Milan, Italy | Photo Diary

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The moment when I realized I’d left my cell phone on the table was a moment that was full of emotion–first silently and then loud. Profanities bounced off the walls of our tiny AirBNB apartment as I paced and retraced my steps of the afternoon in my brain.

Finally after going through my mental rolodex of curses, I determined that the only place it could possibly be was at the tavern with the slightly-too-sweet tiramisu. We were all the way back across town in our apartment and for a moment I thought “I can do this trip without my phone.” Then reality swung a punch and I realized “no, you absolutely cannot you fool.”

With a pit in my stomach and eyes to the ground I saw the pavement blur by as began to run (with little to no dignity or faith and a shortage of breath) to where I hoped my phone still remained.  Back down into the metro I’d go, barreling onto the train and then back off again; speed walking under the shade of the duomo, across the piazza, down the narrow alleys and finally stumbling into the kitchen of the tavern.

I probably could’ve come across less panicked (it probably seemed like I’d left my child there) but the servers understood, even through my broken Italian, what was going on. After the longest two minutes of my life, the owner finished his phone call, reached behind the counter and handed it to me with a smile. I have never been so happy in my life. Bless you sweet, sweet Italian man. May you be forever blessed with lots of happy customers to your restaurant of checkered tablecloths and delicious lasagna. Please take care of your bee problem on the patio. Sincerely, Lauren.

There will never come a day when Italy does not hold a special place in my heart. Since my first visit there in 2011 I’ve known that the Italian lifestyle is one I can get behind. Schedules are more relaxed, there’s always pizza (or calzones), sentences sound like songs rather than statements, being surrounded by centuries old architectures with one million stories to imagine, dinners that run late into the night, wine continually flowing and.. the men. The Italian men, ya’ll. My kryp-to-nite.

 

And next time I’m in Italy? The south. I’m aching to see the Amalfi coast, Sardinia, and the secret panini places hidden in alleys in the smallest towns. They’re always the best.

Speak to you soon!

 

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24 Hours in Vienna | City Guide

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Guten Tag! While I’m currently writing this blog from my couch in Milan, I only arrived here from Vienna yesterday. Finis (my best friend) and I spent a few really lovely days there and I was so excited to share what we saw and did! Even though we were there for four days, I thought I’d narrow it down and tell you about our favorite things in the form of a 24-hour guide for Vienna.

Vienna is in eastern Austria and has a history rich with culture and wiener schnitzel. The home of several renowned artists and political figures, there’s definitely a lot to see within the city. These days, Austria’s bustling with locals and tourists alike. A destination for viennese culture, lovers of classical music and adventure–Vienna is worth a visit.

ACCOMODATIONS:
While Vienna does offer a lot of hotels, we opted to go with airBNB for our time there. We stayed in a really lovely apartment (found here) that was a five minute walk from the Museumsquartier and the Naschmarkt. This was a great area to be in because of how accessible it was to those spots, but also for how close it was to the metro.

*I definitely recommend airBNB for wherever you may be going! It’s a great way to stay somewhere cool for likely an affordable price*

24 HOUR GUIDE:
MORNING
EAT: European breakfast often consists of coffee and a pastry or toast (perhaps with ham or cheese), and that was also the case with Austria. Our favorite place we went was called Cafe Sperl, located near the museumsquartier. The dark wood interior of the room juxtaposed with the light flooding in through the windows made for an elegant but comfortable atmosphere. We sat down at a table near the front door and perused the menu; I decided on the apricot cake (house made) and a latte. Within minutes our table was decorated with beautiful pastries and coffee presented to us on a silver platter. The cafe offers newspapers for its guests, as well as free wifi, and is a charming place to spend a morning.

*YOU SHOULD TRY: Wiener Apfelstrudel | Viennese Apple Strudel.

DO: After grabbing some morning fuel, head over to the Museumsquartier for some culture. The huge square behind the gates is a great place to relax. We visited the Leopold museum: “…one of the world’s most important assemblages of Austrian art. At the heart of the collection are masterpieces of Viennese Art Nouveau, in particular by members of the Vienna Secession founded by Gustav Klimt, and representative works of Austrian Expressionism” -MQ website

The mumok (modern art) looked awesome, although we didn’t get to visit that one. I also heard really great things about the Albertine Museum and the Freud Museum (in a different part of town)  Across the street from the MQ is the national library and it is gorrrrgeous. Floor to ceiling with all the books you can imagine. Definitely block out some time for that as well.

