The Victoria’s Secret Influencer Event in Chicago

Hey guys! A week ago my girlfriend Dani and I attended the Victoria’s Secret Influencer Event at London House hosted by Victoria’s Secret supermodel, Martha Hunt, and blogger, Olivia Rink, where we mingled with other local blogger babes, sipped on tasty cocktails and walked away with a couple of goodie bags. It was a beautiful event on a beautiful summer night.

You can shop my outfit details below! xo

Continue Reading

The Ultimate Bachelorette Party in Cabo San Lucas

Hi all! A few weeks ago I attended the ultimate bachelorette party in Cabo San Lucas for one of my closest friends.  I’ve traveled to different parts of Mexico over the years and this was my third time in Cabo.  If you’re looking for a tropical destination with beautiful beaches, sunsets, a nightlife and not too far from home, Cabo is the place to visit!  You can read more about Cabo San Lucas in my travel diary from a previous trip here.The girls and I traveled over July 4th and stayed for six days.  I was a little skeptical about traveling to Cabo in the middle of summer, but the weather was absolutely perfect.  The temps were in the high 80s with clear blue skies and sunshine every day and it actually seemed to be a pretty popular time to visit.  There were quite a few birthday and bachelor/bachelorette parties happening while we were there.

Where we stayed:

We rented a beautiful property through Cabo Villas, Villa Desierto, located in Punta Ballena which is adjacent to the Esperanza resort in a gated community and about a 15 min. cab ride from downtown Cabo San Lucas.  Honestly we couldn’t have picked a more perfect property for our six day getaway to accommodate twelve ladies.  The Matron of Honor and Koumbara did all the legwork including finding the villa and planning out the week for us making it just the right mix of relaxation and fun.  Thanks again, ladies!!!This was my first time staying in a villa on vacation and I would absolutely do it again when traveling with close friends.  We split the cost between all of the girls and it came out to about $525/girl for the house which included three housekeepers who came out every morning, a house manager that was on call if we ever needed anything as well as our own private transfer to/from the airport.

Our Week in Review
Day 1:

After somewhat of a long travel day (there were no direct flights into Cabo the week we went), we were greeted with margaritas, chips, homemade salsas and guacamole by our house manager upon arrival.  We stopped at Costco on the way to the villa to stock up on some groceries since we’d be spending the majority of our time at the house so if you do opt to rent a house over staying at a resort there is a Costco or a Walmart to choose from.

We spent the rest of the afternoon lounging poolside before some of us went out for the evening.

Day 2:

We had lunch reservations at SUR Beach House, a super cute beach front property located on Medano Beach.  Medano Beach is actually the only swimmable beach in Cabo and it overlooks Land’s End.  There are several hotels on the beach to the left of SUR Beach House and more restaurants to the right including The Office and Mango Deck Restaurant & Bar, both of which are Cabo’s popular attractions. After lunch we decided to walk a few doors down where we rented a day bed on the beach and spent the day drinking cocktails, swimming in the ocean, getting our hair braided (typical girly girls) and being total beach bums.

Day 3:

We spent the entire day at the house and had lunch catered through A Matter of Taste that the MOH booked through Cabovillas.com followed by a private chef’s dinner in the evening.  During dinner we thought it would be a nice gesture to go around the table and say how we met the person sitting next to us and one favorite thing about that person which turned out to be an emotional evening (in a good way).  We concluded the night by gifting the bachelorette sexy lingerie and making her do a little runway show for us.  Let’s just say the groom is one lucky man!!

Day 4:

We went back to Sur Beach House for lunch (it was that good) followed by a pool party at ME Cabo hotel.  The ME hosts Blue Merlin Ibiza pool parties weekly specifically on Saturdays with guest DJ’s, but you can reserve a cabana Friday and Sunday as well.   At night we hit up downtown Cabo where there are a ton of nightclubs and bars. We basically spent our evenings dancing the night away at Mandala which is one of Cabo’s most popular night clubs.  I would highly recommend getting a table on the weekends because of how crowded it gets.  One other fun option to kickoff the night is Nowhere Bar which is kitty corner from Mandala and right before the Marina.

Day 5:

On our last full day in Cabo we spent the day at Omnia Day Club which is a brand new day club at Vidanta hotel in Los Cabos.  It’s more expensive than ME and a little further from downtown Cabo, but Omnia is definitely worth checking out.  We had our own private Cabana which included a private pool, butler, bottle service, food, etc. for about $3,500.  It was one of the many highlights of our trip and I’m so lucky to have been a part of it!

