Athens is the most underrated capital city in Europe, according to me. I am absolutely in love with this city and go back time and time again. You always hear about Paris, London, and Rome being the cities to stop for a meandering stay - with travelers often advising to skip over the sprawling Greek capital and head right from Piraeus Port to the islands, but Athens is a gem. I would absolutely live there (I know I say that about every place I go, but still though!) the food is amazing, the winding streets are ancient and flourishing with life, and you would be so hard pressed to find people more kind or welcoming than Athenians. How could you surpass a day strolling through the bustling Plaka or climbing to the top of the Acropolis? This was my second stay in Athens, and I did make the mistake the first time of staying in Piraeus because I thought it was all about just getting to the islands. No, don't make the same mistake as I. There's so much in Athens to miss if you're too far our (not that the metro isn't pretty damn good) but take it from me - a probably future Athenian tbh, stay at the Urban Frame Hotel in the heart of Athens and you will fall as in love with this city as I have. It's just the most perfect modern hotel, and I can't get enough of the mix of modern and antiquity that permeates the entire city. ALSO the bathroom! Let me just tell you! Greece is fully of wonderful hotels, but a lot of these hotels still feature a shower comprised of a drain in the bathroom floor and a detachable shower head. Urban Frame Hotel had a FULL shower with a sliding glass door, and I was in absolute Heaven. The beds are plush and pillow-y, the room is well-equipped with bright lights, and a TV with all the information you could need only a scroll away. I'm so torn between the fully bathroom (stocked with organic bath products made in the Greek tradition) and the terrace attached to our room. You couldn't imagine a more cozy place to relax in the fading Greek sun after a day of sightseeing, or to start your morning off with a small coffee and a book.
One of, truly, the best parts of staying in Greece is the Greek Breakfast - if I could have Greek yogurt with honey and figs every day of my life, I would be so happy. Urban Frame Hotel offers a breakfast buffet each morning that is so delicious...I'm telling you everything tastes so GOOD! I find this throughout Greece, it's just a different taste. Everything is lighter and sweeter, it tastes real. It's the perfect stop to fuel up before a day of adventure. Aside from just being a truly comfortable, clean, and modern hotel - Urban Frame Hotel has the most amazing location. You literally are less than 10 minutes from The Ancient Temple of The Olympian Zeus in one direction and the Parthenon in the other. Head to the Ancient Temple and you pass through Hadrian's Arch or walk through the beautiful and very busy Plaka on your way to the Acroplis. There's no limit to all the ancient landmarks your pass all over this area, and trust me - after a very sweaty climb to the Parthenon and to see the Caryatids, you'll be very glad your hotel is a quick 10 minute walk away. Climb it though, trust me. It's unreal to be in a place that old - go to the museum too! It only makes sense that a very cool hotel like Urban Frame Hotel would be in a very cool little neighborhood. At times, I felt like I was in the most cosmopolitan place on Earth - beautiful boutiques and trendy food spots line the streets around Nikis, BUT none of them lack authentic Athenian flair and local flavor. I truly cannot wait to go back to Athens, and I'm so excited to stay at Urban Frame Hotel again. Go, you'll be so delighted by the location, the comfort, the views, the food, and the staff who are AMAZING. So truly friendly and lovely, the bent over backward to make sure anything we wanted or needed was at our fingertips. Truly sweet and wonderful people, it speaks so highly of a hotel when the staff seem to really enjoy being there.
Argonauta Hotel is a chic traveler’s dream! I would be lying if I said I didn’t rate hotels on their “Instagrammable-ness” and this hotel has been curated perfectly - for a stylish meets comfortable stay.
Situated in the capital of Paros, Parikia, it is quite literally steps from the port where ferries drop off travelers and holiday makers at regular intervals. That’s the first reason I would absolutely recommend this hotel for your stay in Paros (have I convinced you to come to Paros, yet?) - the absolute convenience of having such a gorgeous hotel a hop, skip, and jump from the port. When you’re already weary from a long boat ride, flagging a taxi or renting a car should be the least of your worries. As we stayed in Golden Beach first, we arrived at Argonauta Hotel on our 4th day in Paros and it was the PERFECT change of pace from the shimmering beach front. The grey stone streets and bleached white buildings that characterize the picturesque Greek landscape, brushed with blooming bougainvillea, are the makeup of this part of Paros. Do you want to know the most instagrammable spot in Parikia? It’s literally right outside of the door to the hotel. It opens to the most gorgeous alleyway - with everything from local shops sporting handmade ceramics and olive oil soaps to darling little benches and tables with chairs to sit, relax and soak up the Paros sun. It can be really tricky to pick out a hotel without understand of the lay of a city, town, or village but I cannot day enough good things about where this hotel lies. Being a few steps from the port, it also is the perfect place to reach a bevy of water-front tavernas to watch the red-orange sunset while enjoying classic Greek food. I have definitely eaten my weight in feta cheese and olives since I started my adventure here. One of the lovely staff members recommended a place called The Little Green Rocket, just about a 10 minute walk from the hotel, which amazing fusion food when you want a break from Greek. Which I could never imagine!
