Friday, April 27, 2012

Destination: San Francisco, CA

Seeing as I just returned from this lovely city, I thought I'd give you the low down on some of my favorite sites and bites.  Get ready for tourism at its best in San Fran!

Classic Tourism:

  • Golden Gate Bridge: We must start with this iconic landmark of San Francisco.  As a matter of fact, the Golden Gate Bridge celebrates its 75th birthday this year!  While, yes, it is just a bridge, it has become a major landmark of SF and, believe it or not, there are other things to do than just drive over it.  I'd recommend taking a picture of it.  Its architecture provides great photos up close, and far away.  Or grab a bike in Fisherman's Warf and bike 8 miles over the Golden Gate to Sausalito and take the ferry back.
  • Fisherman's Warf: This past weekend we stayed near Fisherman's Warf/ North Beach and I loved the location.  With great views of the water, lots of shopping, and great reastaurants, Fisherman's Warf is a great area.  
  • Photo Credit
    • Ghirardelli Square: You can't go to Fisherman's warf and pass up Ghirardelli ice cream! This delicious ice cream shop, and chocolate store, has some of the best ice cream concoctions.  Don't let the long lines scare you away, the wait is worth it!
    • Scoma's Restaurant: An excellent seafood restaurant, Scoma's also has an award winning wine list! Located on Pier 47, Scoma's also has gorgeous views of the bay!
  • Union Square: For the best shopping in the city head to Union Square.  Loaded with big name and luxury shops, there's something for everyone to find!  Some of my personal favorites are Zara, H&M, and Macy's.
  • Chinatown: For some really good deals, especially on scarves and purses, check out Chinatown.  Be ware, there is a ton of walking traffic so prepare yourself for crowds.
  • Alcatraz: This small island is home to a federal prison that was occupied until 1963.  It is now a popular tourist attraction.  Take a ferry over and tour the prison that jailed criminals such as Al Capone and Alvin "Creepy" Karpis (the longest prisoner to stay at Alcatraz).
Lombard St
What we walked up to get there!
  • Lombard Street: If you're close by walk over, or up, to Lombard street to see the windy/curvy section of this famous street! You'll also get to experience those crazy San Francisco hills! Or drive over and you can try driving down those curves, slowly.

Hidden Gems:
  • North Beach: This is San Francisco's Little Italy.  With some of the best Italian restaurants, shops, and a gorgeous cathedral, Saints Peter and Paul Church.
    • Cafe Maria: This delicious Italian restaurant has it all: great food, good atmosphere, and good service!  The owner welcomed us at the door and showed us to our table.  I recommend the beef tortellini with pesto sauce - amazing.
  • Pergamino Cafe: This is a restaurant that cooks a delicious breakfast!  I enjoyed the smoked salmon and cream cheese omelet and drank a few cups of their serve yourself coffee.  Located in Fisherman's Warf, one of this cafe's perks is that once you dine there in the morning you are welcome to come back for free coffee refills all day!
  • San Francisco Maritime:  On a nice day walk along the water in this Fisherman's Warf park!  One feature I particularly enjoyed was the piece of land that jutted out about 500 feet into the bay.  We walked down this strip and had wonderful views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and looking back at the San Francisco hills. Photos I captured are below.

S.F. Hills

What are some of your favorite San Francisco "Hidden Gems"?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Quote Me

I love to hear random quotes, especially when they really describe how I'm feeling.  So I may post a quote here or there when I find one I like.

This one I got from Pinterest and I love it! Whether you are 22 or 65....I think this is something you should live by:

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Up Next

My next trip will be to the wonderful San Francisco, California! In a week and a half I will be meeting my immediate family (mom, dad, sister, bro-in-law, and nephew) in San Fran for a long weekend trip! We have family out in California (San Rafael, San Francisco, and Sonoma) so, to say the least, this isn't our first trip but what a fun one to frequent!

