Seas the Day, Part 2

We cruised in the Caribbean aboard the beautiful Carnival Vista, one of Carnival’s newest and largest ships. It was my third cruise with Carnival, and it was my best one yet! I’ve always had a positive experience with Carnival, and our 6-night voyage on the Vista was exceptional. Everything felt new and modern, and the staff was so gracious and helpful.

This was the first time we decided to get a balcony room, and honestly, I’ll never cruise again without one! My husband and I enjoyed it immensely–we loved reading outside in the warm ocean breeze or watching the vibrant sunsets with a cold glass of champagne. Pictured above is one of the most colorful sunsets that we witnessed at sea.

I think there’s a certain stigma that exists around cruise line food–some love it, some hate it. I’ve honestly never had a bad food experience on any of Carnival’s ships, and the Vista’s food even exceeded my expectations.

For example, Guy Fieri has two restaurants aboard the Vista: Guy’s Burger Joint and Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse. We didn’t have a chance to dine at the burger option, but that’s probably because we ate at the Smokehouse twice! My husband and I love barbecue food, and the pork was excellent (also the mac and cheese!).

Coincidentally, Guy Fieri himself was aboard the Vista the same week as us (if you’re a fan, he has pics of his trip on Instagram). My husband saw him at the casino several nights, but didn’t want to bug him for a photo (pics or it didn’t happen? 😉).

One evening we paid extra to eat at the ship’s steakhouse, and it was worth every penny! The four-course meal was elegant and well-prepared, from the flavorful French onion soup to my medium rare filet mignon.

Dessert was especially theatrical and unlike anything I’d ever seen. I included the video above of the dessert we shared, which they called “Art at the Table.” This tableside masterpiece mixed such a variety of tastes and textures, from the “drawings” made of tart passionfruit syrup to the sweet, white chocolate ball. My husband likened the white chocolate ball to an artistic, adult version of those Wonder Ball candies he ate as a kid.

Sunflower Bikini: Forever 21 (similar)

On our days at sea we lounged in the Serenity, the adults-only area of the ship. It was definitely serene, and the cabana-like pods were a cozy spot for two!

Dress: Spense (similar here and here) Heels: Nine West (similar) Clutch: Halogen Watch: Marc by Marc Jacobs (similar)

I wore this fabulous red dress for the ship’s formal night. There was definitely a variety of attire amongst the passengers–some wore full suits and long gowns, though I would say most women wore cocktail dresses and most men opted for a collared shirt, slacks, and no blazer or jacket.

This A-line dress was a TJ Maxx find from last year, so I linked similar silhouettes above!

Bikini Top: Cupshe Wrap Skirt: Band of Gypsies (similar here and here)

Our first stop was in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. We had this be our casual, beach day, so we didn’t book any excursions.

My floral wrap skirt from Band of Gypsies was a breezy and effortless cover-up. The lightweight crepe fabric was such a practical choice for the humidity and strolling on the beach.

We had lunch at Margaritaville and really enjoyed the Jamaican jerk chicken and jerk pork tacos. The Jamaicans we met were so friendly and outgoing, and I would definitely love to come back here in the future to spend more time on this beautiful island.

Our next stop was the island of Grand Cayman. We booked an excursion through Carnival to the Cayman Crystal Caves. Our tour guide was so energetic and knowledgeable, and we had a wonderful morning trekking through the caves and learning about all the rock formations. Do you see the skull shape that the stalactites and stalagmites make in the picture above? 💀

There were bats in some of the caves, but our guide told us they were fruit bats, not vampire bats. Nevertheless, I definitely walked quickly through the cave they called “the bat cave” because I get pretty squirmy and uncomfortable around bats!

Hands down our favorite was the one they call “the lake cave” (shown above). Look at all those stunning shades of blue in the water! And please excuse how sweaty we look, but between the hiking and the humidity we were definitely glistening (hah 😉).

Our last port of call was the island of Cozumel, Mexico. We booked an excursion called “La Casa en La Playa” through Carnival’s website, and this peaceful, ocean-side retreat more than lived up to the amazing reviews we read online.

