I love places that can take me back in time more than anything. I live to keep finding and exploring new locations that do this and make me feel a certain way. There are places, though, that keep calling me back. Newport, Rhode Island is one of them. There are several time periods in history that I often think I should have lived- Ancient Egypt, The Middle Ages, and the Roaring Twenties. I have showcased my love for these times in many aspects of my life, whether it was for a school project analyzing the accuracy of the movie, Cleopatra or dressing up as a flapper every year for Halloween.
I have visited Newport, the city-by-the-sea, a couple of times and my first thought upon seeing it each time is, “Does the rest of the world know this exists?!” Part of me wants to keep it a hidden gem and the other part of me wants everyone to see it at once. The massive structures along Bellevue Avenue, or “summer cottages” (HA!) could be navigated for days. They were built during the Gilded Age (1865-1914), a time of industrial fortunes and the U.S. emerging as a world power. Newport was the social capital of America during this time. You can purchase a ticket to visit any 5 of the mansions for around $30 (a HUGE savings). Trust me, once you see one, you will want to see as many as possible. Even though there are still quite a few to tour, it is unfortunate that MANY have been demolished since the end of the Gilded Age. Each mansion has it’s own character and story behind it. Everyone seems to have their own personal favorite. The Breakers is the most toured and the biggest. The Rosecliff is where films like The Great Gatsby and True Lies were filmed.
Make sure to do the entire famed Cliff Walk! You get to hike 3.5 miles along the beautiful rugged coastline while seeing the other side of the mansions.
Also, make sure to take a bike ride along all of Ocean Avenue. You will see gorgeous countryside, houses, animals, and Inns, all while riding alongside the crashing waves. You will want to make several stops for perfect photo opportunities (and to take a breather).
As for food, I tried Salvation Cafe for one of my dinners. It was definitely the hip place to be when I was visiting and the food was good. For a late breakfast, diner style, I loved Gary’s Handy Lunch. It’s a cute little authentic diner along the less busy end of Thames Street. Asterisk Restaurant & Bar is a great place for anything from a Lobster Roll to their Chocolate martini. For a cozy, authentic feel with great seafood, take a stroll down Bannisters Wharf to the Black Pearl- by far the best clam chowder in town! Along the same wharf is the Clarke Cooke House- we had a perfect table by the roaring fire and unique seafood dishes.
I would suggest roaming down each wharf and also down all of Thames Street. These are the shopping areas but also the quaint areas of town that help make Newport the place that it is. Fall is obviously the time when many want to visit Newport because of the beautiful colors, but I have found it to be beautiful any time of year and there are always special events going on, so make sure to check out the events calendar.
There are so many things you can see in Newport without spending a dime. On my most recent trip, I was able to enjoy a four day getaway, flight included, and eating where and when I wanted to for around $700. You don’t need to rent a car if you are flying. There is a shuttle that takes you to and form the airport that is around $25 each way. You can walk many places and cheaply rent bicycles to explore even more. I stayed at the William Gyles Guest House, an international hostel in the middle of everything, for around $25/night. There are many wonderful bed & breakfasts and Inns to choose from as well.
Newport is perfect for a romantic getaway, wedding, girls trip, or any time you need an idyllic setting. I’d put it on your bucket list immediately if it isn’t already!
This past weekend, we ventured to a secluded cottage just north of Sutton’s Bay, MI. I always like to stay at places that have character and are unique. I try not to stay at hotel chains if I can help it. I also like to visit places when it isn’t their tourist season. There is something wonderfully haunting about little towns with hardly anyone around when you can feel winter approaching. The drive up north was just beautiful, even though most of the colorful leaves were gone. It’s amazing how the landscapes can change dramatically with each bend in the road.
On Friday night, we stopped to grab some groceries at a very nice little store in Sutton’s Bay called Hansens. We then drove through the main street of Sutton’s Bay, our first sleepy little town that seemed straight off a movie set. As we drove away from town, the darker it got. It was a little bit hard to find our wooded drive in such darkness. I had found this cottage on Airbnb (which you should try if you haven’t already) and when we walked in, it was just like the photos I had viewed online. It was stocked with everything we needed, so all we had to pack was clothing and bring some food. That evening, we ate dinner and played some of the provided boardgames and went to bed early excited to explore the next day.