View of downtown San Francisco
More to come later on Classic tourism and hidden gems of San Francisco.  Grad school has completely taken over my life this week!

A few pictures from last year's trip:

Sister, Mom, and I at the wineries in Sonoma
Winery hopping in style!
Chocolate Wine Shots
Sonoma Vineyard
While we did spend a lot of time in Sonoma last year...we did hit up some San Fran faves:
Bought lots of nicely priced colorful scarves!

and can't pass up IN-N-OUT
Do you have any suggestions for San Francisco? Always looking for new experiences when I re-visit a wonderful city!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Destination: Door County, WI

Door County has often been referred to as the Cape Cod of the Midwest and it's no wonder how it got that reputation.  From shore to shore, this skinny strip of land in Lake Michigan has it all. Come take in the scenery and relax on a trip to Door County, Wisconsin.

Classic Tourism:

  • Beaches: With over 300 miles of beaches, it won't be hard to find a good spot to lay out or build a sand castle.  While July is the warmest month with temperatures reaching the upper 80s during the day, June and August can also be beach going days with temperatures reaching mid to high 70s.
  • Parks: There are 24 parks total in Door County with tons of activities to keep you busy for days.
  • Eagle Tower
    Photo Credit
    • Hiking: Hike on the many trails through the tree filled parks for wonderful views of Lake Michigan.  
    • Cross Country Skiing: Visiting in the Winter? Rent some cross-country skis and glide through the snow filled parks and maintained ski trails.
    • Bikes: Bring your own or rent bikes at Nor Door to ride on the trails throughout the parks.
    • Eagle Tower: Located in Peninsula State Park, Eagle tower rises 75 feet up in the air for amazing views of the park, Ephraim, Lake Michigan, the Green Bay Islands, and on a clear day you can see the Michigan shoreline.
  • Water Sports: With Lake Michigan at your doorstep, you have to take advantage of the water if you're visiting during the summer months.  Grab a boat and pack a cooler and set out on the water for the day or try your skills at fishing or paddleboarding.  
  • Shopping: Door County has shopping for everyone.  Shop main street in Fish Creek for a variety of stores.  And if antiques are your thing, Door County has quite the collection.  Try Peninsula Antique Center in Egg Harbor.
  • Wineries: Here you will find some great wineries! Along with the classic wines, Door County produces some distinct wine flavors, the most notable being their cherry flavored wine.  The cherry tree is a native grown plant in the Door Peninsula and is flavored in everything from wine, pie, and juice to mustard, salsa, and salad dressings.  Visit one of my favorite Door County Wineries, Orchard Country Wine & Market in Fish Creek.

Hidden Gems:
Anderson Dock
Photo Credit

  • Al Johnson's Swedish Restaurant: This restaurant serves a delicious breakfast and is a must go every time we're in DC.  Most interestingly about this restaurant is that there are goats on the roof! Yes, real goats on a grass roof. From late May to mid October, you can watch them on the Goat Cam here.
  • Anderson Dock Marina: This dock is also the site of the historic Anderson Warehouse which is well known for its boat name graffiti and is also the location of the Francis Hardy Gallery.
  • JJ's and La Puerta Restaurant: Another 'must go' every time we're in Door County is this fun and delicious Mexican restaurant.  JJ's is known for their signature shot, called the 'bernie'.  Created by a German man named Bernie, this is a shot of gold tequila but is served with an orange slice with cinnamon sugar on top instead of the classic salt and lime. Stop in for a margarita and a 'bernie' or two.
  • The Sister Bay Bowl: The Sister Bay Bowl is truly a triple threat of awesomeness with great food, fun atmosphere/bar, and a bowling alley.  Often the sight of live music, the Bowl is a locals hot spot on a Saturday night.  The staff is friendly and will remember your name if you come around often enough. 
Have you ever tried a Bernie?

