Showing posts with label Travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Travel. Show all posts

July 4, 2017

Travel Guide: Carmel, Monterey & Pebble Beach

{About}
The Monterey Bay area of California feels like a second home to me. I've been visiting since I was a kid, spending my summer camp years in the area, weekends here with my family during high school and now its become the perfect escape from the hustle (and sometimes the weather!) in New York. It doesn't get all of the tourist attention and notoriety of San Fransisco, Napa, Los Angeles and San Diego, but to me the fact that if flies slightly under the radar makes it all the more enjoyable.
{Get There}
If you fly into San Fransisco or San Jose, its a quick drive down the 101 to get to Monterey. You can also take Highway 1 for a more scenic route, though it takes a good while longer. Monterey does have a very small airport but flights are limited.

{Stay}
I'm lucky to be able to stay at my parents weekend house when I'm there, but some other places I've stayed and enjoyed include: Cypress Inn, Marriot Monterey, Carmel Valley Lodge (out in the valley but a really fun spot for kids). Also of note, though a bit pricier are the Pebble Beach Lodge, The Inn at Spanish Bay and Carmel Valley Ranch.
{See & Do}
There are really five distinct towns in the area: Carmel Valley, Carmel proper (Carmel-by-the-Sea), Pebble Beach, Pacific Grove and Monterey.

Monterey is by far the largest and most commercial. Highlights include: Monterey Bay Aquarium (a definite must if you're traveling with kids), Cannery Wharf (a la John Steinbeck), Fishermans Wharf and some interesting early California history attractions. Did you know Monterey was once the capital of California?

Carmel-by-the-Sea and Carmel Valley are probably the most well known. Carmel-by-the-Sea proper is the storybook-cute town that everyone is familiar with, packed with great restaurants and shops. It can also be very challenging to find parking on the weekends. Carmel Valley is home to some fun wineries and off-beat art galleries and worth a drive if your schedule permits. If you're heading out to the valley I'd recommend a stop at Bernardus Winery and the Earth Bound Farms farm stand.

Pebble Beach, is sandwiched between Pacific Grove (see below) and Carmel-by-the-Sea and is a very residential area with several notable golf courses and the 17 Mile Drive which winds along the coast. The 17 Mile Drive comes with a fairly steep admission fee but in my opinion is very much worth it.  The route itself offers stunning views with plenty of places to park and get out along the way. There are also some truly breathtaking homes to ogle and you can stop at one of the two main hotels: Pebble Beach Lodge or the Inn at Spanish Bay to have something to eat. Personally I prefer Pebble Beach to eat (Benches) and Spanish Bay for drinks and the view.

Pacific Grove is oft-overlooked, but is perhaps my favorite spot in the area. Its a very laid back beach town nestled right between Pebble Beach and Monterey. It boasts great food (try Holly's Lighthouse Cafe for breakfast), shops and that perfect small-town vibe. Don't miss out on Bookworks for coffee.

A note on golf -- if you're into golf, you've come to the right place! Its a big attraction in the area (as are equestrian sports), but I don't play or ride so can't really speak to the particulars, however I would look into tee times at the public courses well in advance as word has it they book up quickly.
{Active}
One of my favorite things to do when we're in the area is to get outside. Many people from the central region of California vacation in this area as the weather is so lovely year round. A couple of my favorite ways to get out and get some exercise include:
Hiking in Point Lobos
Bike the 17 Mile Drive (you can rent bikes here), you can also walk a good portion of it
Tennis at Monterey Sports complex
Kayak in Monterey Bay
There is also surfing for the very brave - the water is cold here!

{Eat & Drink}
The Bench, Pebble Beach
Flying Fish, Carmel
Mission Ranch, Carmel
Carmel Belle, Carmel
Grasings, Carmel
Casanova, Carmel
La Bicyclette, Carmel
Holly's Lighthouse Cafe, Pacific Grove
Bernardus Winery, Carmel Valley

{Shop}
Carmel is full of independent shops. A lot of them stock tourist merchandise (t-shirts and the like) but there are a few gems, specifically women's boutiques, art galleries and a few really nice home decor shops. I'd recommend starting at the top or bottom of Ocean Avenue (the main street) and going up or down one side then the other. The cross streets also have some good finds. There is also one commercial plaza at the top of town that has some brand name stores if you forgot something. There is also a mall in Monterey that has a good selection of brand names and a Whole Foods.

{Things to Know}
The weekends are busy. Day trippers flock to Carmel year round, but in particular during summers when it gets super hot in the Central Valley. If you can go during the week I highly recommend doing so. And major golf tournaments (AT&T etc.) as well as the Concorse car show and various horse shows tend to bring in the crowds so hotels and restaurants may be more crowded than usual.

Also, this is not warm beach territory. You need a sweater or windbreaker almost year-round. While the overall aesthetic is laid back its more resort wear than true beach wear.

