Summer Must Dos in Connecticut

Summer in the Northeast is what we have been looking forward to pretty much since Thanksgiving. Once the weather starts getting cold, New Englanders go into pure hibernation so when the leaves start showing their buds and the flowers start parking out from the ground, everyone goes bananas.

People suddenly start remembering they should have been exercising all winter, ice cream becomes life, and every meal needs to be eaten outdoors… on a patio… with rose. Obviously.

My planner has been getting more and more full, and the Netflix binge watching has toned down a lot. It’s been pretty hard to keep up with my Braverman’s on Parenthood since Mother Nature decided it was time she started being friendlier.

I’ve started making my annual summer to do list.

Thimble Island Boat Cruise
Years ago my parents would take us to Stony Creek and the Thimble Islands, a little group of islands in Long Island Sound. Someone my cousin new had a house out on one of the islands and I remember running around exploring the little island like it was out in the Caribbean. Now that I’m not 10 anymore I know that Long Island Sound is far from the blue waters of the Caribbean but the little islands are still pretty cool. I can’t wait to take the tour around the islands, and then maybe check out the nearby brewery with the same name.

Connecticut’s Wine Trail
Last year I was able to check out a lot of the Connecticut wineries but honestly, I barely checked off half of the list of wineries around here. This year I am hoping to finish the list, and maybe even move onto some in the North Fork of Long Island.

Sunday morning hikes
There are so many hiking trails in Connecticut and I am looking forward to my Sunday morning hikes at Sleeping Giant and Devils Hopyard. Connecticut has so many good State Parks with awesome waterfalls and trails.

Book club and rose
Last month my girlfriends and I had our first book club of the summer. It’s basically a good reason to get together, spend very little money, and force ourselves to read. More on that next week but I will say, we jumped right in to our first book by asking the author to come join us for our meeting.

Explore NYC
I always say how much I take living so close to New York for granted. This summer I plan on getting into the city more often then I have in the past. Last month one of my friends from California was in New York and we were able to spend the day strolling Central Park and catch a Broadway show together. Earlier this month a few friends and I stopped into the city for an impromptu Monday night dinner. It’s always easier to get into the city in the summer and not have to deal with the snow and cold that the winter brings. Also having a drink, rooftop at Eataly doesn’t hurt either.

Eat all of the ice cream
Like I said, ice cream is life in New England during the summer. My first job was at one of our local ice cream shops but here most of them close for the winter. The spring weather has most of the shops open again and I’m ready for my weekly ice cream cone.



4 Days in the Yucatan Peninsula

If you follow me on Instagram, you definitely saw my oversharing from my trip to Playa del Carmen at the beginning of the month. Back in September I was lucky enough to be gifted a trip to Sandos Playacar for me and a guest (one of the many perks of working in the travel industry) and I figured it was the perfect halfway point for me and my west coast bestie, also named Megan, to meet up.

Being on different time zones and just busy all the time, it hasn’t been easy to keep in touch as often as I’d like so this was the perfect excuse to get together, catch up on life and relax a little for ourselves.

Thursday afternoon we each flew into Cancun airport, which is just a quick hour drive to Playa del Carmen. Because we were coming from different airports, and different coasts, my Jet Blue flight landed a whole 3 and a half hours before Megan’s. After clearing customs and grabbing my bags I headed out to the arrival area where they had a few options for outdoor restaurants. I sat down with a margarita, ceviche, and a book and hung outside, soaking up the Cancun sun for a few hours. Once Megan’s plane landed I took the free terminal shuttle over to where her flight was coming in from LAX and waited for her outside of the arrivals gate.

How we got there
Getting to any resort in Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, or Cancun is pretty easy. I live by the motto of, if you don’t have a ton of time, spend the extra money for convencience. We had a private car bring us straight to our hotel. We used Olympus Tours and for just $214 roundtrip we were picked up right outside of the baggage claim. No stops at other resorts or waiting to pick up other guests. The next day we met up with Jorge from Olympus to set up our return pick up time and we were actually the ones to bring up doing another tour using Olympus. More on that later, but it was nice to not even think about being pressured into adding on tours or activities, which was awesome.

