After 36 hours in Nairobi where got a glimpse of Kenya´s Capital City (you can read all about it in my previous blog post), we took an early flight to Masai Mara for the next leg of our African adventure. All the different camps throughout Kenya are connected through small 12 people planes that operate like Uber Pool between the different camps in Massai Mara, they make quick stops at each campsite dropping off or picking up and sometimes you have to wait in the airfield for a smaller plane to pick you up and fly you to your final destination, it´s all part of the adventure and it doesn´t hurt that while you are waiting for your next flight there´s zebras and giraffes hanging around. When we landed we were picked up by our private guide and spotter they were our hosts for our entire stay. I can´t say enough about these two awesome guys who made our experience extra special and super fun! They quickly found out that our family has a dark sense of humor and started making practical jokes, which comes in handy when you spend 8 hours cramped up in a car.
We were not prepared for the amazing level of service we got from the moment we stepped down from the aircraft. The guides had set up a bar right there in the field for us to have a refreshment before heading out for a quick drive to the base camp. We were blown away! I mean I was drinking champagne in the middle of nowhere... little did I know at that time that this was just the beginning of an amazing trip and these amazing people that can turn any remote place into a bar, picnic area or fancy lunch. I still can´t figure out how they can pack some much in those cars. You can literally have lunch and dinner with zebras and wildebeest for company and go to sleep listening to the sounds of the whooping Hyenas and hear lions roaring from your bed (not nearly as scary as it sounds I promise).
We stayed at the Mara Bushtops tented camp nestled in their own private wildlife conservancy in Massai Mara. Upon our arrival at the hotel, the staff and manager greeted us with you guessed it more champagne! welcomed us, showed us everything and immediately made us feel at home. The lobby area opens up to impressive views of the Mara and an infinity pool and from here we went down to see our rooms.
The tents have a deck overlooking the savanna where you can be within 10 meters of a Giraffe, zebras, elephants... you name it! It has a hot tub that your guide can arrange with the hotel so it´s ready for you when you come back from the Safari tired and grubby hahaha.Although is a tent is not your childhood campground, these tents are amazing! Plush king size bed, indoor/outdoor shower and all the comforts of a regular hotel room with the perks of being in the wild. The camp is right in the middle of the reserve so anything can stroll on in; We could hear footstpes and all kind of sounds at night from our tent needless to say wandering around after dark and in the day are a no-no; there’s strict rules when you’re going to and from your room and you’re always escorted back and forth after dark by one of the Masai´s guards which only makes the whole thing feel more exciting.
The camp has a delicious restaurant with a la carte menu and delightful waiters and chef that will always go the extra mile to make sure you are having a great experience. There´s a big terrace outside the restaurant near a salt lick so there´s always different animals around creating the perfect view while you sip south African wine and eat delicious food.
When we booked our trip some of my family members where a bit anxious about the number of days we were going to spend in each camp "doing the same" since we are always used to city trips and being always on the go seeing new things every hour but oh boy were we wrong... once we got into what we called "Africa time" it becomes the most memorable trip of our lives. Every day we will see different animals or the same ones but with a different routine, also the peaceful and quietness that we experienced while in the savannah was unparallel.
Here is what you do on a typical safari day:
Early wake up call so we could catch the predators while having their breakfast. They will give us coffee, tea, fruit juice and cakes before we would head out on our daily game drive. We will then rush to get to the park before sunrise (be there by 5:30 am) so we could spot the lions, lionesses and other predators hunting for food before they went for their nap. Afterward, we will stop and they will set up an amazing breakfast spread, were we could stretch our legs, walk around and take awesome pictures. Once our bellies were full we will continue the game drive and look out for specific animals and work out our hunger for another stop for a bush lunch with crisp white wine and sometimes even a quick nap. We usually would be back at the hotel around 4 pm to rest, use the pool, gym, spa or simply read a book on the terrace. At night we will go to the dinner tent for cocktails and a lavish dinner before heading out back to our tents for a much-needed sleep.
While at the camp we also did a night game drive which was exhilarating and nerve-racking... picture this: pitch black environment in an open side car with a hyena walking right down your car so close you could hear her (I´m pretty sure it was a she LOL) breathing... we only stomached to do the night safari one, they also have night vision cameras so we could see in the built-in screes in the car what type of animals were crossing by.
One of the highlights of the trip was visiting a Masai Village. We had an eye-opening and meaningful experience here. We were received by the "warriors" of the village with dances and the males of our group had to join and afterward, all the ladies of the village welcomed and invited us to dance with them and we all went inside the village. The chief of the village explained to us their magnificent and simplistic life philosophy where the entire community is seen as a family and contributing to the wellbeing of all. We learned how to make fire, did some shopping (amazing craftsmanship) and just spent a wonderful afternoon filled with laughs and love.