AFTERNOON:
EAT: From the MQ, the Naschmarkt is only about a five minute walk. After sashaying down the aisles of fresh product, local goods and pastries, find a restaurant to stop in for lunch. The variety is vast, spanning everything from traditional Viennese cuisine to Japanese to Italian. If you can’t find something you like within the market there are a lot of delicious options on the streets bordering the market as well.

DO: Hop on the metro and head over to the Leopoldstadt district to visit Prater, an amusement park. The park is most known for it’s giant ferris wheel, but there were some other gems in there as well. Not only are there rides, but there are games and biergartens galore inside the gates. Note: if you don’t like clowns…look out.

Afterwards, jump on back on the metro and head to Stephansdom (St. Stephen’s). This gothic/romanesque cathedral is gorgeous on the inside, but the multicolored roof is a conversation starter in itself.

The cathedral is located in the first district of Vienna, Innere Stadt, which is home to important historic landmarks such as the Erzbischöfliches Palais, the University district (lots of bars and restaurants here), the Burggarten and the Volksgarten, the Palais Pallavicini, the Hofburg palace and SO many other things. Just strolling around (with a map…or a guide) will give you an amazing taste of austria’s history and culture.

Shopping is through the side streets, but most notable on the Kärntner Straße and the Graben.

EVENING:
EAT: While we were headed to the grocery one day we passed a restaurant that had a killer interior called Mark’s, and vowed to go back for dinner. We kept our self-promise and made our way back that night; upon sitting down at a table on the outside patio I knew we had made the right choice. I ordered a spritz (always über refreshing) grilled calamari atop lavender risotto+vanilla butter with a garnish of baby carrots. The flavor isn’t even something I can talk about because of how interesting and delicious it was! Finis ordered the Salmon and it was divine; served with an israeli cous-cous and a bacon, olive jam. Wunderbar.

DO: Vienna is full of exciting nightlife that appeals to a variety of different scenes. Unfortunately I was working most evenings so I had to skip this part, but I did run across a really killer guide with more advice on that topic here.

OTHER CITIES ON MY AUSTRIA BUCKET LIST:
• Salzburg
• Innsbruck

(Hopefully some day I’ll be able to check those out.)

In the mean time, as I told you, we’re in Milano now indulging in the three p’s of Italy: pizza, pasta and paninis. We’ve done some exploring today so I’ll have updates to you soon!

 

Ciao!

 

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Seattle Catchup | Sunday Favorites

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One week ago today I was on the last leg of my cross country plane trip to Seattle–my new home. Countless ideas and questions were swirling around my brain like chocolate-vanilla soft serve ice cream about what work would hold within it’s first week and how different city life would be. Would I be able to keep up?

After a week of getting into the swing of my routine, learning the bus route, meeting my co-workers and falling in love with Seattle side-street by side-street that initial nervousness seems silly. There hasn’t been a hiccup to speak of and I’ve been meeting new people and seeing new places every day. A few of my favorites so far:

1. Cafe MOX– Yesterday we adventured into the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle to check out a cafe called MOX. Within moments of walking through the doors you get the gist: an excited buzz of conversation, wall-to-wall tables whose chairs are all filled, a coffee and beer list on the wall and sprawled across the table tops? Games. Board Games, Card Games, Strategy Games, RPG Games…ALL KINDS. Cafe MOX is a gaming parlour that definitely makes for an entertaining Saturday night. I ordered a chicken + white bean hummus naan sandwich and my friends and I decided on playing Pandemic. The service is great, the patio is wonderful and attached to the restaurant is a store called Card Kingdom where you can purchase any of the games that are available to play (or take part in a tournament if you should so desire). Check it out!

2. Smith- Brunch is one of my favorite things, so I was excited to try out Smith in Capitol Hill for my first official one in Seattle. Once we sat down and scanned the menu I knew we had chosen the right place: zucchini scramble with basil, homemade waffle with washington cherries and whipped cream, chicken and waffles, pomegranate mimosas…perfect. I went with the zucchini and basil scramble that was on special and a hot mug of Stumptown coffee. Across the table was an order of a spectacular eggs benedict for Finis and the Chicken and waffles for Travis; nothing came close to disappointing us. The decor in Smith is a conversation starter, as well. One one wall you’ll find a variety of old, painted portraits, from Kennedy to poised women with ambiguous identities, and on the other? Taxidermy trophies (deer and pheasants to name a couple). Definitely worth the walk.

3. Fremont Coffee – Known for their unique latte art, sometimes featuring either Darth Vader or a skull, Fremont coffee has become a staple in my work week. Whether it be for a quick Americano on the patio with a few spare morning moments or a meeting with my co-workers I’ve always felt welcome there. The prices are good and the coffee punch card gives you further incentive to quickly go from first-timer to regular. Great vibes, great baristas, great coffee.

