Around this time last year, I took the trip of a lifetime with my mom. We hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, camping for 3 nights in the wilderness (I should add this was my first camping trip EVER). With Mother’s Day around the corner I couldn’t help but reminisce on this unforgettable trip we took together.
We’re all guilty of letting life distractions get in the way of family time (and if you’ve solved this problem, please fill me in on your secret!). Although I’m lucky enough to have my parents nearby, I still feel like I could be spending more time with them. And let me tell you…the older you get, the more difficult it is. Knowing how rare it is to get uninterrupted Mom time, this trip we took together last year will always have a special place in my heart.
Take this weekend to spend quality time (and I mean “no devices” quality time) with Mom and let her know how much you appreciate her. Don’t just get her a gift, give her your time. Our Moms gave us 18+ years of their undivided attention – I think we owe it to them!
For those of you struggling to find the perfect gift, check out last year’s Mother’s Day Gift Guide.
I’ve been to Athens a few times over the last 3 years, and I will admit that it has grown on me. People have different opinions on the city – I’m one of those who believes it’s completely underrated. Not only is there so much history there, but you’ll find that it is so rich in culture. People there have an appreciation for all the beautiful things in life – music, art, food, friends & family. No matter what the economic situation is, the cafes and restaurants are packed with people enjoying themselves. As the city is massive, it can be very overwhelming and visitors don’t know where to go outside of the touristy spots. Here’s a list of things to do to get you started. You won’t be disappointed!
This summer was my first time in Crete, and I think it’s safe to say it’s my favorite Greek island so far. My boyfriend and I have had a running joke the last month or so about how we’re just going to pack up and move to Crete (with Chicago winter on the way I’m willing to move sooner than later). The first thing that immediately stood out to me upon arrival was that the island is GREEN. Coming from the Cyclades, which are considered dry islands, seeing greenery was a pleasant surprise. The landscape in Crete is unlike any other Greek island that I’ve been to. Mountains, canyons, palm trees, farms, just beauty all around. The island is also not as windy as the Cyclades islands, so the likelihood of getting what I call “sand blasted” (this occurs when the wind is so strong that it causes the sand to lift up off the ground and into your eyes, mouth, hair, etc.) is slim to none. Outside of all that, the food and people in Crete were by far the most memorable. Cretan food is known to be the best of the Greek cuisine, and after experiencing it, I see what the hype is all about. The locals on the island were so welcoming and hospitable, always offering a shot of Raki (the Cretan Spirit made from the residue of a wine-press) and fresh fruits for you to enjoy. Warning: Raki is insanely strong, and it’s rude to not finish it (yep – you gotta suck it up). I was lucky enough to spend time in two of the larger cities on the island, Rethymno and Chania.
Ahh Mykonos, where to begin. I’ve been to Mykonos quite a few times now, and it truly does not get old. Although it has the party island rep, I’ve found that Mykonos is what you make of it. If you don’t want to party, that’s okay. There are plenty of great restaurants and shopping to check out if clubs aren’t your thing. If you’re looking to party until 6AM and grab a delicious crepe for breakfast, you can do that too. With gorgeous beaches, a variety of tasty food, luxury shopping and a booming nightlife, let’s just say you won’t be bored. To set expectations, things to do tend to be on the expensive side here as it is a major tourist destination. However, it definitely deserves a visit. Did I mention how beautiful the town is? And that I spotted Jeremy Piven out and about?
My first island stop on my Greece trip was Milos. One of the Cyclades islands known for their white & blue buildings, Milos is a hidden gem. The beaches are the most beautiful I have seen in Greece thus far, and the food is excellent. This was my third year in a row visiting this island; my boyfriend vacationed here as a kid, so he really enjoys going back for nostalgic reasons (& also because it truly is a beautiful place). The unique thing about Milos is that the flow of lava has created strange rock formations around the island, and these formations have become places for people to lay out and swim. You can go from swimming in caves, to laying out on a beach with fine sand, to swimming in a small pool of sea water between moon-like rocks. Also, there is a ton of history in Milos – the famous Venus de Milo (name make sense now?) was found here back in 1820!
As the island is rich in minerals, the economy doesn’t solely rely on tourism. As a result, prices at restaurants and bars are reasonable and you can get a feel of the local culture and traditions. You’ll find beaches on this island that haven’t yet been taken over by beach bars and lounge beds – in some cases, it’s just you and the sea. Milos is the perfect spot for those who want more of a cultural experience, a quiet getaway, great beaches and tasty Greek food. If you ever plan on visiting this special place, here’s a quick travel guide to Milos.