We did a sunrise hot air balloon safari which I recommend greatly! Although we had to get up at 3am it was a fantastic experience to see the sunrise from the air and fly above the animals. It´s so quiet and peaceful. I felt like I was transported to this dreamy world where everything stands still for a while.
I´ve probably written a lot of adjectives like awesome, wonderful, incredible and great... because this place deserves all of these and more and I´m no writer so I cannot think of better ways to describe the best trip of my life. The best part of Kenya is its people! Never met more kind, friendly and happy people. I left a part of me in Kenya and I can´t wait to go back!
I´m taking a break from the Africa posts to share with you what I should call the NYC Travel Guide for non-first timers... maybe I should work more on the title ;). NYC is one of those cities that I love going over and over because it has so many layers that there´s always new to discover. I´ve been to NYC multiple times and I feel like I never have time to see everything I wanted to because I get lost in beautifulness strolling through the neighborhood streets and then puff time is up!
My birthday was this past February 28th so my awesome husband gave me as a present what I like the most: a trip! We spent 4 perfect and cold days in NYC. Since we moved to Costa Rica about 9 months ago I´ve been missing the winters so I was more than happy to pack up my coats and boots. Traveling off-season especially to a big city like New York, has many advantages, there´s much less tourists so it is easier to navigate the streets without bumping into somebody every 20 seconds, it is much more relaxed , airline and hotel fares are lower and you can get tickets for most of the Broadway shows, of course, the downside is that it is cold and sometimes the weather won't let you do everything you wanted to.. like biking over the Brooklyn Bridge or biking at all :( but I´ll take that over crowded streets.
Where to Stay
We stayed at ROW NYC hotel which is located two blocks from Times Square long enough to escape all the noise but close to everything. We walked EVERYWHERE from the hotel and and for those rainy days, the subway is only one block away so it´s perfect! Location, location, location! This is a big hotel with the boutique hotel charm that I love the most! When I was searching for hotels and came across ROW NYC I was blown away by their attention to detail in every space, super cute rooms, location and most important a fair price.
ROW has super cool amenities, there´s a food hall named City Kitchen right at the lobby level where you can find everything: from doughnuts to sushi but if you are looking to satisfy your sweet tooth there´s also Sugar Factory with their famous milkshakes, dessert and everyrthing delicious and if you want to burn it all off you can head over to CYC Fitness cycling studio. ROW offers discounts to their guests to all these amenities. We had a great experience at the hotel and waking up to amazing city views from our bed. Check out their website and deals here.
What to do:
As I mentioned before this was not my first time in NYC so we didn´t go to most of the main touristic attractions but rather re-visited some of our favorite and strolled through new neighborhoods.
Top of the Rock: In my opinion is way better than the Empire State Building Observatory. My tip here is to arrive early in the morning to avoid crowds and to get truly spectacular pictures of the city without tons of heads in it. Also, head up to the 69th & 70th floor´s decks first because most people stay in the main observatory.
Grand Central Terminal: come here to appreciate all the architectural details and to grab delicious Danish baked goods at the new Great Northen Food Hall by the famous Danish restauranteur Claus Meyer.
New York Public Library: there´s always cool exhibitions going on plus the building itself is beautiful! Right behind is Bryant Park.
Central Park: every time we come to NYC we make our way here to explore different parts. There´s a Le pain Quotidien Cafe inside which sells the most amazing Belgian Waffles. Our plan was to use the Citi Bikes and burn some of those waffles and explore the northern part of the park but the rain didn´t let us.
Rockefeller Plaza: Stop by Bouchon Bakery to sip coffee and fresh pastries and shop a little bit.
Nolita: We went to a fantastic Food and Culture walking tour of Nolita & little Italy with Foods of NY Tours. We loved it! I´m always a bit hesitant with food tours because they tend to stop only at tourist traps but this one was different. Our tour guide was from Nolita so she walked us through history and we got to try out 6 really good restaurants, those that only the locals know. Totally recommend taking this tour.
High Line: walk around, get amazing views of the skyline on your way to the Chelsea Market for delicious eats. This is one of the sights that´s much nicer in the Spring/Summer but definitely worth a while.
Chelsea Market: Stop by to browse cool stores and sample delicious foods. There are snack type restaurant and seat down ones as well.
Meatpacking District: walk around this area before or after visiting Chelsea Market and the High Line. There are super cool and trendy shops.
Guggenheim Museum: We took advantage of their free admission day every Saturday after 4:00 pm.