Argonauta Hotel is a bit of a bohemian oasis. I love the cozy rooms, done in tones of dove grey and pearl blue, and the balcony! Though small, the view is everything! I’ve rarely seen sunrises in my life, but that would be the perfect place to spy one if you find yourself an early riser. Something I found in all the hotels I’ve stayed in in Greece is a little library with books in an array of languages. I love that so much, that reading is encouraged during travel downtime and this hotel has the perfect outdoor terrace to do so. The wrap around terrace is airy and both uncovered and well-shaded, with individual chairs and sofas with table tops where you can spread out and relax any time of day. The downstairs lobby is actually my favorite part of the hotel - I wish I could take the decor and design and replicate it in my own home. It’s so eclectic and curated, another Instagram-worthy spot.
Argonauta Hotel is also extremely close to the bus station for Parikia, so it’s easy to catch a ride (for only 1.80 euro!) to the unmissable Naoussa. No words, just go! Busses run pretty regularly in the morning and more infrequently in the evening, so make sure the grab a bus schedule or take a photo of the one at the front desk, but it’s absolutely worth the 20 minute ride. Due to the literally perfect location of Argonauta Hotel, it’s easy to set out mid-morning and be back in time for a sunset dinner and walk to one of the local gelato shops. Try the one right around the corner from the hotel and get the pistachio, trust me! Or stroll to the Frankish Castle for a real 360 view of Parikia. Everything is a 10 minute walk or less.
A truly darling hotel, I cannot recommend it enough. It’s hard to find a place that is stylish, cozy, chic, well-priced, and with a stellar location and Argonauta Hote checks every box. I even had a local tell me what a great choice in hotel I made when they saw my key from the hotel. I'm already planning to summer in Paros from now on, so I absolutely cannot wait to go back.
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Azure Beach Villas in Nopigia, Chania, Crete feels like a village onto itself. It was a fun distinction for me - not like staying in a hotel, as I normally do, but having an entire villa to myself made me feel as if I actually lived in Crete. Something I am so so tempted to do after my 8 days there. The villas are so cozy and well-equipped with every thing a anyone could need - from a solo traveler like me to a family or group of friends. It was so nice to have space to SPREAD OUT. I didn't feel like I might topple over my suitcase or stub my toe on the bed frame. Knowing I had all this space to myself added an extra layer of relaxation to my time there. As with the other properties I have experienced in my travels through Greece, I was struck by how quiet and peaceful Azure Beach Villas were. Even with families staying there, and only a few steps away from the beautiful Nopigia beachfront, it was remarkably quiet at night.
Nopigia is just about 5 km for the town of Kissamos, so definitely rent a car when you plan on staying here. Although the most lovely and beach-y Cretan village, Crete is a HUGE island and staying in Chania gives you access to all of the beaches you could ever want to visit. While I recommend getting to Gramvouse and Balos by boat (in the very near-by Kissamos post) with a car you can easily get to some of the wild, wonderful, and famous beaches of the west like Elafonissi and Falassarna.
Aside for the wonderful location, and truly if you don't want to rent a car and just enjoy Nopigia, everything you need is right there. Literally, right in the Villa. A fully equipped kitchen with every bowl, plate, and utensil you could need, two beautiful bathrooms (one with a deep tub), and even a washing machine! Do you know how happy I was to do laundry after a 2 weeks of traveling already?! There's even a wonderful little rack outside with handy clothespins to hang dry everything. I thought that was so neat! Whether it's your wash or your beach towels and swimsuits, Azure Beach Villas has really thought of everything. This is another small thing, but I loved the air conditioners in every room, I freeze at night and having the remote control to control the temperature was perfect!
I also just adored the different color themes of each room! It really added character and personality to the already well-built and beautiful villa. There are 1, 2, and 3 bedroom options and although I was in a 2, it would be perfect for a family of 4 since the second bedroom featured 2 twin beds. Another great aspect for family travel is the downstairs bathroom is almost designed as a "beach bathroom" it's open and bright, the perfect first stop to use the shower and get all the sand and salt off of you and the kids before tracking it all over the villa!
Of course, the shared pools are another thing to love! Mine turned out to be a private pool because I had no neighbors during my stay, and they're very well-managed: blue, clear, and cool. Even thought the crystal waters of the Aegean are only a few steps away - nothing is more convenient that opening my sliding door and have a pool RIGHT THERE.
If you do go the no car route like me, there are lovely restaurants along the beach of a classic Cretan meal while you watch a blazing sunset. I would recommend Porfyra - the seafood was unreal and perhaps the most amazing tzatsiki I have ever had!
The staff is amazing, so don't be afraid to pop by the information office and ask for anything you may need - from excursion recommendations to directions to the local market. Thanks to Mina, I found Porfyra and had some of the best food of my life - I can't wait to return to Crete. A week was just too short, and I'll definitely be back to the villas - this time, car in tow so I can take advantage of the great sights nearby.
