Calling America

Do you know that you can’t travel internationally if your passport is not valid 6 months after your dates of travel? If yes…..well that’s great. If not, ohmygod me neither!? I mean…what’s the purpose of an expiration date if the goods aren’t even good before said date? Just think if this were the case with milk. Can you imagine taking your first sip of some steaming hot chocolate and tasting sour milk?! Thank God I stumbled upon this information one week prior to my trip to Canada or I would have been in for an unsuspected surprise at the border, as my passport expires in June. How terribly embarrassing that would have been if I were trying to gain entrance back into the US and been denied…from my own country(gasp)! Blasphemy! I guess a couple of days in Vancouver wouldn’t have been soooo bad, but surely my boss wouldn’t have felt the same and being denied entry to your own country is for felons and terrorists, not ladies.

Lesson number 2,351 learned on the road: Make sure your passport is valid 6 months beyond your dates of travel.

Checking In Please…

Since I sleep in hotel rooms over 260 evenings a year, it feels like a vacation when I sleep elsewhere. While traveling on personal time, I’m a huge advocate of renting houses, apartments, and condos. I’ve seen my fair share of hotel rooms and believe it or not, there’s not much of a difference between a ROH (Run of House aka standard hotel room) and a suite. Besides square footage, most hotel rooms feel the same….not homey. Listed below are the pros and cons of taking the rent route as opposed to staying in a hotel.

1. Size-A standard ROH room is 300-400 square feet and a standard one bedroom apartment is double that, not to mention a four bedroom house.
2. Rooms-Kitchen (cooking!), dining room (more intimate than a restaurant), laundry, multiple bathrooms, multiple bedrooms, living room, patio/deck, front porch
3. Amenities-Refrigerator, dishwasher, dish and glassware, washer/dryer, dvd’s, grill (not all), fire pits (not all), bicycles (not all)-I can’t tell you how many times, while staying in hotels, I’ve walked/cabbed to the nearest Walgreens to buy a wine opener.
4. Price– The cost of renting a privately owned home is, most often, significantly less expensive per night than a hotel room.
5. Owners-Home owners are generally willing to work with you because they are excited you’ve chosen their home to rent and they are happy about making some extra money. In the past I’ve had owners personally drop off the keys to a hotel where I was working, allow me to check in early and check out late, leave fresh flowers in a vase as a sweet welcome, and come down on nightly rates (apartment was listed at $150 a night and I negotiated $100  if we stayed three nights).
6. Parking-Hotel parking charges (not talking hotels out in the middle of nowhere) add up and often are not taken into consideration when booking the room, which means this expense will creep up out of no where. The cost is $33 per night at The Roosevelt  in L.A. and $55 at The Mercer in NYC-when renting you usually don’t have to pay for street parking (residential area) and often there is a garage or space in a large garage that comes with the unit.
7. Common Space-No girl wants to sit on a bed in her dress and heels while having a cocktail before going out nor do families want to pile into one hotel room to hang out while traveling. When you rent a home you have the option of hanging out in the kitchen, living room, basement, media room and other common space. It’s much better for entertaining as well (unless you are in some penthouse suite in Vegas that boasts 2,500 square feet and a Baby Grand piano-average $5,000 a night-oy!).
8. Comfort-Rentals feel like a home because…well, they are someone’s home.

1. DIY-If you wake up a little hungover in the morning and you’re longing for some steamy pancakes and eggs benny, you will have to get up and make it because in-room dining does not exist, sadly.
2. Cleanliness-Some people like staying in hotels because it’s like being a child or being wealthy-you come home and your room is magically clean. For me, this isn’t a big deal since I’m annoyingly tidy and don’t need someone to put my clothes away, throw away my apple core from the bedside table, and pick up my towels from the floor (if you put your towels on any floor that’s sick).
3. House Cleaner-On top of the cost of the rental you’ll also pay a one time charge to have a housekeeper come in and clean after you depart. The fee varies depending on the city and the square footage of the home, on average I’ve paid around $80.

I honestly can’t think of one more, but I’m trying to be fair and come up with at least half as many cons as I did pros…

4. Hotel Bar-There is no hotel bar to enjoy a night cap and recap your evening out and some hotels have really amazing bars-ex. The Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans.