9 11 Museum: We took the train and got down inside the Oculus transportation hub shopping mall which is an architectural masterpiece and then headed outside to the museum. It took us about 2 hours to walk around the entire museum and in my personal opinion, it was tastefully done.
Broadway Show: Catch a show and dinner. We went to see the Book of Mormon and it was great! There´s so many good options right now.
Where to eat:
and dinner at Lillie´s which is to die for! the decor
Flora Bar: located in the lower flor of The Met Breuer Museum is this hidden gem that serves tapas style plates and delicious cocktails.
Morimoto: hands down the best sushi I´ve had! In my experience far better than Nobu. It´s located right next to the Chelsea Market. Splurge and get the Morimoto Omakase tasting menu, you won´t regret it.
La Pecora Bianca: in NoMad this is where your instagrams dreams come to life! The place it self is soooo beautiful! and food was delicious!. It is a quaint neighborhood style restaurant.
Lillie´s Victoria Establishment: they had me at Victorian haha. This gastropub it´s located in the teathre district and we came here after watching The Book of Mormon. The decor inside it´s inside! most of their furnishing and decor comes from an 1800´s ballroom in Ireland. Upscale delicious bar food and drinks.
Cafe Boulud: We came here for the pre fix menu lunch, is tucked away on a side street on the Upper East Side.
Le Pain Quotidien: A must for breakfast! Their belgian waffles and avocado toast are the bomb!
Thanks ROW NYC for a lovely stay at your hotel!
This past summer we went on our dream trip and African Safari! We´ve been planning this trip along with my family for over a year and the excitement kept building up!. This trip was definitely one for the books and I have so many experiences and tips I want to share with you that I decided to break it up into three parts: Nairobi, Massai Mara, and The Serengeti.
Let me tell you more about our 36 hours in Nairobi. We flew in from Dubai and landed midday and our next flight to start our Safari at Massai Mara wasn't scheduled until two days later. We stayed at the beautiful and historic Fairmont Norfolk Hotel in the heart of Nairobi. I´m going, to be honest, we were not very excited about our quick stopover in Nairobi because we just couldn´t wait to be in the Safari but I´m glad we got to see it and experience city living in Kenya. They warned us in advance that traffic in Nairobi is brutal so we plan all of our activities in order to avoid being stuck in traffic.
Where we stayed:
Fairmont Norfolk Hotel: it´s centrally located, it´s been in Nairobi for ages and has lush gardens inside and that charming old Victorian Estate feel. What I liked the most was its location since we were close to good restaurants and markets and that one of the best restaurants in Nairobi is located onsite.
We also visited Hemingways Collection Hotel which is located a bit further out from the City Center and is simply beautiful! We went there for a late lunch before our late night flight back home and we enjoyed it a lot! Food was great but more than that the hotel itself has beautiful gardens and an impressive lobby area that transports you to another era. I think this hotel is a better choice.
What we ate:
As usual, this trip was centered around food! I did my research and picked these 3 restaurants and plan our daily activities based on our food schedule. We had a wonderful time, there´s something magical about being on vacation, surrounded by family, good wine and good food! These are the times that as a family we cherish, we always bond around food and wine.
Tatu: this is the restaurant inside the Norfolk Fairmont Hotel which also has a cool bar for pre-dinner cocktails on the porch. We had an amazing dinner here, I think their menu is contemporary Kenyan.American fusion. You´ll find international dishes with a bit of Kenyan flare. We got to try a lot of the dishes on the menu since we were a party of 7 and we all enjoyed every bite of it. My favorite was the lamb chops.
Graze Steakhouse: this restaurant is also located inside a trendy hotel Sankara, I really liked their atmosphere which was hip and cozy. The steak here was to die for!!! We had an amazing South African wine and we ordered different cuts to share with a spread of side dishes to share. I was impressed by the quality of the steaks.
Tamarind: We came for lunch after visiting a super cool market, it´s located in the posh Karen neighboorhood and has a beautiful garden where are the tables are set under umbrellas, at night their service is indoors. I highly recommend coming here at lunchtime and take advantage of the outdoor seating. I still reminisce about our quaint and relaxing lunch here, we were definitely on Africa time as we called it and enjoyed our glasses of wine, the sunshine, and the good company.
Most tour operators recommend to visit Carnivore where you can eat all different types of game meats but after reading some reviews we quickly realize that this wasn´t the best choice for us and I´m glad we went to these other restaurants instead.
