Traveling Off Season- More than just a cost savings!

I have to admit, when my husband and I travel, we tend to travel during high season. We want the good weather in the Summer, the snow in Winter (well I don’t really ever want snow).

Yes, we know we end up paying higher prices, but it is what we expect.

It wasn’t until this November, that over Thanksgiving, we traveled to Spain. Now, I am sure, that if you are an American, you are thinking I am out of my mind, and that holiday travel is expensive, and that the airports are packed.

While you are mostly correct, most people who travel over the holidays, tend to travel to see family, or with family. Over Thanksgiving and Christmas, Americans travel to visit family, who are more than likely American, they travel as a family. Cancun, Florida are packed and expensive. (Not to pick on Cancun but we went over NYE to Tulum last year and everything was a ZOO.)

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2017 – 2018 Travel Bucket List

With changes in popularity of destinations, safety and nonstop travel learning, my bucket list is always changing. My top 10 list today won’t be top 10 come 6 months.

In 2016 we traveled to Mexico, Italy, Croatia & are headed to Spain in exactly 2 weeks from today.

In Mexico, we climbed Mayan Ruins, and basked in the sun to escape a frigid Chicago Winter. We rode bikes, relaxed and were gifted with Montezuma’s Revenge L

In Italy, we visited Rome & Florence where we immersed ourselves in art & culture. We escaped to the countryside and visited Tuscan Wine Country in Siena & Montalcino. On the Amalfi Coast we spent most our time in Praiano in our secluded haven but took enough time to visit our favorite Pizza Place in the World, in Ravello, called Mimi Bar Pizza, all while taking in the views atop.

In Croatia, we experienced the Dalmatian Coast, pegged to be the new Amalfi, and enjoyed more seaside vacationing. We explored the ancient walls of Dubrovnik & Ston, and ate the freshest oysters humanly possible.

In 2 weeks we will visit Rioja & The Basque Country.

In fact, we took a step back and realized that since 2012, we have only been to Europe, and that it is time to make a change.

2017 Bucket List

To start, we always need somewhere to go for a short weekend in the Winter, and that’s always a trip we book on points 😉

End of February, we are heading to the Northside of the Dominican Republic. Renting a house and relaxing!

In the Summer time, we are hoping to go on a National Parks Road Trip with our dogs. We would love to go to Alberta or British Columbia- but it’s quite the hike for a road trip!

In the Winter- we are really hoping to go to Argentina, perhaps Chile too.

Do you have any tips for me!?!

Couples Travel Tip – Bring the Right Luggage

Trust me on this one ladies, your man does not want to carry your bag. Your rolling suitcase will be easy to navigate from the airport, but it has no match for stairs and cobble stone streets. Keep him free of carrying 2 bags with some of my recommendations.

  1. The Big Backpack- All smiles here!
  1. This Yellow North Face. Convertible from a Duffle to a Back Pack

https://www.thenorthface.com/shop/base-camp-duffellarge-cww1

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I however must say, I am in LOVE with Steamline Luggage. Been obsessing over these for years!

www.steamlineluggage.com

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What is your favorite bag to travel with?

Boating in the Balearic

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The Balearic Islands have everything Island travel has to offer. The party towns, fishing, luxury shopping, the finest hotels, hiking, fantastic food, and not to forget- plenty and plenty of beautiful beaches & water.

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Most visitors tend to bask in the sun at the most famous beaches. The most beautiful & secluded however, can only be reached by boat. Some can be reached by car if you drive for hours, and hike down as they are preserved national parks.

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There are plenty of group outings and catamarans but for a more customized experience, I recommend hiring a driver. You can tell them what you like and you can really decide how many and how often you want the boat to travel around.

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If you have time to plan, ask your hotel concierge the options. Last minute? – show up at the dock, there are always boats for hire ready to go.

Note: Many drivers are cash only, especially for gas.

 

Go:

Polleca – http://www.puertopollenca.com

Mallorca Charters – http://www.mallorcacharters.com

Palma – http://www.portdemallorca.com

Cruesa Mallorca Yacht Charters – http://www.cruesa.com

Monac-no

As an American, Monaco has always been represented to me as a sexy destination. Yachts, nicely dressed people, high end stores, the coast. A Black Tie only Casino.

Cars, Money.