When taking the rental route I use Vacation Rental By Owner and have had nothing but wonderful experiences through this website. If you’ve never rented, I strongly encourage you to give it a try. It changes the entire feel of the trip and who doesn’t want to go “home”, after a long day exploring. Oh and did I mention house parties?

Happy house hunting!

Colorado Girl

People, when traveling, often find themselves in love with the city they are exploring and say, “I could really see myself living here”. That statement always makes me smile because I can relate to that feeling of truly seeing yourself living in that special place, making that city your own, and building a world for yourself, but 98% of the time, people go home, get back to their routine, and never make the move. 

From New York to San Francisco, Boston, Bethesda, and Barcelona…I’ve had love affairs with them all. I’ve pictured my apartment, my friends, and my weekends spent at markets, brunches, and museums. I’ve envisioned myself walking to barre class, into the coffee shop on the corner where the barista knows my order (tall chai with skim, half the chai, extra hot please), and smiling at familiar faces in my neighborhood. Life is always perfect when you imagine yourself in another place-you’re happy and everyone is friendly. Your apartment is always adorable because rent is affordable and you have exceptionally good taste in decor, you’re ten pounds lighter, and you love your job. 

There is one place that, through the years, has tugged at my heart and whispered my name long after I returned home and was back to my routine. This place is rugged and beautiful, majestic and enchanting. It’s small enough to make my own, but large enough to endlessly explore. It’s full of great restaurants, music, and parks, but offers room to breathe when I tire of the bustle. There are mountains and valleys, rivers and lakes, and sunshine and snow. Colorado wins and this Missouri lady is packing her belongings and heading west. Her apartment will be perfect, she will be happy, and everyone will be friendly. Right? 
“He was born in the summer of his 27th year
Comin’ home to a place he’d never been before
He left yesterday behind him, you might say he was born again
You might say he found a key for every door”

-John Denver, Rocky Mountain High

Birthday Show

To celebrate my birthday last night, I went with a couple of friends/colleagues (Atlanta for work) to a show at The Masquerade, which is an old mill turned music venue. We had a blast exploring the different three levels cleverly named Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. If you’re ever in the ATL area, you must go, no matter who is performing.

The headliner,  Toro y Moi is a hipster black guy who put on a great show, super chill. My personal favorite, however, was the opening band, brother/sister duo Wild Belle. The lead singer, Natalie Bergman, is this ridiculous hybrid of Adele and Amy Winehouse with a splash of Stevie Nicks. Her voice is smokey and sultry and her look is all seventies, total babe (I want to be her). It’s a such shame these two are related, otherwise they’d be the white Jay and Beyonce. World’s coolest brother and sister, Elliot and Natalie Bergman, Wild Belle. 

I’ll Cry if I Want to

Today is my day, February 6th-my birthday. As a little girl,  I used to wake up with butterflies in my stomach, excited to see what the day would bring. My parents would wake me with kisses and hugs and just about as much excitement as the birthday girl herself.  I’d get dressed in an extra special outfit, pack up my birthday treats for my class (why did the birthday person provide their own treats?) and head to school. Birthdays were the best.  Isn’t it funny how you never “felt” the difference in a day when it was someone else’s, but when it was yours-it felt like a holiday? That’s a pretty special thing. The double digits seemed so very old and sixteen would never come, let alone twenty one.  And then I grew up, or so I thought.

 The day I turned twenty one, I cried. All I could think about was the Ladytron song, Seventeen. 

“They only want you when you’re seventeen
When you’re twenty-one, you’re no fun”

And then I cried some more. I was washed up, old, and undesirable. I didn’t want to go the bars to celebrate, I was there the night before. 

Seven years later I awoke in a bed, in a hotel room, and it wasn’t the Four Seasons. I can’t say there are butterflies, as I know what the day will bring, but there are definitely no tears. Those years gifted me something invaluable, a sense of reality. Gone are the days when the world revolved around me and I wasted time pouting about not being seventeen (narcissism at its finest). I realize that I have to work for those things my heart desires, exercise to maintain my figure, and do things that aren’t always fun to remain employed. I have a sense of responsibility, a savings account, and a desire to be something other than an heiress. It was Paris, now it’s Kim, Khloe, and Kourtney. To all the young girls, there’s more to life than vacations, parties, and the Kardashians -a lot more. 