On Saturday, we had planned to eat at Martha’s Table in Sutton’s Bay, but they were closed for renovations, so we just stopped at the local bakery. The menu for Martha’s Table looked right up our alley and we had heard great things about it, so I would recommend trying it out! This area of Michigan is known for it’s Wine Trail and tastings of ciders and spirits. You could easily spend a whole weekend doing the trail, as there are well over 20 to visit. We first decided to venture to historic Fishtown in Leland, just a short drive from Sutton’s Bay. I am still trying to decide which town along scenic M-22 was my favorite of all of them. They all have their own charm and make you want to go back, and at this time of year, it’s almost all locals. In Leland, we drove through the main street, ate at the Earlybird diner, explored the cove that is Fishtown, and stopped for some tastings at Verterra Winery. Next, we went to Norhern Latitudes Distillery to taste their vodka, bourbon whiskey, and limoncello. They are a new distillery (their beautiful still arrived in August from Germany) and will be creating many more spirits in the future and they have a wonderful gift shop and employees. We then went to the gorgeous winery of Black Star Farms, mostly because that is where you can also taste the famous Leelanau Raclette Cheese. After that, we knew we wanted to taste some ciders, so we went to Tandem Ciders. The Smackintosh was our ultimate favorite. Each of these stops has their own personality and own cozy setting. At this point, we were ready to put food in our stomachs! We decided to drive down to Traverse City since there were many highly rated dining options. I have to say that after being in the beauty north of Traverse City, we wished we had stayed up there and found a place for dinner. We preferred the small, cozy, sleepy towns. We had heard that the best burgers were at Bubba’s and they were fabulous and we could tell it was a popular spot as all the locals seemed to be there. We then walked along most of Front Street just checking out all of the different shops. I stopped at the Traverse City Pie Company and got an apple dumpling to enjoy back at the cottage. I hadn’t had one of those since I was little and was always seeking them out, but hadn’t had any luck until that night! Restaurants also recommended to us by local experts include: Tuscan Bistro, Soul Hole, Patisserie Amie, and Red Ginger.
On Sunday morning, we got up extra early, excited to continue driving more of M-22. We packed up our things and said goodbye to our cottage. Another cool thing about the location of the cottage is it is right across the street from where the Ottawa and Chippewa bring in their fresh fish and you can see them smoking the fish, which you can then purchase directly from them. We drove to Glen Arbor, named America’s most beautiful city by Good Morning America. This area and it’s surroundings is also home to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. We took more time driving through this town, as there are many Bed & Breakfasts and we knew we would definitely be coming back to stay. We ate at Art’s Tavern- the town’s favorite gathering place since 1934! Keep in mind that most of these small town diners/taverns do not accept credit cards. We then continued on to Glen Haven, a small row of historic buildings that are uninhabited but very interesting. Once again, I loved having no one around, the chill in the air, and the eeriness of it all. Right down the road is the Dune Climb. You really could spend all day hiking the different trails, but if you only have a little bit of time, just climb the first initial dune to get a spectacular view of Glen Lake and all the surrounding scenery. It is very steep and is intimidating, so don’t try it unless you are in good physical shape. If you haven’t climbed these dunes yet, it is an experience you won’t soon forget and is also very unique. I had never done or seen anything like it before. I had always thought of dunes along the ocean, but these are seriously massive.
As you can tell, you can see and do a lot in just a weekend in this area, even with time left to take it easy, relax, and unwind. The only thing we didn’t have time to do was go to the far north tip of the peninsula to Leelanau State Park and Grand Traverse Lighthouse and to the city up that way, Northport.
Photo Blog of this trip coming this weekend!
I have recently been going to Chicago for work about two weeks per month. There are many great opportunities there for TV, film, and modeling. Last week, however, was the busiest week I have had there so far. I think I slept for two days once I finally got back home!
