A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

It's a well-kept secret that there is a rivalry between Bern (the capital of Switzerland) and Zurich (the largest city in Switzerland). Growing up in the outskirts of Bern, I was always biased towards the city named after bears and never spent much time exploring Zurich. After having spent a day exploring the city with family though, I might have to give it more credit. But first things first...

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

Being right on the Limmat and Lake Zurich, the city is surrounded by water and offers beautiful views.

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

We spent our day in Zurich wandering through the old town, admiring old fountains,...

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

Shop My Look

 


 

 

... explaining old buildings to my niece (she may more likely have been fascinated by the birds) ...

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

... walked past one of the oldest hotels in Switzerland, Hotel Storchen (established in 1357), which has its own ferry terminal ...

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland - Storchen

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

... and found ourselves in front of the Oro De Cacao store.  We couldn't resist the idea of some hot chocolate and had to check it out.

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland - Oro De Cacao

 

Oro De Cacao is a brand new Swiss chocolate producer - and it's so much more than that. I am a firm believer that Swiss chocolate is the best chocolate in the world (I'm also slightly biased, being Swiss and all). However, this store takes the chocolate experience to an entirely new level.

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland - Oro De Cacao

 

Dieter Meier revolutionized the chocolate production process by using cold extractions to break cocoa beans into cocoa powder, cocoa butter, and the parts that give chocolate its bitter taste. In the end, you're left with a very intense and flavourful piece of chocolate which is not bitter at all and is also not overly sweet.

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland - Oro De Cacao

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland - Oro De Cacao

 

Completely in awe with this new technology, I had to get a sample of every variation they offered!

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland - Oro De Cacao

 

And of course, we couldn't leave without trying their home-made hot chocolate which was beautifully rich. I also took some chocolate bars home and love to treat myself after a long day at work. Given the intensity of the chocolate flavor, you only really need a small piece to satisfy your cravings.

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland - Oro De Cacao

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland - Oro De Cacao

 

Thank you Oro De Cacao for having us and providing us with a wonderful chocolate experience!

 

We spent the rest of our day in Zurich raving about the chocolate we just tried, and enjoying the beautiful Christmas decorations everywhere.

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

Although we were only there for a day, Zurich impressed me with its old-town flair and international spirit. Have you been to Zurich? What did you like best about the city? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

 

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A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go

A few months ago we stumbled across an article from late 2017, saying how the Northern Lights were going to be decreasing for almost the next decade! While we did catch a brief glimpse in Lapland (northern Finland) when we first met almost nine years ago, we didn’t get to see the full sky filled with a beautiful display of aurora. This would be our last chance, so to speak, to try to catch the Northern Lights for the next few years.

Click here if you want to skip to our 5 Top Iceland  Travel Tips. If you'd like to watch our Iceland experience on video, check out Bettina's Instagram stories here.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

How We Got To Iceland

 

Soon after we read that article, WOW Air came out with a great fare sale from Chicago to Iceland, which allowed us to pick up round trip tickets for the two of us for only $220 each. You can’t beat this kind of price for a direct flight to Iceland! We left Chicago late on a cold Friday in January and flew overnight. The beauty of over-night flying is that you don't need to get a hotel and you have the entire arrival day to explore. Check out this blog post for tips on how to get over jet lag.

 

Weekend In Iceland Itinerary and Story

We left Chicago on a cold Friday in January and were actually heading to warmer temperatures up in Iceland, the land of ice and fire! Arriving around 5:30am, our first stop was Joe and the Juice, a great coffee shop in the airport, and then to Avis to pick up our rental car.  We then had a 3 hour drive in front of us, to our destination: Vík.

We passed by top sights such as Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss but unfortunately, at this time in the day, it was still pitch dark and we couldn’t see them. It wasn’t until we closed in on Vík closer to 10:00am that the sky started to brighten. We were lucky to have done a complete Iceland road trip back in 2015 and have seen most of the main sights already. We were thus able to focus on one of our favourite areas of Iceland: the South-East coast.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

When we were in Vík in 2015, it was late August and lush, green, and almost warm. Things were slightly different today, with temperatures hovering around 0C (32F) combined with wind and snow. That did not stop us from getting out and capturing some amazing photos at Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

Shop Bettina's Look

Chicwish gifted Bettina this gorgeous dress. It also comes in black and white. It's the perfect dress for a wedding guest!


