Friday Five – October & November

Happy Friday!!! Who else is pumped to gain an hour this weekend?? I know my waking up in total darkness the past few weeks has not been prime motivation. A few weeks ago I was able to take a three day staycation and it was fabulous. I binged “Anne with an E” on Netflix and relaxed for a few days, just in time for the craziness of the holidays to swing in full force.

I’m looking forward to the holidays more than usual this year. I have some exciting news in early December but I can’t say much for now. For now, here are five things that are getting me through October and November.

A night at the theater
When I was living in California I really started to fall in love with the theater. My good friend’s family ran a local community theater and their productions were out of this world. Being that we were in Los Angeles, there were even a few professional actors that performed at the theater on the side. I really fell in love with Les Misérables while I was out there so when tickets went on sale at the Shubert Theater in New Haven, I new I had to see the national touring company perform live. It was insane!

Day tripping to Newport, RI
I think Newport, RI is such an underrated city. In the summer it is the perfect New England city with fresh seafood restaurants, little shops to explore, and breathtaking sunsets over the water. In the winter the town gets sleepy but winter is the perfect time to go to Newport and truly rest and relax. The skinny streets make you feel like you’ve gone back in time and wandering in and out of bars is really the best way to spend a snow day. I went last week to explore something else that is famous in Newport. The Newport Mansions. Not too long ago New York City’s elite used Newport as a place to summer. Their summer “cottages” were bigger than my high school. A few girlfriends and I took the two hour drive east to explore the Breakers and Marble House, two of the Vanderbilt family’s homes from the late 1800s.

Pumpkin carving parties
My girlfriends and I try to get together as often as possible, but with husbands, kids, careers, and side projects, it’s not always the easiest. Last weekend we were able to be festive all weekend. We celebrated our favorite two year old’s birthday with a Halloween themed birthday party on Saturday, and Sunday had a Halloween party and pumpkin carving contests as a housewarming at another friend’s. It was the perfect way to get into the spirit of the season before fall blows away from us completely.

Exploring the Viking Star in Boston
Part of my full-time job is getting out of the office and visiting the ships that we send our clients on. When Viking Ocean Cruises invited a few travel agents onto their ship, the Viking Star, I jumped at the opportunity to see this ship. Viking is known for their river cruises, being one of the largest river cruise companies in the world, but when they expanded into ocean cruises a few years ago, I knew I wanted to see their ships. I love the clean lines, and the Scandinavian style of their ships. What I love about Viking is their attention to detail and how although they’re not a luxury cruise line, you still feel like a princess while a guest on their ship.

Making a Murderer part 2
A few weeks ago, I did a post about my favorite bingeworthy shows and since, I’ve already gotten through the new Marking a Murderer part 2. I actually watched it in just three days. If you watched part 1, be prepared that this one moves a little slower. We know the story already so now we are going through new evidence and learning information we didn’t know before.

 

New England Weekend Getaway Ideas

Growing up it was always funny to me how much some people loved New England. The quaint beach towns and little shops and restaurants, I just thought every town was just like mine. And then I moved to Los Angeles, where you would assume the beaches are better than anywhere else. I was stuck in mobs of people heading to the same beach as me, fighting for a spot, and eating at over priced restaurants that were just ok.

Now as an adult, I appreciate my cute little home town, and I embrace the other towns and areas around me. One thing I’ve learned recently is you really never know where your path is going or where you’ll end up so I believe in living in the moment and taking advantage of what is around you.

I put together some of my favorite spots in New England that are perfect for weekend getaways. I included a few places I haven’t been but are on my bucket list to check out really soon.

Maine
My favorite ways to travel is to have no expectations and be shown around like a local (hence the reason I fell in love with Oregon). One of my best friends grew up in Maine on a cute little island. In college we would go up during the summer and explore her town, eat copious amounts of Lobster, shop all of the outlets in Freeport and spend the nights enjoying the lack of light pollution. This was before Portland (Maine) had become such a food and beer mecha. I would love to get up there again and really explore Portland as an adult, and as someone that appreciates food and drinks now.  I also never was able to stop in Kennebunk or explore north to Acadia and Bar Harbor area. There is still so much of Maine to see.

