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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Maui Wedding Anniversary and 30th Birthday Trip Recap

 Hi Friends! 

Have you ever traveled somewhere that just felt like home? A place so beautiful it makes you want to cry? A place so special that when you leave, it almost feels like you left a piece of your heart behind? For me, thats Maui. 

Hubby and I had gone to Maui in 2019 with a special group of friends and vowed that we would return some day. I will never forget seeing Maui for the first time and just being so blown away by its beauty. There is something so special about this island that until you experience it first hand, it is hard to understand. To be honest, I didn't think we would be able to go back for a very long time as it can be quite expensive to go Hawaii. Hubby and I saved up for a while and we were also able to find the most perfect Airbnb that fit our budget. If you are planning a trip to Maui (or even a different Hawaiian Island) and are on a budget, I recommend you consider the Airbnb route! The time of year we went also seemed to be much more affordable than other times of the year. 

Where We Stayed 

As mentioned, we stayed in an Airbnb. The unit we stayed in is located on the beautiful Papakea Resort. We stayed in a studio unit that had the most beautiful view of the property and the ocean from our lanai (aka balcony). What I loved about this unit is that it had everything we needed to cook and be comfortable for the 12 nights we were there. We cooked many nights during our stay and there was nothing I would say we needed and didn't have access to. I know while on vacation, cooking is sometimes the last thing you want to do, however we didn't mind it. This was a great way for us to save some money since going out to dinner every night certainly adds up. This was also a great option since it can be tricky to get reservations with the current COVID restrictions in place. I will touch on how it was traveling to Maui with COVID restrictions towards the end of this post, but I will say we had no issues. 

Since the unit is a studio, the bed is in your "living room". The unit contains a murphy bed as well as a pull out couch so if you were traveling with another person or couple, you would have enough sleeping space. I will say, the bathroom is tiny and since it is only a studio you do run out of hot water quickly, just something to keep in mind if you decide to travel with another couple or an additional family member/friend. My husband and I found that this unit was absolutely perfect for us since it was just us two. 




The property itself was beautiful as well! The grounds were very well maintained, we saw the pool being cleaned every morning and the grounds being upkept as well. The property has 2 pools, two hot tubs, and a putting green. At the far end of the property there are stairs to get down to the ocean, however I will say it seems that the tides have raised as there was very little beach, even at another beach down the way where we spent majority of our time last trip there was very little beach at certain times of the day due to the tides. The great thing about Maui though is that there are a ton of beaches and so many within close proximity. We watched the sunset every night on the sea wall of the property. It was the coolest experience just watching everyone gathering on the lawn to watch the sunset with a glass of wine. If you have ever been to Maui, you know how magical their sunsets are. 

Overall, I highly recommend this property and the unit we stayed in. We would definitely stay here again! (Will add the link here soon so check back!)

What We Did 

The goal of this trip was to relax as much as possible. It had been a long time since hubby and I had taken a trip together just the two of us, and we really wanted to enjoy every moment. We decided to do this trip in September to celebrate our 5 year Wedding Anniversary as well as my 30th birthday (we got to celebrate my birthday while in Maui, which was amazing!). We had initially planned to possibly do a day on the other side of the island in order to see Haleakala, and some of the Road to Hana but we changed our minds. Honestly it was so nice to just relax, snorkel right off the beach, soak up the views, and spend time in the pool. We did have two days that we explored a bit more. One day we took the ferry from Lahaina over to the neighboring island of Lanai and we also took a few hours to head into Kapalua to see Dragons Teeth (more about both to follow). 

