From Here To There {Chicago}

Over the summer I traveled to Chicago twice. While it isn’t one of my favorite cities, it offered up a nice variety of things to fill my time. What I loved most about this city is the beach area to the left of Navy Pier, I believe it is called North Beach. I took a nice walk around this part and it was so pretty! There were groups of people lounging on the beach, biking, playing volleyball and practicing cheerleading. There was also an area to play chess or checkers, I love when cities have an open of built in games for friends, or others enjoying their lunch.

The view flying into Midway is amazing, it was a nice welcome to the new (for me) city.

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The first hotel is stayed in was the Millennium Knickerbocker. There seems to be a lot of history from this hotel, and it had really nice rooms but on my last night someone was working in the utility closet right next to my room. This kept me up for half of the night, which annoyed me a bit since I had an early flight the next morning.  The best thing about the hotel was the bar though, the drinks were awesome and I love when there are nuts to snack on while chitchatting. I also really loved the vintage style elevator. I would give it a 3.5 out of 5.

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After checking into my hotel, I walked 2 blocks away to rent a bike and explore a bit. I went towards Navy Pier, and then it started to pour down rain. I got pretty soaked but eventually found another bike station and ran into the pier building. This was a nice time to explore the shops inside and buy some souvenirs for my siblings.

Once the rain stopped I rented another bike and went around the water to get a few blocks from Millennium Park. It was tucked away in a really cool spot with a large garden, field and around the corner from structures that sprayed water for children to play in. I loved the atmosphere of this part of the city, it made it feel like you were in the suburbs.

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IMG_9099I decided to walk a little more before getting another bike and was in awe at the beautiful structures and buildings. I made my way to the Chicago River, past the Chicago theatre and then to Magnificent Mile. Maybe one day I will be around to see the river turned green for St. Patricks day, although it still looked pretty green. It was a really great first day exploring the city. I highly recommend getting a daily pass for a bike. Each time you rent one you have 30 minutes to dock it at another bike station. Within 24 hours I used 6 bikes and it only cost $7, so worth it and you get great exercise!

 

The next day we went to an amazing restaurant for dinner, I believe it has been on Man Vs. Foods but I can’t remember the name of the place. Such a bummer because I would love to eat there again. Notice everyone else in the photo taking a picture of their meal. After my huge dinner, I needed a walk around the beach. It was a great end to a conference week in Chicago.

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The next time I visited Chicago, I stayed in the Hyatt Regency. Let me tell you, it was a huge hotel! I also had a great view from my room. There was basically no reason to leave, except I wanted to go shopping, so I left for a little while. I had also never enjoyed deep dish pizza, so I did that for the first time. I loved it. I could only have 1 slice because it was so large, but so very worth the extra calories. There was also an underground mall area right next to the hotel with great restaurants.

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I will be back again in the spring, so I am open to suggestions about what I should do!

Wedding Wednesday {Our Honeymoon}

Before I jump into it I have two things to mention.

1. I am SO excited to announce that I am now a Bride Blogger on Budget Savvy Bride! You can read my introductory post here, and check back every Tuesday to read my latest post! Those that have followed along for a while know how exciting this is for me as I begin my Wedding Planner adventure, and can tell how obsessed I am with all things wedding!

2. We mailed our Save The Dates yesterday! They are all sealed and delivered and I can’t wait to start hearing that people have received them. I got butterflies putting them into the mailbox!

Now onto the real post! I just realized I never mentioned that we officially have our honeymoon planned. About 2 months ago we put the down payment on our honeymoon and finalized the dates. It was pretty easy for us to decide exactly what we wanted to do, but deciding which itinerary was the hard part. I have mentioned before that we are going to Europe, we were in love when we went to Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels last summer which made it really easy for us to decide we wanted to go back.

But where should we go? I wanted Greece and Croatia, Dave wanted Italy. How were we going to be able to afford to make the both of us happy? I hoped a cruise would solve this problem. I started searching for any itinerary starting after July 4th so we would be able to celebrate my favorite holiday in the states, and have at least a week after the wedding to prepare for it. But then I decided it would be easier for someone else to step in and handle this portion.

