Thursday, April 18, 2019

A Locals Guide To Asheville, NC



MY PERFECT DAY

What to do in a place like this if you only have 24 hours?

My perfect day in Asheville would start with a cup of coffee from my very own Nespresso machine located in my room at The Foundry hotel before throwing on my sneakers for a sunrise hike through the Blue Ridge Mountains. Frying Pan Mountain Trail is located just a short 40 minute drive via the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway from downtown Asheville, and boasts some of the most stunning panoramic views the NC mountains has to offer. Alternatively, Craggy Gardens would also make for a great hike if you're seeking something slightly closer. After your hike, head over to Spa Theology for a hot stone massage to relax and unwind from the mornings activities (ask for Nani, she's amazing). Spa Theology is just a 5 minute walk from The Workshop Lounge where you can experience a taste of Appalachian cooking for lunch - the Big ALL-DAY Salad is a must. Grab the hotel's house car for a quick ride over to the Grove Arcade to checkout some local shopping and live music near Wall Street. If arts and culture are more your thing, you could also head over to the River Arts district to check out a diverse selection of local art studios. From here, I would head over to my favorite spot for sunset - The Montford. Grab a craft cocktail here for happy hour, watch the sunset, and then round out your day with dinner at Limones just across the way from the hotel, a local favorite for dinner. If you're not too worn out, venture over to French Broad Chocolates for dessert - the carrot cake and milk and cookies ice cream are worth the calories! 

MY FAVORITES

Workshop Lounge // Lunch and Happy Hour (great craft cocktails)
Limones // Dinner
Curate // Dinner
The Grove Arcade // Shopping
Spa Theology // Activity 









WHERE TO STAY

My Impression

One of my favorite things about The Foundry is the old world meets new world vibe. The hotel is an old restored steel factory turned into a luxurious retreat perfect for all travelers. Natural light pours through the windows throughout the hotel, and the decor is executed perfectly making you feel warm and welcomed from the start while still paying subtle homage to it's roots. The Foundry is tucked away in it's own little corner of downtown so it feels like a secluded private retreat, even though you're just steps away from Asheville's most sought after attractions. Perhaps what stood out to me the most is the great pride in genuine and warm hospitality throughout the staff. Be sure to grab a drink at The Workshop and ask for Jeremy, one of the most talented, helpful and friendly bartenders I've ever met! 

My Experience

The food, live music, art, and outdoors here are incredible! I get more smitten about this place with each visit, and I can truly attribute a large portion of that to the people. The people in Asheville are not only prideful of their city and their local craft, but they are some of the most genuine, open, honest, and kind souls I have ever met. It's truly a breathe of fresh air! It can't go without mention that the food is outstanding! Asheville's food scene has truly stepped up to the plate over the last few years with small local businesses thriving and truly providing an authentic experience. Asheville is one of the only cities left in the country where you can find things, you can't find anywhere else - part of what makes it so charming. 

SHOP THE POST:

Monday, April 8, 2019

5 Fun Things To Do Memorial Day Weekend In The Perfect Swimsuit











* Thank you to Zappos for sponsoring today's post. As always, all opinions are my own.

When I worked at my corporate job, Memorial Day Weekend was always the holiday we all looked forward too being that it's the first major holiday since New Years Day that employers typically allow off. Even though I'm not at that job anymore, every time I look at this Tommy Bahama bathing suit from Zappos it reminds me of MDW! Well, that and the fact that we are already in April and everything we like to do for MDW always requires some advance planning so it's been the topic of conversation amongst hubby and I and our friends these last couple weeks. So, in honor of the blue and white stripes and the fact that summer is only a little over a month away, I am sharing 5 fun things you can do Memorial Day weekend - in this swimsuit.

1. RENT A BOAT 

I'm a water baby! If you didn't already know, now you know. If we don't want to travel, my all time favorite thing to do is rent a boat up on Lake Norman. Sure, it can be kind of expensive but it's less expensive than traveling and we've actually found a pretty economical way to do this on a regular basis. Most boats hold around 12 passengers, so we always gather a group of 8-10 friends and split the cost of the boat. This typically ends up running us $50 a person with gas. Grab a cooler, your favorite snacks, and friends and you're all set for a day of fun on the water. 

2. HEAD TO THE BEACH 

We love a good beach weekend! It's the perfect time to relax, unwind, and celebrate the start of summer with family and friends. We typically rent a house in Charleston or on Kiawah Island and split up the cost of the house with our friends. This is also great for saving money on eating out as you have the ability to grab groceries and cook at home. Additionally, it is a super kid friendly option for those traveling with little ones. 

3. NEIGHBORHOOD POOL DAY 

If you don't have a pool in your neighborhood (we don't), chances are you have a friend who does! This is a great way to spend some time outdoors, enjoy the nice weather, and entertain little ones if you have them at a cost friendly price point (almost free). 