4. Coconut La Croix – The weather on this coast is inching pretty closely to fall, so for me the final drops of summer are going to come straight from this can. La Croix is flavored, sparkling water that doesn’t have a lot of sugar but does have a satisfying amount of flavor. They’re inexpensive, but so far not the easiest to find. I take one whenever I can get my hands on it.

5. REI – I think a lot of you probably know how great REI is, but I just jumped on the bandwagon this week. Aisles upon aisles of anything you could need for outdoor activities await you. The Seattle location is the flagship store, so to see what makes it special you’ll just have to visit for yourself.

Looking forward to sharing more of Seattle with you all! I leave for Europe a week from today and would love to hear any suggestions about things to do in Vienna, Milan, Cannes and Paris.

 

Speak to you soon!

 

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Concrete Jungle | Cincinnati Photo Diary

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Wanted to share a few more photos from my trip to Cincinnati OH last month. I’ve got on more entry to the photo diary to post, but then it’s off to the beach!

Posting has been a little sparse recently and here’s why: things are so crazy that I feel I may be actually going I N S A N E. Between moving, tying up loose ends in Nashville, getting ready for the beach next week and then heading up to Seattle immediately after that–my head is spinning. So much excitement and adventure awaits!

But I’ve got to admit, my week at the beach that’s on the horizon is what’s keeping me going right now.

I’ll get a (late) playlist up just as soon as I get some time.

 

Have a great week!

 

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Findlay Market | Cincinnati OH City Guide

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Top 10 Reasons you should visit the Findlay Market in Cincinnati:

10. Buckeyes. If you’ve been to Ohio before, then it’s probably been recommended to you to try these sweet, ohio-specific, treats. Buckeyes start out with a creamy, peanut butter center that is dipped into chocolate which then hardens into the perfect shell. (It’s better than Reese’s, guys.)  Not only are there buckeyes available, but other sugary surprises like macaroons, homemade fruit tarts, and SO many cookies.
9. Fresh Flowers. One of my favorite parts of any farmer’s market are the buckets of fresh flowers set out for people to admire and purchase. The bright colors are so hard to resist and the temptation to buy some for the table is always too much to fight. The cool thing about the Findlay market was the selection of air plants and unique, decorative plants. I was really taken with this little fellow who had purple chiles growing off of it’s vines and I hope to find another one like it some day.
8. Butchers. You’ll never have more desire to throw a backyard end-of-summer BBQ than you will when you see what these guys have got for you. So many brats and steaks that looked like prime cuts.
7. Produce. There was such a wide variety of fruits and vegetables available at Findlay! I was truly impressed by how many different things each of the venders was offering.
6. Local artisans. On Saturdays at the market the fun spills out the doors of the main building and into an outdoor area that houses artists from all over the city! You’ll be able to find cool mementos, decor and vintage items that you otherwise might be rare to run across.
5. Belgian Waffles. I was specifically told to find “the waffle place” in the market, so you better believe that (after finishing a slice of to-die-for bacon+spinach quiche) that I did. The menu was written on a chalkboard hanging on the wall above the waffle irons: nutella waffles, waffles with fresh fruit on top, crepes…all of it sounded like the best decision. I settled on one with fresh fruit and a dollop of whipped cream. The verdict: delicious. The texture was a marriage of crispy, sugary cinnamon roll and hot, crunchy waffle.
4. You’ll feel like you’ve somehow escaped to Europe. Surrounding Findlay Market are streets lined with houses that are painted in the brightest of hues. Flowers cascade out of window boxes making the buildings, that were once run down, come to life.
3. Cheese. One of the first food counters I saw inside the market was selling fresh cheese. This wasn’t your ordinary cheese display case, though; it was filled with cheeses from all OVER. Through the glass I saw manchegos, bries, mozzerellas, goudas, parmeseans…all sourced locally or from around the world. The selection offered was diverse, the man behind the counter was well-versed and the overall prices were super affordable, just in queso you were wondering.
2. The History. Findlay Market was built in 1852 and has been a running market since 1855. Throughout the market bits of history are inlaid within the mosiaics, the table tops and the walls themselves.
1. People watching. Get yourself out there on a Saturday, grab a coffee and watch the floodgates of Cincy burst wide open with people from all over: parents and kids, out-of-towners, farmers,  old, young, artsy, business, everyone from everywhere. Local musicians performing their sultry saxophone solos on corners and the hum of friendly conversation make up the perfect background noise for such a diverse and bustling place. Sit there all day if you want, not a second of it would be wasted.