 

The combination of wind and snow meant we ran back to the car quickly to warm up. The clouds had also moved in, and it began to rain, putting a bit of a damper on our moods. However, one thing to know about Iceland is that the weather changes quickly, is unpredictable, so you just have to expect the unexpected!

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

We began our drive back towards our hotel in the direction of Reykjavík and did take the time to stop at the Dyrhólaey lighthouse and both Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss for more pictures despite the continuing rain.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

The sheer power of the waterfalls is absolutely amazing every time you see it.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

During the winter months, Iceland does not get a lot of daylight. With 5 hours of daylight, the sun was already setting as we were heading towards our hotel.

 

 
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Since we really only had one night in Iceland, this was now our chance to see the Northern Lights. Unfortunately, the aurora forecast was not great. It was also a cloudy night, so our chances were slim at best. It was however supposed to be clear skies in the early morning, so we decided to get up at 6:00am and see what we could see. We drove a few minutes out of town to get away from the surrounding lights and stared out at the pitch black sky.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

After fiddling with the camera a bit in the bitter cold, we were able to capture some reflections of the Northern Lights off in the distance. Not quite the epic full sky pictures you see in the travel brochures, but we were happy to have seen something – our trip had not been in vain!

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

After heading back to the hotel to freshen up and have breakfast we were off again, but this time under blue skies and shining sun, exceptionally rare for this time of year, made all the better by the light dusting of snow from the night before.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

We drove south towards the ocean and stopped for pictures at Strandakirkja. The views here were absolutely incredible and made us so thankful for our decision to actually do this weekend trip.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

Continuing through the Reykjanesfólkvangur Nature Preserve, we came across even more awe-inspiring views.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

We were a bit pressed for time at this point to head back to the airport and catch our flight. After a brief stop at the local Costco for a cheap snack and fuel – off we went back to the airport!

 

Costco in Iceland - 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

Costco in Iceland - 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 


Despite having only about 30 hours on the ground in Iceland, we had experienced so much in such a short amount of time that it felt like we had been gone for days. If you have the chance to spend a weekend or longer in Iceland, we highly recommend – it is one of our favourite places!

 

 

Top 5 Iceland Travel Tips

 

1) Expect the unexpected when it comes to weather.

You could easily experience weather from all four seasons, so be prepared and take it in stride! Make sure you bring warm and water-proof clothing. We wore Sorel boots and Fjallraven jackets to keep us warm.

2) Find meals at the local Bónus or Krónan grocery store.

Eating out is really expensive. We’re talking $20 to $25 for a basic entrée excluding drinks, starters, or dessert. However, you can find a good selection of food for somewhat reasonable prices at the grocery store. If you can, bring some snacks with you. Trail mix and protein bars travel really well.

3) Rent a car no matter how long your trip.

Iceland is all about getting out and seeing nature, and there’s no better freedom than having your own car to explore. We rented a car with Avis and everything went smoothly.

4) Bring your Costco card!

The store is relatively new in Iceland and you will save big time on fuel, groceries, and snacks from their restaurant! We got gas at Costco right before returning our rental car, and even snuck in the Icelandic version of the famous Costco hot dog.

5) You don’t actually need cash.

As long as you have a chip and pin credit card, you won’t need to exchange for any Icelandic Krona. We used our cards everywhere without problem and saved the time and hassle of exchanging currency.

 

5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

Would you visit Iceland just for the weekend? Let us know in the comments below!

 

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

 

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5 Romantic Getaway Destinations for Valentine’s Day

Valentine's Day is less than a month away and it's the perfect opportunity to get away with your significant other and celebrate a romantic weekend out of town. While a weekend seems short, imagine flying out on Friday evening, waking up in a new place with the promise not having to do anything but enjoy your day together. It's no secret that I love weekend trips as I feel I get so much more out of the two days off work. We usually fly home late on Sunday or very early on Monday morning and go directly to work. If you're looking for a domestic or international getaway, these are my 5 favourite romantic getaway destinations.

 

Romantic Getaway in Charleston

 

Located in South Carolina and being right on the water, Charleston has as much Southern charm as you could possibly imagine. The cobblestone streets and colourful houses transport you back in time and you might just feel like never going back home!

