Phoenix

So I’ve been wanting to return to Phoenix for a while now. I left in January 2016 after five months there - and I hadn’t been back since.

I tried to make a trip out west a few months ago but it just wasn’t the right time. When I was able to get a few days off work this month, I booked the trip without thinking twice.

Admittedly I wanted to go to Phoenix in the summer months - when it was hot! I wanted to once again get the whole experience haha. But we went in October - when the weather was more tolerable (low 80s).

We stayed in Old Town Scottsdale, within walking distance to some pretty fun bars and restaurants.

On the first day, we walked to Culinary Dropout for a happy hour. The food and drinks were great. I would highly recommend that place! I had never been when I lived there.

 One of our appetizers!

One of our appetizers!

We then checked out a bar closer to our hotel. The Arizona Cardinals were playing so it was neat to be there for that (although they lost).

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The next day we woke up early to hike Camelback Mountain. I am NOT a hiker by any means but when in Rome, right?

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The sunrise was absolutely gorgeous. We hiked for a good hour before I got tired/scared and we had to turn around. The hike was fun at first - but the path got more narrow as you climbed higher! I was freaking out. NOPE.

 #Hikeswithcoffee

#Hikeswithcoffee

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After our hike, we had breakfast at La Grande Orange! It is a favorite of mine. Then - we went to LAST CHANCE, which is more of a flea market/TJ Maxx/what is going on.

I discovered the store while living there. Basically - Nordstrom has a really, really lenient return policy. Everything that gets returned - or things that simply don’t sell in Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack - get sent to Last Chance.

It is such a cluster there. First of all - the line was wrapped around the building. I will admit to waiting outside the store doors for it to open in the past but I never waited OUTSIDE. A cashier told me they had to change the rules after someone was pushed down the stairs racing to get into the store.

Anyway, the store opens at 10 and everyone who waited in line outside is escorted in. You have to walk. If you run, you’ll be asked to leave.

Then - those of us who showed up later are allowed in. We’re to remain in a single-file line, down the stairs and into the store.

You can score some great finds in there! It’s why people wait for hours before the store opens. Anything Nordstrom sells - can be found there at a VERY steep discount.

I lucked out on these Jimmy Choo heels for $130. They look brand new.

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ESPN anchor Sam Ponder said she got her entire wardrobe for this season from Last Chance. (She is native to Phoenix). And there are others who make THOUSANDS of dollars from buying items from there and reselling at a higher price on eBay/Poshmark.

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We then went to have drinks at Four Peaks. We had a few local beers - then headed to Cold Beers and Cheeseburgers in North Scottsdale for dinner. YUM.

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The next day we woke up early again, which is not hard to do when your body is on eastern time. We were supposed to go to Sedona but we decided to make the trip to the Grand Canyon because…why not.

The drive there was STUNNING. Arizona is a beautiful state. The weather dropped drastically as we drove north. We had to stop at Walmart so Gary could get something with long sleeves.

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The Grand Canyon was beautiful. We only went to one overlook point but it was enough. There were A LOT of tourists there and it was chilly! ha

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We drove back to Phoenix and made a pit stop at In-N-Out Burger.

We then went to a few more bars near our hotel, which was fun.

Later that night - we ate pizza at Pizzeria Bianco. It was good but didn’t live up to the hype.

We then stopped to get an ice-cream sandwich (I know, we pigged out this day) before going back to the hotel.

We left at 5:30am on Sunday.

Good to see you Phoenix :)

Asheville

A few weeks ago, I took two days off of work to get away. It was a toss up between 30A and Asheville. Unfortunately the forecast for the beach showed rain the entire time…so we went north to Asheville. (I think it’s north).

The drive was pretty - not as magical as some blogs made it out to be. It may be a more scenic drive in the fall with the leaves changing colors.

We stopped at Tallulah Falls on the way. It was a quick stop to to check out the views. Very pretty.

