So, You Want to Go to Wine Country.

With the release of the Netflix film Wine Country, it’s obvious that friend getaways spent swirling around to myriad wine tastings have made it deep into the mainstream. After all, what’s better than escaping your day-to-day to spend some deserved time tipping back glasses with your best pals? 

Here’s one thing that’s better: a trip to wine country that reaps the rewards of an evening spent doing some thoughtful, proactive planning.  There are a few bases to cover. Let’s start at the beginning —

So, you want to go to wine country.

If you throw a dart at a map of the US, there’s a distinct possibility that you’ll land somewhere in the vicinity of a wine producing region. From the highlands of Texas to the picturesque, sprawling vineyards throughout California, all the way to the shores of Lake Michigan — which I just learned some people refer to as “Napa of the Midwest” — there are plenty of potential wine-fueled weekends to be had.

So, where is wine country?

Let’s start with the U.S. — WineRegions-03

There are a *lot* of wine regions in the United States; lots of wine regions, built on lots of different geographies, experiencing lots of different climates. AKA there’s a whole lot of different wine being produced here. While there are many different wine regions, these are the ones that have kept my attention:

  • California boasts over 4,000 wineries statewide. While the Napa and Sonoma Valleys are very hyped, don’t hesitate to look into other wine growing areas to quench your thirst.  Hint: check out Paso Robles in the Central Valley and/or even wineries in coastal areas like Malibu (see links in the resources at the end of this article for more hints).
  • Washington State has a total of 14 different American Viticulatural Areas (AVAs) — which can also be read as: Wow there’s so much wine!—and a reputation for producing some high quality juice. Of all the wine regions I’ve visited in Washington so far, the Columbia River Gorge is my favorite.
  • Oregon gives us the Willamette Valley. Fun fact, it’s located along the same latitude as France’s famed Burgundy region. What’s another thing both regions have in common? Very tasty Pinot Noir. Here you’ll find a plethora of producers doing both conventional and unconventional wines. (Oh! And several Willamette producers pour in Portland..which is why some people call it Pourtland…or not).
  • Lastly, upstate New York in the Fingerlakes region. If you visit this area, you’ll find a wealth of Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Cab Franc as well as a variety of breweries, and distilleries. So many opportunities for activities!

TL;DR — There are basically countless wine regions in the U.S.—do a Google! One may be closer than you think.

Outside of the US —

Obviously there are a lot of wine regions in Europe, Australia, South America, and elsewhere. These are a whole different beast and require the same sort of research, and more planning. Feel free to email me if you have specific questions!


So, what are your priorities? 

Before choosing precisely where to go, it might benefit you to noodle over your priorities. If you’re stuck, start with these questions—

Flavor: What kind of wines do you like to drink?

Are you a fan of Big Bold Reds or a die hard for Crisp Clean Whites? These sorts of preferences can help guide which region you choose. For example, Napa is more known for its Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon (Cab Sav if you’re fancy), while the Willamette Valley specializes in Pinot Noir and also Riesling, Chardonnay (grown in a different climate than Napa), and Gamay. 

Despite what my brother has embraced as his key wine belief, wine tastes differently depending on what kind of grape it is and where it’s grown. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the options, try asking someone who works at your local wine shop.

Distance: Do you want to stay close to home or are you into the idea of going further away? If you’re thinking of going on a more adventurous trip, how will you get there? 

To summarize: research is important unless you DGAF because you just want wine. No shame in that game, either! Live your best life!

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So, when are you going?

As a person who hates to be caught in a crowd (cue: my social anxiety), I tend to try and avoid peak tourist seasons when I’m traveling. With wine country, though, it has it’s pros and cons.  

Cons: Peak tourist season can mean bigger crowds, higher tasting fees, and a more expensive trip in general. It can also mean that it’ll be harder for you to get a reservation at the reservation-only wineries. 

Pros: On the other hand, peak tourist season goes hand-in-hand with Harvest season, which can come with excellent benefits (such as discounts or limited releases of specific bottles).

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So, where are you staying?

I’m not saying that your decisions about where to stay will make or break your trip, but it can definitely influence what you’re able to drink—I mean accomplish.

One of the first questions I ask myself when planning a wine trip is: will I stay in-town or outside of town? For the more spread out wine regions, such as the Willamette Valley, finding a home base in the right area can make a difference in which wineries you’re able to visit. In general, choosing something more central might offer the most flexibility, but opting for a small, quaint cottage in the thick of the vineyards ain’t bad either.  