 

5 Romantic Getaway Destinations for Valentine's Day - Charleston

 

5 Romantic Getaway Destinations for Valentine's Day - Charleston

 

Go on a romantic stroll through Battery Promenade and Waterfront Park, enjoy the sun and the ocean front, and make your way through the French Quarter on your way to dinner. If you are looking for no-frills, affordable, but extremely tasty seafood, try 167 Raw. They don't take reservations and tend to get very busy so make sure you get there early. If you're looking for a romantic place to dine, make sure you try the Darling Oyster Bar right on King Street. They immediately won me over with their ambiance and their menu left nothing to be desired.

 

Wander the Streets of London

 

What is more romantic than going to Europe for a weekend? While this might be a tight travel schedule, you can think about taking the Friday or Monday off to make it a long weekend and get 3 full days out of your weekend. London is not just one of my favourite cities in Europe, it's also relatively easy to get to as a lot of airlines fly there directly.

 

5 Romantic Getaway Destinations for Valentine's Day - London

 

5 Romantic Getaway Destinations for Valentine's Day - London

 

The city has so much history, culture, and beautiful architecture - I could wander around the streets, feeling like I was in a Sherlock Holmes movie all day. On a sunny day, I highly recommend walking along the Thames towards London bridge and immerse yourself into the busyness of this great city! Make sure to stop by Borough Market, stop by the Shakespeare Globe - what could be more romantic (?) - and if you are looking for some amazing dinner views,  check out Sky Pod Bar at Sky Garden. Don't forget to snap a mandatory picture with the Tower Bridge on your way there!

 

5 Romantic Getaway Destinations for Valentine's Day - London

 

Relax in Cancun

 

If you're all about escaping the cold this time of the year and relaxing on the beach, there is no better place than Cancun, Mexico! Depending on where you live, it's only a short flight away and Southwest Airlines even flies there (to learn how we save 50% on flight cost with Southwest, check out this post). After only a  short few hours flight, you can relax in the sun, listen to the waves crashing, and eat your body weight in guacamole and chips. Romantic evening walks in the sand and margaritas by the pool will make this trip the perfect romantic getaway and is exactly what we did when we were there (read the full story here).

 

5 Romantic Getaway Destinations for Valentine's Day - Cancun

 

5 Romantic Getaway Destinations for Valentine's Day - Cancun

 

Get Away for a Cabin Weekend

 

How about spending the weekend with your loved one at a cabin in the middle of nowhere? Enjoy 48 blissful hours of alone time at a rustic and cozy cabin - away from the hustle and bustle of our busy lives. We love staying at the Minnie Lake Ranch House which is part of Douglas Lake Ranch in BC, Canada but there is no need to travel that far. These are some of my favourite cabin getaways that are currently on my wish list:  rustic cabin getaways, Wisconsin cabin getaways, Michigan cabin getaways, Colorado cabin getaways.

 

5 Romantic Getaway Destinations for Valentine's Day - Cabin Weekend

 

5 Romantic Getaway Destinations for Valentine's Day - Cabin Weekend

 

5 Romantic Getaway Destinations for Valentine's Day - Cabin Weekend

 

Visit the City of Love - Paris

 

No romantic getaway list would be complete without Paris - the city of love! While it is a bit more difficult to travel to from the U.S. for just a weekend, it is very much doable (see how we spent a weekend in Paris here) and you won't regret it. As the center of romance, ornate architecture, delicious pastries, and wine, how could you possibly go wrong with Paris? While it's not very warm in February, you can still stroll through the streets in Montmartre - an area of the city, enjoy a macaron or two at Laduree, be dazzled at Galeries Lafayette, and most importantly, have one of the best salads I've ever had (think melted goat cheese and roasted potatoes and not much lettuce) at the quirky Le Relais Gascon.

 

5 Romantic Getaway Destinations for Valentine's Day - Paris

 

5 Romantic Getaway Destinations for Valentine's Day - Paris

 

What is your favourite romantic getaway? Let us know in the comments below and make sure to tag us on Instagram on your next weekend trip!

 

Pin this post on Pinterest to your favourite travel board and share with your significant other to kick-start the romantic getaway planning!

