My Travel Bucket List

I’m a list maker–whether it be a shopping list, an ever-evolving to-do list, or my places to visit bucket list. As a travel blogger, this last list is one that I am constantly scheming places to add and later cross off. As I draft this, I’m currently at 39 countries visited, and soon, I hope to have seen more.

So, without further adieu or waxing eloquently (un-eloquently?), here is the shortlist of where I’d like to visit sooner than later:

  • All 50 U.S. state capitols: I currently have 9 left to hit.
  • Cuba: I am hoping to see Havana before it catches up to modern city.
  • Galapagos Islands: Turtles!
  • Peru:  Bring on Machu Picchu.
  • Brazil: After the Olympics this summer, I’m looking forward to Rio even more.
  • Antarctica: It’s the ultimate…and I do have a goal to hit all 7 continents.
  • Iceland: Air Iceland’s stopover package in Reykjavik sounds amazing.
  • Jordan: The historic architectural site of Petra seems unreal.
  • Egypt: I really want to see the pyramids…should have gone several years back when I had the opportunity!
  • South Africa: Friends went on an incredible safari…yes, please.
  • Cambodia: Angkor Wat is absolutely at the top of my list.
  • Vietnam: I’m curious to see the difference between Northern and Southern Vietnam.

With ever-growing inspiration and places I’d like to go, it’s almost impossible to want to revisit destinations I love. Yet there are places I want to be again. Places like Bora Bora, where we honeymooned, or Greece or Italy, which I’ve traveled to a couple of times but want to experience more.

As I pen this, I think of the Things To Do While Alive advertising campaign that struck me almost a decade ago when I lived in Sweden. Some items are checked off, and some of the items are still on my bucket list. I am thankful for these experiences, for the technology to capture memories (from my trusty Canon EOS! to Hipstamatic! and now my Sony and Instagram app), and for 5 senses to take in the world. Cheers to those places and people that have made impressions on me, and here’s to all of the adventures in store!

 

Christmas Market in Sweden

Two years ago in November, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Scandinavia, one of my favorite parts of the world. While there, I realized that I might be able to visit a Swedish Christmas market in Malmö. Luckily enough, I walked down a lovely pedestrian thoroughfare from my hotel to hit the market and browse through some of my favorite Swedish stores like Indiska. The holiday scents from delicious food and drink offerings like glögg (mulled wine) were intoxicating! My must-have purchase? A tomte gnome, which is a traditional Swedish version of Santa. With this brisk evening jaunt in 37◦F weather, I had a fantastic glimpse into Christmas customs from a country that I adore. An early “God Jul” to you!

Eating Our Way through Santa Monica

Aside

This weekend, my fiancé and I spent three days in Santa Monica, California. In town for a wedding, we happily ate our way through some of the best restaurants there. Headed to this lovely beach community soon? Below are some of the best places we went over the long weekend:

  • Ivy at the Shore. The Ivy is a Beverly Hills institution, and we hit this more casual location for lunch. Think colorful decoration, the famous Cobb salad (I enjoyed mine with lobster), attentive waiters, and refreshing berry champagne drinks. The outside seating area filled up quickly, and we loved having a leisurely lunch before strolling down to the touristy Santa Monica Pier.
  • The Penthouse at the Huntley. We joined some friends in a snazzy private booth here for dinner, and what a meal it was! We started with a delish charcuterie plate and marveled over the pâté. For my main course, I selected the truffle lobster macaroni and cheese–to die for!–and shared some of the chocolate panna cotta with my friends for desert. The views were incredible, and the service was excellent.
  • One Pico at Shutters on the Beach. This hotel is gorgeous and worth a visit itself, but I will happily recommend their Saturday brunch. We enjoyed tasty bubbles and their heavenly array of breads in this open and airy space directly next to the beach. Since I was still in a food coma from the previous day, I had a light mealof fresh corn soup with a zesty Caesar salad.
  • Sonoma Wine Garden. This fetching wine bistro sits atop of Santa Monica Place, and their Sunday brunch boasted six unlimited day drinking options (think elderflower mimosas) and noshable treats. Make sure you stake claim on your umbrella quickly, as these were in high demand on a sunny afternoon!
  • Casa Del Mar. This hotel, also directly on the beach, is another Santa Monica staple, yet we were finished stuffing our faces and only enjoyed a glass of wine overlooking the ocean. The atmosphere was quaint, and this was absolutely the most delightful way to cap off a lovely weekend.

The wedding we attended was at the nearby Viceroy–and it was pretty swanky. I would have loved to luxuriate by its cabana-covered pool, and they did a wonderful job with the wedding. We stayed at the Le Meridien Delfina, and while the hotel was not my favorite SPG property, the staff was pleasant, and the spicy truffle popcorn was addicting. It’s a good thing that we danced the night away at the wedding reception and walked all over town, or we would have gained a lot of weight eating our way through gorgeous Santa Monica!

Santa Monica Beach Scene from Casa Del Mar

Santa Monica Beach Scene from Casa Del Mar

Des Moines: French for The Moines

For our second annual Mom/Daughter Eating/Drinking/Touring Extravaganza, my mother and I visited Iowa and Nebraska this weekend. Friends and acquaintances asked why we’d make a specific trip to visit what is known as the “flyover states,” yet I am glad we did–Des Moines is quite a cosmopolitan treasure to explore! We arrived on a Friday morning, and after some navigation of the downtown area’s easily explorable streets, we hit the gorgeous state capitol building.

