After a grueling few months for Matt and I, we jetted off for a long Easter weekend to Bermuda. It’s only an hour and half flight from New York!
Everything was lovely. The weather, the people, the food, the BEACH! We didn’t realize how much we missed the ocean until we spent the day reading and catching some vitamin D on a (pink) sandy beach. The island itself — in style and architecture — was a cross between colonial Williamsburg and Hawaii.
While we were only there three days, we definitely plan to go back and explore this beautiful island.
San Francisco is one of the most expensive cities to live in in the United States, but also one of the more culturally rich and diverse. This makes it a great destination for a vacation. There’s a little bit of everything for everyone: fashion, outdoors, eats, and an interesting history. It’s hard to know what’s worth dropping the dough on and what to pass up in order to get the most out of vacation money and time.
The significant lover and I scored a sweet deal on tickets with Virgin Airlines to SF and booked them for what the locals claim to be the best month for consistent weather: October. If you have never flown Virgin, I would highly recommend it — and don’t forget to pack your headphones. From the cool purple lights to the sexy flight attendant uniforms, even a domestic coach seat feels a bit luxurious.
Our adventure began on a Wednesday morning, touching down just before eight thirty a.m., and ended when we took off the following Saturday. We found three whole days to be a good amount of time to be in the city, but certainly not enough time to see everything. Tips: Wherever you walk in the city, do remember to look up. The architecture in San Francisco creates an urban art gallery showcasing styles from art deco to Victorian. Be mindful of bicyclists; they own the road possibly more than the cars do.
Ferry Building: One can score all of the day’s necessities at this historic landmark, and it’s a great place to be introduced to the history behind the port city. Whether you wish to splurge on exceptional chowder (see Seafood) or grab a ham and Mt. Tam sandwich at Cowgirl Creamery, the Ferry Building hits the mark for foodies. Come on a Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday morning and you can grab a cup of Blue Bottle coffee while you collect picnic goodies at their farmers’ market.
Seafood: As SF is the west coast land of clam chowder, don’t pass up the opportunity to warm up with a bread bowl full of the creamy goodness from the original Boudin or along the Fisherman’s Wharf seafood carts. If you have money to splurge, go to Hog Island Oysters at the Ferry Building where the clams are so fresh that the shells still float atop the chowder!
Golden Gate Bridge: Yes, this is a must. For the adventurer, rent a bike to ride across. Not so adventurous? The viewpoint right at the toll gives a firsthand look at the impressive engineering as well as a perfect place to snap postcard-perfect photos.
Union Square: Stay in this neighborhood but don’t shop (their mall is only a bigger version of your hometown’s). The neighborhood is central with easy access public transportation. Pick up a 3-day Muni Passport (not the CityPass) at the Walgreens for $20 and it will get you everywhere you want to go. The Muni Passport even works for the historic cable cars, which normally costs $6 per ride.
Chinatown: Fun souvenirs and $2 pics with the fortune cookie maker to be had. Don’t be intimidated by the bustling streets, but pop into a bakery and grab a xiao pao — a steamed bun filled with anything from pork to chicken or veggies.
Golden Gate Park: Here is a great escape from the busy city and a great place to picnic and eat all the goodies you picked up at the farmers’ market. Take a stroll through one of the many gardens and know that you don’t have time to see it all. The De Young Museum has an amazing art collection for the creative enthusiast; however, the Japanese Tea Garden allows guests to slow down and rest with a cup of jasmine tea. If science or learning about ecosystems is your thing, visit the California Academy of the Sciences and start your tour there with the biodome — the biggest and busiest part of the museum.
Dottie’s: You’ll know by the line wrapped around this brick building that it’s worth the hour wait, even if the neighborhood is a bit dingy. With a menu of fresh baked goods and specials that include wild boar sausage and pumpkin french toast, you’ll leave with a full belly and a smile on your face. The owner who is always on site and cooking in the kitchen prides himself on serving you a hot meal. Notice your server won’t stay with you long, just to ensure that no plate sits under a heat lamp!
Three days may not be enough time to uncover all the avenues of Frisco but there’s magic in a place that you can return to through the years and discover something new each time. Relaxed, renewed, and maybe a just tad homesick, we boarded our plane home with satisfied grins.