I called my travel agent and told her the places we both wanted to go just to see if we could both get what we were looking for in one trip, I had a feeling it wouldn’t happen. She was able to find us about 10 options and it was up to us to decide what we wanted. We sat down with all of the itineraries, prices, and time frames and picked a top 3. Then we looked on Trip Advisor for each of the areas and made our final decision.

We will be leaving on July 8th for Rome and coming home from Paris on July 26th. I could not be more excited! We have one amazing itinerary, and I can’t even imagine the sights we will see. We decided to arrive in Rome 2 days before our cruise which gives us the chance to explore the city and relax before our days are filled with soaking in a new country everyday.

On July 11th we will board our cruise to start our sail around the Strait of Messina. During our cruise we will visit other ports in Italy, Malta, Greece, Croatia and Montenegro. After 11 amazing days, our cruise will end in Venice where we will spend another two nights touring the city. After all of this we left off on a Thursday, we had the option to go ahead and fly home (which would have still been amazing!) or travel more of Europe for the weekend.

We decided to fly from Venice to Paris and visit my BFF and her husband for the weekend! We are also going to try and go to Disneyland Paris since we didn’t make it last time we were there. We will be flying home early Sunday morning and I am so happy about having all direct flights!

Only 209 more days until this amazing trip, but I am even more excited for what is in 192 days!

Today is bittersweet because I am linking-up with Kristyn for the very last time. This is also very exciting because I will be co-hosting the link-up with Meg from Borrowed Heaven starting next week. Thank you, Kristyn for passing the link-up on to us, we will treat it well!

Be sure to come back next week and join your new hosts, there may even be a giveaway in store!

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Grab the new button for next week!

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From Here to There {Jamaica pt. 2}

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I am excited to finally be sharing the rest of our trip to Jamaica! I can’t believe it was already 2 months ago. I miss that amazing water, awesome drinks and quality time with Dave like anything. At least I get to relive it all over again as I share our fun times with all of you!

Our third day was the first day with actual plans. We had so many options everyday for games, activities, drinks, meals, etc and we had to start planning some of them if we wanted to do everything we had in mind. We also had to keep in mind which things were happening on certain days to keep everything in check.

jam 2 jamWe made sure to start getting up kind of early so we could experience the most amount of time around the resort. It was really nice waking up early one morning and walking around everywhere with Dave. Their was a slight run in with the largest spiders I have ever seen, but I quickly ran away (with tears in my eyes) and tried to avoid them at. all. cost.

After our morning touring the resort, we spent some more time at our favorite place- the pool bar. After getting a few drinks we were off to Dunns River Falls. We had heard from everyone to make sure we made the trip to the falls, and while I am really happy we did it wasn’t the best or what I imagined, more on that in another post though. I recommend bringing some drinks onto the bus, it’s about a half-hour away and why wait that long for some more rum punch? In the end we did have a good time.

We made it back just in time for the Newlywed game at the pool bar, and spent the rest of the afternoon soaking in the sun. We had reservations that night at Eight Rivers, which I highly recommend. If you are able to eat there more than once, do it! We started to order one of everything just to try it, and still ended up eating it all. After our great dinner we spent some more time walking around the resort, and realized the Buda pool was still open. Another perfect ending to an awesome day.

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We started the next day with Scuba Diving! So much fun! I have never been to water this beautiful, and the fish were all different colors. I really felt like I was transported to another world. I wish we would have went diving everyday, but afterwards we were exhausted. Which only meant laying down by the pool bar…are you seeing a trend here? After catching up on a little rest we were off to the catamaran trip!

This trip was the best thing we did the whole vacation! The waters were rough so we weren’t able to go swimming in a cove, but I didn’t care on bit. The rum punch was constantly flowing, the boat was rocking, and everyone was having a blast. I can’t even describe the color of the water out in this part of the ocean, it was like a royal, no teal, no more blue…like I said, I can’t even put it into words! We made some more friends on this trip, and I couldn’t have imagined the trip being any better. I also was called up on “stage” to learn all of the dances, I have no fear when it comes to dancing that is for sure.