They keep the group small for this excursion, which makes this perfect for those who want a relaxing day in paradise. A private chef cooks you an authentic, Mexican lunch, and whether you’re hanging out in the ocean or the pool, the staff brings you tasty drinks and fruity cocktails at your leisure (lunch and drinks are included in the price of the excursion).

My husband and I love tropical vacations where we can swim in the warm ocean and lounge on the beach, so this was truly an idyllic day for us.

Hat: BP (similar options) Bikini Top: Target (similar) Swimsuit Bottoms: Cupshe

This hat I found at Nordstrom Rack earlier this year, and I love these playful styles with sayings embroidered on! I found on Amazon a large selection of similar hats with a variety of sayings and puns.

I enjoy mixing and matching swimwear, and I especially like strapless, bandeau-style bikinis to avoid tanlines.

Jumpsuit: Monteau (similar here, here, and here) Earrings: Nordstrom Rack (similar)

This striped jumpsuit is one of my favorite looks from the trip. It was a recent TJ Maxx find, and I’ve linked comparable black-and-white options above. I’ve been loving jumpsuits the last few years (they’re so cool and chic!). I’ve seen tons of different prints and silhouettes recently, from so many brands at various price points.

I hope you got some inspiration for your next tropical getaway! Thank you so much for stopping by, and please comment if you have any questions about our cruise. What are your favorite vacation spots? 🌴

Seas the Day: Part 1

After a brief blog hiatus for vacation, I’m so excited to share our recent travels! Part 1 will consist of our time in Miami; Part 2 will cover our Caribbean cruise aboard the beautiful Carnival Vista and the three islands we visited.

We traveled to Miami for our dear friends’ wedding. My husband was a groomsman, and the wedding guest dress code was formal. As such, I knew from the beginning that I wanted to wear a long dress. However, given the hot Miami weather and humidity, I also knew I wanted a lightweight fabric, and a color or print that evoked a summer vibe.

I found this gorgeous yellow dress at Nordstrom several months ago, and it checked off every single one of my dress requirements. It’s by the brand Eliza J, which makes truly beautiful dresses: long formal gowns, cocktail attire, flowy sundresses, and more. I found it on sale on the Nordstrom website (40% off! Yay!) with a few sizes still available. I also saw it on the Lord and Taylor website (only one size left).

I’ve linked here a comparable dress by Eliza J, also in a lovely yellow print. There are a variety of sizes available for this option. I’ve also linked here a long dress with a similar silhouette by Eliza J, available in two colors (mint and pink) that would be wonderful for summer weddings and bridal showers.

This dress was perfect for the elegant reception at the InterContinental Miami, a modern and glamorous hotel located downtown. The ballroom had a beautiful view overlooking the water and of the nearby skyscrapers.

We stayed at Hotel Victor, a lovely art-deco hotel on the iconic Ocean Drive in South Beach. We also stayed there two years ago on our last trip to Miami, and its proximity to the beach, restaurants, and shops makes it an ideal location. I’m pictured above in the lobby of the hotel before we headed downtown for our friends’ wedding.

Adjacent to Hotel Victor is the flashy and decadent Sugar Factory, a restaurant and sweetshop. They have multiple locations all over the world and are known for their rich food, elaborate desserts, and celebrity appearances.

They have an extensive list of drinks and cocktails, and our favorites are the goblets filled with dry ice. Available with or without alcohol, these colorful drinks are a cool, refreshing treat to beat the Miami heat (and the drink poured over the dry ice produces a dramatic smoky effect!). We enjoyed the Watermelon Patch on our last visit (pictured above!), complete with gummy watermelon candies.

I also loved the rainbow sliders. I sent a picture of them to my brother, and he said they reminded him of the “Pretty Patties” featured on Spongebob. Definitely a fitting comparison, and almost all the kids that walked by our table excitedly pointed at my colorful lunch!

One-piece swimsuit: Heat Swim (similar) Panama Hat: J. Crew (similar) Sunglasses: Circus by Sam Edelman (similar)

We always have a great time on South Beach, the iconic stretch of bustling beach perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and people-watching! The water was very warm and comfortable to swim in, but we actually saw a couple small sharks!