Northern California’s wine country, spanning the Sonoma Coast to the town of Napa, is home to some of the most beautiful vistas. Whether it is the fog rolling in over the rock-studded ocean or lush vineyards pressed against the ever-impressive redwood forest, it is no wonder that this part of the country begs you to sit down with a glass of wine in hand and take in the magic with all of your senses.
The unique environment allows you to be as rustic or as pampered as you like. The Bodega Dunes alone have 98 campsites. Hiking trails and equestrian trail rides are riddled through the mountains and along cliff sides. Napa Valley, on the other hand, is studded with spas and charming bed-and-breakfast cottages amongst the vines.
The vines are of course the biggest draw about this part of California. With such a diverse coupling of microclimates and soils, a wide range of grape can take root, making it a paradise for both the sommelier and the wino. For instance, the Russian River Valley of Sonoma raises up superior Chardonnay and Pinot Noir fruit while the summit of Mount Veeder breeds Malbec and Merlot.
Which leads me to one of my favorite stops during my recent trip: The Hess Collection vineyard and winery nestled in beautiful manzanita and redwood forest. Founded by Swiss entrepreneur Donald Hess, the grounds have the elegance of European gardens paired with a cultivated museum of contemporary art. Of all the wineries, this is the perfect place to splurge on a wine pairing tour — their wine and cheese pairing is exceptional! History buffs will love to learn about the story behind the vineyard as well as the trials and tribulations experienced during prohibition.
If you plan on picnicking while touring Napa, stop in town at Dean & Deluca to pick up gourmet cheeses, chocolates and more. Don’t get too crazy — the price tag is heavy so save yourself a couple bucks on crackers and fruit by picking those up at the nearby Trader Joe’s.
For Bordeaux and Merlot, head to Duckhorn Vineyards for a leisurely tasting on the wrap-around porch. But for the best views of Napa Valley and postcard photo opps, stop at Sterling Vineyards. They even have an aerial tram up to the winery. Once at the top of the hill, it’ll be quite a challenge to peel yourself away from the beautiful sights from their patio tables.
Darioush Vineyards offers an untraditional ambiance inspired by the art and wonders of the Persian culture. Passing through the free standing columns topped with capital bulls, you’re welcomed to a luxurious visit. Turkish pistachios, copies of Rumi for sale, and wine bottles adorned with iconic Persian art; I was in love. I couldn’t quite help but think that they had taken Rumi to heart when he wrote, “Any wine will get you high. Judge like a king, and choose the purest.”
With well over 400 wineries and vineyards, travelling through Northern California wine country is not the place for amateur hour. Take your time, enjoy. Here the grape grows, the wine ferments, and the earth finally gets its opportunity to be tasted and honored.
As many of you may know, I recently took a trip to Europe for ten days with my family. Now, at this point you might be thinking, “Wait, aren’t you the Broke But Bougie girl? How can you afford to go to Europe? Hypocrite much?!”
Everybody calm down. I didn’t just decide to take this trip on a whim. It’s something that my family and I had been planning for well over six months. Because we had so much time to plan and prep, we were looking at about seven months to save that dolla dolla bill.
Also, I’m a married lady. My hubs and I both work full time so we are able to save money from two different incomes. We did go into what my husband Matt calls “austerity measures” a couple months before departing. Basically, any money that we would normally use for things like easy dinners out, movies, or impulse buys at Target, was squirreled away. That money was set aside to spend on the trip. Also, now that the trip is over and it’s getting closer to the end of the month, austerity measures have been reinstated. They will be lifted soon and I’m looking forward to a couple hot dates!
It is completely true that when traveling, you will need half the clothes and twice the amount of money that you think you will. (Thanks, Mom!) This little nugget of wisdom prompted us to only take one carry-on each for the entire ten days. I kept thanking myself because we changed airlines every half hour en route to and from Europe and that never bodes well for checked luggage.
(Picture by my lovely sister, Teresa Lappert!)
We also set limits to the amount of money we would spend at each city. We wanted to make sure we had enough money to last us the entire trip without pinching too many pennies toward the later half of the trip. This kept our spending under control and we didn’t make any impulse buys. We also set money aside to take my family out to dinner a couple times to thank them for getting our room reservations!
All this to say, we didn’t just drop cash and fly to Europe. We planned our trip, bought our tickets way in advance, and made sure that our limited budget went as far as possible. Do you have any tips for saving money for trips and vacations?