On that Monday, I had an audition on Michigan Avenue for Mattel to be Barbie. I had to do a video on why I would make a good Barbie, my memories of Barbie as a little girl, and just talk for a few minutes on film. I grew up going to Chicago a lot since my brothers and sister lived there (my sister was a model too), but since I am much younger than them, I was just a child, so until recently, I had never had to get around the city by myself and navigate my SUV through the streets of Chicago! Whew! Before these last couple times I’ve been in Chicago working, I hadn’t been since I was 18 for my brothers wedding. First lesson learned: Don’t park in a public garage/avoid driving downtown. For my audition, I found a parking garage right next to the building I needed to go to. Because traffic was crazy and there was so much happening around me, I decided to park there. BAD IDEA! Once you go in, the door closes behind you and only then do you see the parking rates. I had to pay $19 for half an hour. I am thankful that I can at least use it as a write-off. Fortunately, most of my jobs so far have been just outside the city, in a suburb, at a place that provides parking, or the production pays for my parking.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, I was hired by a media company to film an industrial video for Argo/Ingredion out in a suburb of Chicago. They just rebranded their company, so they needed a new safety/welcome video for the many, many visitors and contractors that go there. They make anything that has to do with corn and they use every part of the corn kernel so nothing is wasted. They make syrup, starch, beauty products, pharmaceutical, you name it! Then their prepared substances are shipped off to companies like Coca-Cola. These days lasted from about 6am to 6pm each day. I first played a business woman visiting the plant and demonstrated how to go through security, register, get a badge, use a badge to get around the grounds, remove jewelry, call for help, and wear gloves over nail polish. Then I portrayed a contractor. I had to show how to put on gear correctly, step by step, how to drive through security gates, how to ride in trucks properly, checking hands for scratches, using safety showers, etc… I learned so much and had a really great time. I loved riding around on the golf cart/walking and exploring all of the buildings. The property has a very interesting smell that takes some getting used to. Not bad, just different. The employees at Argo were so sweet and clearly loved their jobs. All of the guys from the production crew were so funny and always had me laughing. Each day they provided delicious breakfast and lunch! Yum!
On Thursday, I filmed a few scenes of a movie called “Johnson” near the Lincoln Park Zoo first and then at a really neat bar. Just to show you an example of how quickly things can change in this industry, I was first cast as an attractive, young mother who gets hit on at the grocery store by the main character (Cam Gigandet of Twilight), but then once I got to the set, they wanted me to be in several other scenes- at a cool apothecary and then hanging out with Cam and his friend at the bar. A few of my guy friends from a beer commercial I filmed a while ago were also filming, so that was a nice surprise to see them. In between takes and scenes, it’s fun to chat with everyone and meet new people. I had a few quick wardrobe/makeup/hair changes- they are always a little stressful. I got to the set around 9am and was finished around 8pm. So I went from working 2-3 hours to 11 hours! Thank goodness catering and craft services on movie sets is soooo good. On this particular day we had Chinese and it was the best Chinese food I have ever had! As for snacks and drinks, they always have everything you could possibly want and restock often. I wish I could have taken photos, but I couldn’t. There were lots of pictures taken for continuity purposes and stills, but who knows where they are! People in this line of work are almost always happy because they love what they do. The best and worst part of this industry is meeting so many amazing, talented, nice people, and wondering if you will ever see them again. It’s always bittersweet when I hear “That’s a wrap!” and everyone claps.
On Friday, I had a photo shoot for the look book of the 2013 Spring collection for a clothing company called Lost Girls. For a look book, you have the same background for every photo, so you really just have to be good at posing and changing it up since you don’t really have anything else to work with. You want to highlight the features of each piece. The designer makes everything in Chicago and her clothes are sold in boutiques in Chicago and San Francisco as of now. I had hoped she would pick me when I first researched the line. I was quickly obsessed and very excited when she told me when she first saw my photos that I was the one! I got to her house to meet her and the makeup and hair guy. I immediately loved them both and she was so hospitable making me hot tea, yogurt with homemade granola, and a beautiful fruit, cheese, and cracker spread! I was so impressed with the hair and makeup guy. I’m happy the designer was so happy with my work and wants me back for future shoots/wants to recommend me to everyone, so that I will get to work with both of them again. We shot at a park close to her home, so that meant changing from piece to piece out in the open. This is how it works- an outfit is layed out across a back car seat ready to put on, someone from the crew holds up my bathrobe and I change super fast and carefully to get it over my head, and then someone else zips or buttons me up real quick! We went through outfit after outfit in a couple hours, making sure I had my warm and cozy bathrobe on in between shooting. Such a fun day!