Besides eating and drinking we also did other stuff! hahaha, we didn´t want to go to Nairobi´s National Park where you can do a game drive since we were going later to Massai Mara but if you are only visiting Nairobi then I think you should do it so you can get a taste of the wildlife and park is fairly big. We hired a private tour guide to take us around the city and we tailored our day to our likings. We went with DK Grand Safaris and it went great, the tour guide picked us up at the hotel in their super cool safari cars hahaha so we got a taste of how our next 10 days were going to be like. Here is what we visited:
The David Sheldrick elephant orphanage: we, of course, wanted to see the baby elephants being feed which only happens at 11 am every day so we drove around the city first and saw some of its landmarks and then we headed off to see baby elephants :), it takes about 30 minutes all depending on traffic. Your admission tickets its a contribution to the shelter that rescues elephants that lose their mom and they won't survive by themselves in the wild. When 11 am arrives the caretakers bring out the tiny elephants to an area where you can see how they drink their milk bottles. Some of them are still so small that they wear blankets to shield them from the cold weather.. cutest thing ever!
Utamaduni Artisans Market: THE BEST!!!! In this shop, you can find goods from more than 18 different artisan shops, in a clean and organized environment. No haggling here but after you see the quality of the crafts you won´t do it. I love love this place! We found so many cool things for our house, jewelry, and clothing even if you are not playing to buy anything (not sure how haha) it´s a great spot to see. There´s a restaurant inside the property called Makutano Grill that looked very good.
Massai Market: the market changes its location regularly but your tour guide will know where to find it. I really like this experience. The Massai´s have impressive craftsmanship and I bought some many cool things to bring home. The most amazing wire and knitted handbags, blankets and art. Be ready to haggle but also be mindful that this is their main source of income for their families so feel free to buy souvenirs for yourself, family and coworkers so you can contribute.
We took a well-deserved (that´s the lie I keep telling myself haha) message inside the hotel and we called it a day! Nairobi was a bustling city that it deserves a pit stop here so you can understand more about Kenya. One thing is for sure the Kenyans stole our hearts with their warmth and friendliness.
See you soon in Massai Mara!
I visited Dubai about one month ago during the peak of the summer season which means it was scorching hot and I wanted to wear comfortable and breezy pieces! You can read more about it on my previous post where you can find a complete travel guide. Dubai´s weather is pretty hot year round except during the Winter months when nights get chilly.
While researching for the trip I often felt lost in the wardrobe department! I wasn´t sure what was appropriate to wear and be respectful of UAE´s dress code. I couldn´t find a straight answer on what was ok for tourist to wear and since it was going to be pretty hot I was trying to figure out if I could wear my normal summer clothes. There were not many articles about it so I went with my gut and the few guidelines I could find from other fellow travelers. These are the man reason why I decided to post about what I found was appropriate to wear.
Dubai is much more “liberal” than other middle eastern cities and there´s tons of expats and tourists, so you ´ll find a mix of everything. I wanted to be respectful of their culture and also feel comfortable so I opted out to wear some more conservative summer clothes and I always carried a long pashmina with me for when I needed to cover my shoulders and to keep warm when the AC was on full blast.
I found out the since most of the places we were visiting are tourist spots then it was ok to show a bit more skin but without being too exposed. I didn´t have any dress code issues during the trip and found out that people are pretty relaxed about it except at the Mosque where you have to adhere to the strict dress code: covered arms, legs (nothing above the ankle), no tight-fitting clothes, ensure that the fabric is opaque and wear a headscarf. My advice is to refrain from wearing the following:
Here are some options of what I wore:
I paired all of my outfits with sandals and comfy espadrilles for walking around the city although it wasn´t the brightest idea to bring espadrilles to the desert safari since the sand was really hot and it would get everywhere I think the best option would have been close toe espadrilles.
Please let me know if you have any specific questions and I´ll be more than happy to reply back!
This summer we went on an incredible trip to Dubai. We spent 5 wonderful and extremely hot days in Dubai. Oh my was it hot! The average temperature was 48C degrees (about 100F) but as everything, there´s a silver lining to it... there were no crowds, which is a rare exception since there´s roughly 14 million of visitors per year in a relatively small city. Dubai is as extreme, opulent and luxurious as it looks in all the pictures and Pinterest boards I saw while planning our trip. At first, you are not sure in which country you are since only 5% of its residents are UAE national citizens and the remaining 95% are expats from all over the world which I thought it was soo cool and unique.
We stayed at the Ritz Carlton Dubai located in the Marina and it was a great location! Another good thing about visiting during the summer months, the hotels have great deals. This is a beachfront hotel and had amazing views of the coast and the Dubai Eye Ferris Wheel which will be completed in a couple of months. We only ventured out to the beach before it got impossibly warm around 7 am but they told us that in the winter months is very pleasant to be outside.
We were a big group of 7 (my entire family!) and we had a blast. I feel that 5 days was enough for us to see the City and of course there´s always some other nearby attractions that you could add to your itinerary or more time at the beach in the winter months. Below are the highlights of our trip, tips & tricks and of course restaurant recommendations.