Allegedly they were “nurse sharks” (the ones we saw were about 5 feet in length) and are regularly seen on the Florida coast, though they’re not particularly aggressive unless provoked or stepped on. Nevertheless, our group got out of the water after that!

Next door to Hotel Victor is the famous Versace Mansion, once the glamorous Miami home of Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace. Now called the Villa Casa Casuarina, it operates as a luxury hotel and restaurant. According to Vogue, it’s “the third most photographed home in America, after the White House and Graceland.”

My husband and I watched American Crime Story: the Murder of Gianni Versace earlier this year, and many scenes from the critically-acclaimed series were filmed on location there.

Jumpsuit: Flying Tomato (similar cropped-length jumpsuits here and here) Panama Hat: J. Crew (similar) Sandals: Michael Antonio (similar) Sunglasses: Quay Australia (similar)

Gianni Versace once said: “Don’t be into trends. Don’t make fashion own you, but you decide what you are, what you want to express by the way you dress and the way you live.” I’ve long admired these words from this inspiring fashion icon, whose life was so tragically cut short but whose legacy lives on.

Hope you have a great week and thank you for stopping by! This weekend I’ll post Part 2 of our trip about our Caribbean cruise and island hopping. 🌴

And So With the Sunshine

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“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” –from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Something about summer is always rejuvenating–from the sunny days outside by the water, barbecues with family and friends, to tropical vacations in exotic places. It’s busy and relaxing all at once.

I re-read Gatsby every few years. Like thousands of American students, I first read it in high school and was blown away by this classic tale of lost love and broken dreams. I studied it again in college and grad school, and it’s truly one of my favorite novels about disillusionment, the American Dream, and that futile attempt to recapture the past.

I’ll do a more in-depth post on this novel soon, but this summer quote seemed perfect for this week’s post. 4th of July always feels like the real kick-off of summer, and the weather in Oregon starts to get consistently sunny.

I’ve been in the pool every chance I get and thought this would be the perfect time to talk swimwear and pool accessories (how adorable are these little drink floaties by Blush? They look so sweet floating in the water 😍 As a kid, I definitely would’ve commandeered these for my Barbie dolls).

We also have an upcoming trip to Miami and the Caribbean, so I’m starting to put together outfits and swim attire.

I’m obsessed with all the pineapple prints and accessories that have been rampant the last couple years–from bikinis to home decor, this trend is truly everywhere.

Bikini:CupshePineapple Floaty: Nordstrom (similar) Sunglasses: Ray-Ban

How many pineapples can I squeeze into one picture? 😉

This pineapple floaty I purchased at Nordstrom last year, and my pineapple swimsuit was an Amazon find by the brand Cupshe. I love Cupshe’s swimwear–adorable prints and styles at affordable price points.

Bikini: OP (similar here and here) Sunglasses: Ray-Ban (similar)

I also love neon colors for swimwear. I tend to wear a lot of neutrals in my day-to-day life, so one area I reach for bright colors is with swimwear. This classic string bikini is by OP, and I linked similar styles. My husband and I were at Tao Beach Club in Vegas in the above picture (located at the Venetian, which is one of our favorite places to stay!)

Bikini: Cupshe Sunglasses: Ray-Ban

This was on another Vegas trip when we were staying at Caesar’s Palace (their pool is by far my favorite on The Strip). I love this swimsuit from Cupshe, and I purchased the set on Amazon for under $20! I love the crisscross detailing of the top and the fun leaf print.

One-piece Swimsuit:BillabongDenim Shorts: Forever 21 (similar) Panama Hat: J. Crew (similar options here and hereSunglasses: Ray-Ban

This black number is one of my go-to swimsuits right now. It’s a one-piece by Billabong and is still available on Amazon in multiple sizes and colors. My Panama hat is from J Crew and is a timeless classic.

I love how one-piece swimsuits are back in style, and they’re so great to pair with denim shorts for an effortless summer look.

Give me some sun and a good book, and I call that a perfect Saturday! ☀️ Wishing you all a wonderful weekend!