Arriving at Mrs Chryssana in Chania, Crete is like walking into an oasis of peace. Situated just steps from a glittering blue Cretan sea in Kolymvari, it was actually the most tranquil place I had ever been in my life. The quiet isn't deafening though, it's punctuated by birds calling and a gentle wind. It's a hotel where you can easily feel like you have the entire place to yourself. Even at the sparkling turquoise pool, the guests all mutually respect the air of relaxation that permeates the hotel grounds. Though not isolated by any means, you're just a 5 minute walk from the main road and it's markets, it has the feeling of being removed from the bustling heart of Chania where you'll find locals and tourist alike. From the pebbled beachfront, you can see villages dotting the hillside beyond Kolymvari and other hotels along the water. Turn around, and there are snow-capped mountains in the not too far distance, and you may even spy a traditional Greek domed church. Though somewhat removed, Mrs Chryssana is by no means isolated. If you're a bit more brave than me - rent a car! I barely trust myself driving in America, let alone in another country. However, I think I *may* have been just fine driving here. The roads are nicely paved and the signs are clear - in Greek and English to boot! Mrs Chryssana is the perfect starting point to see many unbelievable sights from ancient and modern Crete, The Cave of Saint John, Knossos Minoas Palace, Aptera, and Rotonda are all within an easy driving distance of the hotel. Have you ever wanted to see the oldest olive tree in the would? I know I have! There's an entire olive tree museum, as Crete's most famous export is olive oil. Trust me, I have been trying to figure out how to get some back home in just a carry-on for days now.
Crete has not been my first adventure in Greece, so I had an idea of what to expect with the aesthetics of the hotel. I forever love the stark whitewashing used in Greek design. Hello, it's a blogger's dream to have a crisp white room with amazing natural light! Each room is fitted with a balcony that looks beyond the green grounds to face the pool and sea. I love that nothing here is too cluttered or ostentatious. You have everything you want or need, and not a bit more. I'm a big fan of the more minimalist style you find in Greece. Lovely surroundings with pops of blues and golds here and there are so visually pleasant, and also add to the sense of peacefulness. A bit of the fun of traveling is being aware that you're in a different place. So I loved seeing the little Greek touches throughout the hotel that remind you that you are a world away from you normal life, in the heart of Kolymvari.
It is impossible to talk about Crete without talking about the food! Mrs Chryssana has a daily Cretan breakfast buffet with a little something for everyone - hello authentic Greek yogurt with honey and figs! What better way to start a day of relaxing by the pool or exploring Chania? I've tried to find the right words to describe just how fresh and real the food in Greece is, but I cannot put it into words. You just have to come here and try it for yourself! Trust me. TRUST ME. The trip to Crete is worth it for the food alone. For the salad alone! Something I appreciated so much about Mrs Chryssana is that there was always a pescatarian option are dinner. While you can absolutely let the staff know about any dietary needs, I totally forgot to mention I don't eat meat before I arrived. Typical. So I really was so happy to see an option (or 2!) for me every night. I'm going to be honest, most of the Greek I have learned here have been names of dishes (hello politki and boureki) - but now I can order anywhere in Greece! All of the other Greek I have picked up comes from the wonderful staff here. As I mentioned, when I arrived to Mrs Chryssana it felt like a peaceful sanctuary, but when I left it felt like home. The staff is so warm and kind, friendly and caring. I was sick one day and they all checked in on me - letting me know I could call on reception anytime for whatever I needed. I have never been so well taken care of at a hotel, and even just enjoyed getting to know the people there. My Greek and my knowledge of Crete are much improved because of how friendly everyone is here. Reception is also essentially available 24 hours a day during the high tourist season. Its very comforting being so far from home and knowing if anything happened (or for any reason) I could call.
If you decide to spend your entire trip to Mrs Chryssana at the pool, I wouldn't blame you! I was really tempted to do that too. That's the firs thing you notice when you arrive - these two aqua pool pools that are so inviting. I almost wanted to plop down right there on a sunbed and take a nap after my full day of traveling from London. There's a shallow children's pool and a pool for adults, both fresh water and both beautifully maintained. When I tell you the water is clear and not a leaf or petal in sight. The water is cool and crisp, a perfect escape from the midday Cretan sun. The pool area also has a small outdoor cafe area where you can sip on local Greek wines and snack on anything from tzatsiki with mint to margherita pizza while soaking in the rays.