That evening was the beach party, another really fun resort activity. There were tables, chairs, and twinkling lights put all over the beach and festive music was playing while everyone ate. The food was also spectacular! One of the resort staff we became good friends with told us to make sure I volunteered Dave when they asked for guys to take part in a game…so of course, I did.

We didn’t know it until he was on stage with 13 other guys that he was now a part of a dance competition! I was instantly nervous for him, Dave doesn’t mind dancing with me, but alone he isn’t the best (sorry, Dave! I hope you don’t read this). The winner was determined by the audience, so I was hopeful a few people would clap along with me. When it was his turn to rock out he blew me away! Barbie Girl was the song he had to move to and he did amazing! He pulled out all kinds of moves from Magic Mike to Dirty Dancing it was incredible. The crowd was digging it! He moved on the the final round, when I had to join him. Let me just say, they instantly handed us the grand prize 😉

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After such an eventful night we were prepared for another drink filled day the next morning and didn’t plan on doing too much, but that didn’t last long. A few of the people we met were going to another water fall and asked if we wanted to join. We were promised this would be what we were hoping to get from Dunn’s River, so we obliged. Blue Hole was the 2nd best thing we did the entire trip! We were able to freely climb the falls, swing on ropes, jump off cliffs and swim through waterfalls. It was completely perfect, and the best thing is it only cost $10 to do it! Soooo worth it!

Unfortunately this was our last day in paradise so we soaked in a few more hours around the resort and already started to miss our wonderful vacation. We had such a perfect time and I can’t wait to go back to Jamaica! We have a few more places to go in-between though!

Dave also made a great video to summarize our wonderful vacation! I’ll be posting more about the resort and things to do soon.

Wanderlust pt. 2

To go along with my top 7 places to visit outside of the United States from last week, I want to share my top 7 travel destinations from my bucket list within the United States. It’s pretty hard to pick only 7 because there are so many beautiful places within a 6ish hour plane ride. We are very lucky to be near so many airports, and I fully take advantage of that as often as I am able.

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Firebanks, Alaska- Can we all agree that the Northern Lights look amazing? I would love to experience first hand the beauty from under the stars and I have heard Firebanks is the #1 location for viewing. I would also like to visit other areas of Alaska and this would be a great reason to go.

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Charleston, South Carolina- This area of South Carolina looks incredibly charming. I love the older streets full of quaint shops, the nicer weather and the nautical feel of the restaurants. This would be the perfect getaway from Maryland for a weekend.

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Seattle, Washington- The culture, arts, and rainy days all seem to go together perfectly with a cup of coffee. I can also relate with the “12th man” that is the fan base for the Seahawks. I love how the fans really mean something to the players and the organization, as Ravens fan, I can relate 😉

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Portland, Oregon- The main reason for this one is the fashion style. I love the look of gals in vintage dresses and guys in skinny ties as their normal attire, and it looks like Portland has that going on. I have half planned a trip here many times and there are so many things to do outside, and then inside for the evening.

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Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida- If you want to escape to a national park about 60 miles from Key West, this is where you need to be. You are only able to arrive by boat, but once you get there prepare to experience magnificent blue waters, Fort Jefferson and coral reefs.

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Wine Country, California- This one speaks for itself I think. Out of the list this one is probably the most likely to happen within the next year. I would love to soak in the vineyards with good friends, great wine, and probably delicious cheese as well.

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Hawaii- I would be fine with just about any area of Hawaii. Every island has something nice to offer and I wouldn’t mind touring each of them for a few days. My number one reason for wanting to travel to Hawaii would be learning to surf, I know I could do it in other parts of the US but who wouldn’t want to learn in the beautiful waters on this coast.

 

To Paris With Love

For those of you that follow the blog I share with Dave, A Fox and His Anchor, you may have already read this post about our wonderful time in Europe that summer. Since I loved this trip so much, miss my bff so much lately, and wish I was feeling the excitement of counting down the days, I decided to post on this blog as well. I decided to only post about Paris though, I can talk more about Amsterdam and Brussels another day. Enjoy!