 






 

Skiing in Switzerland

Growing up in Switzerland, I never understood what everyone's fascination with the Alps was. Being surrounded by mountains was all I knew and I wanted to experience the big city life instead.  Things changed very quickly though, once I moved to Illinois - the flattest state in the U.S. I miss mountains a lot! Every time Kyle and I go back to Switzerland, we like to spend some time in the Alps and go skiing if there is snow and the weather conditions are reasonable.

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

I have been to a few ski resorts in Switzerland but grew up exploring the hills of Crans-Montana, a ski resort in the French part of Switzerland, in the canton Valais. It's a two hour drive to get there from Bern and you can either drive via Lake Geneva and stop in gorgeous Montreux and visit Chillon Castle on the way, or you can drive through the Bernese Alps and take the Lötschberg car train which is a fun experience by itself. If you have never heard of the car train before, check out this video. The first time I took Kyle there, he was stunned.

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Crans-Montana is 1,500m or 4,920ft above sea level and from there you can access the glacier Plaine Morte which is 2,927m or 9,600ft above sea level. Because the ski resort faces south, you often get the sunniest skiing conditions and best views of the Alps and the Valais.

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

You can even see the Matterhorn from Crans-Montana, although you'll only see the backside of it which makes it difficult to recognize.

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

After a bumpy ride up in the cable car, Kyle and I couldn't wait to finally hit the slopes and go skiing in Switzerland for the first time in 4(!) years.

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Shop My Skiing Outfit

 

Many of the items I'm wearing, I've had for years. My jacket is from H&M and I linked similar ones below. My goggles are by Arnette and you can get them on Amazon still.


 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

The morning was a bit foggy but it cleared up soon and we were lucky to get the most beautiful views and blue skies!

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

We were happy to notice that skiing is like riding a bike, although our legs were starting to get sore. After a few runs, we even had enough confidence to go down a double black diamond run but regretted our choice as soon as we looked down the hill. Check out my Instagram stories if you're curious to see the run!

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Arguably, the best part about skiing is getting away from the busy city life to enjoy a day in the snow and sun.

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

And while you're out there enjoying your day, make sure you stop by one of the slope bars and restaurants and enjoy a glass of gluhwein and local charcuterie.

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

For all the non-skiers amongst us, I can still highly recommend a visit to Crans-Montana. You can take the cable car to the slopes to enjoy the views or stay in the resort town, to go ice skating ...

 

Crans-Montana by night

 

... go on a walk around the lakes ...

 

Crans-Montana by night

 

Crans-Montana by night

 

Crans-Montana by night

 

Crans-Montana by night

 

... and enjoy the holiday decorations.

 

Crans-Montana by night

 

Crans-Montana by night

 

Have you been skiing in Switzerland or would you like to go? Where is your favourite place to go? Let us know in the comments below!

 

Skiing in Switzerland - My favorite resort and views of the Alps
Skiing in Switzerland - My favorite resort and views of the Alps

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

 


 

A Day of Discovery in Denver

Denver is surprisingly close to the Rocky Mountains, which means you’re never short of mountain views while in the city. We only had one day in Denver at the tail end of our Colorado adventure (which you can read about here,  here, and with amazing sand dunes here) before our two days of driving back to Chicago.

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - State Capitol

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - State Capitol

 

Since we only had one day we wanted to get a bit of an early start, and probably started our self-made walking tour of downtown around 10:00am. Let’s just say that we were definitely not impressed the first few hours in the city. There seemed to be camps of people (quite literally camps, with tents, chairs and everything) around every second corner with many of them giving an all new meaning to the ‘mile high city.’ It overall gave us a bit of an uneasy feeling while walking around. We did, however, find time for a few quick shots around the Colorado State Capitol building and loved the view from one mile above sea level.

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - State Capitol

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - State Capitol

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - State Capitol

 

We ventured over to the LoDo neighbourhood and found Urban Farmer, a modern yet rustic steakhouse with delicious brunch options and outdoor seating. Things were starting to turn around.

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - LoDo

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - LoDo

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Urban Farmer

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Urban Farmer

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Urban Farmer

 

Our brunch was excellent, the sun was shining, and my mimosa and Bettina's bloody mary bar were on point.

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Urban Farmer

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Urban Farmer

 

We can definitely recommend Urban Farmer if you're looking for a great Sunday brunch spot!