The beach at the hotel's doorstep is beautiful and offers options for fishing, diving, snorkeling, and other water activities. However, when in Crete you ABSOLUTELY have to go to Gramvousa, Balos, and Elafonisi. I missed my Elafonisi trip because my allergies sadly followed me to Crete, but Balos and Gramvousa were unreal! Honestly, the whole reason I had Crete on my summer 2019 list was to see Balos in person. Not only is Mrs Chryssana in the perfect location to reach these destinations, but the staff will arrange tours for you. When traveling, you never know how things will really pan out until you arrive. Crete is HUGE. Again, rent a car. So, once you get here - you have the real idea of how far things are and have to come up with a plan to get to it all. I found myself becoming really overwhelmed thinking about how to get to Balos and trying to search for tour companies online that were reputable and cost-effective was stressful. After fretting about it for a day, I went downstairs and asked about excursions. 10 minutes later, mine were booked and all I had to do was show up at the bus pick-up point 5 minutes from the hotel. I told you this place was relaxing! The prices from the hotel were better than what I was seeing online too, and I didn't have to get myself to Kissamos post. In a 20 minute bus ride, I was there and ready to take both beaches. Absolutely do not miss them!
Getting to Mrs Chryssana from the Chania airport:
Hire a car (Mrs Chryssana staff can arrange)
By taxi (Mrs Chryssana staff can arrange)
By bus (take the shuttle from Chania Airport to Chania Main Bus Station and get the bus to Kolymvari - about an hour and a half total - but cheaper and a great way to see Chania!)
Before I went to Lisbon, my goal in life was to live in a hotel. After going to Lisbon, my goal is to specifically live at The Lumiares or The Vintage - sister hotels that each have their own distinctive vibe and absolutely make you feel like the the most special person in all of Portugal! That really is the first thing I have to note - the staff at both hotels were unbelievable. So kind and welcoming, there are a lot of beautiful hotels in the world - but I have never come across a hotel staff who were collectively so gracious and lovely. I mean, from my Instagram Stories and Lisbon blog posts, you know that Delta just didn't send my bag to Lisbon for 2 days. Although it was stressful, I didn't have to worry about it once. The brilliant concierge at The Lumiares called after my bag until it arrived, doing everything he could to assure it would get to me. At The Vintage, they had a delightful birthday cake made for me and delivered it to my room when I was finally well enough to enjoy it. This trip could have easily been a disaster because of the bad luck that seemed to plague it, but it was my experience at both hotels that made me want to not give up and still see Lisbon - a city that has my heart 100% now!
When you're across the world and your trip is kind of falling apart, all you want it is home and that how the apartment we stayed in at The Lumiares felt - granted, a much more chic apartment than one I've ever had! Once we got over the shock of having this two bedroom two bath spacious gem all to ourselves in Lisbon, Fallon and I both decided immediately that we needed to recreate this aesthetic in our homes. Its a mix of bohemian flair colorfully coordinated with a touch of palatial elegance - which makes sense, because it is a former palace! Do you have any idea how hard it is to not immediately jump into a pristine, freshly-made bed when your off of 16 hours of traveling - especially one that looks that cozy? When we finally decompressed for the night, showered with the yummiest citrus-scented Banho goodies (the robes and towels are A1 + a waterfall showerhead is always best), and ordered in two Lumi Burgers from room service - it was finally time to test out that bed I had been thinking about all afternoon and it did NOT disappoint. I think I went on to sleep for a solid 12 hours. Although the hotel is situated in the heart of the bustling Bairro Alto, it was such a quiet and peaceful sleep. In fact, it rained our first night so I was out like a light, The apartment also had everything we would need to cook, including a stove that only heated recognized cookware - literally you can't even burn your own hand, flatware, mugs, plates, glasses, you name it. It's the perfect hotel if you prefer to do some grocery shopping and make your meals instead of eating out. Also, the mini-bar is complimentary. Do I even need to say more? Beers, wines, sodas, water - didn't I tell you this hotel will make you feel absolutely special?
On our second evening, we ventured up to the Lumi Rooftop for dinner with some insane views of Lisbon - from my beloved Alfama to the Rio Tejo. If that isn't enough, the hotel sits opposite one of Lisbon's most beautiful terraces - Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara. The day we went, there was a vibrant market scene with live band playing...I'm pretty sure it was Stevie Wonder. We didn't try the adorable Mercado cafe downstairs because we're room services babes, but I've never met a rooftop I didn't like. Between a bottle of Portuguese wine, Goat Cheese Pastry, Alheira (think boudin) Balls, Scarlett Shrimp Linguini, and another outstanding Lumi Burger over the course of a 3 hour meal, it was a good thing we were walking 2-4 miles every day or they would have had to roll us back to America.
The Vintage is vacation and hotel and life goals! While The Lumiares sports a bohemian airy elegance, The Vinatge is sumptuous. Sitting atop a slope that sends you down to some of the most fashionable shopping in Lisbon (I did go to Louis, but only to look!), this hotel has a charming buttery yellow exterior that houses rooms individually done in a rainbow of moody shades. The whole vibe fits perfectly with the name - there is a retro feel to the hotel from the romatically lit halls to the color palettes used for the rooms - from midnight blue to mint green to dusty pink. It's the kind of hotel you could imagine a 1960s movie star like Audrey Hepburn or Sophia Loren would frequent, closing the heavy curtains when she wanted to escape from the world or leaning over the quaint balcony when deciding to give the paparazzi a few glamorous shots.