On our last day in Dubai, we took a private tour to Abu Dhabi with the same company Dubai Private Tours. We didn´t want to see a lot of the touristy attractions in Abu Dhabi so the private tour was a great choice. We were able to pick departure time and what we really wanted to see. We mainly wanted to see the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque. The one hour trip to Abu Dhabi is totally worth it! The mosque is magnificent! yes, it is a bit of a pain having to cover yourself from head to toe in the blazing heat but it is so beautiful! Every architectural detail was thought through.
Tips and tricks:
If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment and I´ll make sure to address those. I love to travel and plan trips so I would love to be helpful
The last leg of our spring trip to Europe was Ireland. We´ve seen so much before arriving here that we could have easily been let down by the Emerald Island but it was the complete opposite! I was blown away by Ireland´s people, music scene and beautiful landscapes.
We divided the trip in three: city life in Dublin, nature & nightlife at Galway and R&R at Kinnitty Castle. As usual, we crammed as much as we could see in 4 days and I feel that we got a pretty good taste of Ireland by visiting these three different areas. Ireland is pretty big so it takes a while to drive from point A to point B so we couldn´t make it to the Ring of Kerry because it would have taken a good chunk of our time since it is about 4 1/2 hours drive from Dublin and driving the ring itself takes about 5 hours so we left it out for our next trip.
We started our trip in Dublin, where we stayed at Dylan hotel that it is tucked away from the hustle and bustle but still within walking distance from most of the attractions, we found this hotel through Tablet Hotels one of my favorite booking websites for boutique hotels, you can read more about it on earlier post with 5 tips for travel planning . Here what we did in the two days we where in Dublin:
Jameson Distillery: Be sure to book your tickets in advance because it gets sold out. The distillery was recently renovated and it is so cool! The tour starts with a glass of Jameson and Ginger Ale which I was a bit skeptical at first since I´m not a whiskey fan but turns out I do like Irish Whiskey, I guess it is due to my 2% Irish heritage LOL! The tour was short, fun and informative. At the end of the tour, we ended up staying at the bar and ordering another round of cocktails since the place was so cool and had live music.
Temple Bar area, this area is filled with bars, shops, and restaurants. It was already getting dark by the time we got here so we did what the Irish do best; eat and drink at a pub, There were so many to choose from and they all had live music so it was a blast.
Guinness Tour: This is Dublin´s most popular tour so expect crowds. If you are short on time buy one of the tour bus tickets and you´ll get a discount on the entrance tickets. It wasn´t my favorite activity but it was definitely worth a visit. My favorite part was the end of the tour when we got a beer and drank it at the rooftop.
Trinity College and Books of Kells: Be sure to buy the tickets online so you can avoid the long queues. It was fascinating to read the history behind the elaboration of the books.
We also visited: St. Stephen's Green, St. Patrick Cathedral, Grafton Street ( the 5th Avenue of Dublin) where we window shopped and stopped for irish tea and biscuits.
Where we ate: Awesome Shepperds pie at Boxty, Casual dinner at Miss Sue, seafood at The Seafood Bar and delicious french food at Dax
After two days in Dublin, we headed off to Galway! Our driving skills on the opposite side of the road improve drastically (once we got an automatic transmission car LOL) and our journey to Galway about 2:30 hours was a breeze!
We stayed for two nights in Galway at a beautifully decorated B&B owned by previous gallery owners who transformed a 1930´s house in a contemporary design heaven! I highly recommend staying here when in Galway, the owners are amazing, they gave us great tips on what to do, where to eat and shop. They have a fantastic eye for design and all the shops they recommended were super cool. Besides all of the above, their homemade breakfast is to die for! hands down the best breakfast we had in a long time! The Stop B&B is a 5-minute walk from the city center.
Galway´s streets are filled with musicians, pubs, shops, and restaurants. I really like the city´s vibe. On our first night, we walked around listening to several bands, popped in for a pint at a pub while we worked our appetite for our dinner reservations at Aniar. Aniar has one very well appointed Michelin Star and it´s focused on serving food that´s autochthonous from Ireland so everything they use is source locally. I really liked the Scandinavian contemporary look of the restaurant. The food was AMAZING!!! our best meal in Ireland! The Pre Fix Menu won´t break your bank and each course will linger in your senses for a while. The restaurant is very small with about 8 tables so it is very intimate and cozy. A must when in Galway. It takes Irish cuisine to another level.