We will truly always have Paris. Our first big trip together was back in July 2013, we traveled to France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. This trip started as merely a thought about something I never knew would really happen. It was way for me to visit my best friend, Allison, who recently moved to Paris after she married an awesome Frechie,Oren, and spiraled from there. Dave and I decided it would be a great experience to go together, so I got to planning. Travel and planning are two of my favorite things to do thankfully, so I didn’t quite mind spent hours upon hours figuring out which airlines had the best deals, and figuring out what we needed to do (22 years old and I still didn’t have a passport, whaaat!).

On April 19th, we settled on the dates and purchased our tickets. Let the countdown begin! The next 3 months were spent getting things together, and thinking about things that needed to be planned. My life totally revolved around this trip, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I also warned Dave as many times as I could that I would most likely stress out and lose it at some point at the airport, during the layover, or on the plane.

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July 22nd finally arrived! We were greeted at the airport by a 2 hour delay, but luckily we had so much energy we were fine with waiting a little longer. Although, that 2 hour delay actually turned into us waiting in the airport for 12 hours, Paris was right at our fingertips! During the plane ride to Russia, where we had a layover, I experienced my first airplane meal and it actually wasn’t too bad. 14 hours after we were supposed to arrive in Paris, we landed. Unfortunately, our luggage wanted to stay in Russia after our layover. This might be the only time I ever say this, but Dave was right when he said pack everything in our carry-ons. Even with this slight set-back (and the lack of shoe options), we were so excited to turn the corner and see our friends that it didn’t even matter. I am also proud to say I didn’t have a panic attack during the chaos, and was able to remain fairly stress free. 

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Since we arrived fairly late we went to dinner, walked around the canal a bit, and then crashed. We needed to prepare for our first full day in Paris! As we drove around the city the next day I was in awe, I still couldn’t fully grasp that I was in France. Our friends, Allison and Oren, took us to the top of a department store (next to Galeries Lafayette) and we discovered a wonderful view of the city. We were able to see everything, from the Eiffel Tower to Montmartre. I highly recommend doing this, there were hardly any other people around so we were able to spend as much time as we wanted for a photo shoot.  

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We continued to walk around to sightsee and see as much as we could. We walked by the Opera where someone was playing piano on the steps and it was beautiful, but unfortunately like the rest of Paris in July, it was under construction. Dave had never tried a Macaroon until our next stop. I have had them before, but never this good. They were so fresh and flavorful, I highly recommend going to Paris if not for anything but these lovely little treats.

Our first experience around the Louvre Museum was perfect. Like everyone else we of course had to be tourists and take a picture like we were holding the pyramid. I’ve always imagined being here and experiencing the culture around the area, and in no way did it disappoint. Everywhere we walked was so quaint and filled with culture. Across the street from the museum is a courtyard with columns of different heights, so we had another opportunity for pictures. There was a short rainstorm as we trekked the area, but that made everything even better at the time. Everyone was huddled under cover at restaurants, or walking around with their umbrellas. Picture Perfect. That night we went to the best restaurant I have ever been to, and ate the best meal I have ever had.

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One of the coolest experiences of my life so far was visiting Notre Dame. I was amazed by the architecture. The building design in general is amazing, but when you look at every little detail it is mind blowing. Surrounding the property is the Seine, which was transformed into a beach for Paris Plage. The entire area is breathtaking. After I thought my day couldn’t get any better we had our first of several crepes. Banana and Nutella with a coke please. If only food like this was around in Baltimore.6

We traveled to Brussels and Amsterdam over the weekend, you can read about Brussels here.

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After our vacation inside of a vacation, it was July 29th, which was mine and Dave’s first anniversary. Being in Paris for our anniversary wasn’t planned, so we knew it was meant to be. We did some exploring on our own during the day, enjoying each others company. Starting off with a stop at a bakery and some metro rides (woohoo we did it on our own, thanks to directions in English from Allison). We went to the Louve in the morning to enjoy our pastries and explore the inside. I had no idea the Mona Lisa was so small! Afterwards we walked towards the Eiffel Tower, and the famous lock bridge. I got a lock before our trip (told ya I planned everything) unfortunately I forgot to get one with a key, I was only focused on the color, purple of course. I hate to admit it but this was the only day I stressed out, but it as because we couldn’t use our credit card to rent bikes which we really wanted to do. Way to go Bank of America. The original plan was to go to Disneyland Paris for dinner, but some rainy weather came our way and we decided to stay in with Allison and Oren and make dinner. We brought them Old Bay, so of course we had some seafood. Eating in was nice since I don’t think I have ever walked as much as I did that day.