I don't know if anything could have made me happier on this trip than a pink hotel room, and not any shade of pink - but the shade that is quickly washing out of my hair. I had rose gold hair, rose gold luggage, and not a rose gold room that was the most perfect place to wake up on my 32nd birthday. On of my favorite features of the room was that their were small floor lights that illuminated my path whether I was walking the (again stocked and complimentary!) minibar, the walk in waterfall shower, or the private bathroom with bidet. Honestly, can we get on the bidet movement in America? We deserve better. Our stay at The Vintage was topped off with a night at the spa - I can still feel the rush or warm fragrant air when you step off of the elevators and into the luxurious scene. I opted for a facial because my skin was a WRECK from dry airplane air and no luggage stress. Next time - I'm taking one of each service and just setting up for the night in the eucalyptus steam room and dry sauna. There's also a gym with 24 hour access, which looked just wonderful but climbing the 7 hills was my cardio that week. Like it's sister hotel, The Vintage has a rooftop with sweeping views of Lisbon as well and local eats that more than make up for the steep hills and endless walks in the city. Also, probably the best complimentart breakfast ever. Ripe kiwis, fresh juices, made to order eggs, cheese, Portuguese ham, and pastel de nata! With two hotels like these, who needs to come home?
Writing this blog post is the first break I've taking from Lisbon apartment hunting all day. I have fallen in love with plenty of other cities before, but Lisbon is an obsession. This magical ancient city, splayed over 7 sprawling hills, is the capital of Portugal and #1 in my heart. Whenever I travel, I'm kind of test-driving a city to see if it's the place I would like to call home in the future. Well, everyone else go home! Sorry London, I'll never forget you Stockholm - but Lisbon wins. It is the perfect intersection of a modern and ancient world. I think its pretty groovy that one 2 mile walk or ride finds you in either a luxurious shopping oasis or strolling the streets of one of the oldest neighborhoods in Europe.
We spent 7 full days in Lisbon (though technically 5 because Delta decided to not send my luggage the first or second day and I was deathly ill on my actual birthday), but even with 7 days - there's so much to see and do in Lisbon that you can't get to it all. Which is fine, right? We should all take the pressure out of traveling and feeling like we have to get the best pictures for Instagram or that our trip wasn't worth it because we didn't see the #1 tourist attraction. Paris doesn't start and end with the Eiffel Tower, so they say. Or I just made that up - either way. I spent most of my time in Alfama, because that's what called to me. My travel style is SUPER laid-back. There's no schedule and no mandatory stops and no timetables we must follow. I will always prefer to meander around a city for hours, then take a walking tour with a rag tag group of fanny-pack toting tourist (although Fendi belt bags are accepted). I'll never be a native local, but the goal is to experience each destination like one.
We spent our first two nights in Lisbon at The Lumiares Hotel & Spa, which resides in the heart of Bairro Alto. It's so high up at the tippy-top of a hill that you feel like you can see all of Lisbon when you exit the glamorously retro entryway and find yourself on one of Lisbon's cobblestone streets. Whew, the cobblestone! Here's a warning - anyone versed in traveling through Europe knows you're going to tangle with cobblestone here and there but it's EVERYWHERE in Lisbon. The term "walking shoes" was invented for this city. Trust me, pack your Instagram shoes and be prepared to carry them or invest in some cute sneakers like I did from Lulus! These espadrille sneakers are so comfortable, just get some no-show socks so you're not rubbing your ankle raw like I did since I forgot to pack any.
Since we were so high up in Bairro Alto, we just decided to walk down towards the river we could see in the distance. There's so many cinematic alleyways, amazing shopping, and good places to pop in for a snack in the roughly 2 mile walk, you don't even notice it go by. You could honestly trick yourself into getting into amazing shape in Lisbon - between all the steep hill climbing and walking that couldn't feel less like a chores. For everyone not interested, or with the mobility, to deal with hills and cobblestone streets, Uber is cheap, plentiful, and the drivers were all so kind and professional. I don't take Uber in the US, but swear by it in Lisbon.
Our "let's just walk to the water over there" plan lead us to the beautiful Praça do Comércio square - and then we got rained on immediately. However, that lead to a rainbow right after and if that isn't a sign you're in the right place, I don't know what is. The square is anchored by an archway, which sits directly across from the Rio Tejo - the water we originally spotted (I thought it was the ocean somehow). It's a wonderful place to spend a first day in Lisbon - you knock out some impressive sightseeing and photo opps along they way.
From the top of Bairro Alto, I first spotted Alfama. Well, I spotted what I thought was a castle and some pastel houses with brick orange roofs and of course was like - I need to go there RIGHT NOW. We had to wait a couple of more days (see: no luggage and death's door) but when we finally took the Uber up to the miradouros (terraces all over Lisbon to view the city) in Alfama from our second hotel The Vintage Lisbon, that was the moment it felt like a home. No pictures and no videos can do it justice, but the endless views that are accessible from Miradouro Das Portas Do Sol and Miradouro de Santa Luzia were the most unreal I have ever seen. I remember I kept thinking...this is just free? No one is charging me to be on this terrace where I can soak up this insane view for as long as I want? Seems fake, but okay! That's what I love about Lisbon, the welcoming vibe. Not only are you wanted there, but the city as literally made it easy for you to see the best of Lisboa.