One more Cincy recommendation and a full city guide coming to you later this week!

Speak to you soon!

 

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Krohn Conservatory | Cincinnati, Ohio City Guide

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Cincinnati may boast beautiful architecture and an up and coming restaurant scene, but it also boasts some of the most beautiful parks I’ve been to. After spending the morning snaking through the city’s allies, Rachael and I were longing for something a little more alive than a concrete jungle, so we opted for a real one instead.

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Krohn conservatory is a greenhouse, about five minutes from downtown, that houses over 3,500 plant species from around the world. The building, another example of the recognizable art deco style that so boldly ornaments many other buildings in the area, is fully glass and surrounded by an army of flowers dressed in every color of the rainbow. The conservatory is a site in itself, but it sits right in the middle of several other parks worth spending time in, as well.

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I think my favorite part  was either the room full of succulents or the room with tropical vegetation. If you know me at all, then you know how I feel about desert plants–I have five and they are my nearest and dearest friends plants; so you can imagine the amount of time I spent oggling the many species of cacti and aloe. The tropical room housed so many bright colored, interestingly shaped flowers that I was simply entranced by it all. I know this post has a lot of photos, but really…this wasn’t even the half of it.

Highly reccomend checking out the Krohn conservatory if you’re in Cincy! Beautiful way to spend a day (especially a rainy or hot one). More tips on visiting the city/photos come in the next week!

 

Speak to you soon!

 

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Metropole | Cincinnati Ohio City Guide

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While I was in Cincinnati last weekend I had the opportunity to try out a lot of new food and drinks. By far my favorite restaurant that we visited (and the only one we went to more than once) was Metropole. Metropole is located inside the 21c Museum Hotel in downtown Cincinnati.

Conde Naste Traveler Readers Choice Awards put  21c in Cincy as the number one hotel in the US right now (and 11th in the WORLD), so needless to say I was anxious to pay it a visit. The building is in the art district of downtown, next to the Contemporary Arts Center and adjacent to the Aronoff Center for the Arts, and used to house the Metropole Hotel which opened in 1924. The hotel doubles as an art gallery and houses rotating exhibits on several of its floors. So cool.

Walking in I immediately knew we were in another one of Cincinnati’s restored 1920’s buildings by the mesmerizing terrazzo tile flooring and colorfully carpeted spiral staircase that corkscrews through the center of the hotel. Though I didn’t see one of the rooms, I can only imagine how fantastic they are.

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The restaurant in the hotel, keeping the namesake of the landmark, was just as spectacular. Natural light poured through the arch-framed windows and spilled onto the dark wooden table tops and illuminated the golden, bell jar lanterns hanging from the ceiling. We went for brunch and menu was simple, but the flavor profiles were incredibly interesting and the dish presentation was immaculately executed. We went for the olive oil poached tuna, avocado toast and the burnt carrot salad.

Spoiler alert: we had to keep taking pauses during lunch to talk about how good everything was. Or to just exclaim, “YUM,” or just  “MMMM.”

But onto more important things: the cocktail menu. Not only was the food exquisite, but the cocktails are what we returned for in the evening. I tried the Phil Collins and the Annie Hall (both Bulleit bourbon based), and also had a sip of the Vespa (gin+vodka with a hint of cucumber and lavender). The Phil Collins was my favorite. Must have been the notes of cilantro or the guava bitters. I wish I could drink one every day (without having a problem).

If you’re in Cincinnati I definitely recommend checking 21c/Metropole out. Not only is it an award winning hotel, but Metropole just won best restaurant in Cincy as well. Get going!

I’ve got so many more photos/places to share, but it wanted to break it down into digestible bits. Be on the lookout for more.

 

Speak to you soon!

 

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Upcoming Travels | September Euro Trip

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Although we have just stepped over the threshold of July, come September I will be stepping over the threshold of Western Europe. This has been a crazy year for me as far as travel goes, and when one more opportunity for 2014 fell into my lap I couldn’t very well turn it down. My best friend, Finis, and I will be going on a three week adventure into Austria (Vienna and Salzburg), Italy (Milan and Lake Como), and France (Cannes, Monaco, Reims, Giverny and Paris). We spent days working out our itinerary, but really what does it matter because our every move will be probably be dictated by things like cake…and wine.

We opted to stay in AirBNB apartments as opposed to hotels and we’ve both got a travel style that tends to lean towards taking each day and experience as it comes. We also have a mutual love for bread so there will probably be a new Instagram hashtag starting called #thedailybaguette.