No sooner had we finished eating were we looking for even more food. Bettina had been talking to a few locals on Instagram and received a large list of places to go to. The Milk Market at Dairy Block came highly recommend to us, and we can only pass along the recommendations.

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

Shop Bettina's Look

 

Customizable Disk Necklace by GLDN

Earrings by Coco Loves Rome

 

This bumping market hall was full of modern restaurants and bars all with delicious looking and (smelling!) food. Since we had just eaten brunch, we weren’t that hungry but that has never stopped us in the past from indulging in more food!

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

As we strolled around the market, we stumbled upon Morning Jones and just could not resist their decorate your own doughnut station. You basically got six fresh doughnuts on a plate and were free to add as much Oreo crumble, sprinkles, bacon, marshmallows, chocolate sauce, or caramel as you could fit.

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market Morning Jones

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market Morning Jones

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market Morning Jones

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market Morning Jones

 

For better or worse, we finished it all and were thoroughly stuffed the rest of the day. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking along 16th Street doing some shopping before heading back to Chicago.

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver

 

On our way to leave the city, we drove through the RiNo neighborhood, a trendy and artsy neighborhood too cool for us to be let in. We didn’t have time to stop, but it is definitely at the top of our list when back in Denver. Our drive back to Chicago took us through Nebraska and of course, Bettina had to capture the essence of the state by taking some sunset pictures in corn fields!

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Nebraska

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Nebraska

 

 

Have you been to Denver for the day? If so, have you been to the Milk Market?

 

Make sure to pin this pin to your favourite personal travel board on Pinterest so that our tips are only one click away!

 

 


 

A Mini Vacation in Cancun, Mexico

Believe it or not, but I have never been to Mexico – until now. It has always been on my bucket list but either the timing or the flight prices weren’t quite right. It all changed when Kyle found a great flight option from Chicago to Cancun with Southwest. We couldn’t resist the opportunity of having a mini beach vacation after a busy week at work and booked the trip right away.

 

A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

Kyle and I woke up at 3:30 am on Saturday to make our 6 am flight with the promise to be at the beach before noon. We pulled up in front of the Westin Resort & Spa, Cancun, only a few hours later (thank you Happy Shuttle Cancun for getting us there), where we were able to check in early and drop our luggage in our room. The hotel room was facing the ocean and we couldn’t have been happier with the views.

 

A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

Inpatient and way too excited to hit the beach, we quickly changed and explored the resort grounds.

 

A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

The Westin Resort & Spa Cancun - A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

The Westin Resort & Spa Cancun - A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

The Westin Resort & Spa Cancun - A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

The Westin Resort & Spa Cancun - A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

We claimed two sun chairs between the hotel pool and the beach and started to relax, which to Kyle means laying down and enjoying the sun and to me means catching up on my Instagram stories.

 

The Westin Resort & Spa Cancun - A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

Shortly after we had settled in by the pool, the pool staff came asking for our food and drink orders. Given my love for guacamole, I had to order tortilla chips with lots of guacamole, which I polished off almost all by myself. I wrongly thought that Kyle didn’t want any. (Oops!) So, we had to order another one, though this time was full on nachos with spicy shrimp and lots of cheese!

 

A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

Being at the beach really brings out the child in me. We spent the day splashing around the water, sipping on some delicious coconut cocktails, eating more nachos, spending time at the pool bar, and relaxing in the sun.

 

A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

We got up early the next morning to enjoy as much of the beach and the ocean as possible. Our flight only left at 6 pm so we basically had another full day in paradise.

 

The Westin Resort & Spa Cancun - A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

 

The Westin Resort & Spa Cancun - A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

 

A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

Shop My Look

 

My beach cover-up shirt is from ASOS and currently on sale for $17!

 

A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

With our batteries fully restored and running out of reading material, we headed back to Chicago. We had a wonderful weekend in Cancun and would do another weekend at the Westin Resort & Spa in a heartbeat.

 

The Westin Resort & Spa Cancun - A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

Would you go to Mexico for a weekend beach vacation? Let us know in the comments!

 


 

A Weekend in Paris

I truly love Paris. I know it's a bit of a cliche, but the city has so much to offer and is so charming in its own ways, I can't resist it. I have been there a few times now but still get super excited when we plan another trip or layover in Paris. Some would say that doing a weekend in Paris is a bit crazy (and they are probably right), especially given that it's an 8 hour flight from Chicago. But it was still totally worth it. The weird thing is when we're out of town on the weekend, it feels like we can slow down time a little bit and that we're actually gone 3-4 days instead of just 2.