Even though Miradouro Das Portas Do Sol is a pretty good starting point in Alfama, past the Se Cathedral and higher up than Miradouro de Santa Luzia, you still need to be prepared to CLIMB into the heart of Alfama - whether your after an ancient castle or just charming outdoor cafes where you can get Portuguese pastries and watch cute Portuguese pups chase after pigeons and tourists alike. I'm admittedly not the best at giving out city guides, because we never set out with a plan in mind. Just plop us in a neightborhood, and we decided at every street corner where to turn next. My suggestion for Lisbon if when you see a landmark, make your way to it. When all else fails, just follow a group of people with cameras and maps in hand.
You may think I took all of my pictures in Alfama, but not quite! If the oldest neighboorhood in Lisbon stole my heart, Belém sealed the deal. And not just because someone came up to me and asked if I was an influencer there! Partly that, though. Due to the days we lost, we had to decide between Sintra and Belém. While Sintra looks like a fairytale in our modern world, it also seemed like a bit bothersome to get to and I wasn't in a mood to fight crowds after Mercury in Retrograde had been fighting me all week. So Belem Tower it was and it did not disappoint. In fact, it totally exceeded expectations. You always see pictures of the stoic tower, backlit by a shimmering sunset. What you don't see is the huge park directly opposite from the tower, a marina filled to the brim with yachts, and adorable restaurants dotting the shore. It's not this isolated behemoth, but rather the centerpiece in an area where you could easily spend an entire day relaxing and soaking up the mild March sun.
So anyway, that's why I'm moving to Lisbon. Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.
The thing about Houston is that it can get HOT. Like melt your freshly Drybar'd hair hot. Like beads of sweat rolling down your back hot. Like why did we decide to take the outdoor tram tour at NASA hot. What's the best way to combat a sweltering fall-ish day in Texas? Staying tucked in the cool white sheets of your lush Hotel Alessandra bed, beautifully appointed with jade green embroidered pillows!
I say all the time that to me - the best part of traveling is the hotel. Of course I site-see, I shoot, I eat out (A LOT), but nothing compares to taking a shower in a super glam black & white marble bathroom, curling up in a delightfully enormous hotel towel, and lounging around reading a book or catching up on sleep. My boy-tographer, on the other hand, loves to walk endlessly around cities and the hotter the day, the better. Honestly, thank goodness hotel rooms always come with two keys.
Hotel Alessandra is a dreamy spot in the heart of downtown Houston where modern luxury meets subtle Texan flair. In my real life, I would never have a stark white world because real life can be messy, but this was the hotel of my dreams with all of the crisp white and marble aesthetic. The bathroom alone is reason enough to book a night there, with it's LED-lit mirror and gorgeous black and white tile. Everything is just smooth, cool, and visually pleasing in this hotel. I felt immediately relaxed when I walked in and surveyed the one - the vibe is definitely one of comfortable and easy glamour.
This hotel hit every mark on my "How to Make An Influencer Happy" list: amazing natural lighting, open and airy shooting space, a waterfall showerhead, a stylish design, and of course - an amazing cheese plate! Even more bonus points for the chic bottle of Cab that accompanied it. Hotel Alessandra is home to Lucienne and Bardot, the later of which I can thank for the most adorable and delicious welcome snack. If you give me fresh brie, plump blueberries, and honeyed walnuts - I can be happy pretty much anywhere. While Lucienne is a stunning upscale Mediterranean restaurant, Bardot is a vibed out bar and lounge decorated with images of the French icon herself and serving chilly hand-crafted cocktails.
The one thing I wish I would have taken advantage of at Hotel Alessandra was the rooftop pool (don't you just love a rooftop pool?) with groovy little beds sprawled under umbrellas - perfect for lounging. I just didn't pack a swimsuit because I was in denial about it being 90 degrees in October, but if you find yourself there on a warm day, despite the season, please take a dip for me!
As for things to do in Houston, I'm always a fan of any museum situation and they have some gorgeous ones in their district. The Houston Space Center is a must at least once, and I like the retro-y Kemah Boardwalk on days it isn't basically 100 degrees F outside. The Galleria, of course, for all the Louis and Fendi you could want. Rice Village has a Shake Shack - that's worth the trip alone.
Hotel Alessandra Houston
1070 Dallas Street Houston,
If I have to pick my favorite Sweden, it's Sweden during summertime. Interspersed between the expected rainy/cold days (which I love honestly, even if my hair doesn't), you get these days that are so warm and so lovely. All you want to do on those days is walk around, and fortunately Sweden is a very walkable country. Very fortunate for me, because I hate taking any and all metros and subways - except for the one that takes you directly to the Louvre in Paris.