Tonight my toast is to another another year wiser, another year happier, and another year healthier. Bring on the birthday bubbles! 

The Big Easy

With Super Bowl taking place today, I find myself reminiscing my trip to New Orleans which took place this time one year ago. I spent a week working downtown and then extended for a long weekend in the French Quarter. I absolutely love New Orleans and have since started donating money to Tulane to ensure my children are accepted (not really, but I will be forcing it on them…when I have them…someday). If you are a person who thrives in a place saturated in culture and character in everything from the architecture, to the food, the music, and the lifestyle in general, then…You must. Go to. New Orleans. It was my first time and most definitely won’t be my last. Below are my tips for your time in The Big Easy; a town made up of good music, good food, and strong drinks which, no one can argue, is a recipe for a very good time.

1. If you’re anything like me and don’t like to sweat or be hot, you must go in the winter when the highs are in the 60’s and lows in the 40’s. There is no need for anything more than a light jacket and scarf to keep you warm in the evenings, so bundle up and venture out.

2. My beau and I rented an adorable apartment in the french quarter right at Bourbon and Esplanade (perfect.location). It was tiny, but quaint, cozy, and charming…absolutely perfect for two. We went out to dinner the first two evenings and then on our final, walked (romantic stroll) to a market (adorable) in the neighborhood (pretended it was ours) to get groceries and then cooked a delicious meal (roasted veggie orzo/ vanilla ice cream with fresh blueberries and strawberries for dessert) and sipped wine. Heeaaveeennn.

3. Go to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop and get the “purple drink”. That is literally all you have to say to the bartender, “the purple drink”. It’s a delicious frozen (not too sweet, trust me) beverage which they are famous for. Our condo was right down the street so every time we would head out, we stopped by for a to-go drink (gotta love legal drinking on the street) and would walk around. This bar is the oldest in New Orleans and after dark they have NO lights…it’s only lit by candles, but has a cool, grungy feel. A must.

4. Walk up and down Bourbon, obviously. Great for day drinking and there is live music and people at all hours, constant action.

5. One afternoon we took the St. Charles Streetcar to the Garden District. It’s a pretty long process, so I recommend taking it only one way, but it’s a nice way to cover some ground and it’s historic, so do it. Once we were dropped, we walked down some residential as well as Magazine Street looking at shops and historic homes. We cabbed it back to the Quarter (under $10) after we hit the end of cute shops and restaurants on Magazine.

6. Rent a bike-Bikes are great way to explore, plus New Orleans is flat which makes the biking much more enjoyable (this is pleasure not exercise, friends). We rented bikes from a little antique store on Frenchmen Street. I don’t remember the name, but there are plenty in the area. If you are coming from the Quarter I recommend doing this;

Ride down the tiny side streets that make up the Quarter and head to the Hilton (not in FQ, but close bike ride) and go to Drago’s restaurant inside the hotel. This stop is purely for one thing and one thing only (not the atmosphere), this stop is for the charbroiled oysters. The restaurant is a typical hotel restaurant with no ambiance whatsoever, so stop in, pull up a seat to the bar, and eat those buttery, garlic, cheesy, oysters with fresh bread (gotta soak up the butter) and taste pure goodness in your mouth. The rest of the menu isn’t worth hanging around for, so throw back the oysters, have a cold beer, and get back to the bike tour. **I used my iPhone GPS for all directions

Post “most amazing oysters you will ever have”, head to the Garden District. It takes around 20 minutes to get there from the Quarter. So strap on that smelly helmet and take a cruise down St. Charles Street taking in all the beautiful, southern mansions as well as Tulane’s campus.

7. Frenchmen-Great street in the Quarter filled with restaurants and bars. We had dinner at Coops Place, which is a super casual place with a great vibe and delicious Cajun food. After dinner we went to DBA which is cool bar with AMAZING music. Must stop in. Walk up and down Frenchmen day and night, there’s music and food to last you days.