We took an overnight flight from the U.S. to Paris and arrived at 9am, supposedly ready to start our weekend in Paris and to explore the city all day. The reality looked a bit different. We both worked on the flight and at best got 2-3 hours of sleep so we needed a lot of coffee to get us through the day. We stayed at the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme which was a dream. After we had successfully surprised my parents (read the exciting story and watch the reveal video here) we were off exploring the city on this beautiful spring day.

 

A weekend in Paris - Walking around Place Vendome

 

A weekend in Paris - Bettina and her mom

 

We strolled through parks...

 

Walking through a park in Paris - after the surprise in Paris

 

A weekend in Paris - Strolling through parks

 

A weekend in Paris - strolling through parks

 

Enjoyed the beautiful flowers blooming everywhere...

 

A weekend in Paris - Blossoms and spring fashion

 

Shop My Look

 

I picked up this adorable purse in Venice earlier this year but flower prints are all in trend right now. I link a few options here.

 

Shop Floral Purses

 

And stopped by the Louvre.

 

Exploring the Louvre in Paris during our surprise in Paris

 

A weekend in Paris - exploring the Louvre

 

A weekend in Paris - Lantern by the Louvre

 

I couldn't resist grabbing some crêpes on the way. I don't really have a sweet tooth but I knew if I got one that Kyle would happily eat the rest! 🙂

 

A weekend in Paris - Eating Crepes

 

After our snack, we continued our self-created walking tour to Palais Royal for some mandatory snaps.

 

A weekend in Paris - Photo by Palais Royale

 

A weekend in Paris - Palais Royale

 

Exhausted from all the walking, we took a real break and sat down for an apéro - wine, cheese, cured meats, grissini, and escargots. (I remembered eating escargots as a kid and not liking them so I cautiously tried them and was surprised by how much I like them now! It's weird how your taste buds change over the years.)

 

A weekend in Paris - Bettina and her mom enjoying an apero

 

I was in heaven with this great selection of cheeses.

 

A weekend in Paris - cured meats and cheese apero

 

A weekend in Paris - wine and escargots

 

Because no trip to Paris would be complete without seeing the Notre-Dame, we continued our tour towards Ile de la Cité.

 

A weekend in Paris - Ile de la cite

 

A weekend in Paris - Eiffel tower

 

A weekend in Paris - Notre-Dame Cathedral

 

 

Saturday evening, we grabbed an Uber and headed to Montmartre, a part of town in the 18th arrondissement, for dinner, enjoying the sights along the way.

 

A weekend in Paris - Sunset by the Opera

 

If you're ever in Paris, you have to stop by Le Relais Gascon. It's a cute little restaurant very close to Sacré-Coeur. With little, I mean a lot of tables crammed into a small space - very European style. They have two locations, although I like this one better because of the ambiance.

 

A weekend in Paris - Dinner at le Relais Gascon

 

They are known for their incredible salads. I know what you're thinking - you don't go to Paris to eat salads. Trust me, you don't want to skip out on these.

 

A weekend in Paris - Salad at le Relais Gascon

 

The salads are all covered with home-made potato slices which are similar to chips, and come with melted goat cheese, bacon, and other great toppings. It's anything but your typical salad and it's so delicious! The portion is very large and I've rarely seen anyone finish it. If you're not in the mood for salad, their other creations are also outstanding.

Exhausted after a very long day (Kyle and I hadn't really slept since we left Chicago) and stuffed with salad (didn't think I would ever be able to honestly say that), we headed back to the hotel and to bed.

We started our Sunday with a typical French breakfast - pain au chocolat and coffee...

 

A weekend in Paris - French breakfast

 

Followed by some window shopping...

 

A weekend in Paris - Window shopping at Guerlain

 

A weekend in Paris - Window shopping at Guerlain

 

And some real shopping (no, not for me, we shopped for Kyle) later on.

Although our flight home was at 6pm, which is relatively late for a flight from Europe to the U.S., we wanted to get to the airport early as the line-ups at Charles de Gaulle Airport can be very long and we weren't able to check in online. Sad to say goodbye, my parents left to drive back to Switzerland and we were headed home.