AirBNB vs Hotel vs etc

While hotels may come with benefits—like a wine shuttle—AirBnB’s guarantee privacy, and the perfect, positive-vibes-only spot to drink all those bottles you bought to waive your tasting fees. 

When trying to decide between the two options, here are a few things worth considering:

  1. Do you want access to a kitchen? Personally, I love a family meal on a wine trip.
  2. What kind of relaxation are you looking for? Different amenities are available in different places. And by amenities I mean hot tubs.
  3. Comfort. Maybe you prefer the security of a hotel, or the feeling of arriving back to “your” house after a long day of sipping the grape. Factors of comfort are different for everyone, and comfort is key. 
  4. Convenience — location, location, location. Pick what makes most sense for your adventure. Look at it on Google Maps before you book…trust me.


So, how are you getting around?

Wine trips mean that you’ll spend a lot of time getting from one winery to another. Would you and/or your group rather drive yourself, or hire someone else to drive you?

Driving yourself

Driving yourself means that someone in your group is committing to being the designated driver, for one day or for the whole trip. If one or more people can commit to abbreviating their drinking throughout the wine tasting time then I say: go for it. If not—nah! Why? Because driving under the influence is dangerous! Do not make me say it again!

Oh, you all wanted to enthusiastically take part in your debauchery? Don’t worry. There are other options that allow everyone to maximize their tastings, and minimize their obligatory wine dumping.

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Hiring someone else to drive you

From my perspective, there are two clear options here: bus/shuttle services or hiring a private driver.

By signing up for a bus service you know that transporation is covered and its origin is probably a centralized pick-up/drop off spot (extra points if it’s close to where you’re staying). There are a variety of bus services (private and public), and some of then run all day as a hop-on, hop-off service. If you’re a fan of convenient and lower effort options then this is your huckleberry. 

The cons of a bus service are price variability and limited options. Oftentimes the route of the bus is already charted so you’ll have less flexibility when it comes to choosing wineries to visit. This isn’t ideal if you’re opinionated about where you want to taste. (Me. I’m talking about me.)

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The second answer to this is to hire a private driver. Because you’ll have hired the driver for the day (or for the weekend if you really want to ball out) you’re giving yourself the opportunity to participate in a fully customizable experience. If your driver has been at it for awhile, they likely have relationships with wineries that aren’t open to busses or most groups. Another plus, the driver will probably remain at a location until you’re ready to pile in and head to the next stop. Oh, and pick-up and drop-off will likely be at your doorstep. Yes please. 

I don’t have to tell you that this is definitely a more expensive option. However, you get what you pay for. What I’ll tell you instead is that I hired a private driver in Alsace and I have NEVER looked back.



So, which wineries will you visit?

Finally, the most fun part (for me): choosing which wineries to visit. This part could become intimidating, but it’s nothing an afternoon of research can’t sort out. Here’s where I like to start: 

Types of wine offered (variety)

Depending on the region, I love to make sure I plan in a way that allows me to taste a variety of wines. This way the tastings don’t get monotonous, and I may even get to try something new. 

Reputation

While a winery may be a cult favorite or a Name Brand, this doesn’t mean that the wines you taste will be mind blowing. Do your research, read reviews, and remember that hype doesn’t always = quality. 

NOTE: ~Sometimes~ the more interesting, memorable wines will be found at the smaller producers.

Great sources for wine research are: instagram, reaching out to wine writers or distributors in your city, or asking your wine-loving friends (even that person you haven’t talked to on Facebook in 10 years).

Reservations 

Some wineries require reservations for tastings, especially if you are visiting with a group. It’s important to clarify this beforehand so you don’t end up with an empty glass (full of disappointment). 

Tasting fees

Tasting fees vary by region and winery. More popular areas are likely to have higher tasting costs, and likely this extends to more popular wineries as well. Before visiting a winery, see if there’s an event calendar on their website. This way you can determine if there’s an event while you’re there that offers a more enhanced experience, or one that results in lower fees.