Travel Series: La Bella Italia, Part 1

img_2707“The Creator made Italy from designs by Michaelangelo.” Mark Twain

In the beautiful land of Italy, there is SO MUCH to see and do–and, of course, eat! Each region has its unique charm, with its own impressive history, culture, and landscape. I would be remiss if I didn’t say that. For the purposes of this post and the next one, I’m going to share several memorable highlights and recommendations.

Part 1: Venice, Florence, Pisa, and Lucca.

Part 2: Rome, Vatican City, and Pompeii (and also my usual “what to pack” feature)

Like my previous travel posts on London and Paris, this is not intended to be a comprehensive guide; instead I’ll be sharing specific insights, experiences, and things that I enjoyed. Italy is truly a gorgeous country with such a rich, varied history, and this would be a HUGE post if I tried to include every city or site that I’ve visited there.

Venice

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I’m starting with my favorite Italian city, which novelist Thomas Mann once called “half fairy tale and half tourist trap” (but don’t let the latter description dissuade you from visiting). There’s something inherently romantic about Venice, with its winding streets, narrow waterways, and complete lack of cars. My husband and I were newlyweds when we strolled through these ancient streets and floated in a gondola down the Grand Canal, so I will admit that it’s possible I’m a bit partial!

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We were so taken by the city’s irresistible charm, and our private gondola ride at sunset was worth every euro. The pastel buildings lining the canal matched the soft pinks and blues of the Venice sky, and the air was warm, with a comfortable breeze… Some would argue it’s not worth the steep price, as it’s around €100 for 50 minutes if you go in the evening after 7pm (which, in my opinion, is the perfect time to go, particularly in the summer months when it can get quite hot during the daytime). However, I couldn’t disagree more, as it was an iconic experience that we will never forget.

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We also very much enjoyed the sites at Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square). From the opulence of the Doge’s Palace, to the intricate golden mosaics inside St. Mark’s Basilica, and the hustle and bustle of the Piazza itself, the grandeur and magnitude of this historic area is truly a sight to behold.

We loved the view of the Piazza from the Basilica’s balcony–the stairs are steep but I definitely recommend! The horses on the balcony are replicas of the Roman originals, which were first placed on the balcony in 1204 but are now on display inside the church to preserve the bronze material. The lion statue I’m sitting beside is located next to the Basilica, as the lion is a symbol of St. Mark.

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This giant canvas painting is Il Paradiso, and is one of the many exquisite works inside the Doge’s Palace. This particular oil painting is the largest of its kind in the world.

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The above picture is the view through the tiny openings in the limestone windows on the Bridge of Sighs. This infamous bridge connects the Doge’s Palace and the prison. The idea behind the name is that the prisoners would breathe a sad sigh as they glimpsed their last views of Venice before being sentenced or imprisoned. Lord Byron, the English romantic poet, once wrote about this very site: “I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs; a palace and a prison on each hand.”

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On a less somber note, we enjoyed lunch nearby in the Piazza at the famous Caffè Florian, which is Italy’s oldest cafe at nearly 300 years old. Casanova, Lord Byron, Dickens, and other noteworthy individuals all frequented here once upon a time, so you’re in historic company! The live music and view of the square is an idyllic locale for a nice lunch and people watching.

I adored the charming hotel we stayed at, Hotel Antiche Figure, whose building dates back to the 15th century. The lovely suite we were in was decorated in an elegant Venetian style. It had a balcony overlooking the Grand Canal, and one of the hotel’s employees told us the balcony itself was over 400 years old!

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People often refer to Venice as a maze, and indeed its narrow, winding streets and alleys certainly give it that feel and make it very easy to get lost! Give yourself ample time if you have to be somewhere by a particular hour.

For our guided tour of the Doge’s Palace first thing one morning, we left early (and we did indeed get turned around a couple times! Pictured above is my husband with his trusty map). Yet we were rewarded with the site of Piazza San Marco in the early morning light, nearly devoid of tourists. Losing yourself in this city and exploring its streets can truly be one of the most enjoyable and romantic things about it.

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Florence

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Michelangelo’s David is probably Florence’s most famous “resident,” and this seventeen-foot statue did not disappoint. From the exquisite detail of his face and body to his towering height, I completely understand why he’s one of Michelangelo’s most famous masterpieces.