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For lack of better words, Monaco is Las Vegas sans trashy Americans.

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But they have a great Aquarium.

Nice Views.

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Weekend Fireworks.

Traffic.

Oh and Apple Weather does not accurately predict their weather.

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Must do Barcelona

Barcelona is a bustling city, and like many of the World’s large cities, has a lot to offer. There’s the tourist areas, local areas, trendy neighborhoods, and well, plenty to do.

For those of you going soon, you have the delight of seeing La Sagrada Familia near end. It’s been a long time coming to finish. Once Guadi passed, between funding and artists, well, it has been a never ending piece of artwork , and a not to be missed visit in Barcelona.

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Park Guell, in addition, should not be missed. Note: If you walk it’s hilly don’t wear uncomfortable shoes like I did!

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Same as Citadel Park. Take Bikes to this one, much more fun!

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La Boqueria- Perhaps the top market dining experience we have ever had. We even named a dish off one of the restaurants- Kiosk Universal- this place, wow, ow wow, words cannot describe its perfection. Besides Kiosk, there is vendor after vendor displaying magnificent Spaniard cuisine.

Keep in mind, to Catalans, Barcelona, is not Spain. They’ve tried to gain their independence. The most authentic restaurants, while they don’t list anything in English (or German, or French etc), their first language, is Catalan which is most closely related to Portuguese. Local Catalan establishments may shun you for not speaking their language.

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My favorite neighborhood is the Gothic Quarter.

I couldn’t help but stop at 4 Gats after seeing Vicky Christina Barcelona.

Did you know that their beaches are newer? It was only since they hosted the Olympics that they man made beaches? Since then there have been many beach bar clubs open. Part restaurant and beach by day, dinner restaurant, and full on nightclub though the following morning.

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We made our main dining experiences off of recommendations by bartenders at the local watering hole & managed to see Rahm Emanuel’s doppelganger at Bar La Canete, after slurping some fish brains from head on shrimp. This guy was such a ringer for Rahm, which a few years later, while dining at Picolo Sogno in Chicago, I told my husband that ‘I saw the guy from Spain that looks like Rahm Emanuel.’ A total error, it was Rahm.

 

La Sagrada Familia – http://www.sagradafamilia.org/en/

Park Guell – http://www.parkguell.cat/en/

La Boqueria – http://www.boqueria.info/index.php?lang=en

Bar La Canete – http://www.barcanete.com/en

4 Gats – http://www.4gats.com/en/

Quimet y Quimet- https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187497-d717377-Reviews-Quimet_Quimet-Barcelona_Catalonia.html

 

If You Only Have 3 Days in Seville

A 2 1/2 hour train ride from Madrid makes Seville, & Southern Spain, easily accessible.

I highly recommend seeing the city’s main attractions via bikes, and finding some off the beaten bath areas in their winding streets. Who know what you will find! Most hotels will arrange for bikes to be picked up/dropped off to you so check in with your concierge before aimlessly walking around trying to find somewhere to get one.

If you only have 3 days, be sure not to skip out on these sites.

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Plaza de Espana & Maria Luisa Park– The Plaza de Espana is a beautiful, magnificent Plaza. There are beautiful painted hand tiles. There’s also a nice fountain. Adjacent to the Plaza there’s a really nice park. You’ll welcome the shade in the Summer, and admire the cornucopia of foliage colors in the fall.

http://www.andalucia.com/cities/seville/plazadeespana.htm

Cathedral De Seville– Horse Carriages are all around the area. The Cathedral is one of the most beautiful I have seems, and sits in perfectly with Seville’s architecture.

http://www.andalucia.com/cities/seville/cathedral.htm

Alfonso the 13th Hotel – Pricey to stay but great to go for a cocktail.

http://www.hotel-alfonsoxiii-seville.com/restaurants-and-bars

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Bullfighting– Over the years, women have swooned over Bullfighters. Perceived as warrior-like heroes, they are celebrities of their own kind. If you can’t bear to watch a bull fight, at least check out Seville’s stadium, which houses a bullfighting museum.

http://www.andalucia.com/cities/seville/bullring.htm

Being in Andulusia, Seville boasts many places to see Flamenco. I prefer the experience of the Gypsy Caves of Granda, but if you aren’t going to Granada- Seville would be my second choice.

http://www.sevillaflamenco.com/tablaos-in-seville.html#.V_EeV8-V-po

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Don’t forget to fuel up on Tapas.