8. French Market-A MUST. Do this one sober/slightly sober morning or afternoon. There are tons of vendors and you can get GREAT food and yummy bevs while strolling. One afternoon we bought a bunch of craw fish and had a local lady teach us how to properly eat them (head and all).  On our last morning we stopped in at Cafe Du Monde, picked up beignets and coffee to go, and then walked over to Jackson Square to enjoy them (makes for a really nice morning).

9. Parasol’s-Featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives this supppppper dive bar serves up amazing sandwiches. You order/eat your food upstairs, but place your drink order through a window that overlooks the bar below (you know you want to do it).

10. On our last afternoon we went to this amazing dive restaurant/bar on a residential street in the quarter which happened to be about four buildings down from our apartment. Port of Call is a perfect end of the trip meal, when you will be over all of the Cajun food. This is what you HAVE to order, cheeseburger, loaded baked potato, and a monsoon (bev). This is HUGE and can absolutely, 100% be split between two people. If you think you will order something besides what I instructed, don’t even go. But go. Seriously.

Other restaurants/bars:

Carousel Bar in Hotel Monteleone (start your evening here, pre dinner drink)
Pat O’Briens courtyard (hurricanes, duh)
Cats Meow-Bourbon Street (karaoke)
Blue Nile-Frenchmen (live music)
Coquette-Magazine Street (dinner)
Mother’s Restaurant (amazing food, super famous)

Oh! And you must, must, must find “Big Al” Carson at The Funky Pirate on Bourbon. He is a big, big man with a whole lotta soul. Stop in and listen while cruising Bourbon.

In a nutshell, get ready to eat, drink, and jam your vacation away. Enjoy this enchanting town and immerse yourself in the French/Cajun culture that makes this city so undeniably charming.

Tour de Northern California: Pacific Coast Highway

In the mood for a road trip? Envisioning yourself…tootsies on the dashboard, hands in the air, scarf securing your locks (Marilyn style) and the sea by your side? Head to California and take a drive on the most famous stretch of road in the country, California State Route 1, otherwise known as Pacific Coast Highway. Many make a two week journey from San Diego to northern California’s Redwood National Park, which is fun, but not a must. So if you don’t have two weeks to spare, don’t stress. You can explore the beauty of the PCH in a couple days and see the most beautiful stretch, which is from San Simeon to Carmel (passes through Big Sur which is the highlight of the entire PCH drive).

After spending the morning hiking Point Lobos, we made our way south and stopped for lunch in Big Sur at the River Inn where we had a beer and lunch on the deck. After lunch we made our way to the shallow river and relaxed in a couple of the Adirondack chairs with our feet in the water and drinks in hand, soaking up the sunshine that was peeking through the pines overhead.

The journey is not THAT long in mileage, but it will take you a while to get through those miles. No one is heading to work and everyone is taking in the beautiful view, stopping at each lookout point to take photos (we did at least 37 times), and driving very carefully (two lane road/windy/steep death plummet on ocean side), so give yourself an afternoon to make this trip.

We arrived in San Simeon at 3:30pm and went straight to Hearst Castle  only to find that the last tour went up at 3:30pm (oops). There isn’t much else to do in the town, so we went to an empty beach to watch the sun set, which turned out to be amazing when we realized we had the bottle of wine from our inn in Carmel, a bag of peanuts from the gas station, annnnd a fold out picnic blanket that I received from a vendor while working in Napa. Date on the sand! The castle closing early turned out to be a good thing, Hearst Castle tours are offered daily. A sunset date on a remote beach in northern California, on a fall evening, however, is not.

The next morning we were on the first tour of Hearst which is truly remarkable and a must see if you are in the area. After our tour we made our way north all the way back to San Francisco, arriving in the late afternoon at the historic Fairmont San Francisco. After a quick refresh, we went next door for a sunset drink at the Top of the Mark and then went to dinner at an adorable little restaurant in Nob Hill. One final toast to another incredible trip.

So if you don’t have the money or the two weeks worth of vacation racked up at work, don’t worry about getting to Europe, South America, and Asia so soon. Take a relaxing vacation and explore the incredible towns that make up this beautiful country. Download some music, pack a blanket, snacks, a map, and get ready for a remarkable adventure stateside.

“The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” -G.K. Chesterton