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Florence’s Duomo is, of course, one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks. This Gothic cathedral was completed in 1436, over a hundred years after construction first began. Its giant dome glows a vibrant orange when the sunlight hits it at dusk.

Nearby is the San Lorenzo Market, which gave us a great taste of the Italian market scene (Somehow I didn’t take any pictures! Too busy shopping!). Florence is known for its leather goods, so at the market I purchased a brown leather jacket that is extremely soft and comfortable. There were SO many to choose from that it was honestly a bit overwhelming.

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Pictured above is one of the oldest copies in existence of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Being an English major who also studied medieval lit in college, this was a really cool experience to visit Dante’s home and see this centuries-old text.

We also visited the Gucci Museo, as the Italian fashion house Gucci was founded in Florence in 1921. I love fashion history almost as much as I love seeing early editions of classic literature, so perusing this museum was a real treat (pictured above: a set of classic Gucci trunks and an old Gucci Cadillac!).

However, earlier this year the Gucci Museo was reopened as the Gucci Garden, after being renovated and transformed. They still have a museum and shop, but they also added the Gucci Osteria, a brand new restaurant run by a three-Michelin-starred chef. Next time I’m in Florence I definitely plan on stopping by to see what they’ve done to the place!

Pisa

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Visiting the iconic Leaning Tower was bucket list for me. It was particularly special because when I was a little girl my grandfather would tell me that a favorite memory of his travels with my grandma was when they ate pizza across from the Leaning Tower of Pisa (notice the alliteration there? 😉). The opportunity to do that was truly special, especially since it’s been about a decade since my grandparents both passed away.

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The Leaning Tower was originally built as the bell tower for the nearby cathedral, but because of flaws in the original architecture, its infamous tilt made it become the world-renowned landmark that it is today. There are roughly 300 stairs to get to the top, and it’s definitely a bit disorienting, as the tilt is quite noticeable as you climb. However, just look at that panoramic view!

Lucca

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I didn’t know much about the Tuscan city of Lucca before our visit, but it came highly recommended by our travel agent to do as a day trip while we were staying in nearby Pisa. And truth be told, our afternoon here remains among my favorite memories of Italy.

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Lucca is noteworthy because of its large, intact walls that date back to the Renaissance (though its earliest walls were first built by the Romans, and then rebuilt and fortified multiple times in the many centuries since then). It’s unique that their walls still remain, since most cities in Tuscany removed their old fortifications long ago as the cities and populations grew over time.

We rented bikes at a local shop and rode them on the picturesque street that sits atop the wide walls. The view of the old town inside the walls and the beautiful greenery that lines the promenade makes this city feel like something out of a dream. If you’re staying in Pisa and have a spare day or afternoon, I encourage you to visit this lovely place.

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I’m continuing my Travel Series with Part 2 of La Bella Italia on Sunday. I’ll be sharing Rome, Vatican City, Pompeii, and what to pack!

I would love to hear your favorite sites in Italy in the comments, or places there that you dream of visiting (our next Italy trip we hope to see the Cinque Terre and Capri!).

Happy Friday! I’ll leave you with two photos of my favorite Italian foods to take you into the holiday weekend (Gelato and spaghetti! YUM). Thank you for stopping by!

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Travel Series: London Town

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“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” –Samuel Johnson

London is definitely one of those cities I will visit as many times as I can in my life. From the lively theatre scene in the West End to the cultural significance of Westminster to the grand tradition of afternoon tea, the sights and sounds of this historic city captivated my heart. Being an English major and a lifelong fan of British lit, I was truly inspired.

Like last week’s travel post on Paris, this is not intended to be a comprehensive guide; instead I’ll be sharing specific insights, experiences, and things that I enjoyed. Also, in honor of the Royal Wedding this weekend, I will be sharing our visit to Windsor Castle, which is where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will be married.

Theatre

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First of all, it had always been bucket list for me to see a play at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (pictured above). We saw Much Ado About Nothing and absolutely loved it (for more info on this play, check out my first blog post).