Visit for more information.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Luggage Report

A good trip requires a good piece of luggage. And I like to do it in style! Here are some of my favorites:

The Weekender
Cutter & Buck

London Fog

Try a classic leather bag - stylish for both men and women or this London Fog weekend bag with wheels.

Large Size Luggage
Jenni Chan
For larger luggage pieces, opt for a bold color or a fun pattern to easily identify at baggage claim. The four wheels, and 360 degree spin, make lugging this luggage around a little bit easier as well.


The North Face
If you're planning on visiting multiple cities in a shorter amount of time, I'd suggest a backpack.  They are much more convenient than the large size suitcase when you're traveling about.  Opt for a backpack with wheels and get the best of both worlds.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Destination: Cinque Terre, Italy

Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy
Photo Credit

Let's mix it up and take a trip abroad! One of my all time favorite cities abroad, Cinque Terre, Italy. Cinque Terre, meaning five lands, consists of five small, and beautifully quaint, coastal villages.  Starting up north the villages are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.  Located on the northwest coast of Italy, four of these villages lie on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and are connected by walking paths as well as a train.


Photo Credit

  • The most popular village for tourism, Monterosso has a beautiful, colorful umbrella lined beach which is also the largest of the villages.  Accommodations on Monterosso are more resort-like and less quaint than its other four counterparts.
  • Rated #1 for things to do in Monterosso are Angelo's Boat Tours, according to  Taking you out for breathtaking views of Cinque Terre, Angelo also provides you with great service and good food! 

Vernazza Harbor
Photo Credit

  • This charming little fishing village is more known for its sightseeing.  Sitting at the foothills of a mountain filled with gardens and vineyards, Vernazza also has a harbor filled with vibrant boats, climb the Doria Castle for an amazing view of the village. 
  • While there are no traditional hotels located in Vernazza, there are many guest rooms and botique hotels and is definitely the way to stay.  

  • My 'restful' night sleep.
  • My experience in Vernazza: This is where my friends and I stayed when we visited Cinque Terre in 2007 and it quickly became my most favorite city visited on our backpacking trip around Europe.  Flying by the seat of our pants, we arrived in Vernazza late (later than expected) on a Saturday night, with no place to stay.  Talking with some of the locals and now understanding that all the rooms were booked for the night (there was a wedding that weekend), they suggested we sleep on the park benches that night.  A few backpackers had done it the night before and they saw no problems with this.  Talking it out among ourselves, we decided that we would go for it and hunkered down with six bottles of wine and some pizza from the local pizzeria (amazing).  While it wasn't the most comfortable and it did get quite chilly at night, I by no means felt unsafe.  We woke with the sun rise the next morning and took in the views until the 'Pasticceria Siciliana', Sicilian pastry shop, opened.  Two twin brothers owned this shop and graciously helped us find room accommodations for the next two nights, as well as fed us their delicious pastries and cappuccino.  
Photo Credit
  • The only village of the five that is not directly adjacent to the sea, Corniglia sits atop a ridge over the sea which is approximately 100 meters high.  Three fourths of this village is also surrounded by vineyards and beautiful terraces while the other fourth overlooks the sea.
  • Visit Un Mare Di Yogurt for some of the best gelato in Cinque Terre!
  • As with the other villages of Cinque Terre, Corniglia's houses and buildings are beautifully done in vibrant colors built atop one another.

Local kids cliff jumping
  • The fourth town following Corniglia, Manarola is an extention of the other villages with its bright colors and beautiful sea side views.
  • My experience in Manarola: While we visited all of the villages, we stopped and spent most of one day in Manarola.  Here we enjoyed some more pizza, visited a few shops, and soaked up the sun.  Manarola has large cliffs that come up from the sea which is very useful and fun to cliff jump off of into the deep and clear blue sea.