4.  SET UP A PICNIC

What a fun non-traditional way to celebrate a new season of being outdoors. We actually set up a breakfast picnic at the beach in the Bahamas, which is what inspired this idea for MDW. We grabbed a basket, some croissants and jam, a bottle of champagne, and a little OJ along with a blanket, and found a quiet spot on the beach to enjoy the view! If you aren't near a beach, you can easily set this up in a park, at the lake, or even your backyard! It's also a great activity for families with kids!

5. FLOAT DOWN THE RIVER IN A TUBE

Is there any other greater American summertime activity than floating down the river in a giant rubber donut, soaking up the sun, with a cooler in tow? Unless you are totally against having a good time, the answer is no. This is something that's been on my bucket list for years, and an activity perfect for all ages around the country. 

A patriotic swimsuit is must for one of America's biggest celebrations, and with MDW being the unofficial start of summer it's time to start getting beach ready for all these sun and water activities with the perfect swimsuit. For those of us who appreciate a fuller coverage bikini, the one pictured above is perfect for the occasion. It's nice that it pays subtle homage to the American flag, without actually wearing the flag, meaning you can wear this year round! The high-waisted bottoms also serve a great tummy control purpose, because let's be honest - you can't have Memorial Day weekend without snacks. In terms of sizing, I do recommend sizing down at least one size. I am wearing an XS in both the top and bottoms, and do not have a a busty chest.

Overall, this is a great quality swimsuit worth investing in -- and it doesn't hurt that it's comes with free expedited shipping, and a one year return policy. I actually purchase a ton of my clothes from Zappos for this exact reason! They always have items I'm searching for fully in stock, the customer service is on par, I like the rewards program (you can earn rewards dollars towards your purchases), and I know I can rely on it arriving when it says it's scheduled to arrive. So what are you waiting for!? Time to get planning and purchasing! 

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Grand Cayman: The Perfect Anniversary Getaway Destination









Earlier this month, Shane and I finally had a chance to get away for our one year wedding anniversary! Our actual wedding anniversary is on New Years Eve, however, as life would have it - we weren't able to find a time frame to get away that worked for both of us (and made sense financially) until early March. 

With that said, we had an amazing trip with lots of much needed rest and relaxation. For the first time in my blogging career, I decided to put the camera and phone away and really focus on enjoying a real vacation. As a blogger, I feel so much pressure to constantly be creating, sharing, shooting, editing etc. that the thought of taking some time off actually gave me anxiety. I think part of me just truly loves what I do and I see every new location as an opportunity to capture it's beauty, the other part of me just knows the hustle and grind of owning your own business and the non-existence of PTO. If I don't work, I also don't get paid. However, I can be honest with myself in the fact that time off is what my soul really needs in order to continue to feel inspired. I was really missing the true feeling of "no worries" on vacation, and those special moments with my husband. Shane had zero problem holding me accountable, so we went full throttle on doing literally nothing but basking in the sun and glory of vacation. It - was - awesome. So, this is why this blog post looks a little different! All of the pictures in this post were taken with an IPhone in what I like to call "real time." I snapped a few pictures on our walks along the beach, during an excursion, and from our room to send to family and friends. Hope ya'll don't mind the change of pace - but so many of you expressed interest in a recap post of what we did, so I wanted to be able to pull through for you! 

WHERE WE STAYED

 We chose the Ritz Carlton along Seven Mile Beach as our hotel. We've stayed at several Ritz Carltons in the islands, and this was definitely the biggest property we've been too. It's located directly on the white sands of Seven Mile Beach and has pretty much everything you would want out of a resort on vacation. Options range from tennis, a 9 hole golf course, water sports, several pools, a great fitness facility, and a state of the art spa. There are also 5 restaurants on site that range in cuisine. We tried out several of these, which I will list below - but for the most part, the food was great, which is always important to us. We booked an ocean view room for 4 nights, and got the 5th night for free via an offer the Ritz was running when we booked our stay. I highly recommend booking the ocean view if you can - the balcony off the room overlooked the pool and ocean, and was our favorite spot to sit and drink coffee in the mornings. Our room was super spacious with tall ceilings, and the staff at the Ritz was exceptionally friendly and truly happy to be there and serve their guests. 

WHERE WE ATE

Shane and I are both big foodies so we wanted to try as many restaurants as we could while we were in the Caymans! I tend to forget the names of places fairly quickly, so I took notes in my phone of the places we visited, price points, and dishes that really stood out to us. 

Bar Jack $$ // This is the pool bar at the Ritz. We ate lunch here several times, but they are most known for their Pina Colada! I'm big fish taco kind of girl, especially if the fish is locally caught and the blackened fish tacos at Bar Jack are to die for! Highly recommend them. Two alcoholic drinks, and two entrees ran us about $75 total. 