A weekend in Paris - Aerial view of Chicago

 

It was a truly successful weekend in our books. Would you do a weekend in Paris even if it was an 8 hour flight? What was your shortest trip? Let us know in the comments below.

 


 

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A Surprise in Paris

For my parents' birthdays this year, Kyle and I decided to treat them to a weekend in Paris. After all, it's only a 4 hour train ride from Switzerland, and who could say no to such a romantic get-away? What we didn't tell them is that we were going to fly across the pond and join their romantic weekend in Paris, so to say, a surprise in Paris.

I'm so happy to share this experience with all of you and I'm still tingling with excitement writing this post and thinking back to that weekend!

 

Exploring the Louvre in Paris during our surprise in Paris

 

It all started with an offer from Hyatt to redeem 2 hotel nights at any Hyatt in the world (it was part of their Hyatt credit card sign-up bonus, check out all benefits here). Given its location, impeccable service, and perfect location, the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme seemed to be a great choice. Because Kyle and I would only use one of the free nights for a weekend, we decided to gift the other night to my parents. We quickly bought train tickets for them to get there and Kyle found flights with great timing for us.

After what felt like an eternity of keeping it a secret,  the surprise in Paris was finally getting real as we were off to Europe with my parents still being in the unknown. Because the French train service staff was on strike,  no trains were running and so my parents decided to drive the 6 hours from Switzerland to Paris. Not knowing when exactly they would arrive, I informed the staff at the Park Hyatt of our plan. They could not have been more helpful! We were able to check in early to freshen up and they promised to call us as soon as my parents arrived so we could surprise them in the lobby.

Our hotel room was super cozy and was outfitted with a walk-in closet (I wanted to move in right away), a view of the street, and a well-needed Nespresso machine.

 

 

Full disclosure, we had just gotten off an overnight flight which left the U.S. at 7pm and had gotten only a few hours of sleep on the plane. We knew that if we would nap, you couldn't wake us up again so we tried to stay awake which seemed nearly impossible while sitting around and waiting.

 

Hotel room at Park Hyatt Paris Vendome

 

Hotel room at Park Hyatt Paris Vendome

 

Hotel room at Park Hyatt Paris Vendome

 

Hotel room at Park Hyatt Paris Vendome

 

A few hours later, the phone rang as promised, and we were informed that they were currently checking my parents in at the front desk, but that they would keep them in the lobby by telling them that their room wasn't ready yet. We went downstairs and were greeted at the elevator with instructions on my parents' exact location in the cafe.

Extremely nervous (not sure why I was nervous) and video recording in hand, we walked up to them, prepared to see two very surprised faces. As soon as they saw us, both my mom and dad jumped up to greet us in disbelief! I don't think I have ever seen them both this surprised and this happy to see us.

It was the perfect surprise in Paris!! The Park Hyatt treated us to champagne and macarons to celebrate our little surprise reunion which was a wonderfully sweet gesture from them.

 

Champagne and macarons at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome - during our surprise in Paris

 

Full of adrenaline and running a sugar high from the macarons, we set off to enjoy a beautiful spring day in Paris - together. Read all about it here.

 

Walking through a park in Paris - after the surprise in Paris

 

What was your biggest surprise? Would you do a surprise in Paris? Let me know in the comments below!


 

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A Day in Connecticut

The end of January always sneaks up on me. It was just Christmas and I still haven't figured out what year it is. As a result, Kyle's birthday often comes as a surprise to me and I struggle to find the perfect last-minute gift. I decided this year should be different. To celebrate the last year of his twenties, I wanted to surprise him and turn his birthday into a day full of adventure. It goes without saying, he had no idea what was going to happen, until Southwest informed him that it was time to check into his flight 24 hours before,  ruining my surprise.

Not as excited about waking up at 4 am on his birthday, I dragged Kyle to the airport, ready to board a plane to New York City. The Southwest flight attendants treated us to coffee with Baileys to start the birthday adventures off right. Spending the day in New York City is never a bad idea, but little did he know, today I had other plans.

 

We were greeted in New York by the most beautiful blue skies and were ready to head off into the unknown, enjoying views of the New York City skyline on the way.