Day Trip to Lanai

As mentioned above, we took the ferry from Lahaina to Lanai for the day. Lanai is the island you can see directly across the water in many of my pictures. If you are staying in the Kaanapali area, you get direct views of Lanai from the beach (you can also see Molokai depending which direction you are looking). Lanai is the smallest inhabited island and I would venture to say that it's kind of off the beaten path in most areas. There is definitely very little to do as far as nightlife is concerned but if you are interested in exploring and soaking up the beauty of the island then it is worth the day trip. The ferry costs 30$ each way but is definitely worth it to see this unique island. The ride is about 45 minutes and you can see beautiful ocean views during the ride (I recommend sitting up top on the way to Lanai). One thing to note is that the way back to Maui can be VERY choppy. We left Lanai around 2:30PM and it was extremely choppy, it was also choppy when we went in 2019. The morning trip to Lanai was perfect but it is definitely rough in the afternoon. If you are prone to motion sickness, definitely bring some dramamine for the ride back. 

There are many "hidden gems" on the island including a cat sanctuary, Shipwreck Beach, and Hulope Beach Park. When you get off the ferry you will see a road to follow. The Hulope Beach Park is about a 15-20 minute walk from the ferry so definitely be prepared. This is the easiest beach to get to without a car. The Four Seasons is also located next to this beach and prior to COVID, visitors were able to have lunch on the property. Unfortunately, this time we went we were unable to have lunch there as they had it closed off to visitors in order to accommodate their guests. One of the Four Seasons employees did note that there is a lunch spot in Lanai City, however you would need to take a car there so I recommend packing a lunch!  

Hulope Beach Park is a beautiful spot. The sand is powder soft and the water is the most vibrant turquoise color. To the left of the beach there are hiking spots and an area that leads down to a large area of tide pools. If you keep hiking up you can view Puupehe (Sweetheart Rock) which is a large summit that is about 80ft out of the water situated between Manele and Hulope Bay. Where you hike to view this formation is about 1The views from the top are absolutely spectacular! Definitely bring a good pair of sneakers! Although not a very hard hike, it is very rocky. Keep in mind, you are over 100ft up so if you are afraid of heights then this may not be for you. 







Dragons Teeth in Kapalua 

We met a wonderful couple while on this trip who told us about Kapalua. It is about 15-20 minutes from the Kaanapali area and offers beautiful beaches, a blow hole, and really neat hiking spots. Dragons Teeth is located off the side of a golf course by the Ritz. You can park right near the trail and it is an easy walk to get to this attraction. Dragons Teeth gets its name from the rock formations that look like "dragons teeth". The rock formations were created by lava from one of the last lava flows on Maui. You can often see turtles right here off the shore! There are also a bunch of tidal pools up top due to the waves coming up so high, so definitely use caution while exploring! Going to Dragons Teeth was easily one of my favorite parts of our trip. The views were incredible and the rock formations simply blew me away. It was drizzling on and off a bit when we went so we got to see the most beautiful rainbow over the ocean! Next time we are in Maui we definitely want to explore Kapalua further as there are so many things to see in this area. 








Snorkling 

I wanted to touch on snorkeling although we didn't do an "official" snorkeling excursion. There are many options for excusions and places you can snorkel throughout the island however, right off the beach in Kaanapali you can see sea turtles, coral reefs, and vibrant fish. We were considering a snorkel tour at Molokini but opted to just snorkel whenever we felt like it off the beach. We saw turtles almost every single day and even on our last day I still got so excited when I spotted one. They are truly magnificent creatures! Please keep in mind, as beautiful as they are please refrain from touching or disturbing them. We simply floated above and watched from a distance. If you did not bring snorkel gear, you can pick some up at your local ABC store!


Where We Ate 

As I mentioned earlier, we did not eat out too many times, but I cannot say enough good things about the places we did eat! I am convinced that Maui has some of the best food I have ever eaten! 

 Our first dinner out was at one of our favorite spots from our 2019 trip and that is Down the Hatch. Down the Hatch is a casual spot that offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They offer amazing cocktails and have open seating. You simply go up to the window, order your food, and pick a table to sit down. They also own a shaved ice place that is located inside the same building right next door. We LOVE their chicken tacos and the Mai Tai was to die for. We wanted to head here for breakfast one morning but didn't get the chance to this trip. Down the Hatch is located in Lahaina which is a quick 15 minutes away from where we stayed. There are a lot of other restaurants and shops in Lahaina as well. 