On our second day in Galway, we drove 1:30 hours to see the famous Cliffs of Moher, We made sure to hit the road early as we wanted to avoid the tour buses that will start arriving after 11 am and I´m glad we did this! We arrived around 9:30 am and there were only a few other cars but like a clock after 11 am the tour buses started to poured in by the minute so the park started getting crowded pretty quick, After seeing tons of pictures of the Cliffs before our trip all I can say is that they don´t do justice to how pretty and impressive it is!
Thanks to our B&B host we made a few pit stops on our way back to Galway, first at Hazel Mountain Chocolate an artisan chocolate factory where we sample some freshly made chocolate, yum!! and later on at Flaggy Shore where we walked around the beach and saw some impressive views! and lastly, we stopped at Dungaire Castle that was also on the way and took a few pictures and hopped back on the car.
We took a quick shower and changed into warmer clothes and went out for a Gin and Tonic at a local pub where I had the most delicious rose water infused G&T! After this, we went to an Italian restaurant il Vicolo that was delicious and packed with locals which is always a good sign!
Make sure to have some extra room in your luggage because Galway has tons of cool little stores that sell cool art, clothing, house accessories and comfy throw blankets.
After two nights in Galway, we started making our way back to Dublin and stop at Kinnitty Castle that dates back to 1209! It´s in the foothills of the Silver Bloom Mountains where you can hike right up from the Castle´s front door. The Castle is magnificent and it checks all the boxes of what I thought a real castle should look like. We wandered around the castle discovering tons of cool nooks and rooms and stopped for afternoon tea at the drawing room. We ate in the dungeon bar and it was marvelous!
The day after we hiked a 5k trail located on the back side of the property that offered great views of the rolling hills and nearby mountains. The grounds of the castle are very well kept and has very nice wild gardens. It was the perfect place to just sit down, read and enjoy the peace and quiet as our trip was coming to an end. Kinnitty is right in the middle between Galway and Dublin so it was a good way to split the journey in two.
I visited London for the first time back in 2013 and ever since then, I´ve become mildly obsessed with everything British. I love their accent and how they can swear and still sound so proper! but most of all I love their traditions and tea time! So going to the English Countryside quickly became one of my top places to visit! Luckily for me, my husband is totally on board with my English cravings, so much that as a joke he gave me for Christmas and Ancestry kit to prove that I have some British in me and turns out I have 4%!! hahaha that´s enough for me!
We went in early May and it was a wonderful time to visit! It was still a bit cold but Spring was in full bloom so everything looked so green and gorgeous! and we were pretty lucky because it only rained one day for about 30 minutes and that was it! As a tip be aware that drivingon the left side is more difficult than it seems, I was pretty relaxed about it until it was my turn behind the wheel ... oh my it´s so scary! I felt like all the cars were going to hit us! and our biggest mistake was to rent out a Manual transmission car, don´t do it! you are already too stressed trying to stay in the right side of th street that you don´t need the added pressure of shifting gears with your left hand.
Everytime I think about the English Countryside I picture those cute Inns or B&B´s in historic houses so finding an awesome hotel was one of my priorities. After researching different locations and hotels I decided on No.131 Chentelham and it was the best decision ever! I swear that this hotel stay made our trip even more memorable and definetely one for the books! Why did I love it so much:
There´s so many cute towns in the Cotswolds that you can easily spend more than a week exploring them all. We visited a handful of towns around Cheltenham and here is my recap:
Day 1: We started off with an awesome breakfast and head off to Burton on the water, strolled around it, shop a bit and had a cup of tea because it was freezing! later on, we continued to Upper Slaughter, Stow on the Wold, Broadway Tower and then we were it just in time for our dinner reservations at the highly recommended one Michelin Starred restaurant at The Wild Rabbit Inn by chef Tim Allen. The food was spectacular! and I loved the rustic and "homey" interior of the restaurant. When we planned this leg of the trip we knew we wanted to have dinner at The Wild Rabbit in so we chose to visit towns that were nearby. I liked that we could stay as much or as little as we wanted in every town.
Day 2: This day I made a "cool" driving loop from our hotel (I have to admit I even put google maps printouts with our routes on the itineraries... LOL. The highlight fo the day was our afternoon tea at Lords of the Manor Hotel, first of all, isn´t it such a proper name for a hotel! I love all the quirky and proper names that the English Countryside has. Having afternoon tea is absolutely a must while visiting England and especially in the Countryside. When I was researching which place to go for tea I came across Lords of the Manor and it was delicious, I felt like we went back in time and all of the sudden we were in this magnificent manor with beautiful views of the rolling hills. We also stopped at Painswick, Bibury which is the most popular town in the Cotswolds mainly because of Arlington Row and the Sawm Inn which is so picturesque!