Continue Reading

Tuscany Travel Guide: Florence, Siena, Chianti and San Gimignano

Widely considered to be one of the most beautiful and historic regions in Italy, Tuscany was the second stop on our multi-city Italy vacation.  From its lush vineyards and rolling hills in the countryside to the delectable cuisine paired with bold and oh-so tasty wine to the endless views and medieval history, I can truly say Tuscany embodies all that Italy is.

We spent 4.5 days in Tuscany with Florence as our home base.  A lot of people confuse Tuscany as its own town when in fact it is the fifth largest region in central Italy made up of cities, hill towns and small villages.  Florence is the most populous city and the capital of Tuscany and is celebrated as the birthplace of Renaissance known for it exquisite artwork, museums, churches and palaces.

Day 1:

We took a high speed train from Venice (included in our package) on Friday afternoon and arrived in Florence in under 2.5 hours. We didn’t have anything scheduled on the first day so we spent the day wandering and exploring our neighborhood.  We had drinks at La Ménagére, a trendy and eclectic restaurant, flower shop and cocktail bar followed by dinner at Ciro and Sons.  I would definitely recommend going to both if you’re ever in the area.

Where We Stayed:

We stayed at Hotel Cerretani Firenze by Sofitel located in the heart of Florence’s historic center (stones throw away from the Duomo di Firenze) and a 10 minute walk from the Santa Maria Novella train station.  For as much as there is to see and do in Florence, it’s still small enough to be able to walk everywhere and see all the major sites in the four days we had. The most popular and important sites in Florence that we made sure to visit include:

  • Uffizi Gallery (world-renowned art museum)
  • Palazzo Vecchio (town hall)
  • Palazzo Pitti/Pitti Palace
  • Boboli and Bardini Gardens
  • Duomo Firenza/Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral (Florence’s main cathedral)
  • Santa Croce (principal Franciscan church and burial place for Michelangelo among others)
  • Accademia Gallery (houses Michelangelo’s David)
  • Ponte Vecchio (oldest bridge in Florence)
  • Piazzale Michalangelo (square that offers panoramic views of Florence)

Since there’s quite a bit of history and important sites to visit, we weren’t exactly sure where to begin so we booked a couple of tours through a company called Walks of Italy.  I would highly recommend scheduling a tour or two when visiting cities like Florence and Rome so you can appreciate the history and culture that much more.  Unlike other tour companies, Walks of Italy keep their group sizes small (10-15) and their tour guides are not only extremely knowledgeable, but they’re also passionate and engaging making the tours so much more enjoyable.

Day 2:

We booked The Best of Florence Walking Tour with David and the Duomo, a 3.5 hour tour of Florence’s most famous sights including express entry into the Accademia Gallery for an up close and personal experience of Michelangelo’s David and his unfinished Slaves.  I took an art history class in college, but I never appreciated art history more so than after our tour.

5 Fun Facts about Michelangelo:

  1. He was never married or considered a “womanizer” unlike his younger male counterpart and rivalry, Raphael. One theory as to why Michelangelo focused so much on the male physique while also portraying women as muscular and manly is that he was homosexual.
  2. He lived off of only bread and water because he had a hard time keeping food down as he often dissected cadavers to understand the human anatomy better, yet lived to be 88 years old.
  3. He considered himself a sculptor not a painter even though he was often commissioned to decorate and paint for the pope resulting in his most famous frescoed ceiling inside the Sistine Chapel.
  4. He only completed 5 sculptures in his entire career.
  5. It took Michelangelo 4 years to complete the 2,000 square foot ceiling inside the Sistine Chapel while standing on a wooden plank of a scaffolding sixty feet in the air while working looking up.

Our tour also included visiting the Duomo di Firenze (Santa Maria Cathedral) which is the third largest church in the world and the last to have been built in Florence.  It took 140 years to complete.  There is no fee or express entry to go inside the cathedral and sometimes the lines can be long, but luckily there was a short line so we had time to visit the inside of the church as well.  If you really want to see the Duomo in all its glory, you can purchase tickets to climb to the top of the cupola for an incredible view of the city (we did not).  The Gothic style architecture, design and fine craftsmanship that went into building the cathedral is just incredible.  John and I concluded our day of exploring with a walk to the Piazzale Michelangelo square which offers a panoramic view of the entire city.  The view during sunset was absolutely breathtaking.