I'm admittedly not the kind of traveler who strives to "live like a local", but I'm more open now after my last month in Sweden. I love a big, beautiful capital city, a modern boutique hotel, and doing undeniably touristy things like going to museums and royal palaces so I can look a antique sapphire crowns and vintage ball gowns. For that I had Stockholm, but I really lived in Norrköping, this really cool little city with hidden waterfalls around a lot of corners and rushing rivers tucked under bridges. Armed with my exactly 10 words of Svenska (that's one of the 10) I went to a small art museum (like, I REALLY like museums), ordered fresh lemonade with mint, and exchanged pleasantries with cute elderly Swedish men spending their afternoon in the park as well. I don't have a list of must-do/must-see things to do there. You need to see it all, and the best way is the walk until you here the growing sound of cascading water and then of course make you friend/parent/spouse take many, many pictures of you. Then have fika for me because I'm allergic - a Swedish slowdown with a side of coffee and cookies is the perfect time to rest your feet and edit pictures for the gram.
The best city in Sweden is Söderköping. Actually, I don't even if it's a city - it's just this idyllic little wonderland filled with winding canals and amazing ice cream. Ice cream so amazing, in fact, that I didn't even get to try it because the line at Smultronstället was at least 50 people long during Midsommer. I 100% want to live the quiet life in Söderköping in one of the colorful houses perched on cobblestone streets. My 20s were all about being a struggling creative in metropolitan cities, I want my 30s to be about quiet daytime naps in towns with more ducks that people. Again, it's a place to just see and do, without specifically having to see or do anything. Just enjoying seeing the kind of place you have to go all the way to Scandinavia to experience.
Stockholm is everything I expected, except better. Better, as previously mentioned, because you can easily walk from Humlegården to Gamla Stan to Södermalm and back in half a day. Not that it matters because Nordic days go from like 4am to 10pm with all the sunlight you have at your disposal. So yeah, it was super fun waking up at 4:30am every day my first week in Sweden because along with jet lag, my body was all suns up, buns up.
Stockholm is situated all on islands and the all feel a bit different when you cross over their bridges. I, of course, stan Gamla Stan because it's old town and old school. Colorful, cobbled, full of archaic architecture and one very beautiful royal residence Kungliga Slottet -it's so my scene. It's also a little tourist trap-y but you have to buy souvenirs somewhere! My other favorite neighborhood is Södermalm which is like the cool kid sister of Gamla Stan. Still ripe with beautiful old buildings and river views, it feels more authentic and lived in than the old town. It's the more local experience for all you people of the people out there. It's also the home of Kvarnen and homemade traditional Swedish food. If you're looking for meatballs (and I know you are) get in there.
A trip to Stockholm within a trip to Norrköping was 100% made possible thanks to the ultra cool Elite Eden Park Hotel! Right on (literally) Humlegården and by Stureplan (a square where everyone is in the best outfits you've ever seen aka the perfect place for a fika and a good gawking) - it is so cozy yet so modern. Something I've fallen in love with is this European style of sleeping where each person has their own set-up in the bed. I'm not a good bed sharer - I want all the blanket and all the pillows, and this style makes me more tolerable to my bed-mate. Sleep and food are pretty much the most important things in my life so between the very comfortable bed situation and breakfast that was provided every morning - this is my forever go-to hotel in Stockholm. The breakfast! Okay - for my American readers you know how continental breakfast in America is like one waffle maker and some single serving boxes of cereal? Not here, honey. The spread was everything. I had been dying to try gravlax since I got to Sweden, and not only was it there - but it was even more tasty than I could have imagined. Salmon cured in salt, sugar, and dill is everything to me. Fresh fruit, fresh cheese, fresh bread, and the best fresh juice of my life are all served at Miss Voon - which is worth a look and a drink just to take in the dazzling and moody atmosphere of this sophisticate spot. Beet is not one of my 10 words of Swedish I know, but I'm pretty sure the juice I was most obsessed with and had every morning was apple, lemon, and beet so just look for the red one - you'll know it when you see it. I'm actually surprised I saw so much of Stockholm considering how much I wanted to stay in bed and order room service. I actually did take a nap after breakfast every morning - I can only do so much. I also took the world's longest showers because I cannot resist a rainfall shower-head or plush towels that you can practically wrap around yourself twice. I know you may be tempted to stay in Gamla Stan, but listen to me. In the quieter streets surrounding the lush and open Humlegården, there's so many gems from restaurants to galleries to salons and everything you ever need plus the feeling of escaping a crowded city center. 10/10 will definitely be staying there again - I hope they stock up on gravlax.
There's about 1,000 more things I want to share about Sweden, but I'll save that for my next trip in a few months! Between now and then, I'll be looking for the Swedish equivalent of Drybar and praying for dry weather.