I had been researching places to go in Costa Rica for months. I had an idea in my mind of what I was looking for. I wanted an adventure in the middle of nowhere while experiencing a new culture. I wanted to be out of my comfort zone while still being safe. I wanted a beautiful setting that was relaxing and quiet. After much searching, I stumbled upon the website for the Pacuare Lodge. I knew at once it had every quality I could have imagined. This is a trip that you definitely need to add to your bucket list.
At the time I was looking to visit in July, the Lodge had a special running since it was their Green Season. The special was buy two nights, get a night free (they are still currently running this special through the end of the year now). So you get three nights and four days. This is the perfect amount of time to visit the Lodge. Anything shorter is not enough, and anything more may be too long, since it is so secluded and there is only so much to do in a given area. At first glance, the prices may seem expensive, but really, since it is a complete package, it is more than worth the cost. The package includes transportation from San Jose, bilingual guide, typical Costa Rican breakfast in route, Pacuare River rafting tour to the lodge, professional guides and equipment, 3 exquisite daily meals, bungalow stay, hot beverages and non mixed drinks, lunch along the river, use of private installations at river take-out, and return transportation to San José with guide.
Yes, that’s right. You get to and from the Lodge by rafting. I had never been white water rafting before, so I was both excited and nervous. The rapids on the way there are class II and III. One the way back, class III and IV! Keep in mind, only ages 12 and up are allowed to raft. As for tips for rafting keep in mind: Don’t apply sunblock to the back of your legs (they will slip, making odds of falling overboard much more likely), don’t wear short shorts- I suggest at least knee length workout spandex or leggings, make sure you have croakies to hold your sunglasses, and make sure to bring your camera (waterproof or get a waterproof case), as this is one of the most scenic rivers in the world.
As far as packing, I fit everything into a carry on bag for a 7 day trip. Make sure you have water shoes such as Teva’s. They work for rafting, horseback riding, and hiking up the mountains through thick mud. Once your clothes get wet in the environment of the Pacuare, they will not dry, so make sure you bring dry clothes for the other days of your trip not in the rain forest. They will only allow a certain size bag (since it has to be transported on a raft), but you can leave the rest of your luggage in their secure warehouse if needed. I would suggest bringing a couple sets of outdoor adventure clothes and a couple sets of casual to nice clothes to wear to dinner- I took three long airy dresses that folded up nice and small. You can’t wear shoes on the deck where they serve all meals, so don’t bother bringing nice shoes for the lodge. Also, make sure you bring a watch or two. There are no clocks, and with the weird times it gets dark and light, you need to know what time it is so you don’t miss meals and aren’t late for activities.
The lodge has several different kinds of suites to choose from. I highly suggest a Riverview Suite. If you are doing this trip for your honeymoon, you may opt for a Linda Vista Suite, although it is a HIKE to get to and from your suite, especially in the complete dark after dinner. Your suite is lighted by candlelight only. While you are at your candlelight dinner, the staff lights the many candles inside and outside your suite. It is the ultimate romantic treat to come back to after a fantastic dinner. There is only electricity at the small office and the kitchen. All suites are very spaced out so you always have a lot of privacy.
So to start, it is recommended you fly into San Jose. The guide for Pacuare picks you up very early in the morning, so you must arrive the day before and stay at a hotel. I stayed at Hotel Santo Tomas and La Gioconda House and both were nice and inexpensive. San Jose is not a very clean city but has a lot of culture and beauty if you look for it. It’s not exactly a tourist destination, so don’t plan on staying for too long. Make sure you get an official taxi at the airport (usually orange or red). There are usually sketchy men trying to lure you to them and get your attention. If you get into the city early enough, take a long walk around the city to get a feel for it, then head back to your hotel before dark to enjoy dinner close by. Get lots of sleep, as your next day will be full of adventure!