Day 3:

On our third day in Florence, we had an early morning tour of the Uffizi Gallery and the Palazzo Vecchio.  The Uffizi Gallery is the most prominent and one of the largest art museums in the world that houses some of the best pieces of art from the Italian Renaissance by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo and is one of Florence’s top tourist sites.  The Palazzo Vecchio is the town hall and the history of Florence as it was the house of government and power for the republic.  It also holds a replica of Michelangelo’s David.  After our tour, we explored more of the city with a stop at Santa Croce (the burial place for all the greats such as Michelangelo, Rossini, Machiavelli and Galileo Galilei) followed by a little hike up to the Bardini Gardens. The Wisteria tunnel in bloom was really pretty to see. For dinner we decided to venture out of our neighborhood and go south of the Old Bridge.  They have some really cute restaurants in the area and I would suggest checking out the neighborhood of Nicchio if you have the chance.  We assumed that we’d be able to find a restaurant and walk in without reservations, but this area seemed to be where most of the locals hung out and a lot of places were already booked.

We stopped at a local wine bar called Enoteca Obsequium which offers wine tastings for €30 a person and includes your own sommelier.  We skipped the tasting this time around since we got there late, but we will absolutely make reservations on our next visit.  We concluded our evening with dinner at Paoli restaurant for La Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Florentine steak) which is 1kg of a Porterhouse with the filet and contre-filet separated by the T-bone, cooked rare.  It was delicious!  Although the restaurant came highly recommended with 4-star online reviews, our overall experience was tainted by the lousy service we received and how rushed and dismissed we felt.*Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) is the oldest bridge in Florence and one of the most famous and beautiful bridges in the world.  There are many shops built on it and rumor has it that Adolf Hitler saved the bridge from destruction during WWII because it was just too beautiful to destroy.

Day 4:

On our last day in Florence, we took a day trip to Siena, Chianti and San Gimignano also through Walks of Italy.  We literally booked this tour the day before and since we had such a great experience with them, we thought this would be the best way to venture out and explore the hill towns.  We were picked up in the early morning with Siena being our first stop where we walked around at our leisure while also going inside the Siena Cathedral.  We then had lunch at a local farm house in Chianti where we were served a four-course homemade meal complete with a tasting of their very own wine before concluding our day in San Gimignano, a small hill town best known for its medieval towers and stunning views.  The Tuscan countryside is about a 45 minute drive from Florence.

Our hostess with the mostess at il vecchio maneggio! Our Walks of Italy fam!

John and I both fell in love with Tuscany and we can’t wait to visit again.  I would highly encourage you to visit this beautiful region at least once in your life and you may just come back feeling like you left a piece of your heart there.  I know I did.  Until next time..

Continue Reading

Italy Packing List: Spring & Summer

Hi, lovelies!  With summer vacation upon us, I know some of you will be traveling abroad in the next few months and traveling to the same destination I just recently visited so I wanted to share some tips and an easy packing list based on my own experience to help make your packing less stressful and simpler for one of the most popular (and my new favorite) spring/summer travel destinations in Europe![photo credit]

Before we get to my packing list, my best suggestion is that you pack light (or at least try to) and I don’t just mean light fabrics!  There’s nothing worse than overpacking and lugging around two/three large suitcases while jumping from city to city.  John and I had one large suitcase each, but we could’ve easily gotten away with just one between the two of us.  Spring and summer travel is so much easier in my opinion because you can wear less clothes and lighter fabrics so there’s less of chance to overpack.

Note: We traveled April 17-May 2 and it happened to be lot warmer than we thought it would be (high 70s and sunny) so be prepared when you’re traveling during Italy’s peak tourist season (June-August).  The summer heat can be really uncomfortable so stick with bright and light colors as well as lightweight fabrics (linen, cotton, rayon).  Early spring is still cool enough for jeans and a jacket, but you won’t need to pack either for summer.

What to Pack:

1. Casual everyday items (e.g. tees, tanks, camis, dressy shorts, capris).

Italy is pretty casual so there’s no need for complicated and elaborate outfits, plus you’re going to be doing a lot of walking and sightseeing so you’ll want to stay cool and comfortable especially when visiting the top tourist attractions (Vatican City, The Colosseum, museums. etc.).  Summers in Italy get really crowded and hot (some places don’t have air conditioning) and you’ll be bumping into people, so in this case, less is more.

Pro-Tip: Consider packing one pair of bottoms for every 2-3 tops. You can save room in your luggage if you can re-wear some pieces.

I’m obsessed with Target’s Univeral Thread and A New Day tees/tanks which are currently on sale for 3 for $20!  Also, paper bag waist pants and wide leg capris are really popular right now and the ones I wore in Tuscany are on sale for $20!