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We made it to Asheville in just three hours. We stayed about a mile away from downtown center and our hotel had a shuttle that would take us back and forth…very convenient!

We did everything you’re supposed to do - went to a few breweries, checked out the local shops, had some good, local food.

We went to the Biltmore! It took about an hour and half to get through the house and we were so hot afterward. We checked out the winery on site, had a few samples and headed back to the hotel. I really loved this day.

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We discovered our love of Sunshine Sammies, thanks to a dear friend who recommended. We tried another local ice cream parlor and truly had THEE best brunch ever.

 Can’t remember what the Brewery was called but this was AMAZING

Can’t remember what the Brewery was called but this was AMAZING

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Asheville was fun and I would recommend for a quick weekend trip. You could even do an overnight trip! It’s very close to Atlanta and there’s plenty to do.

Aruba

So if you follow me on Instagram, you know I recently went to ARUBA. Originally, we were supposed to go to Mexico but four days before our flight was to take off - the forecast looked awful! I panicked a little because who wants to pay good money to sit in a hotel room? UGH.

I started calling around. The hotel in Mexico is owned by a company which has other resorts all over the world. We had a matter of hours to choose where to go. We couldn't decide between Punta Cana and Aruba....but we settled on #OneHappyIsland.

PS - thankfully Southwest Airlines doesn't charge a fee to switch your flight (you only have to pay the difference) so that was a HUGE help. 

Yes - we had to cough up more money (had to pay difference in fare for hotel + flight) but I'm so happy we decided to go to Aruba.

We landed on the island and immediately rented a car. All the cars there are so small and cute (and don't go very fast lol). We drove the 20 minutes or so to our hotel - Barcelo Aruba.

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Our hotel was super cute - huge - and offered a lot to do. It was right on the beach and on the main strip. My one complaint was that the food was not that good, unfortunately! And I LOVE to eat so that was a bummer.

Gary is a wild man explorer who can't sit still for very long so after our first day at the resort, we decided to explore the island. 

Our second day there, on Thursday, we went to two AMAZING beaches. The first - MANGEL HALTO

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What I loved about all of the beaches (besides the crystal blue/green water) was that they weren't ever crowded! It was so peaceful.

 Mangel Halto

Mangel Halto

The second beach we visited was BABY BEACH. It's called this because the water is fairly shallow - appropriate for kids or "babies."

 baby beach

baby beach

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We were so worn out after visiting both beaches - we went back to the hotel, had dinner, a few drinks and went to bed.

We started our 3rd day on the island by visiting a donkey farm! aw. It was so cute. The Donkey Sanctuary is a nonprofit where volunteers take care of the island's donkeys. For $3 you can feed them apples, which they LOVED.

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Then - it was time to go to the beach (of course). On Thursday, we checked out Eagle Beach. I didn't take many pics of this beach but if I were to go BACK to Aruba with a group, I would take them here. It was the picture-perfect beach. White sands, clear waters, beach bars, water sports, etc. 

 Eagle Beach

Eagle Beach

We went back to the hotel to relax before our catamaran sunset sail! This was one of my favorite parts of the trip. It was open bar and Aruba has some of the most gorgeous sunsets I have EVER seen. 

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Was so sick of the hotel food by this time - so what do you do? Eat out. I didn't take any pics but I have to say Barefoot Restaurant is a 10/10. I'm honestly craving the dinner I had there. SO. GOOD.

On Saturday we wanted to both explore and revisit some favorites. Gary looked up ARISHI BEACH, which is an explorer's fantasy. It has rocks, stones, reef, etc. Apparently Arishi Beach is popular among the locals and among experienced snorkelers (not us, sorry Gary). 

Gary took such good pictures of this beach so I'll share a few below. 

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After Arishi, we went back to Baby Beach, which I just love, then do an amazing dinner at an awesome restaurant called the Flying Fishbone. At the restaurant, you have the option to sit in the sand or in in the water! 

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 Obviously we chose the water, which was warm. 