Jose picked us up from our hotel early in the morning. They are very prompt, so be ready at the time they tell you. You will be on your little bus with several other couples most likely. You drive through beautiful hills, coffee and banana plantations, and past cute little towns in the countryside, and volcanoes. You then stop for breakfast at a lookout point and rest for a bit. The drive continues (total drive is about 2 1/2 hours) to the banks of the river where you learn basic safety and rafting info and get geared up. The guides are very professional, yet very silly and funny. They get rid of all of your nervousness if you have any that’s for sure. While the scenery on the rafting ride there is unbelievable, I have to say that the views and sights on the way out leaving the lodge are even better.
Once you get to the lodge, you are greeted with a yummy welcome drink and a cool towel and then escourted to your suite by a guide that carries your luggage. You then have time to relax and shower before lunch. Our Riverview Suite consisted of a large deck with a sitting area and hammock. There were sliding doors leading into the bedroom with a king size bed with canopy. A hallway off of the bedroom led down to the huge bathroom. It had both an indoor and outdoor shower. Keep in mind the entire suite is open air with screens as the walls. There are curtains in the bedroom to cover all screens if you wish.
The meals at Pacuare are absolutely amazing. Lunch and dinner are both three courses each. For dinner, you get to choose from two choices for each course. We usually got one of each so we could try everything. For breakfast, you can order every single thing on the menu- there is no limit. In the upstairs of the main lodge, is the bar. Guests would gather there before dinner to socialize. Drinks are not included in the package price, but are so good and different. Jonathan can whip up some really interesting and authentic drinks. Make sure to try the Guaro!
The staff at Pacuare is small and each person takes on many roles. They all get to know who you are and address you by name. Your guide for a hike might also be your waiter. They all are from surrounding villages and hike up and down the mountains to get to work.
There are additional activities you can pay for if you wish. You can go on a canopy tour (zip-lining), horseback riding, canyoning, hike up a mountain to meet Indians, or get a massage right in your suite. You will most likely be asked if you would like to go on a free waterfall hike or nature hike. The guides are happy to share their never ending knowledge of the land with you. I suggest taking them up on any offer they give you!
It gets dark around 6:30pm, so bring something to read or games to play if you want something to do before and after dinner. The time at Pacuare goes by very quickly and it can be as relaxing or adventurous as you want. It is both luxurious and rustic at the same time.
On the day of your departure, you will leave after breakfast on your raft. Along the way, you stop for a gourmet lunch that I swear is pulled out of nowhere. The guides quickly produce a full, beautiful meal while you look in awe at the scenery around you. Once you get back to the warehouse, you can shower and change clothes before the minibus takes you back to San Jose. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about the magic of the Pacuare Lodge. It is a trip I will never forget and I look forward to going back to Costa Rica.
Charleston, SC is one of those places where you really can’t say you are from there unless you were born there. With all of the charm, history, and magic it has to offer, you should feel lucky just to be able to visit. After living there for ten years, I’ve pretty much tried every restaurant and activity. Still, my favorite thing to do is wander the streets, cobblestone or not, and notice new things each time. I’d recommend you spend a decent amount of time doing the same. Below are my current suggestions for your time in Charleston. Of course, there are always more things to do than are on this list, so please let me know if you have any questions or interests, and I’ll be happy to help.
Food and Drink: Hit up cozy Fast & French for any meal of the day. Thursday night is Fondue Night, which is always a favorite. Although Whisk Bakery is located among many tourist trap restaurants around the Market area, do not be fooled. Their friendly staff (accents included) and authentic cuisine is not to be missed. Try the almond danish, German iced coffee (or mint tea for the lactose intolerant), and the baked mac and cheese bbq sandwich. Husk has gotten a lot of attention as of late, but opt for lunch there instead of dinner. Be sure to make reservations in advance unless you don’t mind the long wait. As for the best dinner in town, head to upper King Street to get to The Macintosh. A semi-new restaurant, it hasn’t quite hit the tourist radar yet. Although, they did just win a spot on Esquire’s Best New Restauants in America for 2012 list, so hurry in. Their burger is the best I’ve ever had, or try the melt in your mouth scallops.