2. One-piece wonders (e.g. rompers and casual dresses).

Shift dresses or tank dresses are my go-to summer essentials.  They’re great options for transitioning from day to night because they look super cute with sneakers while walking around during the day and then you can just slip into a pair of dressier sandals at night for a cute and effortless evening look.

Pro-Tip: Pack 1-2 outfits max per day.  If you’re going to the bigger cities, you’ll be gone for most of the day anyway and you may or may not return to your hotel to change before dinner.  It all really depends on your itinerary and your preference.  There were some days that we just stayed out from morning to night and there were other days when we were pretty sweaty and sticky so we had to go back to the hotel to freshen up before going back out.

Note: When visiting religious sites, you must cover your shoulders and knees so make sure to have a lightweight cardigan or shawl for bare shoulders and stick with capris or mid length dresses.

 

3. Sneakers, flats, loafers and sandals.

Leave your heels and wedges at home!  I can’t stress this enough.  You’re going to be doing a lot of walking on cobblestone streets as well as up/down cliffs so you want shoes that are comfortable and easy to walk in.

Pro-tip:  Don’t wear shoes you haven’t broken into.  I had purchased a pair of cute fashionable low tops before our trip without wearing them beforehand and they completely dug into my ankle and so I couldn’t wear them the rest of the trip.  Also, you don’t want to risk the chance of getting blisters caused by stiff and uncomfortable shoes.  That’s a sure way to put a damper on your otherwise amazing vaca.

Pro-tip: You might want to save the flip-flops, slides and dress(ier) sandals for the leisurely strolls and beach towns unless they’re cushioned and to avoid getting the bottoms of your feet dirty.

4. Handbags.

Pro-tip:  Leave your big designer totes/handbags at home and opt for a crossbody or a fanny pack/belt bag.

We didn’t have any issues, but Rome for instance is known for pickpocketers especially at the main tourist sites including the train station so you want to make sure everything is secure.  I did carry a large tote to/from the airport and in between cities so opt for one with a zipper to secure your belongings.

5.  Accessories/Jewelry (sunglasses and wide brim hats are a must).

I mentioned how warm and sunny it was when we went so you definitely want to shield your eyes and cover your head.  I love sunglasses so I always pack a few extras to have options for my outfits.  Wide brim and panama hats are lightweight which can help keep your head covered from the blazing sun, plus they’re cute and fashionable so it’s a win, win.

Pro-Tip: I’d stay away from baseball caps if you don’t want the locals to recognize you as a tourist due to your lack of effort.  European style tends to be a little dressier than American style (think dressy tops and dark jeans) so I’d suggest leaving your gym clothes for the gym and your beachwear for the beach.

As for jewelry, I stick with the basics (e.g. stud earrings, bracelets, a watch and a couple of necklaces).

 

Pro-tip: Don’t bring any expensive jewelry with you including your engagement ring.  As I mentioned above, there are a lot of pickpocketers and if you’re decked out in designer clothes and sparkly bling bling from head to do, you’ll for sure be an easy target.

6.  Beachwear.

If you’re staying in a villa in the Tuscan countryside or traveling to the Amalfi Coast and other beach towns where you’re able to lounge by the pool and beach all day, you’ll most definitely want to have a few bathing suits and coverups on hand. I always opt for one pieces in bright colors on vacation and I’ve linked a few of my favorites.

If you have any questions or if I missed anything, leave me a comment below or email me.

xo

Continue Reading

Travel Diary: Venice & Burano Island

Buongiorno!!

Now that we’ve had a chance to get settled back at home, I’ve had time to upload some of our photos and give you a little glimpse into each city we visited on our 2 week Italy trip.

Day 1:

Our first stop was Venice.  We arrived in Venice on Wednesday mid-morning and left early afternoon on Friday so we had 2.5 days to explore Venice.  This was plenty of time to see all the beauty and charm this romantic city has to offer.**Fun Fact** Venice is the capital of the province of Venezia and the region of Venato in northern Italy which is known for its art, beauty and canals.  It’s an island city and the only way to get around is by foot or water.  The streets are only made for pedestrians so be prepared to walk and wander.

Although the side streets and small alleys can get tricky, Venice is fairly small and there are signs everywhere so don’t be afraid to get “lost” because you’ll eventually find your way back.  Honestly, getting lost is the best way to really immerse yourself in the city and to truly see what Venice has to offer. Just make sure to have a map on hand!  On our last night in Venice we actually did get lost.  Both of our phones died and we only had our good ol’ trusted paper map that the hotel gave us to help navigate. Thankfully John is direction savvy and actually knows how to read a map so we found our way back within 30 minutes even in the dark.  Venice was really safe and no one bothered us.  Everyone is still out and about even after 10pm so if you do get lost and need directions, I’m sure someone will be able to help you out.