 Flying Fishbone restaurant

Flying Fishbone restaurant

We went back to the hotel and slept and flew out early Sunday afternoon. Such a fun trip

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Quebec City

Quebec City is listed as a "must-see" during the winter on several travel blogs.

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I actually saw a picture of the snowy winter-wonderland on Instagram and six weeks later, we were there. 

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We stayed at the beautiful Hotel Clarendon right in the middle of Old Quebec City. I didn't take any pictures of the hotel but it was beautiful. Very clean, very friendly staff...

 stock photo from the hotel's website

stock photo from the hotel's website

The WEATHER. To say it was cold would be an understatement. There were times when I couldn't feel my face. Every time we left the hotel we NEEDED a hat, a scarf, gloves, and a coat. That weather was playin no games. One day, the HIGH was 7 degrees. 

 street right outside our hotel

street right outside our hotel

Quebec City is beautiful, especially at night when it's all lit up. 

THE ICE HOTEL

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It's a must-see in QC - Hotel de Glace.

We took a quick 30 minute charter bus to the hotel. It sits right next to a huge resort.

 one of the bars

one of the bars

So obviously it's freezing inside the hotel. There was a fire pit that we huddled around from time to time. I didn't believe that people actually sleep inside the hotel so I had to ask. Yep, I'm told it's true!

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 There were lots of cool sculptures made of snow and ice inside the hotel. It was stunning.

There were lots of cool sculptures made of snow and ice inside the hotel. It was stunning.

 A bed!

A bed!

 My cocktail inside a glass made completely of ICE. (But how do they wash these?…)

My cocktail inside a glass made completely of ICE. (But how do they wash these?…)

 Another shot of outside

Another shot of outside

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THE FOOD

 fish & chips

fish & chips

Because it's so cold - all you want to do is EAT. That is both a good and bad thing. Quebec City is known for poutine, fish and chips, maple syrup, crepes, etc..

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 The bacon here was the best thing I've ever eaten EVER

The bacon here was the best thing I've ever eaten EVER

 crepes!

crepes!

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 Another amazing dish. All veggies and quinoa and tasted like dessert! 

Another amazing dish. All veggies and quinoa and tasted like dessert! 

 Some type of maple syrup thing. It was poured on snow and you take a stick and twist until you get it all. Very sweet - had to throw half away.

Some type of maple syrup thing. It was poured on snow and you take a stick and twist until you get it all. Very sweet - had to throw half away.

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 best french onion soup

best french onion soup

 Good ole' Timmy Hortons

Good ole' Timmy Hortons

THE CITY

 Although it's cold, everyone in Old Quebec City walks everywhere! We never took an Uber the five days we were there. 

Although it's cold, everyone in Old Quebec City walks everywhere! We never took an Uber the five days we were there. 

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Hope you enjoyed :)

California

Our trip to California was so, so fun. We had to fit everything we wanted to do into 4 and a half days. We started in Los Angeles, then visited Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Laguna Beach and Venice before taking off to San Francisco.

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San Francisco was not the beau's fav. It was a cute city but you can't help but feel for all of homeless people you see. I had no idea San Francisco had such a big homeless population. It had us talking about what could/should be done to help them. 

The weekend we were there, it was unseasonably hot with record-breaking heat. Our boutique San Fran hotel didn't have a/c!! So there was that.

We did some shopping and walked around a bit. People said to me before I went, 'You either love San Francisco or you hate it.' Well, I didn't LOVE it or HATE it. I'm glad I was able to experience it but I probably won't be back.

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 San Fran in the morning. Crazy morning colors! Very cool.

San Fran in the morning. Crazy morning colors! Very cool.

Sonoma is where I'd like to go every weekend for a glass of vino. Too bad it's on the other side of the country. It was so beautiful. It exceeded both of our expectations. We went to three wineries and had so much fun tasting, taking pics and learning about wine! The scenery was out of a movie. 

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