weekend

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

The Low-Key yet Lovely Life of SoBe

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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

I'm baaack & Luxe-for-Less in Miami Beach

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Greetings fellow Jetsetters! It's certainly been awhile but what can I say other than c'est la vie. Life sometimes gets in the way but it's time to get this thing started again. I've got lots to share with you though and hope to provide you with some inspiration for your next vacation. So with that... Miami Beach. South Beach. SoBe. That crazy, crazy place in South Florida that attracts energetic, party-types and bachelorette parties alike. In other words not me. I'm more of a Key West kinda gal. But SoBe happens to be home to the amazing 5-star hotel known as the 1 Hotel South Beach that a friend told me about after she experienced it on her last trip to SoBe. It sounded so dreamy I had to experience it for myself even if that meant going to Miami. With its prime location right on the beach and its 4 pools I had to choose from I didn't even really care if I ever left my lounge chair and ventured outside the resort. (Note: I ended up venturing off resort and surprisingly had a great time while maintaining a low profile, more on that later).

The main lounge at the 1 Hotel South Beach, a gorgeous place to relax

The main lounge at the 1 Hotel South Beach, a gorgeous place to relax

Love the plant life and wood details throughout the hotel

Love the plant life and wood details throughout the hotel

Such coziness in this area off the lobby bar

Such coziness in this area off the lobby bar

Before I go on you're probably wondering why anyone would ever go to Miami Beach in the summer, during hurricane season, and after announcement that Zika spread. Technically it was the end of the summer but regardless, there are a couple of reasons. For one, it's the off season so it's not as crowded, meaning you can pretty easily score reservations to that hotspot restaurant you've been dying to try but could never get a table at. Second, and my primary driving factor, you can afford a room at the luxurious 5-star resorts that would otherwise wipe your savings squeaky clean during peak season. In fact, many hotels do summer promotions and we were able to get our 4th night free. We even received a free upgrade to a suite because the hotel was not at capacity. Something that is hard to come by during prime time February and March!

Let us not forget we are in Florida with this lobby art…

Let us not forget we are in Florida with this lobby art…

Okay, so more about the hotel. The 1 Hotel opened in March of 2015 making it one of the newer kids to the block. It underwent a great deal of renovations to transform it from the Gansevoort into the rustic-chic, gray and white, beautifully-decorated, delightfully-smelling sanctuary it now is. The hotel prides itself on being eco-friendly which means most if not all reclaimed wood you see throughout the gorgeous interior is recycled, the mattresses are made from organic hemp and the sheets organic cotton, the room keys are wood rather than plastic, and a digital device is the chosen medium to deliver hotel information in your room instead of paper. They even claim to use non-toxic, natural cleaning products throughout the hotel. There's an onsite restaurant by celeb chef Tom Colicchio and there's even an organic juice bar in the lobby. I mean, what more could a girl ask for?

Delish fresh juice bar at the 1 Hotel South Beach

Delish fresh juice bar at the 1 Hotel South Beach

Fresh locally-sourced fruit stand in the lobby each morning

Fresh locally-sourced fruit stand in the lobby each morning

When we arrived to the hotel we were a little confused to see all of the lights were turned off and the lobby and lounge were lit by dozens upon dozens of Pottery Barn-esque lanterns. But we quickly learned upon check in that once every month on the night of a full moon the hotel shuts off the lights to conserve energy. They host a full moon party with specialty cocktails on the rooftop, you know, after they lead a yoga and meditation sesh. Pretty unique. I could go on and on about this property but needless to say we were very impressed and quite comfortable during our stay. I'm still dreaming of those Keetsa mattresses...

Sweet dreams are made of these organic hemp mattresses

Sweet dreams are made of these organic hemp mattresses

The standard king room comes with a very large sitting area

The standard king room comes with a very large sitting area

Spacious bathroom with lots of white marble and salvaged wood

Spacious bathroom with lots of white marble and salvaged wood

Deep soaking tub and glass-enclosed shower

Deep soaking tub and glass-enclosed shower

So if you're looking to have a fabulous stay in SoBe without putting (as big as) a dent in your wallet, strongly consider the off-season. Weather will always be a little risky at this time of year but sometimes it's worth the risk for the rewards (did I mention the weather was perfect and the bugs were not biting?) Also, stay tuned for my next post which will be about how to enjoy Miami Beach even if you don't like to party all the time.

FUN FACT #1: I actually asked to be downgraded from my suite to the king room I paid for. While normally I embrace free upgrades, this one I'd recommend against unless you plan on spending a lot of time here. It had a large, fully-equipped kitchen but as a tradeoff the bathroom was small and lacked a soaking tub (um, hello, don't they know I LOVE soaking tubs?) I also preferred the decor in the king rooms to that of the suite.

FUN FACT #2: JetBlue Getaways saved me $500 on this trip for the same exact flights and hotel room I was going to book separately. I wanted to fly into Fort Lauderdale anyway so I could rack up some JetBlue points and just out of curiosity decided to peruse the Getaway option. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that you can pair your FLL flights with hotels in Miami. Definitely check this out, you never know what kind of deal you will score. And if you use your JetBlue mastercard you could earn enough points for a free future flight by simply purchasing this one Getaway package.

Terrariums like these scattered about the hotel

Terrariums like these scattered about the hotel

OTHER HOTELS WORTH MENTIONING

The Miami Beach EDITION - Technically part of Mid-Beach, this place is will be where I rest my head on my next trip to SoBe. Loved the work that boutique-hotel-designer Ian Schrager and hotel giant Marriott did together. The decor was spectacular, the Matador terrace was serene and the bowling alley and ice skating rink in the basement was just amazing. This 5-star hotel is not much cheaper than the 1 Hotel, so I would also recommend this one during the off or shoulder season.

Kimpton Surfcomber Hotel - A little more budget-friendly, this trendy 4- star Kimpton hotel is also a good choice even during the busy season. Its oceanfront location near 17th Street puts you a little closer to the action than the above options.

Nautilus, a SIXTY Hotel - Very tastefully decorated, this 4-star hotel is located close to the action of South Beach but just slightly off the beaten path so that you can comfortably and fabulously stay under the radar at a reasonable price.

The Angler's Hotel - Another stylish 4-star Kimpton property makes another more budget-friendly, good option closer to the action. I love that you can count on Kimpton for that great boutique experience but note that this property is not beachfront (although the beach is a short walk).

Looking down on the beach from the pool area at the 1 Hotel South Beach

Looking down on the beach from the pool area at the 1 Hotel South Beach