A bit of advice: I studied quite a bit of Shakespeare in college, whereas my husband, who majored in the sciences, hadn’t been exposed to any Shakespeare since high school. So in order to prepare for the play, we read it together before our trip and also watched the Kenneth Branagh film adaptation. Since Elizabethan English is quite different from modern English, I highly recommend doing this, unless you’re a Shakespeare expert or quite familiar with the play you’re going to see.

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We also saw Les Misérables at the Queen’s Theatre and Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre. Both musicals are longtime favorites of mine. I admit that I cried at the end of Les Mis, despite that I know the story and songs very well. And though I’d seen Phantom live in the US on four previous occasions, it was an entirely new experience to sit under the famous chandelier when it drops.

We would’ve loved to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child as well, and even though we tried to buy tickets months and months in advance, they are so hard to get! However, we did have a magical (pun intended!) Harry Potter experience at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour.

Harry Potter Studio Tour

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Growing up, I was a Harry Potter fanatic (hmmm where was my Hogwarts letter?). When each new installment was published, my parents would drive me at midnight to a nearby bookstore so I could be among the first to read the latest book (I would definitely be a Ravenclaw).

Anyway, visiting the gorgeous sets where the Harry Potter movies were filmed made me feel like I was ten years old again and seeing the movie for the very first time. They truly transport you to the Wizarding World and beautifully illustrate how the costumes, sets, and special effects make the magic come alive. Allow at least three hours here, especially because the line to get into the Great Hall, where the tour begins, can get quite long (even if you purchased tickets in advance like we did).

Pictured below is my husband staring up at the huge, intricate model of Hogwarts, which is what they used to film many of the panoramic shots of the castle.

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If you’re even a moderate fan of the Harry Potter universe, I still think you would enjoy this; if you’re like myself and are a Hermione-level expert of all things Harry Potter, then this is a must.

Westminster

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The area of Westminster includes the famous sites of Buckingham Palace, Parliament, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey.

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In addition to watching the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, we were able to tour inside the State Rooms (no photos allowed inside, unfortunately). From late July through September you can purchase tickets for this tour. I’ve heard that the dates can vary slightly from year-to-year, based on the Queen’s summer travel plans (since it’s available to tour when she’s on holiday elsewhere). For more up-to-date info visit the Royal Collection Trust’s website.

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We purchased our Westminster Abbey tickets in advance and greatly enjoyed visiting this iconic church. When I was in college, Prince William and Kate Middleton were married there, and I remember staying up late to watch the beautiful ceremony and marvel at Kate’s stunning Alexander McQueen gown. I also very much enjoyed “Poet’s Corner,” where many renowned writers, poets, and playwrights have been buried or memorialized (Shakespeare, for example, has a monument there, though he was buried in his hometown of Stratford-Upon-Avon).

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The telephone booths in this area are also ideal for photo-ops!

Shopping at Harrods and Afternoon Tea

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Simply put, Harrods is shopping heaven. The exterior particularly dazzles at nighttime and beckons one inside to the opulent grandeur. Their gift shop is also a great spot to bring home souvenirs for yourself and for loved ones.

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My husband and I had afternoon tea at The Georgian, an elegant restaurant inside Harrods. I’ve always been more of a tea drinker than coffee, so this was a special treat for me (also: Pink champagne! Tea sandwiches! Pastries! Yay!). We booked our tea time on their website several days prior so we could get the exact time we wanted.

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Windsor

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This 11th century castle feels like something out of a fairy tale, and is one of the Queen’s official residences. We visited first thing in the morning when it opens and really enjoyed wandering the beautiful grounds and touring the State Apartments.

This Saturday Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will be married at Windsor inside St. George’s Chapel. I will definitely be staying up late to watch it on TV, and I can’t wait to see her wedding gown!

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What to Pack

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Red Top: Pleione (similar here and here) Black Ponte Pants: Jolt (similar)  Striped Shirt: H&M (similar)  Lace Top: Rose and Olive (similar here and here)  Trench Coat: Ellen Tracy (similar here and here)  Bag: Longchamp Small Le Pliage Tote  Scarf: Burberry (similarUmbrella: Burberry (same style, but in red)  Sunglasses: Ray-Ban Clubmaster

As I’ve mentioned in my previous travel posts, staying within a neutral color palette is my personal preference for packing versatile outfits. Adding a dash of color helps mix things up (red and maroon tones always look great with black, white, and beige, as illustrated above).

