Since we leave for the beach in under a week, I’m beginning to make a list of things that I must remember to pack. I’ve compiled some of that list here, as my most highly recommended items to consider when packing for your next beach vacation…
Carly Straw Tassel Tote – You gotta have a good beach bag. Francesca’s carries many affordable beach bags as well as straw clutches, like this one here, perfect to take to dinner when on a beach vacation.
Pool Central Giant Inflatable Flamingo Pool Float in Pink – Because who doesn’t need a giant hot pink flamingo shaped float, large enough to hold 2 adults? I plant to tie this baby up to my overwater bungalow in Bora Bora… the only issue is that the thing weighs 10 lbs… I guess I’ll be carrying on board the flights with me. Stay tuned for pics…
Gopro Hero 6 Black Camera – I love my GoPro. The coolest thing about this is that I was able to attach one of the sticky mounts to the top of my full-face snorkel mask and get footage while I’m snorkeling, hands free! Here is a video that I shot with this camera last summer in Greece.
BP. Floppy Straw Look Hat – If nothing else on this list, buy a floppy sun hat. The sun will do damage to your face and the heat is no joke.
YETI Rambler 30 oz – The price of bottled water is astronomical on certain islands, but the water is perfectly clean (cleaner than here!) and safe to drink. Make sure to bring a Yeti to keep it cool.
SEPHORA COLLECTION – #Lipstories Lipstick – Yes, lipsticks are a beach essential. I’m loving the new Sephora #colorstories collection. These are hyperpigmented shades that go on smooth and cost $8 each. I have lipsticks 3x that price that aren’t as good.
Backpack Cooler – Not only is bottled water expensive, so are the cocktails and beers. We’re taking a backpack cooler to fill with ice & beer before we head out.
Amalfi Belted One Piece – I’ve literally not worn a one-piece swimsuit since I was about 10 years old… but this is my year. I’m digging this retro print/style with the added belt. It will also be much more practical while diving and snorkeling.
What essentials would you add to the list? Help a sister out. I need to start packing cause lord knows I’m a procrastinator and overpacker… not a good combo.
I can check this one off the bucket list… Exceeding all dreamy, picture perfect expectations, Santorini’s beauty is simply breathtaking. Known for it’s blue-domed churches, whitewashed buildings, and steep and winding stairs that ascend from the Aegean Sea, it is exactly how you imagine it to be, and more. Bright pink blooms pop against what seems to be a blue and white mirage.
We stayed at On the Rocks boutique hotel in Imerovigli. Our “cave” was built into the side of the mountain. This was the most unique hotel I had ever stayed. The staff were equally as lovely. Each morning, we were awakened by a knock at the door and breakfast delivered on our private patio, overlooking the sea. Fresh coffee, greek yogurt with honey and nuts, omelets (with feta and olives), pastries and fresh fruit.
Regardless of what the hotel, travel agents, or anyone tells you, no need to make a reservation. We visited during peak season and had no issue getting a table anywhere (with the exception of Amoundi Bay at sunset, which we still were able to grab two seats and order a bottle of wine just in time for the show a.k.a. sunset). The food was fantastic everywhere we went and everything was extremely fresh.
Funny story… We visited Ios by complete mistake. In attempt to travel from Santorini to Mykonos, we got off the boat at the wrong stop and found ourselves stranded on Ios. Apparently this happens quite often, so beware. With that being said, I consider it a blessing. Ios is a gorgeous island! We stayed the one night at Liostasi Hotel. This charming hotel was not only beautiful, but their hospitality was out of this world. Every staff member knew our names. We were treated as if we owned the place and their breakfast (included) was unbelievable. When I return to Ios, I will be staying here. Much smaller than Santorini, Ios is a party island and had a much different feel. You walk through the winding streets, literally through the middle of outdoor restaurants and pubs where bands of local seniors played their instruments and sang. Young people gathered on the village steps to drink cocktails and dance… see a bar called Steps. I wish that we had spent more time in Ios. Next time I would love to see the beaches.
Traditional Cycladic architecture, including the infamous windmills, beautiful beaches, and winding cobblestone streets lined with white washed building and more of the bright pink blooms. Mykonos is a busier, more commercial version of iOS. Pulsating nightlife, often in competition with Ibiza attracts jet setters, celebrities, gay pride festival goers, and all kinds of people looking for an exotic adventure. We stayed one night at Cavo Tagoo, visited the beaches of Little Venice, shopped amongst the beautiful churches scattered throughout the city, ate our way through the island, and danced all night in a cave to the beats of DJ Grandma Man.
We spent our first and last night in Athens. There aren’t any direct flights to the islands, so going through Athens is a requirement. This gave us the opportunity to stay at the beautiful Hotel Grande Bretagne and explore the city. We had gyros from street vendors more times than we could count and drank wine in Monastiraki Square, with the most beautiful view of Acropolis. Fortunately, on our last day, we did have the opportunity to visit before sunset. The cost is $20EU per person for just the Parthenon (extra for the museum, which we unfortunately did not have time for). When I tell you it was hot, the heat put Georgia to shame! But once we got up there, the view made it all worth it. It’s amazing that structures like this still exist today.