We were so stuffed after the afternoon tea (we ate it all! we had to) that we had a quick and relaxed bite to eat along with cocktails at the hotel´s bar Crazy 8 and it was the perfect way to end the day. The hotel also has a very nice and cozy living room with a fireplace so we snuggled up on a couch and read for a while before going heading to bed... I must admit basically we were waiting to be less stuffed to go to our room and eat the homemade cookies and cocoa.
Day 3: After lots of scary and stressful driving through the winding roads we decided to stay at Cheltenham and explore one of the biggest cities in the Cotswolds. We took a leisure walk around the multiple parks and headed to the main street that´s filled with cute shops, restaurants, and pubs. We ate lunch at a local pub and had the most amazing meat pie! We then rented bikes to explore the outskirts of Cheltenham and biked to Ellenborough Park hotel about 20 minutes ride. This hotel is housed in a 15th century renovated estate surrounded but perfect manicured grounds! The hotel itself is worth the visit but we, of course, came here for Afternoon Tea. We got a little table in one of the hotel´s nook and it felt so private and decadent.
We had a pre-dinner cocktail at a nearby bar, and walked to the star of the trip, dinner at Le Champignon Sauvage, this two Micheli Starred restaurant is managed and ran by the chef David Everitt-Mathias and his wife Helen, when you see it from the outside you wouldn´t imagine the quality of the food and service that awaits inside. From start to finish they made us feel at home in this restaurant the food speaks for itself! We had a terrific time and we quickly found out why they have two well deserved Michelin Stars. Helen took great care of us and made our meal memorable. This was by far the best meal of the trip and I highly recommend coming here when you are in the countryside.
Some pictures of the deliciouse food we had a Le Champignon Sauvage, got caught up in the moment and forgot to take pictures of all the courses but trust me when I say it was amazing food!
One of the things I love the most is to to plan a trip! It gives me so much joy! I must say I´m an excesive planner haha I will usually make a detailed itinerary on excel and write down everything... from the big things: flights, hotels, restaurants, etc. to the small details like how to get to and from the airport, distance between the things we are going to see and an approximate cost of every activity but I know not everybody is as crazy as me! So I wanted to share some of the websites and tips that I usually use when planning a trip.
When I plan a trip sometimes I already know the destination but other times is more flexible and it is based on number of days off, weather or if we find a great deal! Planning trips is my hobbie LOL. Sometimes I´ll start rough plans of trips that I want to do and then once they become more "real" I get going with the small details.
Here are my travel tips:
Hope this was helpful and let me know if you have any other questions! Happy Travels!
This past May we had 24 hours in Paris in between our flights and since we´ve been in Paris before so we were not pressed to see all the major sights: Eiffel tower, Champs Elysees, Arc du Triumph and so on... but if you only have 24 hours and it´s your first time visiting I highly recomend taking one of the hop on hop off buses this way you can see them all in a short period of time.
This time we wanted to stay in a smaller more local neighborhood were we could walk everywhere, see a different side of Paris and pretend to be parisians for a day. While searching for hotels I came across Hotel Magenta 38 and it was fantastic! The hotel is located in Gare Du Nord where you can easily walk to lots of neighborhoods and Cana St Martin. This boutique hotel has trendy scandiavian inspired decor and lots of perks for the customers. There´s daily craft beer happy hour, Nespresso machines, amazing breakfast and lovely rooms. As soon as you step in you realize you are not in the typical chain hotel. This hotel was just down my alley: distinctive decor, nice perks, and cheerful environment. I usually prefer to stay at Boutique hotels because they have more charm and personality. Also, it doesn´t hurt that it was budget friendly.
After we checked -in and dropped our bags we grab a map from the helpful front desk/concierge and hit the streets. We didn´t have to walk too far (half a block LOL) to find our first stop: Cafe Le Bistro a nice and very parisian café that we read great things about. It´s everything we were looking for,.. small, quaitnt, not touristy and good no frills french food. We had had a glass of wine, onion soup and mussels and fries yum!. While we sip wine we planed the rest of our afternoon before the best part of the day: diner at Frenchie! but I´ll tell you more about later on. Here is a quick glance of where we strolled in the afternoon:
The highlight of our trip was diner at Frenchie by chef Gregory Marchand! we´ve been looking so much forward to trying it out. It is a small restaurat tucked away in a cobble stome street at Rue Du Nil. They offer a 5 course tasting menu with wine pairing for 125 Euros, a steal for a 1 michelin star restaurant. I love to be surprised by the chef and not having to think about what to order. The meal was marvelous and the setting was romantic and cozy.
Next morning we had a few hours before our flight so after breakfast we headed towards Le Marais district. This area has tons of cool cafes and shops. We stoped for a quick capuccino and at several shops where we bought lots of things for our house.