Newport, Rhode Island
Over New Years one of my oldest girlfriends got married in this magical town. I hadn’t been there since my cousin got married in Newport 20 years ago. This beautiful place definitely turns into a ghost town during the winter months, but in the summer the amazing views of the mansions on the cliffs, the legendary Newport Bridge and all of the gorgeous lighthouses in the area really set the stage for a perfect weekend getaway.

Cape Cod and the Islands
This summer I went to the Cape for 24 hours and it was just what I needed to start my summer. Nothing says summer in New England like Cape Cod. Even though I’ve been to this amazingly quintessential New England area countless times, I have never been out to Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket. Just a quick ferry ride from Hyannis, you can get to either of these islands and enjoy a perfect long weekend away from the rest of the world.

Long Island, New York
I can see Long Island from any beach in my town. The 11 miles across the sound seems so close on a clear day, but the hour and half ferry ride, or nearly two-hour drive through New York’s boroughs to Long Island makes it seem so much further. This summer I took two trips over to Long Island and finally got to see it more than just a shadow in the distance. One day we spent the day exploring Port Jefferson, walking in and out of the shops and eating and drinking our way through town. A few weeks later we took the ferry over again and explored the wineries on the north fork.

Finger Lakes, New York
During our drive across country last year, we stopped at a winery in Virginia and when we told the owner where we were from, he couldn’t stop raving about the Finger Lakes and their wines. I literally have never heard of New York having a wine region outside of the North Fork of Long Island, let alone, had I ever heard of the Finger Lakes. (To us in the Tri-State area, New York is the City and Long Island and that’s about it.) Then when every blogger under the sun went to Aurora last summer to check out the Mackenzie-Childs HQ, I decided I needed to put it on my list. The Finger Lakes area little further away, which is probably why I wasn’t able to get there this summer. A good 5 hour drive north-west of NYC, I would definitely want to take at least a 5-night trip up there. Wineries, beer, good food, and tons of hiking and waterfalls, this seems like it would be my paradise.

Burlington, Vermont
Most people think of Vermont as a winter destination, but for my non-athletic ass, I like Vermont in the summer the most. There are a ton of lakes you can play on and at night, the weather is perfect for a bonfire. Last summer a few of us went up to visit our friend who lives on Lake Bomoseen and it was a perfect end to the summer. But Burlington is an awesome place to check out if you’re not so into the great outdoors. There are tons of restaurants and shops up here on Church St. Definitely on my list of the fall or next spring.

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.

 

 

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.

Orange County Travel Guide

This is something I’ve been working on for a long time. Orange County is a place a lot of non-Californians want to visit but don’t really know where to begin. Since moving home and working in a travel agency in Connecticut, I’ve had a lot of people come in and say they want to visit Southern California but they don’t know where to begin.

“What’s there even to do there?”

So much! But if you visit without doing your research, you can definitely miss out on why so many locals love their little piece of paradise.

How to get there and get around:
Flying into Orange County really depends on where you are beginning and ending your trip, and also, where you are coming from. John Wayne Airport (SNA) is Orange County’s main airport, but there isn’t always the best options for flying in and out of the OC.

The Southern California airports are a beast in themselves so much so that I did a post on just the airports a few weeks ago. You can check that out here to see which airport is best for you.

Without a doubt, rent a car. Parking will probably be an additional cost at most hotels so take that into consideration, but there is no easy way of getting around in Southern California besides a car. And plan to be sitting in some traffic at some point during your trip.