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On our last full day we went to Palace of Versailles. The line to go into the main building was about 4 hours long, so we stayed on the outside in the gardens. Allison has heard about an area of the Gardens where Marie Antoinette had her own Hamlet. It was beautiful. So many little houses, smaller gardens and a pond full of fish. It is crazy to think that she had the area built to use as her escape from life. She even had people living there to make it seem as real as possible to her.

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That night we went to Montmartre and had some gelati as we walked around the quaint little village area. There were so many artists, and people selling toys for kids and beer for adults. Everyone seemed so happy, there was even a bride and groom having pictures taken (the 3rd we spotted during our trip). Off in the distance was the Eiffel Tower glowing in the darkness. As we walked down the 300 steps we could see an amazing view of the entire area. I will have that image in my head forever.

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20Unfortunately our last day arrived and we only had two more places to go. We visited the area where Rodin had his sculptures, along with the Thinking Man, and finished sightseeing the city by going to Luxembourg Garden. The kids (or adults) could rent wind powered boats and sail them around the fountain, it reminded me of Stuart Little. The kids were having so much fun, and not using any technology it was nice to see something similar to life before video games and texting, its so easy to overlook simple. This whole trip reminded me that simple things can be great, and memorable. I was so lucky to have the opportunity to go on this vacation with Dave to visit our friends, Allison and Oren.

There we a few things we didn’t get to do, like see the Eiffel Tower up close at night, ride bikes, or toss a key into the Seine, but I know we will be back.

Why I Used A Travel Agent

 

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I am a planner. I plan pretty much every aspect of my life, and while it drives everyone around me crazy sometimes, I just can’t help it. So when it was brought up to possibly meet with a travel agent for a trip to Jamaica, I didn’t really know how to feel. Dave and I went to a travel agency jut to see what prices we could get for a trip I had already inquired about through Expedia and Orbitz. Come to find out it was about the same price. So here are the five reasons I chose to let a travel agent do all of the work.

1- She knew exactly what we wanted, right away. All I had to do was say we wanted a beach with a swim up pool bar and instantly she gave us a book about Jamaica. I had been looking at Mexico, Aruba and Jamaica for months deciding where we should go, or trying to decide at least. Once she handed us the book about all of the wonderful aspects of the culture and the people, we knew we were in!

2- We were able to go to a nicer place then what I looked at, with more included for the same price. The travel agent recommended a Couples resort in Ocho Rios, which I had looked at but only for a second. It is an hour away from the Montego Bay airport, and I didn’t feel like paying for transportation for that long of a distance. When we land, please just get a drink in my hand. The agent explained that there is a lounge for all Couples guests in the airport, and a “booze” bus would be taking us to the resort. I was practically sold after that.

3- Insurance. I know all about travelers insurance, and after our mishap of losing luggage in France, I never want to deal with it again. When our agent mentioned that insurance was included in the price we were quoted I was blown away. When she said it was all of her responsibility if something goes wrong, I wanted to hug her. So no matter what she will handle all of the phone calls, all of the emails and all of the harassing that may need to happen. We always can cancel at anytime and get all of our money back. Perfect!

4- Ability to make payments. One thing I don’t like about making my own reservations is having to pay for everything up front. As it is tax time, I will absolutely have the extra money, but not quite yet. We made a deposit and now have up until 45 days before our trip to have it all paid off!

5- All I need to do is show up. This is my favorite part about this trip. Everytime I make the arrangements I have about 4 folders with information, and feel the need to plan an itinerary and all of that. This is different, all I need to do is pay for the trip and hold on to the tickets that get mailed to me. How wonderful is that?!

What about you? Have you used a travel agent?