So, here are some FINAL hot tips to consider:

    1. Don’t overbook yourself. Be realistic with what you can achieve, and give yourself time and space to relax. You never know when you might rather sit in a circle of Adirondack  chairs and split a bottle with your buds rather than finishing the day with a final tasting.
    2. Don’t get wasted. I mean, you can if you want, but speaking as the person who just saw a man um…lose his wine into a small bag on a wine bus, I’d recommend not. Wait until you’re done for the day to invert your bottles. (Also drink water so you are not horribly hungover for the next day!)
    3. Do remember that even after all of this planning it’s also ok to be spontaneous. As with any other kind of traveling, you never know what helpful tidbit of information you’ll learn from your hotel concierge, your driver, or the vivacious individual you spoke to while in line for the bathroom between swigs of last year’s very different expressions of pinots. 


Wine country is all about choosing your own adventure. Maybe you’re a planner, and maybe you’re not. If you want to make the most of your visit, spend an evening figuring out the details. Investing time in planning now means more time for stress-free wine drinking later.

And if you don’t want to plan the trip yourself, Gastrono.me is always happy to help. 

Clink!

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Sources:
https://usawineratings.com/en/blog/insights-1/an-introduction-to-the-top-10-wine-regions-of-the-usa-38.htm
https://uproxx.com/life/best-wine-regions-in-america/3/
https://winefolly.com/tutorial/start-planning-now-wine-harvest-season/
Resources:
https://vineyards.com/wine-map/united-states

Salzburg

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I have a few things in common with Salzburg, Austria. We’re both quite small, look charming in shades of pink, and have a deep history with coffee culture. I spent an afternoon delightfully gallivanting through the city’s interconnected alleyways—stopping every few feet to obsess over a new pastel-colored building, the magnificent panoramic views, and every street market stall that taunted me with it’s twisty, aromatic pretzels. It was one of my favorite afternoons of our entire trip.

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Salzburg is a city I’d like to revisit for a week. I dream about booking an apartment high in a Mozart-era building overlooking the Salzach river. I’d spend my mornings subtly brushing the crumbs of sweet pastries off of my Kindle screen in elegant cafes. Between bowls of rust-colored goulash and glasses of Riesling I’d peruse the boutiques that line the streets of the city’s cobblestoned, historic center. Evenings would conclude with tall pints of beer in one of the buzzing beer halls, and letting myself get lost while taking the the long way home.

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Despite every Salzburg travel post you’ll see on Pinterest, it isn’t just a destination for lovers of The Sound of Music or Mozart’s biggest fans. Add it to your list.

 

Munich

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On August 30th my parents and I embarked on a two week trip across Europe. Our cross-continental jaunt spanned from Bavaria (Munich, Germany and Salzburg, Austria), to the picturesque region of Alsace (Strasbourg, France), and wrapped up in Paris. There are many memorable moments from our travels—witnessing my dad’s first glimpse of the Eiffel tower, tasting terroir-driven Rieslings with my mom in a small village near Colmar—and those moments were accentuated by the hours of research that went into the trip before takeoff.

Traveling to a new place can be daunting, but I’m hoping my posts over the next few weeks will assist you if you’re planning a similar Bavarian adventure of your own.

First up: Munich.

A city steeped in history, Munich can satisfy almost any sort of traveler. You’re interested in art? Munich has 10+ noteworthy art museums. Looking into the relics of WWII? You’ll see something around every corner. The food? You’ve brat yourself to a city with culinary traditions that hold strong. While we only just dipped our toes into the second biggest city in Germany, I’ve got lots of advice for how to do it right.

Where to stay:

If you like staying in a location that’s walking distance from a lot of major attractions, top-notch restaurants, and bustling beer halls, then you’ll love choosing a hotel or AirBNB near Munich’s main train station, München Hauptbahnhof. This part of town is about a ~15 minute walk from Marienplatz aka the place to be for all your Instagram dreams to come true.

Hotels:

Eden Hotel Wolff

Hotel Excelsior

Anna Hotel

Cute AirBNBs: 1 • 2 • 3

How will you get around? Walk (download offline Google maps); use the metro; and/or use Uber to make it to your dinner reservation after you lost track of time at the beer hall.


 

What to eat:

The food scene in Munich is heavily rooted in traditional Bavarian and Germanic cuisine, and it’s also rooted in ITALIAN cuisine. Why? Because it’s v close to the border. The Italian influence can be sensed in the relaxed vibes of the city and in the architecture as well. Below are a few restaurant recommendations (I’ve got a million more if you’re curious), as well as some options for drinking, exploring, and researching for yourself.

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Xaver’s– A modern take on Bavarian traditional Bavarian dishes. My favorite place we ate while in Munich.

