner.
Note: The main purpose of this trip was to conduct research with herpetologist John Iverson. He has a long term iguana study going in in the Exumas and has been researching species once thought to be almost extinct. Just as a preface, as students and universities we fully comply with ICUC rules and training.