Activities: The Charleston Farmers Market is one of the best in the country. Held each Saturday April-December, local farmers, artists, and food vendors gather to impress attendees week after week. Pick up some unique gifts, and be sure to try Empanada Mamma, The Juice Joint, and WEW Pies.
Heading out to the plantations along Spanish moss covered roads never gets old. Spend half of a day at Middleton Plantation exploring the grounds and taking in the scenery along the Ashley River.
For the perfect evening on the water, catch a sunset or moonlight sail on the Schooner Pride, a tall ship that will transport you back in time while enjoying a glass of wine and the wind blowing through your hair. They may even ask you to raise the jib.
Lodging: Of course, locals don’t have to worry about finding proper accommodations, but there is certainly a place that will make you feel like you’ve lived here forever and give you the expertise you need to confidently conquer the city. For special occasions or the ultimate getaway, Two Meeting Street Inn is the place to be. (888-723-7322; from $225)
For Ultimate Local Status: Attend the First Friday Art Walks and enjoy appetizers, wine, people watching, and dozens of galleries open for the evening (every first Friday of the month) or Second Sundays on King Street, when King Street is closed off to vehicular traffic, so pedestrians can shop, eat, and wander down one of Charleston’s most famous streets (every second Sunday of the month). To get around town, you don’t need a car. Those foolish enough to try to find parking will soon realize that the way to get around if not by foot is by pedi-cab, also called bike taxis. You can find them all over the city- attractive young men (and women) ready to take you from place to place while telling you about the town.
How to get there: The Charleston International Airport is only a 15 minute ride from the city. Southwest Airlines now flies into Charleston, as well as most other major airlines.
When to go: Spring and Fall are the ideal times to visit Charleston, due to the perfect weather and many events and activities going on. However, you can get a good deal and save quite a bit of money in the off season months of January, February, July, and August. The city is decorated beautifully for the holidays, a truly enchanting experience.
Bonus Food Fav’s:
Best Mac & Cheese: Cru Café Close Runner-Up: Lowcountry Bistro
Best Bagels: Bagel Nation- my favorites are the Southern Belle sandwich or a Frazzle bagel with sweet cream cheese
Romantic Dinner: Fulton 5
Casual, football watching Sunday: Smokey Oak Tap Room- get the Cuban and a bloody mary (I’ve yet to find better of both of these) and peanut butter pie for dessert
Classic Charleston: Anson Restaurant
Doughnuts: Glazed- flavors and toppings you’ve probably never heard of before. Not your typical doughnut shop. A must try.
Special Mention: Wildflour Bakery- on weekends, there is almost always a line out the door and down the sidewalk waiting for huge, delicious cinnamon rolls and sticky buns. It’s worth the wait. So is their parfait with homemade granola and yogurt, dried and fresh fruit, honey, and agave nectar…IF they have any left!
Have Fun Y’all!
It’s that time of year again- Prost! I love checking out Oktoberfests all over the country. Wherever I may be at the time, I can always find at LEAST one. Coming from a German background, speaking German, and having visited Germany, I feel at home at these events. The beer selection- always great. The music and dancing- always great. The people watching- always great. The food selection, however- not so great. Whatever background you come from, you tend to know what dishes are traditional of your culture, how it should actually taste, and where to find it when you get a craving. Over the years, I have learned not to get my hopes up when trying out a new Oktoberfest. They mainly serve brats, sauerkraut, pretzels, and wienerschnitzel IF you are lucky. But what about the main staples of sauerbraten, knodel, spatzle, and so many more? In areas where German restaurants don’t exist, if you can’t get authentic German food at Oktoberfest, when and where can you? It makes me wonder if any other culture’s (that I don’t know much about) festivals are this inaccurate as well. Are people of those cultures annoyed that they are not accurately being represented? If any of you know of Oktoberfests (besides the official one in Germany) that have all of these foods and more, I’d love to hear about them! In the end, what it comes down to is the fact that you can’t not have fun at Oktoberfest, and I will press on in efforts to find a truly remarkable one. Side Note: If you can’t find some place that makes/serves/sells your favorite German food, you can always cook for yourself by going to World Market and stocking up on ingredients like I did yesterday!