Where we stayed
Like I mentioned earlier, I was gifted a trip to Sandos Playacar by one of my business partners. When we got down to Playa del Carmen, our driver pulled through gates and I assumed we were at our resort, but we weren’t. Playacar is a gated little subdivision of Playa del Carmen with private homes, restaurants, clean streets and manicured lawns. It was really nice to know that we could go for a little walk around the neighborhood if we wanted and it would still be safe.

We stayed in a Junior Suite Select in the adults only section of the hotel. It was perfect. While Sandos Playacar is a great place for families, we weren’t traveling with kids so the adults only section was ideal for us. Our room overlooked the adults only pool with a swim up bar, and jacuzzi.

My favorite part of all inclusive resorts is that everything is included. You can throw your wallet in the safe once you get there and not worry about anything for the rest of your trip. We ate at a lot of the restaurants on property while we were there but my favorite was definitely Asiana, the Asian fusion restaurant.

I would say my only complaint may be the breakfast options. The buffet was the only restaurant open for in the mornings and it was busy each time we stopped in. One morning we opted for room service, but the options were very limited.

The beach at Sandos Playacar was amazing. I’m not much of a beach person. I love to go and sit but don’t usually get in the water. (My town’s beaches are on Long Island Sound… not ideal swimming water, and in Southern California, the water is pretty cold most of the year, so I’ve never really lived anywhere I’d want to jump in.) This was beautiful, and I could see my toes even when we were pretty far out in the water so that’s a win for me. The resort offered a ton of activities including paddle boarding, jet skiing, parasailing, and snorkeling.

What we did
Going down to Mexico we knew we wanted to visit some of the Mayan Ruins but we were torn on spending the whole day and heading to Chichen Itza or doing a half day trip to the much closer Tulum, with much cooler temperatures. Once we started talking with Jorge at Olympus Tours he convinced us to do both with a private driver and make a full day of it. (What can I say, we’re suckers.) He set us up with Living Dreams Mexico and our guide Edwin. It was seamless.

Our driver picked us up bright and early and drove us over to Chichen Itza where we were some of the first people to get into the archaeological site. Our guide was so knowledgeable and passionate about the history of the ruins and his country it was a perfect match for my history teacher travel buddy and I.

*Tip: Wear light fabrics like linen. It is HOT at the archiological sites and there isn’t a ton a shade. The best part of our private driver, after touring the sites he had cold, wet clothes for us to cool us down. A-MAZ-ING! Also, I opted out of jean shorts this day and stuck with a pair of Old Navy soft shorts.

After spending an hour or so getting a private tour around the ruins we headed to a local cenote where we were able to hop in and swim around for a little bit. It was a perfect way to cool down after spending the morning in the sun at Chichen Itza. Cenotes are scattered all around the Yucatán Peninsula. They’re caused by lime rock collapsing and Edwin told us that the Mayan people would sacrifice themselves in these natural sinkholes because they would be closer to the underworld. Chichen Itza has a famous cenote, Sacred Cenote, where a lot of Mayan people sacrificed themselves for rain, crops, and fortune.

We grabbed lunch at the hacienda on the property of the cenote and headed over to one of the few colonial towns that are still in tact from before Mexico got its independence, Valladolid. We were able to get out and wander around on our own a little here in this European inspired city. The cobblestoned streets were lined with pastel colored shops. Right in the middle of town was a square lined with trees and beautiful, Spanish inspired artwork. Megan told me that in the colonial times the colors of the buildings are what dictated what the building was. They didn’t have signs because they didn’t want the slaves learning how to read so color coding was how they operated.  (Even when the history teacher is on vacation, she teaches.)

