minication

A Weekend Jaunt to La La Land

As many of you know, my husband and I relocated to the West Coast from Boston a couple of months ago. The original plan was to end up in Los Angeles, but our plans changed a bit when my husband got a job offer in San Diego that he could not pass up. But we are close enough to LA that it's now my new favorite for a weekend getaway. 

I know there are tons of people who can't stand LA but maybe they have not been to the right places? I dunno, because I LOVED it. LA reminds me of a sunnier, more spread out version of New York City. Lots of energy but not too much (because after all it IS California we're talking about) and made up of a bunch of neighborhoods all with their own personality. So just find your groove and you too will learn to love LA.

By no means am I an expert in this city, considering this was my first real visit (can't really count the night before my Mexican Riviera cruise in '09) but I can promise you that these things will not disappoint:

Hollywood Boulevard & the Walk of Fame - Okay so this one might disappoint. It's kinda gross (this is where Vivian was picked up by Edward in Pretty Woman...) but it's fun to look for your favorite stars. No need to spend more than an hour or two here and avoid the Chinese Theater if crowds are not your thing--it's like Times Square. TIP: To maximize your time, look up the location (by block) of your star in the search bar here so you're not wandering around aimlessly. 

Su Sussudio... 

Su Sussudio... 

Space, the final frontier

Space, the final frontier

Jessica Fletcher <3

Jessica Fletcher <3

Hollywood Sign - Nothing defines LA more than this and the best view is from Griffith Park. But if there are events being held at the park making it impossible for you to get there (need I mention the awfulness known as LA traffic?!), the next best thing is to head up into Hollywood Hills to Runyon Canyon Park. The view of the city and the mountains are spectacular and you're able to spot your famous sign.

Tough to spot in the haze!

Tough to spot in the haze!

Rodeo Drive - Don your best outfit, don't forget your wallet and take a stroll down this beautiful boulevard lined with designer shops and fancy cars. Big mistake. Big. HUGE.

Gorgeous Via Rodeo

Gorgeous Via Rodeo

Beverly Hills - Home to gorgeous parks and streets, celebs, Rodeo Drive, icons like the Beverly Wilshire Grand and the Beverly Hills Hotel, and the best show of the 90s (but if you want to see the Walsh residence, you'll have to drive to the 'burbs...Altadena to be exact).

Welcome to BH 90210

Welcome to BH 90210

Palm tree-lined streets of Beverly Hills

Palm tree-lined streets of Beverly Hills

West Hollywood - If Beverly Hills is the Upper East Side of LA, then West Hollywood is the Village. This neighborhood feels super trendy/cool and has more going on than adjacent Beverly Hills.

In LA, even the Restoration Hardware is beautiful

In LA, even the Restoration Hardware is beautiful

If you're curious about where to eat, some memorable places include Mario Batali's Osteria Mozza (reservations needed) and the Neapolitan pizzeria and craft cocktail joint Sotto (also need reservations) for dinner. Check out Bouchon in Beverly Hills, perfect for brunch or lunch on a lovely outdoor patio (don't forget to pop into their bakery for a treat and keep your eyes peeled for celebs). For top notch espresso drinks and delish avocado toast, visit Comoncy in Beverly Hills.

And lastly if you're curious about where to stay, first choose your neighborhood (like Beverly Hills or West Hollywood..really I don't know where else you'd want to be) and then see what's available in your price range, roofdeck pool a plus. We landed a good rate (and wanted the Starwood points) at the hip SLS but some other good options are the Mondrian, the Viceroy and the Montage. Enjoy!

Rodeo Drive, oh how I wish I had unlimited funds to spend...

Rodeo Drive, oh how I wish I had unlimited funds to spend...

The Beverly Wilshire Grand

The Beverly Wilshire Grand

The Walsh residence in Altadena

The Walsh residence in Altadena

Melrose Place! For Kyle :)

Melrose Place! For Kyle :)

Volare....

Volare....

Frank Sinatra (tough to read)

Frank Sinatra (tough to read)

For you Auntie Barbara :)

For you Auntie Barbara :)

I love Samantha from Bewitched!

I love Samantha from Bewitched!