We celebrated our anniversary at HuiHui which is located on the beach front of the Kaanapali Beach Hotel. It is definitely on the pricey side but the food is to die for! They gave us a complimentary champagne toast for our anniversary which I thought was a sweet touch. I had the New York strip, hubby had the short ribs, and we split the pineapple upside-down bread pudding for dessert. This meal was so delicious and we actually ended up taking our leftovers and finishing them another night in our rental. If you are celebrating something special, definitely check out HuiHui! 

Our last meal of the trip was probably my favorite and it was also my birthday dinner. Our friends who were in Maui right before us recommended this little hole in the wall spot called Sale Pepe. Sale Pepe is also located in Lahaina however, it is in the back of one of the shopping centers. Sale Pepe offers homeade pasta and pizza. The risotto was definitely one of the best meals I have ever had in my life. I will be craving it until we go back next time! The staff were so nice and I loved everything we had there. For appetizers, my husband and I split the Insalata Di Buffala Caprese, my husband had the Strozzapreti Con Guanciale Di Manzo (handmade pasta with a rich ragu, so delish!), and as I mentioned I had the Risotto con Pomodoro Fresco E Burrata. I loved their lemon basil martini and will definitely be trying to re-create it at home! We had gelato for dessert and it was just the perfect meal for us to end our trip on. Highly recommend Sale Pepe if you are in Maui! 

Picture Break!

Before I touch on what it was like traveling during COVID, I wanted to share some additional photos from our trip. The sunsets in Maui are unreal and at night, it feels like you could touch the stars. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do! 






Traveling to Maui during COVID-19

I did want to touch on what it was like in Maui with the current COVID restrictions. In order to travel to Maui and bi-pass a quarantine period you need to either show proof of vaccination, or show negative test results within 72 hours of departure. Before your trip you need to register on the Safe Travels Hawaii website and input all of your flight info, vaccine cards/test results prior to departure. A QR code will be generated once all of your information is cleared.  Once you arrive to the airport you will need to show this to the staff at the kiosk and they will provide you with a wristband. This wristband makes it so that when you arrive in Hawaii you do not need to go through the additional procedures of getting your cards/test results checked again. This was very helpful and made the process of arrival nice and quick for us. We flew Hawaiian Air but I believe other airlines have the exact same process. 

There are restrictions on the island, however coming from NJ we had similar ones months ago so nothing was very shocking in my opinion. Restaurants have recently decreased capacity to 50% and right before we left for our trip they had made the decision that in order to eat inside a restaurant you would need to show proof of vaccination. You can still eat outside if you are not vaccinated, but you cannot dine indoors. We did have to show our cards at Sale Pepe since we ate inside, however since we ate outside at Down the Hatch and HuiHui we did not. I would say to bring your card with you just in case wherever you go or scan it to your phone! This is pretty much the rule everywhere right now, but of course you are required to wear a mask within the airport and the entire time you are on the flight unless you are actively eating or drinking. You just also wear a mask on the island anytime you are indoors (aka hotel common areas, stores, ect) and also if you take any Ubers or public transportation. 

Overall, It felt like a fairly normal vacation since almost everything we did was outside anyway! Just like when we are home we took the proper precautions of wearing our mask, keeping distance from others, and washed our hands often. 

As always if you have any questions feel free to shoot me a DM on instagram!

Till next time Maui 
xoxo

-Nicole 





Thursday, April 1, 2021

Destin, FL Recap

 Hi Everyone! It has been a while since I have written a blog post (I haven't since November to be exact). It has been a wild few months but we recently returned from our first trip since pre-covid so I wanted to give you all a quick recap of where we went and what it was like traveling right now with the pandemic. Please note, I am in no way saying you should be traveling or not be traveling right now. Do what feels right to you and take the proper precautions before, during, and after your trip. I do believe you can travel safely but you have to do what you are comfortable with. 