Taikun $$ // Also located at the Ritz, Taikun boasts some of the best sushi on the island. This was Shane's favorite meal of the trip. The Jalapeno Yellowtail Sashimi was excellent, and we also enjoyed the Caterpillar and Tuna Tataki Rolls. If you are a desert fan, you must get the chocolate gelato!! Two drinks, two apps, and two sushi rolls ran us $135 total.

Seven $$$ // Another on-site Ritz restaurant, Seven is the main location for breakfast with a wide spread breakfast buffet as well as an a la carte menu. We liked breakfast a lot here, however, our dinner experience wasn't worth it. Recommend for breakfast, skip dinner. 

Blue $$$$ // Also located at the Ritz Carlton, Blue is the fanciest restaruant on site. This was hands down my favorite dinner of the trip, but also the most expensive. We had heard great things about the food, and decided to splurge a little for a great night of eating and drinking. This is a 4 course dinner with a prix fix menu (there are plenty of options to choose from). I chose the Dover Sole as my main course and was blown away by how good it was, Shane opted for locally caught Snapper and it was hands down the best snapper I've ever tasted. Total cost per person for food is around $150 with tip. 

Lucca $$ // Lucca is an italian spot about an 8 minute walk away from the Ritz. It's much more reasonably priced than the previously mentioned restaurants and the food is decent. We highly recommend the Papparadelle. I forgot to write down our bill total here, but each entree was around $30ish. 

Calico Jacks $ // If you love a good dive bar, this place is for you! It's about a 35 min walk down the beach from the Ritz. If you're facing the water, you're going to walk to the right of the Ritz down the beach. It's a beach bar with onion rings, fries, chicken tenders etc. We had some friends who randomly found it, and insisted we walk down to it. This wasn't really my cup of tea, but if you're looking for inexpensive drinks and bar food - this is your spot. 

Bacarro $$ // Bacarro was about a 10 minute cab ride from the Ritz, and is located directly on the water with outdoor seating. It's a tapas style restaurant that we really enjoyed! The Mahi was the local catch, so we gave it a go and it didn't disappoint. I remember it being more reasonably priced than the hotel as well - but to be honest, this was our last night and both of us had long days on the water with excursions, so we forgot to write down the bill total. I do remember thinking it was a lot less expensive than the hotel options for the quality of the food. The atmosphere here is also really nice. 

WHAT WE DID

As I mentioned above, this was a really laid back vacation for us. We chose to do one shore excursion and we booked a spa treatment, but outside of that we really just spent most of our days at the pool and the beach which is what we preferred this go around. However, if you're coming here and want an action packed vacation, there is an endless array of options and tons of family friendly activities, too. 

The Spa // Definitely worth the price! From an ambiance stand point, the spa is absolutely beautiful. The decor is super modern and elegant, and we essentially had the place to ourselves. We booked a 50 minute couples massage, and both felt like we were in heaven. The massage was exceptionally good, and per usual - too short! Highly recommend checking this out, especially if you're coming for a special occasion. 

Sting Ray City + Snorkel Adventure // This was the only excursion we did, but we are glad we did it! Concierge set this tour up for us via Red Sail Cayman. It left directly from the dock at Andiamo (the pizza spot at the Ritz), so it was convenient in that we didn't need to leave the property to hop on the boat. There are two tour options, one that leaves at 9:00 AM and another that leaves in the afternoon at 1:00 PM. We chose the afternoon tour as we wanted the morning to grab breakfast, workout, and not feel rushed. We had a group of about 18 people on this tour. The first stop on the tour is Sting Ray City which is a sand bar about 4 miles into the ocean where wild sting rays can be seen. We anchored here for about 30 minutes and then moved on to our snorkeling site. Total tour time was about 3 hours.  I could not get over how beautiful the color of the water was during this tour, even if you're not a fan of snorkeling and sting rays - the beauty of the underwater playground alone is nice to look at and a cool experience to see from the boat. 

We will definitely be back! I think the only observation we both made that surprised us was the amount of small children at the resort. In our past experiences, most of the Ritz properties are very quiet and adult focused, however, this property is very geared for families. We also traveled at the start of spring break, which could have played a role in this. The kids honestly didn't bother us, but I know many of you reached out about traveling specifically for a honeymoon, babymoon, or anniversary so I figured it was worth mentioning - and for those of you who do have kids, I think it's great to know it's super family friendly - we will definitely be keeping this in mind for when we start to have children as well. 

My Albion Fit swimsuit in the first two pictures can be found here and here! Use code "CHEEKY15" for 15% off of it. 

SHOP THE POST:

 

site design by kiki and co.