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.


 

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Annapolis, Maryland, Dover, Delaware, Cape May and Atlantic City, New Jersey

In a desperate attempt to extend summer and escape the dwindling temperatures in Chicago, we were once again off for the weekend. People who know us know that our goal is to visit all 50 States. In order to check some off our list, and because it had been too long since our last road trip, Kyle put together an itinerary to explore the East Coast.

After delays on delays and a relatively short flight, we arrived in Annapolis way past our bedtime and headed straight to bed. Well rested and starving, we left the hotel the next morning, slightly behind schedule, as always, to find breakfast. Kyle did some research and found Miss Shirley’s Cafe which was featured on Triple D (Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives). I was especially thrilled to see that they had an extensive Bloody Mary menu, perfect for a Saturday brunch. I ordered the Born On The Bay-O Bloody Mary while waiting for the food. It was topped with shrimp, ham, sausage, pickled okra, tomato, and cheddar – the flavour matched the over the top presentation!

Kyle couldn't resist the promise of the best breakfast sandwich in America (Southern Slammer Sandwich) while I picked a lighter choice which was also delicious.

After hopelessly stuffing ourselves, we decided to walk it off while exploring the quaint seaside town. Annapolis is one of those old American towns with so much charm, all you want to do is explore the cobblestone streets and take pictures of every colourful door. The harbour area is full of life, hosting one restaurant after another and a suspiciously high concentration of ice cream places.

We walked up towards the State House and were mesmerized by the unique architecture and character of each individual house. I was particularly taken by the beautiful detail of the doorknobs and lanterns. I found my dream house which was painted turquoise and fittingly enough was the home of a jewelry store.

The State House was not too shabby either with its majestic stairs leading up to the main entrance. The inside made us feel like we travelled back through the centuries with the colourful carpets, wallpapers, and ceiling decorations. The section of the State House which is open to the public is small but well worth a visit.

We would have loved to stay in Annapolis longer but were a bit pressed for time as we wanted to drive to Cape May, New Jersey (a 195 mile drive) and enjoy the beach before sunset. We stopped in Dover, Delaware for a quick stroll and were again impressed with the charm of old America. As I always say, it looks just like in the movies!

We drove through beautiful tree-covered streets, across bridges, and raced against time as sunset was fast approaching. Just as we thought we wouldn’t make it to Cape May in time, we hit the Atlantic Ocean!

It was a beautiful evening on the beach and we even dipped our toes in the cold ocean water.

We strolled through Cape May when I found my dream house (I hope the turquoise house in Annapolis won’t mind). It’s pastel pink and has little lights all around it! It looked like it was straight out of a fairy tale. Who could possibly resist this? (This is obviously a rhetorical question as Kyle really doesn’t share my love for all things pastel.)

Our last and by that time very late stop was Atlantic City. We drove up the New Jersey coast and saw the sparking lights of the big city from far away. What a beautiful sight at night! We went for a quick walk on the board walk but it was suddenly quite fresh and windy so we had to bundle up. Given the lack of space in my carry-on (and possibly the poor outfit planning), I had to borrow one of Kyle’s hoodies to stay warm, which was large enough to be a dress.

Atlantic City isn't really our scene, so we can say we saw it, but didn't spend too long. Next was the last leg of the day to our final stop, and fourth state that day – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


 

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Snorkeling with Captain Marvins

We usually like to experience the local culture of a new place by venturing off the beaten track, eating where the locals eat, and doing what the locals do.  We generally try to avoid the tourist traps, however, this time we decided to join the crowds of sun-seeking vacationers and go on a snorkeling tour, which turned out to be a fantastic idea. Captain Marvins was highly recommended to us as the best way to see Stingray City on Grand Cayman. Wanting to maximize our snorkeling time, we booked the three stop snorkeling tour which includes two different reefs. After finally finding the right check-in location (I once again didn’t read the fine print and location details correctly), we were off to make friends with the local stingrays and friendly fish.

 

After a beautiful boat ride through the bay and out to the sandbars and reefs of North Sound, we first stopped at Stingray City where we got to feed, pet, and kiss these not-actually-so-scary rays.

The water at Stingray City is quite shallow, making it easy to walk around and interact with the stingrays.

We were given a quick introduction before being left to roam around the water and take pictures. Anticipating the next snorkeling trip, Kyle got me a waterproof cell phone dry bag so that I could pretend to be an underwater paparazzi using my phone. A bit nervous at first, I used my brand new phone under water and was amazed at how well it worked and that it actually kept my phone completely dry. (I can fully recommend it, check it out here. It's even in turquoise!) Needless to say, we both went a bit crazy taking a gazillion pictures, most of which ended up being blurry. Lucky for you, some of them turned out okay.

It turns out the stingrays are much friendlier than expected (I’m sure the fact that we fed them would explain that) and we even got to hold and pet them.

We then stopped at the Barrier Reef and the Coral Gardens to explore the Grand Cayman underwater world. We had only been on one snorkeling trip before this and I could not wait to get my fins *ahem* feet under water again. Saying it was breathtaking seems like the understatement of the century.

The water around the Cayman Islands is incredibly clear, providing some of the best diving and snorkeling conditions in the world.

We meandered around the reef for about an hour and spotted two conchs, a variety of colourful fish, and an eel which was quite camera-shy (one could also say I’m not the best diver and couldn’t hold my breath long enough to get a good picture).

Hungry and slightly sun-burned, we headed back to the island to find yet another local place to eat and on our way stumbled across this beautiful ’57 Chevy, reminding us that we really do need one our next trips to be Cuba!

I was hoping for a dinner right on the beach with great seafood and amazing views. We found just the right place: Alfresco. The restaurant is right on the beach and offered all things Caribbean, including a sunset on the beach - perfect for a romantic dinner.

I cannot resist a good seafood pizza, and this was one of the best I have ever had. Kyle enjoyed a Cayman style lobster dish. Yumm!

 

Cayman Islands sure spoilt us. We can't wait to plan the next trip to go back.


 

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