Where We Went & Where We Stayed

A small group of friends and I wanted to get away for a week somewhere close(ish) that did not require a long plane ride as well as a location we would feel safe and be able to control the amount of people we were exposed to. Initially we discussed places like Aruba or Bahamas but decided that international travel was not for us right now and decided on Destin, FL. Destin is a quick 2.5hr flight from here (we flew out of Philly) and it was then an hour drive from the airport in Pensacola. We decided on a rental so that we did not have to share spaces with anyone else. When searching for a rental we looked for something that could fit us all, was walking distance to the beach, and had a pool. We found all of this in the Avant Stay property that we chose (direct house link here). 

Destin, Florida, Avant Stay, Airbnb

Avant Stay, Destin, Florida, Destin FL, Airbnb

The property was absolutely beautiful! As mentioned, we had our own pool and we were walking distance to the beach. The house is also super close to many stores and restaurants. We loved the location as well as the amenities that it had. The pool is heated, you do have to pay extra for this but it is very worth it if you are going this time of year. The weather was kind of iffy there and it did not get very hot there all week so it was definitely a must have. The house had a lot of little necessities that you wouldn't want to have to buy such as extra toilet paper, extra paper towels, and laundry detergent (although we bought our own because I have a lot of skin sensitivities). We loved being able to wash clothes when we needed. 

The house has 4 bedrooms and we loved how spaced out the bedrooms were. We basically all had our own section of the house due to the layout. We also ended up each having our own bathroom. My husband and I had the upstairs part of the house and our bedroom had double doors that led out to the balcony. One of my favorite parts of the trip was waking up to the view of palm trees (I actually said to my husband several times that if it were warmer year round in Jersey I would definitely have palm trees in my yard lol). 

Since we had a goal of being around as few people as possible, we opted for an Instacart delivery for groceries.  We rented a car at the Pensacola Airport for our drive to Destin so on our way to the house we put together our Instacart order to get us through the first half of the week. We went with simple meals and of course things we could grill. I am talking things like burgers, hot dogs, ingredients for a taco night, ect. We were also able to order alcohol with our groceries as well (we loved the Bud Light Out of Office pack). We did have to make a second order mid week, but each time we got the groceries within a very reasonable time frame and it was very helpful because we did not have to spend hours in a supermarket. I highly recommend this option if you are traveling with a group and have a kitchen. We did do takeout one night from a place called Millers Ale House. I highly recommend their Mac n Cheese (it has buffalo wing bites in it) and the donuts for dessert! 

What We Did

I don't have to much to share on this end because really we went there with the intention of relaxing, hanging by the pool, and staying away from anyone outside our group. We did not venture out of the house much except to take some pictures at the beach and watch the sunset. The beaches in Destin are absolutely gorgeous! I am talking crystal blue-green waters and powdery white sand that feels like a cloud under your feet. 

Destin, Florida, Destin FL, Lost and Wander, Beach


Outfit Links: Top // Shorts (similar)

We did not spend much time at the beach during the day because it was a bit crowded. I will say the spot we were at has a lot of hotels/condos and most of them have private beach space. This did limit the public beach space to a very small section at the public entrance that was closest to the house. There was additional public space if you walked down a bit more, however we did not go down to check it out. This is just something to keep in mind if you prefer the beach over the pool as you may want to drive to a different spot for the beach. At sunset the hotels/condos took down all of their private chairs and barriers so the beach was completely open and empty at sunset.

 Since we did not spend much time at the beach, we spent our days by the pool at the house just relaxing. We did get rain one full day while we were there but we planned the day out in advance and placed a Walmart pickup order for a few games as well as we came up with a few ourselves to keep the day busy. Although it rained all day we had a blast inside playing games, dancing to music, and making fun cocktails. Total side note, but the game Throw Throw Burrito was a blast! 