May 30, 2017

Travel Guide: Zurich

{About}
Zurich isn't one of those places that automatically jumps to the top of most European travel lists, but it makes a great home-base for a host of central European trips, and after spending a few days there earlier this month, I'd argue its worth checking out in its own right as well.

{Get There}
The Zurich Airport is both very easy to navigate and very central to downtown. Car rentals and a train station are both located inside the same airport building which makes it very easy to rent a car for a few days, then return it to the airport and take the train into Zurich itself for the remainder of your trip, or vice versa.

February 4, 2017

Travel Guide: Fes

{About}
Fes el-Bali, or old Fes, is the oldest walled city in Morocco and the largest car-free zone in the world according to UNESCO. With an estimated 9,000+ tiny, maze like streets, getting lost (like really lost) is inevitable. The high ocher colored walls that once protected the city, now serve as a sort of time-warp barrier between daily life in the souks, which continues in its rhythms much as it always has, from the rest of the city and the 21st century.

January 23, 2017

Travel Guide: Atlas Mountains

travel guide: Atlas Mountains
travel guide: Atlas Mountainstravel guide: Atlas Mountains
{About}
The Atlas Mountains are truly breathtaking. Staring up at them it somehow feels as if you've arrived at the edge of the earth, which if you consider that the vast Sahara desert is on the other side it is perhaps an accurate feeling. There is a sense of being very small and yet also having incredible perspective, and when the afternoon light hits the mountains and everything glows softly yellow there is a definite kind of magic to it.

travel guide: Atlas Mountainstravel guide: Atlas Mountains
travel guide: Atlas Mountains
{Stay}
We stayed in the Ourika Valley at the Kasbah Bab Ourika but another more luxe option that isn't too far away is the Kasbah Tamadot which I've also heard great things about. The Kasbah Bab Ourika is truly an escape and I would highly recommend making time for a visit here. The interiors are incredibly well-designed with plenty of nooks to tuck away in and feel as if you have the place to yourself.
travel guide: Atlas Mountains

January 16, 2017

Travel Guide: Marrakech

{About}
Marrakech is one of those mythical places that you hear and read so much about prior to arrival that those initial impressions can seem a bit distorted. Is this actually what is looks like or did I see this in a photograph? It is a place that lives up to all if they hype and is yet some how just more everything. On first blush it is a chaotic, dirty maze of a place that seems absolutely determined to take advantage of tourists in any way possible. Once you get past the initial impressions of whizzing motorbikes, donkey carts, the endlessly confusing streets, the pungent diesel fumes and getting hassled from every single possible direction it is a place with so many different layers to explore. From the brightly colored souks, to the stunning historical sites, to the chic and calm riads, and the flavorful local cuisine it is a place that is worth enduring the surface chaos to discover.
Travel Guide: Marrakech
{Stay}
There are lots of places to stay in Marrakech, from uber luxurious places like La Mamounia and The Royal Mansour which sit on garden compounds just outside of the medina (the old walled city) to charming little riads (guesthouses) tucked behind unassuming entrances amid the chaos of the medina. We stayed at the budget-friendly Riad Yasmine which was incredibly tranquil and had just a handful of rooms. They had a great roof terrace for relaxing and the plunge pool in the central courtyard was lovely. Breakfast was included and they did offer dinner though you have to book in advance. I would recommend reserving a room upstairs as we had one right beside the pool and it was a bit loud. Other great options include the design-forward El Fenn which is worth a visit for the stunning interiors alone and Villa des Orangers which is just outside the medina and a great place for dinner if you don't stay there. 
Travel Guide: Marrakech
Travel Guide: MarrakechTravel Guide: Marrakech
Travel Guide: Marrakech

September 15, 2016

Travel Guide: Trentino-Alto Adagio/Südtirol

Travel Guide: Trentino-Alto Adagio/Südtirol
{About}
Chances are this isn't the first place that springs to mind when planning a trip to Italy, but it is definitely worth considering if you're looking for something a little different than the usual round-up of cities. For all of us who have long-since forgotten middle school geography, Trentino-Alto Adagio/Südtirol is an autonomous region in north-eastern corner of Italy, and is bordered by Austria and a tiny piece of Switzerland. Trentino-Alto Adagio is the Italian name for the area and Trentino-Südtirol is the German name. The region was a part of Austria-Hungary until annexed by Italy in the early 20th century and culturally has close ties to both Italy and Austria. The population is for the most part entirely bi-lingual (and often tri-lingual or more!) and will greet people in one language (Italian or German) and effortlessly switch to whichever you prefer.
Travel Guide: Trentino-Alto Adagio/SüdtirolTravel Guide: Trentino-Alto Adagio/Südtirol
Travel Guide: Trentino-Alto Adagio/SüdtirolTravel Guide: Trentino-Alto Adagio/Südtirol
{Get There}
Driving or taking the train are your best bets. Bolzano, where we stayed, does have an airport, but it doesn't have commercial service. Other nearby airports include: Verona, Innsbruck and Milan.