Vineyards on the Cliffs of Riomaggiore
Photo Credit
  • One of the five that is know for its wine, Riomaggiore also has vineyards casting across the hills.  Try Cinque Terre's specialty wine, the 'Scaicchetra', which is a sweet white wine.
  • The restaurant Cappun Magru in Casa di Marin has been raved about on

Have you visited Cinque Terre? What were some of your favorite things to do and see? 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Destination: Chicago, IL

I thought it would only be fitting to start with dear old Chicago, IL because I currently live in this beautiful, lively city! Chicago has so many great things to see and do and for all ages.

Classic Tourism:
Photo Credit
  • The Sears Tower (currently called The Willis Tower): okay, I know they changed the name, but who knows it by The Willis Tower?  Either way, this tower is the tallest in Chicago, yet alone the Western Hemisphere! On the 103rd floor of this building is the Skydeck which has amazing views of the city and the Ledge, a glass box that lets you see what it's like to be 1,353 feet in the air. Pretty freaky if you ask me. See more info here.
  • The Cloud Gate (pictured on the right): referred to locals as "The Bean" due to it's shape, this structure is an interesting one to see! The mirrored surface gives amazing reflections of the city! It's located in Millennium Park, in downtown Chicago.
  • Navy Pier: Although Navy Pier is seasonal, there is much to do and see if the weather's right!  One of its most famous attractions is the Ferris Wheel.  At 150 feet high, Navy Pier's Ferris Wheel will also give you a great view from above.  Other Navy Pier attractions include a putt putt course, carousel, kid's theme park, boat rides, and many restaurants (including Bubba Gump Shrimp).  This is a great attraction for families.  See more info here.
  • Wrigley Field: Come during baseball season and go to a Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field! This baseball field, located in the Wrigleyville neighborhood, is historic with its beautiful green ivy wall.  Also, it is one of the most fun baseball games I've ever been to.  Sit in the bleacher section for a great time filled with beer (try Chicago's Old Style), classic and Chicago Style hot dogs, and a great crowd!  Come before and stick around after to experience Wrigleyville bars and restaurants with the rest of the Cubs game fans.  It's sure to be a great time!
  • The Magnificent Mile: Famously known for its shopping, the Mag. Mile has everything from upscale shopping at Neiman Marcus to sportswear at Niketown.  Also located on the Mile, fine and casual dining.
  • Chicago Pizza: Save one meal for the famous Chicago Style deep dish pizza! There are a few delicious pizza serving restaurants, some of my favorites include: Lou Malnati's, Giordano's, and Gino's. Be aware, this pizza is very filling!

Hidden Gems:
  • Neighborhood Festivals: During the summer (late May-September), more than 400 festivals take place in different Chicago neighborhoods.  These are one of the best ways to see different areas of the city while enjoying live music, good food, and refreshing beverages for a low cost (less than $10) entry fee. Come and enjoy the locals scene! Some of the larger, more popular, and well known festivals are Lollapalooza and the Taste of Chicago. See more info and schedules here.
  • Old Town: A great Chicago neighborhood, Old Town has some great shopping, restaurants, bars, and not to mention a little place called Second City.  Second City (not really a hidden gem, as it is very well known) is only one of the many hilarious places to catch a comedy show in this city.
  • Photo Credit
  • Lake Michigan Beaches: I never really thought of going to the beach in Chicago before I lived here, but believe it or not, this city has some great Midwest beaches!  Come to North Avenue beach and lay out, and when you're hungry or thirsty you can stop by Castaway's, the north avenue beach bar and grill.
  • Volare Restaurant: My favorite Italian restaurant in Chicago! It has the ambiance of a restaurant you would find in Italy and some of the best food! My go to dish every time is the gnocchi with vodka sauce. Delish.
  • Rise Sushi & Sake Lounge: This upscale sushi restaurant has some of the best signature makis.  My favorite is the Flaming Maki, served warm it is simple with only salmon, avocado and spicy mayo.  And for presentation, it comes circled around a little bowl of flame!

While there is much more I could tell you about Chicago, I think you should just come and see for yourself!  Have you been to Chicago? What were some of your favorite places and things to do?