I should call this blog post "Anyway, here's 100 pictures of Tulum". Imagine how many pictures you take while on vacation. Now, imagine being a blogger on vacation. With WI-Fi. I'm ready to admit that it took me days to get down to just these photos, partly because I took so many and partly because I wanted to show you what I got to live in for four days: the lush, peaceful, perfect Tulum, Mexico.
The water is so aqua and clear, warm, and easy to navigate - if you don't always try to swim past the break like I do. I literally think I'm a mermaid. It's the purple hair. Thanks to our hotel being located in a national park, I have never seen a place so lavishly green and flourishing in my life. So, here are about 100 pictures of Tulum - pretty much the best place on Earth to celebrate your 30th birthday with a suitcase full of boho gems and your best friends.
Tulum, I swear, is such a bohemian destination. Everything around you is tinged with magic. It's a place where you definitely don't want to waste a perfect view on less than perfect looks. I packed up my current favorite dresses from Selfie Leslie, Free People, and Dress The Population - all brimming with either beautiful prints or texture - and wandered around these beaches and jungles probably incredibly overdressed! I mean...definitely overdressed, but when can you be your most ebullient if not in paradise? I didn't do it on purpose, but I didn't hate how prettily each dress fluttered in the wind - I was very much living in my boho princess moment. Or goddess moment in my sea foam green Athena dress glimmering with gold thread. When your outfit matches the colors of your destination - that is peak fashion blogging, my loves!
I know I love hyperbole, but I say this with no exaggeration - Hotel Diamante K was the most perfect place I have ever stayed in my life. It is the closest thing I can imagine to heaven on Earth. You may notice there's no photos really around the city Tulum or the Ruins here, and it's because I flat-out got to the hotel and didn't want to leave for the next four days (or ever). Our open air bungalow was so simply beautiful with two full beds complete with mosquito netting (why does mosquito netting always look so chic?), a beaded doorway (which is something from a 70s decor dream), waterfall shower, and balcony. I probably spent more time on that balcony - just listening to the waves, the wind chimes, and the quiet - than anywhere else. However, when I did leave the balcony - it was to eat at their incredible restaurant or chill out on their private beach. It was just days of fresh lobster, salmon, shirmp, vegetables, fruits, live music, mezcal, tequila, and tanning on the most perfect little beach enclave. The people who worked there were so kind, and even had a birthday surprise when I arrived. So basically, I will love this place forever and cannot wait to go back. Tulum is a emerging destination, and you can see that on the other side of the beach which is full of yoga retreats and fusion restaurants. What I loved most about Hotel Diamate K is that it retains a sense of being untouched by commercialism and modernity, in the best way. It's a rustic retreat from real life.
P.S. I also got the best massage of MY LIFE there. Outside, next to the Caribbean Sea, it was the first time in two years I didn't feel pain from my car accident. I think I can officially call this place heaven, because that was a miracle.
These? These are just gratuitous sunset shots. I really want everyone to experience Tulum, so if nothing else convinced you - these will.
Happy Travels, Babes!
You know what's better than being at home in your own bed? Honestly - almost nothing EXCEPT being in the perfect hotel bed. You know what I mean - you walk into your suite and see a king size bed with crisp white sheets and just the fattest pillows and you know, in that very moment, that you're going to have the best sleep of your life. That's what happened when I walked into my very own Surf Pad at Tower23 Hotel. Not to be dramatic or hyperbolic (even though I'm constantly both), but I saw the bed and said, "This is literally the best trip of my life." and I hadn't even opened the curtains to the balcony yet.
How do I describe a view that my camera could barely do justice in showing? I kind of can't - you have to see it for yourself. Pacific Beach is RIGHT THERE. You can smell the saltwater, see the locals surfing, and hear tourists on Crystal Pier. All of that - you get to take it all in while sipping on rum punch sent to your room by the nicest staff ever.
I did actually do things while I was in San Diego (my next post will be very sea lion-centric), but some of the best parts of this weekender away were getting to experience absolute calm. I love L.A., but I am not calm or serene in L.A. San Diego has this vibe of total chill that permeates the city. It helps that there's no traffic that makes you want to abandon your car (and all hope) while getting from the beach to the city, and back. It's a different pace there - one that I needed to recharge. My days was spent sleeping in, having coffee on the balcony while watching the waves crest and crash, and then moseying over to the deck to lounge in front of an even more expansive ocean view while reading. P.S. I finally finished Mindy Kaling's first book - the one I started 50 weeks ago.
On thing I didn't take advantage of at Tower23 Hotel that I wish I did was the free bikes they have for guests. I was honestly enjoying being lazy so much that I couldn't muster the strength to take a ride along the beach, but next time for sure. One thing I definitely want to take advantage of every day is the food at JRDN - especially the grilled pita bread with spicy hummus, herb goat cheese, and artichoke mascarpone ( my diet is like 86% hummus and cheese anyway) and the Tower23 Burger (I am very much a lapsed vegetarian).
The best sunset I've ever seen in my life was sitting with my mom on the caldera in Oia, Santorini - until this one. Why was this one better? I got to watch it from bed.