Then it was off to the aiport to stock up on macaroons for the short flight to Copenhaghen. Au Revoir Paris!
Whila planning the second part of our honeymoon we were looking for different tickets and routes to Europe since we wanted to go to the English Countryside and Ireland (I´ll share those in another post later), I came across with a budget freiendly option with Iceland Air that includes a free stopover in Iceland for up to 7 days! How amazing! Iceland had been in my buckelist for a loooong time so this was perfect! Sadly I made a rookie mistake and tought two days in Iceland would be good but no... I wished we could have stayed at least 4 to 5 days but on the bright side we know have an excuse to visit Iceland again. Iceland is a very big island and it takes a while to get from point A from point B so I definetly recommend staying at least 4 days so you can explore more areas of the island.
We stayed in Reykjavik in a small and quaint hotel nothing fancy at all but since we were going to be out most of the day it didn´nt make sense for us. It is centrally located so we walked both nights to Laugavegur street where most of the restaurants and shops are. 22 Hill Hotel was recently renovated and the rooms were big and comfortable. Here are a few tips about Iceland:
Here is our packed itinerary (it wouldnt be us othwerwise LOL):
Day 1: Golden Circle
Our flight landed at 6:30am we picked our rental at the airport and drove 40 min to Reykjavik dropped our luggage and headed off for breakfast. Iceland has some of the best baked goods I´ve tried! I would give it a thrid place (1. Denmark, 2. France... LOL in case you wanted to know!). We went to Sandholt Bakarí and it was delicious! We had a hard time trying to decided what to order. We ordered an assortment of pastries, croissants and of course Skyr, Iceland´s famous yoghurt,
The Gold Circle is a route between Iceland´s most iconic sights and it is also the #1 tourist attraction. Since we came here in April there were not many tourist as in the summer so it was all good!. The roads are mostly desserted so it´s pretty easy to drive around. If you only do quick stops it will take about 5 hours, we did it in 9 since we took our time in every stop and took some extra ones for lunch and snacks :).
Thingvellir National Park: this is a UNESCO World Heritage Center and a great place for history nerds hahaha but also for nature and photography lovers as all Iceland. There´s walking trails in different lenghts that you can take depending on your time.
Geysir: Strokkur is Iceland´s most famous geyser and it lives by it´s fame. It is very active and it is very fn to walk around. There´s also big restaurant and shops accross the street that offers cool wool products and awesome food. This was the best of all we saw in all the stops.
Gulfoss Waterfall: this places is juts marvelous! I saw lots of pictures of this waterfall in the summer but I must say I liked the contrast of the water and ice that we got to see. A must see!
Kerio: This is a volcanic crater lake and the pictures don´t do justice. The colors and the emerald green of the water are just out of this world.
We drove back to the hotel and the scenary changes so quickly that you are never bored! I´m not a huge fan of driving long distances but this trip went by so fast. After much delibaration we decided to go to Ostabudin for dinner, this is a cheese and gourmet products store that also has a tiny restaurant next to it with about 6 tables This dinner was one of the highlights of our trip! The restaurant is cozy and warm, food was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. We loved everything about it! We ordered a meat and cheese plate that included puffin, goose and creamy cheeses, for the entree we shared the goose confit with game meatballs and I still can savour the mix of flavours of the different meats and the awesome port wine sauce. For dessert we had a skyr mouse with berries so simple and so perfect. This was the perfect way to end the day while sipping red wine. This meal turned out to be one of the most memorable of our 3 week long trip.
Day 2: Glacier Hiking
It was so hard to choose between all the different tour options available... oh men! This is why I wished we could have stay at least two more days. A friend recommended Guide to Iceland as a portal to find the different tours and tour operators and t was great help! They help us to map out our routes and gave us good advice. We decided to do the Skafatell Ice Climbing and Hiking with Troll Expeditions and it was absolutely amazing! Our guide was awesome and we were the only one´s that day so it was our own private tour. The glacier is breathtaking and it was very cool to see hundreds of years old ice. Ice climbing was more challenging that I was expecitng but it was exhilarting and super fun! I´m glad we chose this tour because it gave us the perfect mix between adrenaline rush and peaceful views from the glacier.
After our glacier tour we hit the road towards Reykjavil and make a couple of stops on the way. The first one was to pet the icelandic horses... they are so freakin cute! LOL and to see the impressive Skógafoss Waterfall! Skógafoss is one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland, with a drop of 60 meters and a width of 25 meters, and you can walk right up to, but be prepared to be drenched. It is just overwhelming standing next to it.We climbed up the stairs to get another view pont from the top and there´s a hiking trail from there on that looked promising.