{Stay}
We stayed in Bolzano, one of the larger towns in the area, at the Hotel Grief, a member of the Design Hotels group. We really enjoyed our stay, though if you are looking for a more traditional room, the nearby Hotel Laurin is managed by the same owners. The two hotels share a private park with beautiful gardens, a pool, and outdoor dining. During the summer they have a special aperitivo night for hotel guests which was a unexpected highlight.
Travel Guide: Trentino-Alto Adagio/Südtirol
Travel Guide: Trentino-Alto Adagio/SüdtirolTravel Guide: Trentino-Alto Adagio/Südtirol
{See & Do}
The region is peppered with one town cuter than the next, and if you have a car, you could easily fill your days popping from one to another. As we were car-less we centered our activities in Bolzano. One day we started out early, threw on our workout gear and took the gondola up into the Dolomite mountains for a bit of hiking. We got a trail map from the hotel and found everything to be incredibly well marked.

In Bolzano, the Museion museum as well as the historic town center are well worth exploring.
Travel Guide: Trentino-Alto Adagio/SüdtirolTravel Guide: Trentino-Alto Adagio/Südtirol
Travel Guide: Trentino-Alto Adagio/SüdtirolTravel Guide: Trentino-Alto Adagio/Südtirol
{Eat & Drink}
Stadt Hotel Citta, on the main square is great for a late lunch, a spritz and some serious people watching.
Fishbänke, don't miss having a spritz or two at this Bolzano institution. A casual, street-side cafe in what was once the town's fish market, this place is a sensory riot and beloved by just about everyone it seems.
Banco 11, is a great little wine bar right in the central market.

September 12, 2016

Travel Guide: Berlin

Berlin travel guide
{About}
Personally I think Berlin is one of the most underrated spots in Europe. It has a fascinating history that is visible throughout the city, the art and fashion scene is impressive without being pretentious, the hotels aren't terribly expensive, you can find really good food, the coffee is to die for and if nightlife is your thing, it does that well too. Basically you should book a trip here, you wont be disappointed!

This was my third trip, and each time I've fallen a bit more for this massive city. (But seriously, its a huge city!) If I were to move to Europe this would be at the top of my short list, I really don't think you could ever run out of things to do and the culture is just enough more relaxed than many other German cities to give it that special European feel.
Berlin travel guideBerlin travel guide
Berlin travel guideBerlin travel guide
{Get There/Get Around}
No shortage of options here. There are a few direct flights from the US, Newark being one of them. Or you can connect through London, Frankfurt or Amsterdam very easily. Berlin has several airports, all of which are pretty easy to get it via public transit or taxi. Trains are another good option if you're coming from elsewhere within Europe.

Berlin's public transit system is, like the city itself, enormous and complex but will take you anywhere you need to go. There is the U-Bahn (what we think of as the subway or metro) and the S-Bahn (which is suburban rail within and around the city), and trams and busses. I would recommend getting day passes or multi-day passes depending on your plans, and whatever you do, do not forget to validate your ticket before getting on the train, and if your ticket expires at a certain time, make sure you have completed your journey by then. in 2009 we had the unfortunate experience of making a mistake with the expiration time and getting fined pretty heavily.
Berlin travel guide
{Stay}
On this recent trip we stayed at the Mandala Hotel and loved it - well designed, helpful staff (thank you to Annike who took pity on my jet lagged self and gave me a room upgrade!) great location, nice amenities (wish more hotels had washer/dryers for guests!).

{See & Do}
There is really no end to things to see and do in Berlin. For art enthusiasts there is Museum Island and the famous Pergamon Museum as well as endless galleries, check out Auguststrasse in particular. For history buffs, Checkpoint Charlie, the Berlin Wall Memorial and the Topography of Terror Museum are both fascinating. The Holocaust Memorial, which is just next to the Brandenburg Gate is incredibly moving and not to be missed.

Berlin is a huge city and its diverse neighborhoods are also worth exploring. Many of the main tourist attractions are in Mitte in the central area, but I would also recommend checking out Prenzlauer berg and Kreuzberg. Also, don't forget to spend some time in the beautiful Tiergarten.
Berlin travel guideBerlin travel guide
{Eat & Drink}
Katz Orange, completely worth it for a special dinner. Don't forget to make a reservation!
Anna Blume, weekend brunch gets a major upgrade in this adorable cafe/flower shop. The brunch tower is incredible too!
No Fire, No Glory, super cute coffee shop with espresso that will put a serious spring in your step
The Barn, it sounds odd, but the espresso and grapefruit juice drink is really refreshing.
Bonanza, I could have hung out all day in this tucked away oasis. It might just be on the menu in the summer, but the Cascara lemonade was amazing!
Bar at Das Stue Hotel, next time I'd love to stay here, but we grabbed a drink in the amazing lobby/bar space, which reminds me of a modern hunting lodge.
Berlin travel guide
Berlin travel guide
Berlin travel guide
{Shop}
KaDeWe is Berlin's most famous department store and worth a visit.
The weekend flea market in Mauerpark is full of hidden treasures and a very fun atmosphere.