Princess Grace

Princess Grace

A Weekend Getaway in Martha's Vineyard

New Englanders, rejoice! It's that time of year we all look forward to--Memorial Day weekend a.k.a. the official kick off to summer. Snow is a thing of the past (for the next several months anyway) and now it's time to enjoy the best of what New England has to offer! The island of Martha's Vineyard is one of my favorite places to do just that. While MV is one of those places you could easily spend a week or two in, it is possible to do a short little weekend getaway (carless, even!) if you can't spare the vacation time. Here's my take on the perfect MV weekend:

 

FRIDAY

4:00p: Shut-down that computer and hop in a cab to Logan. Check-in for your Cape Air flight, put to use that TSA pre-check, and make your way to the gate. If you made it with a few extra minutes to spare or if your flight is delayed, DEFINITELY take the time to have a cocktail. These planes are TINY (you're welcome).

6:00p: Arrive in Martha's Vineyard after a short (or long, depending on if you had that cocktail or not) 45 min scenic ride over Cape Cod. Hop in a cab and head to Edgartown to check into your hotel, Lark Hotel's stylish boutique inn, The Christopher. The decor is just lovely.

6:30p: Drop those weekend bags and head on over to the The Atlantic, just a short walk from your hotel, for happy hour. Grab a spot at the bar and you can have dinner with your martinis.

8:30p: End (or start) your night at the popular watering hole The Wharf. The Sox will be on at the bar up front but head to the bar in the back for the party if that is your thing.

10:00p: Call it a night and tuck into your comfy king sized bed with soft pillows and plush linens. Rest up for a busy but fun day ahead!

Edgartown Light

Edgartown Light

 

SATURDAY

9:00a: Rise and shine! It's time for some coffee and bagels at Espresso Love. So many good options to choose from but you can't go wrong with The Islander (veggie cream cheese, bacon and cucumber).

10:00a: Rent some bikes from Wheel Happy located conveniently next door to your hotel and map out your ride. Make sure you get a picnic basket which will come in handy!

12:00p: Get some exercise and pedal your way out of town to Morning Glory Farm to pick up some provisions for lunch--fresh-grown fruits, veggies, and freshly baked goods. On your way back into town, stop at Black Sheep to pick up some gourmet cheese and meats. Followed by a stop at Vintage MV Wine & Spirits for some wine. Then make your way over to Lighthouse Beach for a picnic with a view.

2:00p: If the weather's nice, enjoy the beach or better yet get on over to South Beach (MV's best beach in my opinion). If there are more clouds than you'd like (it is New England after all), not to fret. Pedal those bikes to nearby Bad Martha Farmers Brewery for some local craft brews. Best get a flight to sample them all!

5:00p: Head back to the hotel for some freshening up for dinner. Don't be afraid to pull out the Vineyard Vines. When in Rome...

6:00p: Enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail and oysters at the bar at Alchemy. (Note: this is also an excellent restaurant to dine at too)

7:30p: Sit down to a lovely candlelit dinner at L'Etoile. If it's warm enough, dine in the outdoor terrace under the string lights. It's magical.

9:30p: Finish off the night with an ice cream cone from Mad Martha's. There's always room for dessert!

Views on the bike ride

Views on the bike ride

Doesn't get any more American than that!

Doesn't get any more American than that!

The llamas at Ernie Boch's seaside mansion

The llamas at Ernie Boch's seaside mansion

Edgartown Light

Edgartown Light

Mansions on the way to the beach

Mansions on the way to the beach

 

SUNDAY

9:00a: Back to Espresso Love. It's just that good.

10:00a: If the weather is nice, you can't say no to some sun and some waves at South Beach. Hop on that bike and burn of the previous day's imbibing.

1:00p: Head back to town for some lunch and drinks on the roofdeck at the Seafood Shanty. It's an institution not to be missed. Lobster roll, obvi.

4:00p: Return the bikes, grab your bags and sadly head back to the airport. With a smile of course because you just lived it up all weekend on MV.

South Beach

South Beach

Edgartown Harbor

Edgartown Harbor

I mean, Jaws was filmed here...

I mean, Jaws was filmed here...


Accommodations: The Christopher (24 South Water Street Edgartown); thechristophermv.com

 

Our cozy room at the Christopher

Our cozy room at the Christopher

Sunshine & Salsa in San Juan

The tropical side of San Juan Puerto Rico

The tropical side of San Juan Puerto Rico

The capital city of Puerto Rico, San Juan, is more than just a port of call on your Caribbean cruise or a layover on your way to the BVIs. It is a fun place to experience some culture--a mix between European (from its history with Spain) and latin (from its location)--along with the usual sun and sea you get with a Caribbean vacation. And perhaps the best part is that it is a direct flight from several major cities on the east coast making it very convenient. In just about 4 hours you can be transported from the 30-degree snowy weather in Boston to the salsa club, mojito in hand. It is these two things--culture & convenience--that give San Juan an advantage in my book. Here are my reccos on what to see/do/eat/drink and where you should call home on this island.