After Valladolid we headed an hour and a half back to the Caribbean to Tulum. According to Edwin, Tulum’s ruins have been 100% uncovered where only 20% of Chichen Itza has been. It was amazing to see the city as a whole perched up on a cliff. There were look out towers and the foundations of homes that you would see surrounding the temple. This was absolutely my favorite part of the day and definitely a place where you could go without a guide and feel like you saw a lot.

Honestly, if I were to do it over, I may skip Chichen Itza. I know it is probably the most famous of the ruins, but it felt very inauthentic. We went early, and because we were with Edwin, we were able to skip the lines and get around most of the crowds but there were vendors everywhere. It felt like a tourist trap. Tulum was totally different. There were little restaurants outside of the archaeological site, in the little town, but inside the walls of the city there were no vendors or people trying to get you to buy anything. Edwin recommended us visiting Coba, one of the few ruins you can still climb, and I wish we had taken his suggestion and done that instead of Chichen Itza. But I felt like it was as if I were to have gone to New York and not seen the Statue of Liberty. Next time I go to Mexico, Coba is high on the priority list.

Three nights in Playa del Carmen just weren’t enough for me. Before going to Mexico I assumed it was a place where you would just go, sit on the beach with a cocktail and a good book, and that’s not my favorite type of vacation. Now knowing how much there is to do in the Yucatan Peninsula, and what a great value Mexico is for US travelers, I would love to plan a trip there again.

What I’d like to do, but we didn’t have time
-Snorkel the second largest coral reef in the world
-Visit Las Coloradas (the pink lakes about 2.5 hours north west of Cancun)
-Spend the day at the aquatic theme park, Xel-Há
-Explore Cozumel

Friday Five – June

Walks on the Beach
Happy second day of summer everyone!!! The best part of where I live in Connecticut, especially during the summer, is how close we are to the water. My house is a mile from the beach and we have a State Park here that has the best boardwalk along the shoreline. No matter what’s going on, this little beach walk can put a smile on my face. I try to take the dog for a walk down to the beach a couple times a week.

Planning for Mexico
Next month one of my closest friends from California is meeting me in Playa del Carmen for a few days and I cannot be more excited. I haven’t had a true, sit on the beach and do-nothing vacation in years! Like actually years. And while we have a little bit of touristy things planned (I really want to visit the Tulum Ruins while I’m there) the other three days are going to be just the two of us, catching up, margarita in hand while laying on the beach. I’ve been in crunch mode, getting the last few details planned, like how we are getting from the airport to the hotel, and buying a few new things.

Roden + Fields
This past winter my skin was going through something. I don’t know if it was the shock of the winter weather, or the stress of starting my new job, but my face looked like a teenage girl who just hit puberty. I have a girlfriend who is a Roden + Fields consultant and she has been trying to get me to try the stuff for years. Welp, I gave in, drank the kool aid and now I’m hooked. Their Unblemish regimen is my life. I love all of the products I’ve tried. I have defiantly had to up my moisturizing game since starting to use Unblemish but Skinscuticals has been my lifesaver in that department and my skin is back to looking it’s actual age.

Book club and cheese boards
My friends and I try to find a reason for us to all get together at least once every two weeks. Otherwise some major separation anxiety sets in. A few weeks ago we got together for a book club. It was perfect. The weather was amazing, it was a random Tuesday, and it just so happens that the author is from our town. My friend was able to get her to come to our book club and talk about the book. We picked her brain about the writing process, what it was like to pitch the book and have it finally get picked up, and then whats coming up. Definitely check out “The Last Mrs. Parrish.” There are so many twists and turns you don’t see coming. Next month we have another meeting so I will have to keep you posted on how that book is.

24 Hours in Cape Cod

Spring has been busy! When you hide up for five months of winter, as soon as that first sign of warmth and sunshine comes through you’re all about getting out there, filling your schedule and living life. Especially for this California girl! My first winter back in Connecticut was a bit of hibernation. I forgot what it was like to literally turn into a bear and not want to leave your couch.