Do not, I repeat, do NOT wear heels in the Greek islands. Not even to dinner. Invest in some stylish flats and sandals. Wear hats, because A) hats are fabulous and B) my scalp and face burned immediately. Wear dresses, shorts, skirts, and rompers. Light flowy clothing is best. If you rent an ATV, BE CAREFUL (we saw a few nasty accidents). Be prepared to walk a LOT. Whatever you’re doing at sunset, drop everything and take it in. And do not be afraid to be adventurous. Go explore. There’s more to see than you could ever imagine.
Below is a video of our trip, produced with a combination of drone and GoPro footage. Unfortunately, aerial footage wasn’t possible on Ios or Mykonos due to high winds. Be sure to watch in 1080p HD for maximum quality.
San Francisco, the city by the bay with endless offerings. What a lovely place it is! The streets are lined with pastel Victorian town homes, trolleys, cafes, and all within a short driving distance to the infamous Redwood Forest, as well as Sonoma and Napa Valley.
There really are too many sights, restaurants, and shops to mention, but here are a few gems that were highlights of our most recent trip:
Near Union Square:
Blue Bottle Coffee. This is by far the best coffee I have ever had. They specialize in siphon coffees – a centuries-old technique that is done mostly by hand, requiring precise temperature, time, attention and skill. The results are well-worth the effort, and more like the consistency of tea than coffee. Meant to be consumed black and never with the addition of cream or sugar. Their breakfast items are just as fantastic. If only I could start out every day with a stop at Blue Bottle…
And right on the edge of Union Square, you will find a quaint little cafe and wine bar called La Marsa. The owner, Rafik Bouzidi, serves as host, waiter, bartender, and chef. He’s a one man show. Do not let this discourage you. This is a very small space and he offers high quality, inventive dishes with a Tunisian flair, and a side of conversation. If you’re out and about Union Square, stop and see Rafik for a glass (or bottle) of wine. You’ll be glad you did!
Possibly the most famous neighborhood of the 1960’s hippie movement. The Haight was home to many artists and musicians including The Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin. Here you would find people dancing in the streets and preaching free love to all. The year is 2017 but the vibe remains the same.
710 Ashbury (current day)
You can now find eclectic boutiques, bars and cafes serving everything from coffee to rum punch served by the bowl (see Hobson’s Choice).
One of my absolute favorite boutiques is Decades of Fashion, selling authentic vintage clothing and accessories from the past 100 years, separated by decade. It’s no wonder that many Hollywood costume designers come here for authentic pieces, as well as inspiration. The store is owned by fashion designer, Cicely Hansen. Amongst the vintage collections, lives one line of 1920’s flapper style (inspired, not original) beaded dresses, designed by Cicely. A few of these dresses were made for the 2011 movie, “The Artist”. She sold me the most beautiful hand beaded cocktail dress. I can’t bear to put it away in my closet, so it’s still hanging on display in my office. After all, it is a piece of art.
A short trip across the Golden Gate Bridge, and just past Sausalito, you will find Muir Woods. This protected nature reserve is home to some of the world’s largest redwoods, ranging between 600 – 1200 years old.
These photos really do not begin to do it justice…
We have visited both Sonoma and Napa, and I have to say, I prefer Sonoma. On both occasions, we traveled with a tour group (approx. 10 people), and so we were taken to smaller, family owned wineries. A few of my favorites include Larson Family Winery,Cline Cellars, and Jacuzzi Winery (all located in Sonoma Valley).
What is the difference, you may ask? Sonoma Valley is located along the coast and has a slightly cooler climate, largely producing more white wines such as Sauvignon Blancs, Chardonnays, sparkling wines, and also Pinot Noirs. Napa is on the opposite side of the mountain range, which aids a warmer climate and produces more Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots. Napa is more known for their Michelin star restaurants and more expensive tasting rooms, while Sonoma is less expensive and more like a traditional visit to country vineyards. I do of course, recommend you visit both. Unfortunately, I have not yet had the opportunity to dine at some of the finer restaurants, but it is on my list for future visits. See the video below for some aerial footage taken in Napa just a week ago (no grapes yet on the vines)…
50 year old vines. At age 40, they produce far less grapes. However, vines this old make for the most delicious wines. You can spot them by their burley, gnarled appearance.
Green Dream Tours– Mark was fantastic! The price is well worth booking a tour rather than adventuring out on your own if you happen to be staying in the city, like we were. They will pick you up and drop you off at your hotel and the tasting fees are included.
Many tours are available, Sonoma, Napa, or a combo of both, Alcatraz Island and wine country, food/wine combo tasting, private tours, etc. Take a look at their website and decide which fits your interests best. And ask for Mark.
San Francisco is lovely in the Spring, but I would recommend anyone traveling to plan their trip for the Fall. You will experience the best weather that San Francisco has to offer, and the grapes will be fully ripened and ready for harvest. Do some research or just wander about the city. Either way, there’s a breath taking view and happy-go-lucky locals on every steep and winding turn. Cheers!
(make sure to view the above video in 1440p HD for maximum quality… thanks for watching!)