As a reminder, Tapas aren’t free in Seville (and Andalucía) unlike some other areas. But, they are extremely delicious. In Andulucia, there are some Arabic influences in the tapas. We tend to like to visit places that are authentic of the region when traveling, rather than seeking out higher end restaurants and eating too-pretty-to-eat dishes, or prix fixe 10 course bit sized meals.

Here are a few of our favorites:

Sol y Sombra- Calle Castilla, 147, 41010 Sevilla, Spain http://www.tabernasolysombra.com/

 

Bar Alfalfa – Calle Candilejo 1, 41004 Seville, Spain https://www.facebook.com/baralfalfa#_=_

El Rinconcillo – Gerona St. and 2 Calle Alhondiga 40, 41003 Seville http://www.elrinconcillo.es/en/

Stay:

Hotel Palacio Villapanes- http://palaciovillapanes.com/en/

 

 

What To Bring On A Long Flight For a More Luxurious Experience

Perfecting a carry on for a long flight is an acquired skill set. It’s easy to pack the necessities but let’s face it- we all can’t fly First or Business Class. I have some things I swear by for an overall better experience.

Here’s my top 10.

  1. The Sweater Blanket Jacket- While technically this might not be an item that is in your bag depending on the season, I think it’s key. Especially if you prefer not to lay in the ‘clean’ airline blankets. A good sweater that fills the void, allows you to use the blanket as an extra cushion to sit on, making your seat more comfortable.sweater-blanket-jackethttp://www.barefootdreams.com/cozychic-ribbed-cozy-slate-blue.html?cat-id=35

2- NUUN Hydration Tablets &/Or Vitamin C Packets- You get dehydrated on planes, and germs are everywhere. Upgrade that water they give you to a delicious nutritious beverage all while staying hydrated. You will feel so much better.

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http://www.nuun.com/hydration

3- Hand Sanitizer in Spray form- Keep your hands clean. I only recommend the spray kind to wash that tray!

4-Toiletries- Cleansing Wipes to wash your face, Tooth Brush/Paste, Deodorant ( I also carry on my make-up). Besides feeling cleaner the whole ride, the items may be a lifesaver if your luggage doesn’t arrive on time.

5-Hand Lotion- You can also grab some gloves and do an intensive treatment. That hand sanitizer will be drying out your hands so you need something to combat.

6-McDonald’s/Fast Food Toy- One REALLY early morning flight, while grabbing a coffee, all I could think is that I would be so mad if one of the many babies that were in the terminal gate were crying, I’d be really upset. Then I saw them, kids’ meal toys. Bought myself 3. None cried on the way there but I used all 3 on the way home when some toddlers were screaming. Toys saved my sanity.

7-Noise Cancelling Headphones- Skip cheap typical ones and go for noise cancelling. They will double as ear plugs even if you don’t want to listen to anything.

8-Travelers Cocktail Kit – Upgrade your booze game.http://wandpdesign.com/pages/carryoncocktailkitwp_carryon_of_gt_mm_sleeves_02f4461c-fd3f-45a7-839b-a2f3dc01c5599-Eye mask – I’m not one to love wearing them to sleep, but the glare of the screens that are now on the back of every seat can make it tough to sleep.

10-Your own snacks- There truly is nothing worse in the world than eating airplane food. Also unless you are in 1st or Business Class, that tray sits at your seat much longer- cluttering your space.

 

Bonus Item: A Swimsuit. A Friend brought this one up to me just a few days ago. While she went to a beach destination, it reminded me of one thing. If your bags are delayed, and you arrive prior to check in time, and can’t shop…. You can at least go to the spa.

Been There, Done That, Ate That, Make That – Ca’Pa Salad

img_6215It was our first visit to the Amalfi Coast, our second day at Casa Privata in Praiano, and the first rain.

We planned on relaxing on the beach, or the lounge chairs, go on a boat, or relax away at the salt water pool.

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But, it was raining mid-day, and while the sun was hiding behind the clouds, the rays were peeking through upon us.

After skipping out on lunch, and dinner, at Ca’Pa, a place that requires mornings notice for meals that day, it was a pleasant surprise being asked if we wanted something for lunch.