Tantris– for a Michelin/tasting experience (Didn’t get to go, want to go)

Mr. Pancake– American breakfast (I CAN’T STOP THE PANCAKE CRAVINGS)

Landersdorfer & Innerhofer Feine Kost– a good friend recommended this place! Would love to go next time.

Le Hank– Another place I’d love to hit next time

Boulangerie Dompierre– YES pastries!!!

L’Osteria– I couldn’t leave Italian food out, could I?

Markets – Viktualienmarkt

Shop – Allois Dallmayr

And for drinking:

Beer Halls – Augustiner BräustubenHofbräukeller am Wiener Platz

Wine Bars – M Belleville, Walter & Benjamin, Vinothek by Geisel

Cocktails – Zephr Bar,  Drunken Dragon Bar, x

Coffee – Man Versus Machine (I hear exploring this more hipster part of town is a delight), Cafe Bla

 

Dare to take yourself on a food tour? Here’s a few things to look for:

  • Sauerkraut (trust)
  • Spatzel and schnitzel
  • Apfelstrudel
  • Pork Knuckle
  • Brautwurst and/or Curry Wurst
  • CAKE. Just find cake.
  • Wine from Mosel

 

***GENERAL TIP FOR RESTAURANT SEARCHING WHILE TRAVELING: Avoid sites like Trip Advisor for restaurant recommendations and instead utilize local news sites, food blogs, and Instagram accounts. Trip Advisor and Yelp will steer you towards comfortable spots as an American traveler, but usually likely not the highest quality spots or most memorable experiences.

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Sources for research:

@munichfoodguide

@munichfood

@munichfoodist


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How to spend your time:

 

Hot tips for exploring old town:

  • DO climb the tower at St. Peters. It’s like three euro and the view from the top is *chef kiss*
  • There are * a lot * of museums. I’d recommend picking one or two to see on your visit, but keeping ample time in your schedule to wander around the city. It’s such a charming place and the vibe is a big part of it.
  • Skip the joust at Marienplatz, ya’ll. I know all the tourist books describe it as being “VERY COOL” and “unmissable”, but I’d disagree.
  • The amount of different styles of churches in Munich is nuts. From St. Peters (A Romanesque/Gothic combo) to Asamkirche (Baroque AF)—just do as we did and take a detour into the churches you pass by. Whether you spend 5 mins or 50 you probably won’t regret it.PhotolayoutsMunich2

Other things to do:

  • Go see the river surfers. Take a slo-mo video on your iPhone. Live your best life.
  • Take some time and explore the English Gardens. They’re beautiful, and you’ve just given yourself an opportunity for beers and snacks and the sun (there are also biergartens IN the English Garden, so you could always make that your destination).
Day Trips:

Salzburg – One of my FAVORITE parts of our entire two-week trip. Separate Salzburg post coming soon!

DaChau Concentration Camp site– This tour was sobering. While going alone is possible, I’d definitely recommend researching guided tours. If we would’ve gone alone we would’ve been doing a lot of reading—which I think can impede the direct impact of this memorial. By having a guide we were able to hear the expertise of someone who knew the history well, ask questions, and still have ample time for reflection. It was heartbreaking, but it was a necessary experience. We booked our tour on Viateur.

Eagle’s Nest – While we didn’t make it to this site, it would be a heavy hitter for history buffs (and I hear the views are remarkable)

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Helpful travel resources:

Rick Steves pocket guide(Munich and Salzburg — SO helpful for familiarizing ourselves with the history of Munich. We even took ourselves on a walking tour of the city).

Next up: Salzburg!

Look out for that in the next few days.

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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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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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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Head East | Weekend in the Appalachian Mtns

headeast WV45 WV29WV21 WV53  WV56 WV50WV39 WV24 WV19 WV44 WV34WV47 WV33WV41WV32 WV55For three days last weekend I was on a mountain high. Two of my best friends and I loaded up and drove to their family cabin in West Virginia to spend some time hiking, laughing way too hard and exploring the best ways we knew how. Trail after trail took us on winding routes where we got to be close with lots of wildflowers and lots of deer. The views from the top of the mountains we climbed, though they were hard to get to, were always well worth it. The earth is a breathtaking place, and sometimes I forget that.