Iowa was my 36th state capitol to visit, and it was well-worth the trip: a beautiful 23 karat gold dome, a collection of miniature inaugural gowns of Iowa’s first ladies, and an incredibly gorgeous law library. If I lived in Des Moines, I’d try to figure out a way to have my wedding in the library–from stunning spiral staircases to rows and rows of books, it’s no wonder that international dignitaries and politicos regularly visit.

We enjoyed bloody mary drinks and lunch at a local spot before heading back out for a visit to the Center Street Pedestrian Bridge and the Robert D. Ray Asian Gardens. Free to the public, this was a nice way to burn off lunch…another of which being some light shopping on Locust Street. My favorite store was RAYGUN, which sold wonderful Midwestern-themed graphic products, including wares with this week’s blog headline “Des Moines: French for The Moines” emblazoned across them.

We drove by the well-known Salisbury House and walked through the Pappajohn Sculpture Park–worth a stop. Our evening was spent relaxing at our hotel’s evening reception (a perk to staying at the Embassy Suites) before heading to a delish prix-fixe meal at Lucca, both ideally located on Locust Street, with a beautiful night view of the capitol. We were in town during Iowa’s Capitol City Pride Fest 2014, as well as during an evening concert on the river, so our night ended with a glorious fireworks display. With or without the pyrotechnics, we found Des Moines to be charming!

 

The Joys of Flying

My most current business trip started as most do: I called Uber for my lift to the airport while doing some last-second packing. After many years of traveling for work, I have fitting it all in down pat, although this pre-trip rush always gives me adrenaline. At the airport, I head to a different terminal, as I’m flying on US Airways this particular trip. As a long-time American Airlines fan, I was dreading flying this merging airline, especially with some updates announced today that are sending us frequent AA flyers into a tailspin.

Nevertheless, my trip went was fairly non-eventful–except for some small hiccups. So, here are some friendly reminders for all of us on a flying metal tube to have a pleasant flight:

  • Although your ring tone is a loud “Sweet Child of Mine” by the great Guns ‘N Roses, after the plane door is closed, it’s probably a good idea to silence your phone and have it in airplane mode.
  • Come to think of it, phones should always be in quiet mode during a flight, especially when you’re composing emails the entire trip. That means you, 6B.
  • I can’t understand why passengers seated in the rear of the plane place their carry on luggage near the bulkhead. Those spots fill up so fast, then those who are by law required to stow all luggage have nowhere to put their belongings…which can cause delays!
  • What you’re grabbing for balance every time you get out of your seat is actually the back of the passenger’s in front of you. Remember: we’re all in this together!
  • I’ve read multiple times recently in travel forums how few people actually respond to the flight attendants when they greet boarding travelers. I decided to preempt their greetings with one cheerful “good morning!!” of my own. It’s not only the polite thing to do, but they have been very lovely in response.

Hopefully, this week’s post comes across as a positive one. Travel is definitely my passion, even though I have to remind myself during delayed flights and encounters with rude passengers. We road warriors must remember that it’s all worth it–especially the opportunity to experience new cities, meet new people from around the world, and enjoy the rare–but incredible!–personal excursions we get to take.

 

A Sunny Weekend in Laguna Beach

My boyfriend and I were ecstatic to join three other couples this past weekend in Laguna Beach, California. Although I used to live fifteen minutes away from there, each trip I am reminded how gorgeous this part of the world is! And the springy weather made the weekend absolutely perfect to enjoy morning walks on the beach and time on the balcony listening to the waves.

We stayed at the Laguna Brisas Spa Hotel, and it had a perfect location a block away from the water. It was close to several of the activities we enjoyed–a tasty dinner at Mozambique, Thai massages for the boys, and pedicures for the girls. I would certainly book a room at this hotel for our next journey.

One of my absolute favorite hangouts in Orange County the Ramos House Cafe. In old San Juan Capistrano, this rustic spot was an excellent brunch locale. Its owner lives in the house, stores the wine in the cellar, and grows the herbs on-site. I’ve been lucky enough to dine there on multiple occasions, and each one is a treat with their famous Scotch Quail Egg Bloody Marys. This brunch is not for the faint of heart, though: come prepared to spend a set $40 on two courses and leave stuffed (as I did on truffle mac n’ cheese.)

Another highlight of this trip–besides walking hand-in-hand with Jacob and window shopping  at many of Laguna’s amazing art galleries–was dinner at Sapphire Laguna. Our party of eight’s table was not yet available during the time we arrived, and the lovely manager treated us to sparkling champagne during our brief wait. We paid a small corkage fee and enjoyed some heavenly wine with our incredible salads and main courses. I treated myself to the Chianti Braised Short Rib, and it was absolutely delightful. The staff was attentive and festive–as they helped us celebrate the birthday of our friend Alisa. What a treat!

Laguna Beach was also the perfect place to try out my brand new camera, the incredible Sony NEX-3NL…our group took wonderful photos with it the entire trip! After only a short weekend in this seaside heaven, we were sad to leave. We had a gorgeous farewell cocktail at the Splashes Bar at the nearby Surf and Sand Resort before an uneventful and short flight home. With already-made plans to return , I look forward to revisiting this quaint beach town in California very soon.

Instagrenoble, France

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This gallery contains 6 photos.

Last week, a work trip took me to Grenoble, France, where I was fortunate enough to mix business with pleasure: networking over a French cooking class, amazingly affordable wine, and crazy weather. One day, it would be fabulously sunny, and … Continue reading