Now that spring is here and summer is around the corner, I barely have time to keep up with my shows. I am finding every excuse to get outside, go explore somewhere, and then when I do have the time to sit and relax, I am enjoying it and appreciating it so much more.

The past three weekends I did three random, last minute weekend getaway trips. More on those in other posts but this past weekend a friend and I decided we were going to take thirty minutes to pack a back and drive up to Cape Cod to visit a few other friends who were in town for a wedding. It was so spur of the moment and last minute I barely had all my toiletries in a bag before we had to go.

So we spent a whole 24 hours on the Cape and packed as much as we could into the time we were there.

What we did
If you’re from New England, chances are your family has some connection to Cape Cod, and you have your specific area that your family has history with. As teenagers, my friends and I would spend summers on a cute little lake in the middle of the Cape. The beaches are much better than what we get down here in southwestern Connecticut. There is something about the ocean that just doesn’t compare to Long Island Sound.

Saturday night when we got in, my friend Katy and I headed out to Main St. in Hyannis. It is so quintessential New England with all of the restaurants with street seating, beachy décor and souvenir stores, and ice cream and candy shops. I couldn’t get enough. I haven’t been to Hyannis in probably close to 15 years and it definitely lived up to my memory.

Sunday, we woke up and headed over to a beach in Wellfleet. It was perfect. The sun was out but it was still cool since it’s June. The tide was low so we were able to head out on a sandbar which is the perfect spot for seal sightings. There were a few that were playing about 20 feet out and obviously I couldn’t get enough.

After the beach we headed north to Truro to check out Truro Vineyards. (You know I can’t help myself when it comes to a Vineyard. I need to see them all.) Honestly, Truro is beautiful. As long as you don’t mind the drive, I can’t recommend this winery enough. It’s super easy to get to and absolutely stunning. And bonus, the wine is amazing.

We did a tasting of 5 wines for $10. And if you go with a buddy, they’ll let you share your tasting. You each try 5 so you can get a taste of all of their varietals. They do group tastings every 30 minutes, on the hour and half hour mark. This wasn’t my favorite way of tasting, but I can defiantly see how it keeps things running smoothly in the summer when the Cape is packed. I just really love that one on one experience you usually get when doing a tasting at a tasting counter. A good pourer can really make or break the experience.

The Vineyard also has a Distillery on site. I wasn’t able to check this out during this trip. We were heading home and I was prioritizing a wine tasting over the rum tasting, but I can’t wait to check out South Hollow Distillery during my next visit. South Hollow has tastings every half hour as well for just $10. And according to their website, they have two tours a day throughout the summer.

Where we ate
Where didn’t we eat!?? In just 24 hours we went ham!

Friday night the friends we were meeting were at a wedding, so my copilot, Katy, and I had a little dinner date in Hyannis. We walked up and down Main St. before settling on Alberto’s Ristorante. We were able to get a cute, little table along the street so we could sit outside and people watch. We started dinner with a truffle gnocchi appetizer that was literal heaven. We joked later that we should have canceled our dinners and just each asked for another dish of the gnocchi for our meals. Hands down the best gnocchi I’ve ever had. For my meal I had the Shrimp & Scallop Fiorentina over linguini. It was amazing.

Sunday morning we were pretty late to rise so we skipped breakfast (and coffee…. Gasp) all together. At noon we headed over to Arnold’s Lobster and Clam Bar in Eastham for some real deal lobster rolls.

*Fun fact: The lobster roll was created in our town, Milford, CT back in the early 1900s. We take our lobster rolls very seriously around here and there are a lot of debates as to who makes the best rolls, and whether it should be served warm or cold.

In Connecticut we are used to warm lobster rolls and at Arnold’s you have your option. So naturally all five of us got a warm roll served on a hot dog bun with butter. We also had to try their lobster bisque and clam chowder, and without question, the chowder defiantly won as far as the soups go. Delicious!