For the last three summers, I’ve been lucky enough to make it out to Greece for a long trip (perks of dating a Greeker). And EVERY summer, a trip to the Athens flea is on the agenda. I know I know…I am a bit obsessed with flea markets – it’s basically the first thing I do in every city I visit (I was at the Brooklyn flea a few weeks back). However, no flea market I’ve been to is the same, and that’s what I love about them. It’s always a new adventure. Each market is influenced by the art and culture of the city or region it’s in, and a lot of times as an outsider you don’t know what is unique to that market.
The Athens flea market has been around for thousands of years, and it’s massive. At the center of the city, right beneath the Acropolis and connected to the picturesque neighborhood of Plaka, it’s a must visit. From spices to soaps to shoes to antique furniture, there is so much to discover. Again, it’s important to know what is unique in every market and keep an eye out for those specific items. As a frequent visitor, I’ve narrowed my Athens flea shopping list down to three things.
I can’t believe my Greece trip is merely days away – where has the summer gone?! I’m heading off to the Greek islands next weekend, hopping between Mykonos, Milos and Crete. It will be my first time in Crete; it’s always exciting to explore a new island. Each one has something to unique to offer, and I can’t wait to experience Crete’s beautiful mysteries. I’m starting to mentally prepare what I’ll be bringing along – I’ll be gone for two weeks so that makes it especially tough to pack. Ah, there is so much I’d like to bring! Here are some items I’ll definitely be squeezing into my luggage (I anticipate closing my bag will require simultaneous sitting and zipping action).
If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I visit San Diego…A LOT. I not only have friends and family there, but I find it to be the perfect place to go when I need to get away from the craziness of the city for awhile. It’s super chill, there’s great food, beautiful beaches, ideal weather. Over my many trips, I’ve had the opportunity to try out a variety of restaurants and bars in different neighborhoods. I’ve visited enough that I now have a select few spots that are always in my rotation. Make sure you add these to your list next time you’re in town!
Oscar’s is known for its fresh seafood, and the fish tacos will live up to all expectations. There is more to it than just the seafood though. Their steak taco is the best steak taco I’ve ever had. That’s right, EVER. The Fisherman’s Torta is also killer – warning, it’s massive. Everything is fresh, and they make their own sauces, all of which are delicious. Make sure you sauce up your tacos before you dive in. You won’t regret.
This one is a relatively new addition to the rotation. I discovered it on Yelp as I was looking for a place that would satisfy my Thai craving. I took a risk and checked it out, and it was the best decision I ever made. It’s all vegetarian, but their substitute meat is the tastiest I’ve had, and their sauces are incredibly flavorful. The highlights: Chicken Satay, Pumpkin Curry, and Spicy Basil. They also have mango sticky rice – bonus points there. The restaurant is in University Heights, a very cute, quaint neighborhood. Sit outside on the patio and take in the amazing food and relaxing atmosphere.
A classic La Jolla breakfast joint with solid food. SO California. It’s been there for years, and the location is like no other. Enjoy brunch outside, facing the ocean with a nice breeze coming your way. My favorite thing to order is the breakfast salad, but you really can’t go wrong!
This is one of the best farmer’s markets I’ve ever been to. It takes place every Saturday from 8AM-2PM in San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood. You’ll find really unique vendors with excellent stuff here. Some of my favorites include Bitchin’ Sauce, Baba Foods Hummus, and Safari Crunch Granola. Go hungry and indulge in a variety of snacks, and maybe get a tamale too.
This place isn’t in the trendiest of neighborhoods, but it’s a hidden gem. They have a really cute patio and their pulled pork is excellent. I actually have only been there for brunch (ordered the pulled pork hash – phenomenal), but I’m looking forward to checking out their lunch menu next time. They’re also extremely friendly, which I appreciated.
Living in a big city, there are nail salons at every corner. I’ll let you in on a little secret my friends…only about 15% of these nail salons are actually legit. Mayyybee that’s an exaggeration, but you get my point. I’ve learned the hard way, stopping at a random place for a quick mani before dinner and being completely disappointed when I notice my chipped nail as I enjoy my cocktail later that evening. We’ve all been there, and it’s not ideal. First world problem, I know, but a problem nonetheless. After some trial and error, I’ve found a few gems in various neighborhoods of Chicago, and they’re also affordable. Here’s a list of my favorite nail salons in Chicago:Continue reading…
The West Loop has come a long way in the last 15 years or so. What used to be an industrial area (home of the historical meatpacking district) is now one of Chicago’s hottest neighborhoods. I spend quite a lot of time in the West Loop; what I love most about it is that there is always a new restaurant or bar to check out. Some of the best dining in the city is in this hood, so this list may be longer than others. There is so much to do and see (mainly EAT)!