 

WHERE TO STAY

San Juan has an old, historical center where most of the action (and culture) is however there are not many hotels to choose from in this area and it is sans sand. To hit the beach, you must venture outside of the old city walls to areas like Condado or Isla Verde. If you want the nicest beaches in the area, appreciate being close to the airport and don't plan on spending much time in Old San Juan then Isla Verde fits your bill. But if you want the best of both worlds--having a (small) beach AND being close to the cultural city center--then Condado is the better choice.

Condado is located about 10-15 min by car from Old San Juan and has a good selection of hotels and resorts to choose from. I had the pleasure of staying at the Condado Vanderbilt, a 5-star hotel that opened in a historical mansion in December 2014, and highly recommend this to anyone who can afford it. Rooms during high season can be pricey but sites like Expedia often offer discounts and recently I've seen rooms going for less than $300/nt (the Zika effect maybe?). This luxurious hotel boasts 3 pools with an oceanview (perfect for enjoying your piña colada), glasses of champagne upon check-in, one of the best spas on the island (Turkish hammam anyone?) and comfy rooms with gorgeous marble bathrooms. It is located on a small, rocky beach but guests have access to the public beach next door or can use the amenities at the La Concha hotel also located next door. (Condado Vanderbilt Hotel, 1055 Ashford Ave. San Juan)

Views from the lobby of the Condado Vanderbilt hotel&nbsp;

Views from the lobby of the Condado Vanderbilt hotel 

View from our room overlooking the Condado coastline
View from our room overlooking the Condado coastline
The terrace at the Condado Vanderbilt hotel&nbsp;

The terrace at the Condado Vanderbilt hotel 

My favorite of the 3 pools at the Condado Vanderbilt&nbsp;

My favorite of the 3 pools at the Condado Vanderbilt 

WHAT TO DO

  1. Explore Old San Juan - The old city is a must-see with its cobblestone streets, colorful buildings and historical fortresses. Get as far away from the cruise ships as possible to truly experience the charm this place has to offer (the area around Calle Sol, Calle San Sebastián, Calle Luna, and Calle del Cristo is wonderful) and enjoy spectacular views from Castillo San Cristóbal. Oh and of course, no trip is complete without getting a custom-made Panama Hat from Ole Curiosidades! (105 Calle de La Fortaleza San Juan)
  2. Visit El Yunque Rainforest - For a little taste of nature, make the 45-minute trek out to the tropical rainforest, the only one of its kind in the U.S. There are many trails for hiking, waterfalls for swimming, or for a little adrenaline rush rent an ATV or zipline through the treetops. (El Yunque Portal Visitor Center, PR-191, Río Grande)
  3. Go Salsa Dancing - To really get a taste for some Puerto Rican spice, get those hips moving at Nuyorican Cafe in Old San Juan and experience some salsa music. Don't worry, a little liquid courage is acceptable. (312 Calle San Francisco, San Juan)
  4. Charter a boat - Whether you prefer hoisting the sails or living the lux life there are several ways to hit the high seas. Options include a private luxury yacht charter around San Juan Bay with Charters Puerto Rico and a group catamaran & snorkel tour aboard the Spread Eagle II to the picturesque islands off the shores of Fajardo in northeastern Puerto Rico.
  5. Experience a natural wonder - Take a kayak through the Laguna Grande bioluminescent bay located off the shores of Fajardo. The bright blue glow emanating from the water at night is worth the hour drive from San Juan.
Colorful buildings along Calle Luna in Old San Juan

Colorful buildings along Calle Luna in Old San Juan

Check out those terraces...so pretty!&nbsp;

Check out those terraces...so pretty! 

Castillo San Cristóbal, one of many fortresses protecting Old San Juan&nbsp;

Castillo San Cristóbal, one of many fortresses protecting Old San Juan 

Shopping for Panama hats at Ole Curiosidades. So many ribbon options!&nbsp;

Shopping for Panama hats at Ole Curiosidades. So many ribbon options! 