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A simple plate filled with pulled chicken, sautéed onions, soft potatoes, Mozzarella de Sorrento, garlic, heirloom tomatoes & onions came.

I tend to eat a light lunch and was slightly saddened of heavier than normal lunch ahead of me.

One bite, and I was sold, as was my husband.

The flavors married together, and perfectly complimented one another.

Every ingredient was cooked perfectly, in season, and to peak ripeness and happens to be a simple, cost effective dish to make. I’ll share the way we make it, but there’s so many fun ways to make changes!

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Ingredient List (enough for leftovers)

  1. Rotisserie Chicken (or Roast your own)

8- Cloves of Garlic

  1. Vine Ripe Tomatoes

½- A Yellow or Spanish Inion

  1. Medium Onion

Misc- Herbs- Basic, or Cilantro (Basil is best!)

1 Large, or 2 Small Yukon Gold Potatoes

6-8 Castelvetrano Olives

Grass Fed Butter

Olive Oil for drizzling

Salt, Pepper

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The items in here are made to be room temperature, so things are sent layered.

Rotisserie Chicken- pulled.

½ Onion- sautéed in butter- softened

1 Large or 2 Small Potatoes, Sliced, boiled till soft

Sliced Tomatoes

Slivered Olives

Chiffonade Basil

Season with salt/pepper

 

Cook everything, and layer- in order. I choose by mixing the colors.

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Chicago’s Northside Brewery Tour

Craft breweries have been popping up all over, and Chicago’s Northside Neighborhoods have no lack of them. Not only has there been extreme growth in the neighborhood, they support and complement one another, as oppose to treat each other as vicious competition.

In a city widely known as ‘The Windy City,’ and not for the wind, it’s a breathe of fresh air to see so many local businesses acting as complementitors as opposed to competitors. (Okay yeah, I made up a word, so what).

Our recent favorites, which are BYOF (bring your own food) are a few blocks within one another, and all dog friendly. (you can order your own food in too).

 

Begyle- We pretty much frequent here the most, besides having great beer, our dogs just love this place. Nearby the front beer tap there is a water bowl for pups. One of our dogs, Deia, knows it’s there, the second she walks in she tries to bolt to dig in the bowl and spill it. We joke that she knows of it as her local watering hole (pun intended). It’s almost like this place knows us, board games, card games and they sell truffle flavored puffed quinoa. I mean, who doesn’t love truffles? Magical mushrooms. In addition, a handful of their beers have the name ‘bird’ in them. We sometimes call our other dog, Barkley, Bird, and I have a bird tattoo.

Dovetail- Seriously, what is it with these breweries and bird names right? I read about Dovetail opening in a magazine, and first went because they were dog friendly. They have 3 beers, all German beers, which well to be quite frank, we don’t really buy or drink German Beers. We know what we like. But, wow, wow, wow, to our surprise their beers are amazing. It was as if they were somehow able to take everything we like about beer, and everything everyone else likes with German beers and create perfect harmony. They also sell German Pretzels and these tasting Argentine Desserts from a Lucilles. I haven’t had the pretzels but I hope they have exceptional cheese dip hidden somewhere.

Imeperical- We were late in our first visit, even after friends were there. It was the- that’s just a teeny tiny, itty bitty, too far to walk by 1 block compared to the other two breweries, and it’s not on the way home that slowed us down. Well I thank Brutus’s mom that we met for planting that seed, and the very right moment, to get us to come. Brutus is another dog that attends the same daycare place that we will bring ours. We were all buying our pups unnecessary things at Urban Pooch (a short walk from the breweries) and she gave them a prop. We decided we must try this place. While also being BYOF, having snacks and being dog friendly, Empirical has a wider range of beer types. Lager, Saisons etc, they have about eh 15 on tap, and did not disappoint. In addition, they were the only brewery that has TVs on the wall. Great for watching sports.

 

Go:

Begyle Brewing

1800 W. Cuyler Ave. Chicago IL 60613 http://www.begylebrewing.com

Dovetail

1800 W. Bell Plaine Ave. Chicago IL 60613 http://www.dovetailbrewery.net

Emprical Brewery

1801 W. Foster Ave. Chicago IL 60640 http://www.eimpiricalbrewery.com

Urban Pooch

4501 N Ravenswood Chicago IL 60650 http://www.urbanpooch.com