Oh also we’ve got floor seats to see Beyonce in Paris, but that’s a story for another time.

Traveling is one of the things my heart b e a t s for. This year I’ve seen more countries than I could’ve imagined and more of America than I could’ve imagined, too. We’re only halfway through 2014, but it’s one for the books.

So excited to share everything with you guys!

 

Speak to you soon!

 

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follow me on instagram at @lacunnigham 

Charleston via Iphone | Photo Diary

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1. My first impression of Isle of Palm was surreal. After being on the road all day ALL I wanted was the sand and the surf. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the salty air was the elixir that would get me through the rest of day.

2. Brunch at Toast! Of Charleston. I went to Toast twice; the first time offhandedly and the second was planned. My first trip there I was there during Sunday brunch. After doing a quick sweep of the menu I decided on a mimosa and a dish called Eggs on Meeting Street: a poached egg perched on top of a crab cake and a fried green tomato with remoulade and the most pillowy biscuit I’ve ever eaten…divine, okay? The company at Toast wasn’t bad either.

3. There was tile work everywhere in Charleston, especially on Kingstreet. Talk about a city with attention to detail.

4. Because, once again, I could not get enough of the beach. One of the best parts of the trip was just grabbing a quick picnic at whole foods and camping out on the sand until the sun went down. People watching was on point–but mostly I was excited about the puppy watching.

5. Black Tap coffee was entirely too charming and delicious. An iced coffee there was the perfect break to walking around in the hot sun all day (and also a break from a chapter in the story called: I locked my keys in my car. Woops).

6. Breakfast in bed because the berries were too vibrant not to capture.

7. Sunny flowers on rainy days.

8. My trip down to Charleston was a self proclaimed #coffeeroadtrip. I stopped at a stop in Chattanooga and a shop in Atlanta. The shop in Atlanta was called Octane and it was by far the smoothest cup of Ethiopian coffee I have ever had. Octane is a café and a bar, so needless to say I can’t think of any better place to be watching the World Cup right now.

9. I could’ve strolled down King Street alllllll day. And I did. And I got a really unappealing sunburn (pun intended)…(the pun is always intended you guys).

10. Another shot of the sunset over the sea at Isle of Palm. Perfection.

11. Milk and Honey was the other shop I stopped at on my way to Charleston. Before I had even gone inside I was in love. How can you deny such a cute store front? The inside was just as charming with the same honeycomb tiling and beautiful typography all over the walls. I’m crushing haaard on their branding. (And also their honey latte was the sweetest of treats).

12. Being on the beach alone was never lonely. No, it was really introspective for the most part. Just taking time to really absorb how the waves work and and massive it all is. It’s crazy. I recommend taking a personal moment or ten by the waves some time. You’ll get more sorting out done in your brain that you bargain for.

All of these photos were from my instagram which you can follow at @lacunningham!

I also updated my personal portfolio today and I would love for you to go take a look!

 

Speak to you soon

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Kentucky Bourbon Trail | Map

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I remember someone once told me that if you want to know more about something, you should surround yourself with it; if you want to learn French, go to France; if you want to know about art, visit as many galleries as you can; and if you want to know about Bourbon-Whiskey, go to Kentucky. So (you better believe) I did.

On the way up to the cabin, since we would be driving through bourbon country, we decided to make a stop on the Bourbon Trail–AKA the region that America’s best distilleries call home. After much debate on where to start we decided on Woodford Reserve in Versailles* Kentucky(there was really no competition, let’s be honest).

*Pronounced “VER-SALES” if you’re a native and also if you don’t know what France is.

The tour through the distillery was about an hour long and took us through each stage of the bourbon process from cooking to consumption*. The Woodford distillery is the oldest around in the states; it was built some time in the late 1700s and the architectural style is so truly Scots-Irish you may forget you’re in Kentucky. After being up close and personal with such much bourbon, it’s a little bit hard for me to tell myself not to start a micro distillery…in my kitchen.

*My favorite part was the consumption.

After visiting my first distillery it’s now become a goal of mine to visit the rest on the trail. (Who doesn’t want to drink learn more about bourbon and the area that does it best?). To make that journey a little easier, for myself and for anyone else who wants to join in, I thought I’d make a little map. Bon Voyage!

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After a change of plans I’ll be leaving for Charleston tomorrow in the A M and making stops in Chattanooga, Atlanta, and who knows where else. Why not make a long drive into a real road trip, right?

 

Speak to you soon!