WHERE TO EAT

  1. Marmalade - The best of the best that Old San Juan has to offer so don't expect to have a cheap meal here but do expect it to be life-changing. Mediterranean meets Caribbean cuisine using the freshest ingredients. Chef's tasting menus available for a really special occasion. Reservations are a must. (317 Calle Fortaleza, San Juan)
  2. Santaella - One of the most-sought after tables on the island is at this hip, chill restaurant located in the lively Santurce neighborhood. Cuisine is Puerto rican using fresh, local ingredients and the craft cocktails are creative and fun. Reservations are a must. (219 Calle Canals, San Juan)
  3. Aguaviva - Cute little place in Old San Juan with yummy seafood. Order the ceviche sampler with tostones (fried green plantains) and some pineapple mojitos. Que delicioso! Reservations recommended. (364 Calle Fortaleza, San Juan)
  4. Pirilo - Great for a casual night of pizza and beer. Fun atmosphere. Also in Old San Juan. Does not accept reservations. (207 Calle Tanca, San Juan)
  5. Oceano - This is the place for upscale Caribbean dining in a modern, beachfront mansion located in Condado. Snag a table outside for lunch with a view or head indoors for dinner in a trendy, sleek atmosphere. Reservations recommended. (2 Calle Vendig, Condado)

 

WHERE TO DRINK

  1. La Factoria - Delicious craft cocktails in a hip, rustic speakeasy (yes, there are hidden bars in the back!) with great music in Old San Juan. Ambiance gets A++. Order the Lavender Mule and if you're lucky it will be served in a stainless steel mug with a lavender sprig. Best drink all week. (148 Calle San Sebastián, San Juan)
  2. The Mezzanine at St. Germain - Another great craft cocktail bar in Old San Juan that has a more vintage, lounge-like, living room feel to it. This is the place to go if you want a little history with your mojito. Turns out, this place used to be the headquarters for the Puerto Rican nationalist party. (156 Calle Sol, 2nd Floor, San Juan)
  3. La Taberna Lupulo - If you need a rest from all the rum, head to this bar in Old San Juan for a lengthy craft beer list served with some proper 80s tunes to delight the ears. (151 Calle San Sebastián, San Juan)
  4. La Barrachina - The piña colada originates from Puerto Rico and this place in Old San Juan is where it all started. There is a nice outdoor patio to enjoy your creamy coconut and pineapple creation. (104 Calle Fortaleza, San Juan)
  5. Caribar - Located at the waterfront Caribe Hilton hotel in Condado, this place also claims to be where the piña colada was invented. Give both places a try and see for yourself which one does it best. (1 Calle San Gerónimo, San Juan)

 

So the next time you're looking to plan a trip to the Caribbean, consider San Juan. The quick, direct flights make it a great destination for a long weekend or you have more time, spend half of your week in San Juan and the other visiting Puerto Rico's gorgeous islands of Vieques and Culebra. Buen viaje!

Hola from Old San Juan!&nbsp;

Hola from Old San Juan! 

An old lookout point at the fortress in Old San Juan&nbsp;

An old lookout point at the fortress in Old San Juan 

View from the infinity pool at the Condado Vanderbilt hotel&nbsp;

View from the infinity pool at the Condado Vanderbilt hotel 

Cocktails poolside. Cheers!&nbsp;

Cocktails poolside. Cheers! 

The Low-Key yet Lovely Life of SoBe

20160904_122219.jpg

When most think of South Beach, they immediately think of a club scene and bottle service, myself included, but as I learned in my past visit it's actually possible to go to there and take it easy. You can really just go out for drinks at a quiet bar (!!!) and remember the night before hangover-free. I admit I was hesitant at first to leave my relaxing lounge chair at the luxurious 1 Hotel South Beach for the hectic SoBe life beyond resort grounds but I'm so glad I did. In fact I surprisingly enjoyed art-deco land so much that I am already contemplating my return.

As I mentioned in my previous post the main reason I was in Miami was to experience the fabulous 1 Hotel South Beach. In fact, most of our long-weekend vacation was spent lounging but when we weren't enjoying a cocktail poolside under that famous Florida sunshine with the turquoise sea in our view we were eating and drinking (and biking) our way through the streets Crockett and Tubbs used to patrol. If you're looking to maintain a low profile rather than party the night away, here are my recommendations:

 

WHERE TO EAT

27 Restaurant - This eclectic dining room, literally, is part of the Freehand hostel but don't let that deter you. The farm-to-table fare and hip atmosphere is one of the best on SoBe. And it's soooo not typical SoBe, which makes it SoCool.

Beachcraft - No surprises, in a good way, at this Tom Colicchio restaurant located in the 1 Hotel. Similar to its sibling Craft in NYC, expect yummy food in a rustic-chic environment.

Pubbelly - This true gastropub offers delightful small plates with an awesome Asian twist in a lively, sort of hipster space. And its location is off-the-cliche-path, which gives it an advantage in my book.