The other way to add interest to an outfit is with textures and prints (lace and stripes are classics). For London, I brought both my Burberry scarf and umbrella, as the iconic print evokes timeless British style. Given their cloudy, damp climate, a water-resistant trench coat is vital.

P.S. Just wanted to mention that I had such a wonderful time viewing the rare books and manuscripts at the British Library Treasures (they have a copy of the Magna Carta, a Gutenberg Bible, Shakespeare’s First Folio, Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, and many other historical texts). If you’re a bookworm like me, this was a real treat.

I didn’t discuss any of the London museums we’ve visited, but the British Museum and the National Gallery are especially stunning and overwhelming. If you enjoy history, give yourself as much time as you can at the British Museum in particular. It’s MASSIVE. Next time I would really like to spend longer there.

(The photo below was taken just a few blocks from the National Gallery. I couldn’t resist a picture with those beautiful flowers!)

Are you going to be tuning in to the Royal Wedding this weekend? Let me know in the comments! Hope you all have a great week!

Travel Series: Paris, Je T’aime

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All trains are going to Paris! My favorite sign in all the world is located in the train station near Versailles. As Audrey Hepburn famously once said, “Paris is always a good idea,” and I’m inclined to agree. The City of Light has a certain irresistible magic, from the historic sights and art, to the incomparable fashion and exquisite cuisine.

Paris has so much to offer–countless books, films, and songs have been written about this iconic city, and it would be near-impossible to cover it all in a single blog post. As I mentioned in my previous travel post, this is not intended to be a comprehensive guide; instead I’ll be sharing specific insights, experiences, and things that I enjoyed. Since there is so much to see and do in Paris, I’ll be breaking this post into two sections: sights and shopping/fashion.

Sights

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It’s hard to capture in words or even pictures what it’s like to stand underneath the Eiffel Tower. Though it’s one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world, I was always a bit afraid that once I finally saw it with my own eyes, it would somehow be less than I imagined it to be. But truthfully, my fears were quite unfounded. I felt blissfully overwhelmed beneath the massive structure, as it stood tall and proud against the vibrant blue sky.

58 Tour Eiffel

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River Cruise on the Seine

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Our first day in Paris was my birthday and my darling husband surprised me with dinner on the Tower at 58 Tour Eiffel, followed by a river cruise on the Seine. I highly recommend both–though make sure you give yourself plenty of time for dinner, as it’s multiple courses.

We hit it off with the sweet couple at the table next to us, who was celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary. Somewhere between the champagne and dessert and coffee, we completely lost track of time and missed our boat! Thankfully we could just wait half an hour and go on the next one–though I must admit there was something kind of romantic about dashing from the Tower to the Seine at sunset in a desperate attempt to catch our boat!

Arc de Triomphe

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One blustery afternoon we climbed the 284 steps to the top of the Arc de Triomphe and were greeted with a gorgeous, panoramic view of Paris. It was also the perfect vantage point to see the roundabout within which the Arc is located and the twelve streets that sprawl from it.

Sainte-Chapelle

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There were several things in Paris that surprised me. The first is that I preferred Sainte-Chapelle to Notre Dame. Of course they’re dramatically different in size and style, yet we visited these churches back to back on the same day. As such, it was impossible for me not to compare them. Though far smaller than Notre Dame, I fell in love with the elaborate stained glass and gilded grandeur of Sainte-Chapelle.

The Louvre

The second thing I was a bit surprised by is how underwhelmed I was by the Mona Lisa. Though I don’t consider myself an expert, I’ve seen quite a bit of art over the years on our travels. Masses of people are crowded in the room to see the Mona Lisa because it’s such a famous work, and honestly? It was just okay. It’s a must-see if you’ve never been, of course, but there were so many other pieces in the Louvre that I enjoyed far more (such as Raphael’s La Belle Jardinière, the Winged Victory of Samothrace, the Apollo Gallery–all pictured above).