Destin, Florida, Airbnb, Avant Stay, Destin Stays
Outfit Links: Bikini Top // Bikini Bottom

Destin, Florida, Destin Spots
Top // Shorts // Bag // Sunglasses 

Airport & Traveling During COVID

Before I wrap up, I did want to give you all some additional information about my experience with getting on a plane and traveling right now. As I mentioned earlier, I do think you can safely travel at this time as long as you take the proper precautions. Before our trip, the group decided to self quarantine and not see anyone for the week prior to our departure. This was to ensure we were not potentially exposing ourselves. In the airport we all wore two masks (one surgical with our fabric mask over it) and washed our hands whenever we touched something. We of course had a bunch of wipes and sanitizer on hand as well. Philly airport was pretty empty. We had our own area at one of the stand up tables in our terminal and no one was near us at all. Everyone in Philly for the most part respected the mask mandate and we only saw a few people trying to get away with wearing it under their nose or with it off. This was addressed when airport personnel saw it. When we got on the plane we used Lysol wipes to clean our seat, buckles, handles, and tray tables. They did give you a wipe when boarding the plane but we also had our own. Personally our group did not eat or drink on the plane however, if you did then that was the only time you were permitted to remove your mask. We also did not use the bathroom on the plane but I am sure if we had a longer flight we would have had to. Pensacola airport was definitely a bit more crowded and we did see a bit more people not following the mask mandate in the airport for our flight home. Overall we were able to distance and I felt safe. 

Final Thoughts 

I can't say enough how nice it was to just unplug for a few days. I did not spend a lot of time creating content and I didn't really post during the week either as I usually do. It is so important to really be present when on vacation and spend time with your loved ones. The memories made will last a lifetime and there is more to life than getting the perfect "insta worthy" picture. I left there really refreshed and the break was just what I needed! 

Till next time Destin!

xoxo,

Nicole 

Thursday, November 19, 2020

The Perfect Fall Getaway: Two Nights in Manchester, VT

This is one of the best times of the year! When I think of Fall I think of the sound of crunching leaves, the feeling of the crisp air, cozying up by the fire with some apple cider, and admiring all of the beautiful colors of the leaves. My husband and I were in need of a little getaway and thought it would be perfect to head to Vermont to enjoy all that Fall has to offer! We went during peak for leaf peeping and it was magical. Keep reading to hear more about where we stayed, what we did, and of course to see the beautiful foliage pictures!

Where We Stayed 

We did a lot of research before going on this little trip. We wanted to stay somewhere we felt comfortable and wouldn't be around many people. We looked into an Airbnb but had little luck since we had booked so late. While doing my research I stumbled upon Barnstead Inn and instantly fell in love with its charm and the fact that they had so few guest rooms. I personally love the Inn vibe and it was definitely perfect because we had our own private entrance to get into our room as well. Barnstead Inn is located just two blocks from Manchester Center so you can walk to the shops, restaurants, and cafes. We stayed in the Stratton Suite and it was beautiful (if my room at home could look like it I would be thrilled!) My favorite part of our room was the fireplace as it added such a cozy touch to our stay. 

Hat // Top // Shorts // Mug 


Another great thing about Barnstead Inn is that they include a farm to table breakfast every morning. The morning we were leaving we had the most delicious poached eggs on toast with Vermont Cheddar. Let's just say I still think about that breakfast! We also loved that they had a little bar area where you could grab a drink and some small appetizers, definitely try the spinach dip and charcuterie board! 

This was the delicious breakfast on our last morning!

The Inn has a little tavern where you can get a cocktail and local brews. 

What We Did

Since this was a quick trip and our first post-quarantine, we wanted to have a nice balance of relaxation but also adventure. We wanted to see the beautiful foliage and soak in all that Manchester has to offer. We arrived in Vermont around noon on our first day there and since check-in wasn't until 3, we figured we would do some exploring. When planning our trip I knew I wanted to visit the beautiful Equinox Pond. Now let me tell you, it is no easy feat getting to this spot. I figured you would just walk right up to it, but that is not the case. From what the locals told us, you used to be able to walk right up Equinox Pond Road however, this has been closed off to the public as it is a residential street and they do not allow outside traffic through. Some nice gentleman working by the high school gave us the tip about parking near by and walking through but we did not feel comfortable and of course wanted to respect those that live there. To get to Equinox pond you can park at one of the two parking lots for the trails. To get to the pond you follow the yellow trail (there are little colored posts you can follow). Fair warning, it did take about 45 minutes to hike to the pond so definitely bring good hiking shoes/sneakers and be prepared for a decent walk. The trail was very easy to navigate and the foliage was absolutely spectacular (the pictures almost look like a painting!). It was worth the hike for sure! 