Bodega Taqueria - A garage that's home to a funky-but-fantastic, casual taco bar in front and a hidden, trendy speakeasy in back. To find the alcohol, just look for a door to the bathroom (but it's really not the bathroom if you get the gist).

Bazaar - For a fancy splurge at a see-and-be-seen place typical of SoBe, hit up this José Andrés Spanish tapas resto inside the SLS Hotel. Let the waiter help you decide on which plates to get, you won't be disappointed.

 

UN CAFE, POR FAVOR

Rosetta Bakery - If you're tired of paying hotel prices for a mediocre breakfast, definitely check out this little Italian espresso joint. Come early for the breakfast pastry otherwise you will be eating focaccia and mini sandwiches for breakfast, which is by no means a bad option at this place.

An authentic caffè macchiato at Rosetta Bakery

An authentic caffè macchiato at Rosetta Bakery

Shepherd Artisan Coffee - A quaint little espresso bar in the Art Deco district that also offers egg breakfasts and acai bowls. A great pit stop when you're exploring the pastel playground.

A refreshing açai bowl at Shepherd Artisan Coffee

A refreshing açai bowl at Shepherd Artisan Coffee

 

HOW TO SPEND HAPPY HOUR

The Pool Bar at the Delano - An iconic palm-tree-lined pool makes for a great backdrop to enjoy your glass of rosé.

No trip to SoBe is complete without a cocktail at the Delano&nbsp;

No trip to SoBe is complete without a cocktail at the Delano 

The Martini Bar at the Raleigh - The pool bar is awesome too but this tiny, quiet bar inside takes the cake. It has a vintage, relaxed feel which is perfect for escaping the craziness.

The Broken Shaker - This hip tiki-inspired bar that Hemingway would've loved is also located in the courtyard of the Freehand hostel and mixes up some of the greatest craft cocktails in the area. Grab a drink before heading to dinner at 27 (see above).

Tiki-inspired, retro, funky decor at the Broken Shaker

Tiki-inspired, retro, funky decor at the Broken Shaker

Matador Terrace at the EDITION - A lovely outdoor sanctuary lightly lit with cafe lights serving up craft cocktails in copper pineapple cups. For a second I forgot I was in Miami.

The lanterns make the Matador Terrace extra cozy, don't you think?

The lanterns make the Matador Terrace extra cozy, don't you think?

The Social Club at Surfcomber - Fun, handcrafted cocktails served in a swanky, artsy spot.

 

WHAT TO DO

Explore the retro Art Deco district which is roughly between 5th and 15th Streets. If there's only one spot you see, make it Lummus Park at Ocean Drive & 7th. This area is quintessential Miami Beach.

Anyone recognize the Carlyle from Miami Vice?

Anyone recognize the Carlyle from Miami Vice?

Tropical Lummus Park at Ocean and 7th

Tropical Lummus Park at Ocean and 7th

Just missed Crockett and Tubbs at the Clevelander Bar…only about 30 years too late!

Just missed Crockett and Tubbs at the Clevelander Bar…only about 30 years too late!

Rent a bike from the numerous CityBike stations and take a ride along the Miami Beach Boardwalk which runs from mid-beach around 46th Street all the way down to the tip of South Beach known as South Pointe Park. Warning: in the summer it can get VERY hot, so morning bike rides are best at this time of year.

The beach at South Pointe Park

The beach at South Pointe Park

#onmybikeride

#onmybikeride

Views from the boardwalk

Views from the boardwalk

Bowl a strike or lace up those ice skates at Basement in the Miami Beach EDITION hotel. Who ever thought you could find something like this in Miami Beach? With a DJ spinning some great hip-hop throwbacks, it was quite the little hotspot even on a Sunday night.

Bask in the sun and go swimming in the aqua-blue sea. I mean after all, this is SoBe! But be on the lookout or the purple flag at the lifeguard stands. Apparently that means dangerous marine life and unfortunately I did not realize that until AFTER the jellyfish stung me.

Miami Beach as seen from our hotel

Miami Beach as seen from our hotel

Lastly when you're searching for a place to stay, it helps to look for hotels on the Northern edge of SoBe, or mid-beach, which is well above the Art Deco district. They are going to be more low-key but still close enough to all the action if you decide to make a night of it. My previous post helps you do just that so be sure to check it out if you haven't already.

If you're looking for a refined, relaxing, beach vacation, definitely consider SoBe rather than rule it out. As I mentioned before, it's totally possible to avoid the raging party scene in a place that's known for its craziness and enjoy it.

Loving the quirkiness of Miami Beach

Loving the quirkiness of Miami Beach