Where to say:
There are tons of places to stay in Orange County but again, that really depends on what you plan on doing while you are there. If you are going for the theme parks, there is really nothing better than staying on property at Disneyland, but since there are only three hotels, availability isn’t always the best. (Don’t worry, they’re building another hotel soon so there will be more options.) But staying around Katella in Anaheim is always a good back up. I’ve stayed at a lot of hotels in Anaheim but here are my favorites:

Country Inn and Suites by Carlson
Hotel Indigo Anaheim
Sheraton Park hotel at the Anaheim Resort
Hyatt House at Anaheim Resort
SpringHill Suites at Anaheim Resort
If you’re not planning on visiting Disneyland, staying closer to the beach may be better for you. Key is to stay closer to where you are going to spend the most time. Or splitting your time between Anaheim and the beach. Most of the beach hotels are absolutely amazing. I mean you’re on the Pacific Ocean but here are some of my favorites:

Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa, Huntington Beach
Hyatt Regency Newport Beach, Newport Beach
The Resort at Pelican Hill, Newport Coast
Marriott’s Newport Coast Villas, Newport Coast
The Ranch at Laguna Beach, Laguna Beach

What to do:
Orange County is really broken down into the Beach Cities, and the rest of the OC. Most people when they think Southern California, they think beach, but if you are willing to explore inland OC, there is so many hidden gems most visitors don’t know too much about.

Inland:
Spend a day or two at Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure Parks (Anaheim)
Eat or go bowling at Downtown Disney (Anaheim)
Enjoy dinner and a show Pirate’s Dinner Adventure or Medieval Times (Buena Park)
Cheer on the home team at a Anaheim Ducks Hockey game (Anaheim)
See LA’s second best baseball team at a Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim game (Anaheim)
Take a bike ride along the Santa Ana riverbed (Anaheim and Yorba Linda)
Take the kids to Discovery Cube OC (Santa Ana)
Check out a show or grab dinner at Anaheim GardenWalk (Anaheim)
Explore some history at the Nixon Library (Yorba Linda)
Ride some roller coasters at Knotts Berry Farm (Buena Park)
Shop or play at Irvine Spectrum (Irvine)
Antiquing and window shopping in Orange Circle (Orange)

Beach Cities:
Explore the art galleries near Main Beach (Laguna Beach)
Eat a chocolate covered banana at Dad’s on Balboa Island (Newport Beach)
Shop the outdoor mall at Fashion Island (Newport Beach)
Rent a Duffy Boat (Newport Beach)
Golf at Pelican Hill or the Ranch (Newport Coast, Laguna Beach)
Have a beach day at Doheny State Beach (Dana Point)
Window shop at South Coast Plaza (Costa Mesa)
Paddle board at Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort (Newport Beach)
Shop island style at Lido Marina (Newport Beach)
Relax on the beach at Main Beach (Laguna Beach)
Go Whale Watching (Newport Beach)
Hike Crystal Cove State Park (Newport Coast)
Watch the surfers or hop on a board yourself at Salt Creek Beach Park (Dana Point)

My favorite restaurants:
There are so many restaurants in Orange County! This is defaintely a great place for big time foodies who love to explore and try new things. These are by no means every option for reastaurants between LA and San Diego. I think I’d be here all day if I listed that, but these are just some of my personal favorite resturants from my three years living there.

Breakfast:
Kimmie’s Coffee Cup, multiple locations around OC
Bruxie, Brea
Latte Da Bagelery, Anaheim Hills
Pepe’s Finest Mexican Food, Brea

Lunch:
Slaters 50/50, Anaheim Hills
House of Blues, Anaheim
Kopan Ramen, Fullerton
The Hat, Brea
Carmelita’s Kitchen de Mexico, Laguna Beach

Dinner:
Salt and Ash, Placentia
Reunion Kitchen + Drink, Anaheim Hills
TAPS Fish House & Brewery, Brea
Roman Cucina, Fullerton
South of Nick’s Mexican Kitchen + Bar, San Clemente
Bruno’s Italian Kitchen, Brea
Cha Cha’s Latin Kitchen, Brea
Napa Rose, Disneyland
The Ranch, Anaheim