Where We Stayed:

We stayed at Hotel Papadopoli by Sofitel which was located off the Grand Canal in Santa Croce, near the Piazzale Roma, the principal arrival point in Venice (about a 20 minute drive from Marco Polo airport).  We had a private transfer which was included in our travel package (read about our Costco travel package here) who dropped us off at our hotel.  Although our hotel was within walking distance from the main transportation hub, once you reach a certain point, you can’t enter with a car.  Luckily our hotel was less than 10 yards from where the driver had to park and he was nice enough to walk us all the way to our hotel and help with our luggage.

We arrived at our hotel just before noon so we just dropped our stuff off and ventured out for the day. We chose a canal side restaurant for lunch by Ponte delle Guglie.  It’s one of two bridges to span the Cannaregio Canal in Venice. Venetians aren’t really known for their cuisine so I didn’t make it a point to remember the names of the restaurants we dined at, plus there’s one restaurant after another so you can honestly just pick anywhere to eat.  I’d suggest staying away from restaurants with photos on the menu as those are known for being more touristy.  The owner or manager of the restaurant we had lunch at was this cute little Italian man who was extremely friendly, barely spoke any English and really made our first meal in Italy that much more enjoyable. After lunch we spent the day wandering and exploring the city.  Our hotel was about 25 minutes walking from Piazza San Marco or St. Mark’s Square which is the main square of Venice.  **Note** St. Mark’s Basilica is the cathedral church of Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice.  It’s free entry, but it was a bit crowded so we didn’t go in.After a looong day of wandering the city, John and I stopped at Hotel Monoco which has a cute outdoor patio for some cocktails while we enjoyed the peacefulness while overlooking the Grand Canal.

Day 2:

On our second day in Venice, we purchased ferry tickets to Burano.  I think we paid about €40 round trip for both of us.  We stopped at the Rialto Bridge (the oldest of 4 bridges spanning the Grand Canal) for a quick photo op on the way to St. Mark’s.  Isn’t it a gorgeous view??  It was a lot less crowded than at sunset (sunset photos at the end of the post). **Fun Fact** Bridge of Sighs was built at the beginning of the seventeenth century with the intention of connecting the Old Prison and interrogation rooms in Doge’s Palace to the New Prison.  There are a couple of theories as to how the bridge got its name.  One is that the prisoners who walked across the bridge on their way to the executioner would “sigh” as they crossed the bridge while getting their last glimpse of the outside world.  The other theory is much more romantic.  If a couple kisses under the bridge while on a gondola during sunset, they will enjoy eternal love and so the lovers’ “sighs” would be due to an overwhelming feeling of romance of the whole scene.  Which theory do you prefer?

Burano Island:

Burano is an island in the Venetian lagoon known for its brightly colored fisherman’s houses and lace work.  It’s about a 45 minute ferry ride from the pier. There are several restaurants and little shops all over so we just walked around and had lunch before we went back.  If I had woken up earlier, we would’ve probably stopped in Murano as well which is only 20 minutes from the pier and is known for its glass making factories.  Since we had to choose, we both thought Burano would be more worth seeing and it really was.  Isn’t it just stunning??

P.S. All of our photos were taken with my Iphone camera.  I didn’t feel like lugging around my bigger camera, but it worked just as well. After a couple hours in Burano, we stopped back at Hotel Monaco to find a gondolier to take us out at sunset. They had quite a bit of gondoliers in front of the hotel the night before, but honestly, they’re everywhere along the canal so you can easily find one.  It costs about €120 for a 40 minute gondola ride so make sure to find a gondolier you really like since they do expect a tip and consider bringing a bottle of wine to make it even more romantic.  Our gondolier just whistled which wasn’t worth an extra tip, but he did get a really good sunset photo of us right in front of the Rialto Bridge so we’ll give him that. We ended the evening with dinner at a restaurant with outdoor seating overlooking the Rialto Bridge.  Again, there are so many restaurants to choose from so I didn’t write down the name, but I don’t think you can go wrong.On on our last morning before heading out to Florence, I slept in and so I didn’t get a chance to have a cappuccino at Caffè Florian, an iconic cafe from the early 1700s and the oldest coffee house in the world.  (Bummer!)  At least one of us did..

Continue Reading
1 4 5 6 7 8 18