Hat // Poncho // Jeans // Boots 


This is an unedited picture straight from my camera! It literally looks like a painting!

Our second day in Manchester we decided to take the drive up Skyline Drive. This beautiful scenic drive takes you all the way up Mount Equinox which is the highest peak in the Teconic Mountain range.  When you arrive, head into the building and they will provide you with instructions as well as a token to get through the gate. I believe it was a 20$ fee, however you can take as much time as you need to do the drive, soak in the views, and make your way back. There are many overlooks and stops along the way so that you can rest your breaks as well as soak in the beautiful views. Be sure to bring a jacket because it is much colder up there than it is at the bottom! Be warned, if you go around the time we did you will not see as much foliage when you get to the top because of the temperature difference (the leaves change up there earlier). Regardless, the mountain views were absolutely stunning! 

This is what the road looks like heading up! Prettier in person!

The view from one of the overlooks

It was so windy that my tripod fell over not 1 second after this picture was snapped!

After our drive we decided to explore downtown a little more and snap a few pictures before heading to dinner! Definitely explore downtown and grab yourself a maple latte from one of the coffee shops. They were delicious! 

Hat // Sweater // Skirt // Boots (similar, mine are from last year)

Where We Ate

After our day of exploring, we had probably one of the best meals I have ever had in my life! We ate at The Copper Grouse which is located in the Kimpton Taconic Hotel. We ate outside and although it was a bit cold, they had heating lamps in the ceiling and the views from the porch were stunning!

 They gave us a champagne toast at the start of our meal and we opted for the Mac n Cheese for our appetizer. Honestly it was THE BEST mac n cheese I have EVER had. To this day I think about that mac n cheese  almost daily! I am still trying to figure out how I can replicate that recipe at home. It was gooey, creamy, and so flavorful! It is definitely true that Vermont Cheddar is the best! 


For our main course, I opted for the butternut raviolis and my husband opted for the beef tenderloin. I tried a bite of my husbands too and my gosh both meals were outstanding! They were both perfect Fall meals and oh so delicious! For dessert we decided on the pumpkin bread pudding. The flavor was delicious, but it was a bit dry. Overall I did enjoy it though! 


Overall I highly recommend having a meal at The Copper Grouse. It is definitely on the pricey side but it was worth it. My only regret was getting a margarita. Although it was good, I wouldn't say it was worth what we paid. The drinks were not worth the price in my opinion but the food and atmosphere definitely made up for it! 

Let's Wrap it Up

I am so glad hubby and I got to take this quick trip to Vermont together. I definitely recommend Manchester if you are looking for beautiful foliage and a romantic little place to get away. We adored the Inn we stayed in and definitely plan to go back next Fall if we can! I do wish we had one extra day because the weather ended up being pretty bad on our last morning. It was raining very hard so we ended up changing our plans of hanging around for part of the day and just headed out at checkout time.  We did want to explore a little more too, so one more day would have been perfect! I guess that is vacation though, you always end up wishing for just one more day! As always feel free to DM me any questions on instagram, I would be more than happy to answer! 

I do want to put a disclaimer that you should read up on your states travel restrictions as well as your destinations restrictions before planning a trip. We did a lot of research before going to make sure we weren't going to be putting ourselves or anyone else at risk. This trip took place when numbers were lower and we followed all guidelines.  Please do your research before traveling and make sure you are respectful to the guidelines and restrictions that your destination has in place. Let's keep each other safe and healthy!

xoxo
-Nicole 


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Maui Wedding Anniversary and 30th Birthday Trip Recap

 Hi Friends!  Have you ever traveled somewhere that just felt like home? A place so beautiful it makes you want to cry? A place so special t...