 

At some point (the point where we drove right past New York City), Kyle realized we were soon headed to check another state off our list.  We were on our way to explore the beautiful and picturesque Connecticut country-side. People enjoying the quiet, laid-back Saturday morning in rural, upscale Connecticut, were rudely awakened by our shouty and loud bright red Dodge Charger RT rumbling through town.

 

 

I like to think that my English skills are pretty good. But I must say that I was struggling with pronunciation when going to "GREEN-WICH" in "CONNECT-ICUT." We stopped for brunch at Patisserie Versailles in Greenwich which had a beautiful French ambiance.

 

I couldn't resist the fresh avocado toast with a poached egg.

 

After brunch, we went for a stroll around Greenwich and I found my dream car: an Alfa Romeo Giulia. An Italian beauty in red!

 

The rest of Greenwich was also not too bad.

 

 

We enjoyed a drive around the Old Greenwich shoreline and its impressive properties.

 

 

I wouldn't mind living here with this gorgeous view of the Atlantic ocean.

 

We drove north to New Canaan and explored the rolling hills and country estates Connecticut has to offer.

 

Before we knew it, it was time to head back to the LaGuardia if we didn't want to miss our flight home. We couldn't leave the state though without a final walk along the beach as the sun went down.

Another birthday in the books. I admit that we can be slightly crazy at times, but the looks you get from peoples faces at work on Monday when you say that you went to Connecticut on Saturday, are priceless.

 


 

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The City of Brotherly Love – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Dragging ourselves out of bed wasn’t too hard with the sun shining through the curtains and beckoning towards a day of walking around and exploring Philadelphia. We had done a bit of research prior to heading into the city so that we wouldn’t have to wait long to start the day off right. After finding a nice and safe parking spot in an off-the-street garage (we didn’t want to be featured on the next episode of Parking Wars facing off against the notorious PPA) we reached Menagerie Coffee, which Bettina had pinpointed as the best place to start our day.

I must say the coffee was delicious and Bettina pulled out all the stops and ordered a soy matcha latte, furthering her love for all things matcha. Sufficiently caffeinated for the day, the next step was to grab a bite to eat, and when in Rome you must do as the Romans do. Only a block away we stopped by Sonny's for a classic Philly Cheesesteak. Our previous research for the best Philly Cheesesteak in Philly yielded passionate and conflicting points of view, with no conclusive “best” in the city.

Settling on the original Sonny's Cheesesteak, I can say with resounding conviction that it is the best and only Philly Cheesesteak I have ever eaten in Philadelphia. The thinly sliced steak and fried onions were smothered in gooey Cheez Whiz goodness, which nobody could possibly resist.

Now we were really ready to rock and roll. We walked the streets of the Society Hill neighbourhood, relishing the historic colonial architecture and laidback Sunday morning vibes of the area. This area of the city has been designated one of the great American neighbourhoods and was a pleasure to walk around and explore with a sensory overload of architectural details such as the Franklin street lamps dotting the cobblestone streets.

 

We continued our tour of the city through Center City to see some of the more typical tourist sites such as Independence Hall, Constitution Hall, and the Liberty Bell. The city is full of Americana, helped greatly by the fact that Philadelphia was once the nation’s capital.

Some parts of the city were less than spectacular as we made our way through Center City to City Hall, however, we were rewarded once we got there. The imposing City Hall was surprisingly designed to be the world’s tallest building back in the 1870’s, though was eclipsed during its construction by a slightly more famous Parisian landmark. However, it still remains as the largest municipal building in the world, which is quite impressive. We thoroughly enjoyed the water feature out front, pretending to be half our age and running in and out of the fountains.

You will notice a theme to many of our travels, and that is that there is never a time when one of us isn’t already thinking about food and the next meal. At this point, we were conveniently close to the Reading Terminal Market and stopped in for an afternoon snack.

We had to hit the road to make it all the way back to Baltimore for our evening flight back to reality. We made good time though and were able to take a detour through downtown Baltimore. I must confess that Baltimore has not been a city on my “must see” list nor did I really know much about it. With only about an extra hour to spare, we focused in on the Inner Harbor. This seems to be the place to be if you are a tourist in Baltimore. We passed by all the typical tourist attractions and walked the Federal Hill neighbourhood, which gave us flashbacks to our Society Hill adventures only a few hours before.

This was a perfect place to sit back and relax and recap our weekend of adventure, all the while watching the sunset over the city.