The area we were in was the northeastern part of West Virginia, right in the thick of the Monongahela National Forest.  The hills were covered in lush, aromatic spruce trees that seemed to go on forever and in the mornings they stayed tucked under thick blankets of heather gray fog. There was so much to do within an hour of the cabin so here’s a little guide in case you’re up for some adventuring as well:

SENECA ROCKS
-Hiking, rock climbing and repelling are just a few things that you can do at this nationally renowned park. The hike up the mountain isn’t terribly hard, but it’s 1000ft of elevation that you’ll definitely be feeling in your thighs when you get to the top. Good news: even though you’ll be exhausted you can rejuvenate on the observation platform and chow down on a peanut butter CLIF bar (there’s a snack cart at the top). If you’re interested in climbing or repelling on the flat faced rocks, there are lots of instruction classes around and guided excursions as well. Seneca Caverns (all the cave photos above) isn’t far away and was so cool as well!

SPRUCE KNOB
-AKA The highest point in West Virginia. There are a lot of trails that vary in length around the mountain  (many of them with an abundance of wildlife running about) as well as one that goes to the top. When you reach it there’s an observation tower with a killer view, and if you explore around the peak of the mountain you’ll discover the coolest boulder garden that would be great for camping or just to stop and soak everything in.  There are plenty of other lower areas for picnicing and grilling as well.

CANAAN VALLEY
Blackwater Falls should be the first stop of your day. There are some trails on the grounds of the park, or you can just take the stairs down to view the falls.
-Get back in the car and drive about 20 minutes and you’ll arrive at Canaan Valley Resort State Park. In the winter it’s a ski resort, but in the summer it’s teeming with outdoorsy people who want to take the lifts up the mountain to the trails. We hiked the Bald Knob trail which was a 2.5 mile trek that took us through the most perfect forest I’ve ever been in and then opened up to the top of a mountain with breathtaking views. (We saw so many deer during our hike, it was crazy). I’d definitely like to return to this part of WV for some snow tubing and skiing.
-Don’t forget to stop off in some of the quaint towns that line your drive to Canaan Valley! We didn’t have a lot of time, otherwise I would’ve been all over their many antique stores and restaurants boasting home cooking (aka my weakness).

This guide is far from being complete, but it should be enough to get your wheels turning. GO somewhere. Explore more, ya’ll.

Tomorrow morning I’m heading to Charleston SC to indulge in coffee, southern cuisine and sunshine. I’ll be there through the weekend so be on the lookout for some beautiful instagrams! Follow me at @lacunningham

If you’re interested in seeing more of my photos from the trip feel free to take a jump over to my Flikr page (click on the About tab at the top of this page)

Thank you guys for reading/looking and being wonderful!

 

Speak to you soon!

x

Two Weeks Until Takeoff

Two Weeks Until Takeoff

 

I’m certain a trip never seems further away than it does as you inch closer and closer to the departure date. The preparations have started, as premature as that may sound. I’ve been scoping out markets, Instagram hunting for must-see cafes and boutiques and doing my best to reconcile my  relationship with the Spanish speaking skills I took for granted in high school. (So far I have a lot of confidence in never forgetting words like “sangria” and “tapas”…the basics, if you will).

 
If you’ve been and have suggestions, drop me a comment below! I’d love your suggestions!
 

As I’m sure everyone knows by now, today is Cinco de Mayo! There could not be a more  appropriate holiday to be celebrating in the midst of this countdown. So grab your friends, a margarita (on the rocks with salt for me) and a set of fiesta speakers; here is your monday playlist:

 
  
 
Hablar con usted más tarde!  
 
 
x
 
PS: Don’t forget to leave me your Spain suggestions!

Sunday | Destination Inspiration

borabora hotel victoria, dubrovnik, croatia normandy phuket tensing pen jamaica
koufonisia

 

I am positively preoccupied by the idea of a getaway. A trip to a coast with crystal clear waters, soft white towels and refreshments served a la coconut. May has arrived in sunshiney grandeur, holding the promise of new travel destinations and new ventures, so in celebration of the adventure ahead I’ve been letting my mind do some additional wandering. Perhaps not to all corners of the earth that are still new to me; really, it’s just the sandiest ones.

TRAVEL GUIDES FOR:
South Pacific Islands | via Condé Nast Traveller
Croatia | via Girl Meets World
Normandy | via Rough Guides
Phuket | via Zoe Raymond
Jamaica | via Lonely Planet
Cyclades | via BBC Travel

 

Where do you want to go?

Speak to you all soon!

 

x