After finishing at Arnold’s we made our way up the coast to the Beachcomber in Wellfleet. This restaurant is built on top of a sand dune with direct access to a pretty quiet little beach. It was gorgeous! We grabbed a Bloody Mary and some amazingly, fresh oysters for a little snack before heading down to the beach.

*Tip: Parking is $20 and cash only. But you’re given a voucher worth $20 that you can use for food or merchandise inside the restaurant so it is well worth it. Just remember your cash!

Before hitting the road for our three hour ride back to Connecticut, we stopped at Baxter’s Boathouse in Hyannis. It was the perfect ending to our trip. We decided to be healthy and get the broiled seafood platers instead of the fried seafood. You know, trying to be healthy. But this is the perfect spot, right in the heart of Hyannis port. We were able to watch fishing boats pull in while we ate some of the freshest fish we’ve had.

Where we stayed
Like I mentioned earlier, Katy and I met a few of our friends who were in the Cape for another friend’s wedding so we were lucky enough to crash in their suite for the night. Especially since we decided to go so last minute. We met them at Ocean Edge Resort and Golf Club. There are two sides of the resort, and we stayed on the Villages side of the resort. It was perfect for a group, family, or a longer stay since there were multiple bedroom options, a full kitchen, and living room area in each unit. We were on the first floor so we also had a pretty nice little back yard where kids were playing in the evening.

If you’re a golfer, the Villages are the place you want to be. The different room villages are scattered around the golf course.

I wasn’t able to head over to the Mansion side but there are two large mansions on the property full of guestrooms and suites to accommodate up to four guests per room. This side of the property is bay-front, with beach front restaurants, a pub and a pool my friends couldn’t stop raving about. Definitely a little more on the romantic side compared to the Villages.

Cape Cod Tips:

  • Have cash handy. A lot of these places are only open during the tourist seasons so they are pretty small operations. More than one restaurant we stopped at was cash only.
  • During the summer months, Route 6 is jam packed with out of towners. If you plan on going to the Cape in July or August make sure you have good local restaurants to wherever you are staying because you don’t want to be driving up and down Route 6 every day.
  • If you get a chance, stop at a Cape Cod League baseball game. You will see some amazing college baseball players who are looking to get drafted within the next year or so.
  • For you history buffs, the JFK Museum in Hyannis is a must do. The Kennedy’s famously have an amazing compound in Hyannis and locals are very proud of the Kennedy legacy.

My Spring and Summer Reading List

So last Monday it snowed, but I just pulled up the 8 day forecast and it looks like we may just finally be into spring. Praise the Lord! We are officially out of the below freezing nights and days in the 50s and I. Am. Pumped! I’ve officially survived my first winter back in New England, and it was rough. I’m not going to lie.

I’ve been anxiously awaiting spring and summer to come back around so I can do all of the spring and summer things: like sitting outside on the patio with a good book. Last week my sister and I did a little throw back to childhood and ran over to our local library took out books, and I’ve already flown through one from my favorite author, Shelley Noble.

I really enjoy a book about a transformation of some kind. Its good to be reminded that the grass isn’t always greener, and to be happy with what you have and allow yourself to grow in time. Professionally, I defiantly needed to be reminded of that this week.

What are some of your favorite back yard reads? What should I put on my summer list?

Beach Colors: Shelley Noble
Whisper Beach: Shelley Noble
Plain Truth: Jodi Picoult
Southern as a Second Language: Lisa Patton
Beach Town: Mary Kay Andrews
Driving with the Top Down: Beth Harbison
The Year of Yes: Shonda Rimes
Maybe in Another Life: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Big Little Lies: Liane Moriarty
Pretty Mess: Erika Jayne
What Remains: A Memoir of Fate, Friendship and Love: Carole Radziwill
This is Me: Chrissy Metz