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We visited the Louvre on a Wednesday, during their extended evening hours, which I definitely recommend because it’s way less crowded (and look how the lights of the pyramids glow during twilight!). You can actually get close to the more popular works without having to wait very long. I loved wandering through the Louvre and can’t wait to go back, as it’s one of those gigantic museums that you could truly spend days and days in.

Monet’s Water Lilies at the Musée de l’Orangerie

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The third thing is something that I was very pleasantly surprised by: how much I adored Monet’s Water Lilies at the Musée de l’Orangerie. Monet spent the last thirty years of his life painting this exquisite work, and he designed the curved rooms that they’re housed in himself. I could’ve spent hours sitting before these tranquil, ethereal images.

Versailles

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Simply put, the palace of Versailles was beyond my wildest dreams. I had never quite fathomed how truly vast the palace and grounds are until we tried to walk it all in the pouring rain!

After the beautiful palace tour, it was unfortunately raining buckets when we exited to explore the expansive grounds. Despite being Oregonians who are quite accustomed to the rain, once our boots and “water-proof” jackets were soaked through, we decided to call it a day. I was pretty disappointed that we didn’t make it out to the Petit Trianon (Marie Antoinette often resided there), but we were sopping wet and quite miserable.

On our next trip we will be a little more flexible with our schedule and hopefully be able to visit Versailles on the sunniest day that we’re there. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from travel, it’s that something will invariably happen that is out of your control (inclement weather, holiday closures, strikes, renovations, etc.), but you have to make the most of it and do the best you can. As the French say, “C’est la vie!”

Shopping and Fashion

Chanel

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Something that was bucket list for me was shopping at the Chanel Flagship boutique on 31 Rue Cambon. Gabrielle Chanel first opened this location in 1918, and it had long been my dream to purchase the Chanel classic flap in the black caviar leather. Fun fact: this location is the only Chanel boutique in the world whose shopping bags are white with a black font (normally it’s the opposite: black shopping bag with white font).

Champs-Élysées

We also enjoyed perusing the Champs-Élysées. We had lunch at Fouquet’s next door to Louis Vuitton (by far the biggest Vuitton store I’ve ever seen!). The food here was excellent (I had the steak-frites), and the terrace seating was an ideal spot for people-watching on this famous boulevard.

Ladurée

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We also stopped at Ladurée for tea and dessert; not only were the macarons incredible, this famous sweet shop was absolutely beautiful. If you like macarons and pastries, this decadent place is a must (they also have multiple locations in the US!).

Christian Dior Exhibit at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs

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Another fashion highlight for me was visiting the Christian Dior Exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs that celebrated the 70 years since the renowned fashion house began. Seeing the evolution of Dior over the years was incredible; being so close to some of these elaborate dresses, you truly could see the immense craftsmanship and detail that goes into making couture designs. Unfortunately this exhibition was for a limited time and ended in January of 2018.

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What to Pack

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Beret: H&M  (similar) Striped Shirt: H&M (similarGray Topcoat: Zara (similar here and here)  Bag: Chanel (similar here and here)  Striped Dress: Monteau (similar here and here)  Lace Top: Rose and Olive (similar here and hereSunglasses: Chanel (similarWatch: Marc by Marc Jacobs (similar)

Of course this would vary depending what time of year you visit, but above is a sample of what I would pack (most of these items I did in fact bring on our trip). As I’ve said before, it’s easier when traveling to stick with a neutral color palette. Choosing pieces that have a variety of textures or prints helps add interest and detail (such as lace and stripes), yet staying within a classic palette makes it easy to mix and match.

The gray wool beret in the top left corner I recently purchased from H&M–I definitely regret not buying one in Paris! I saw so many girls wearing berets there, and I wish I had purchased one. Ah well–next time!

The Chanel classic flap pictured above is my beloved purchase from Paris. I linked some lovely similar options that have a comparable structure and shape.

This Friday I’ll be wearing some of these same pieces and doing a special post for Mother’s Day Weekend: outfit ideas for brunch with the moms in your life, great last-minute gifts, Paris-themed book recommendations, and a selection of my favorite black-and-white striped dresses that are currently on sale.

Thank you so much for stopping by! I would love to hear in the comments what you guys enjoy doing in Paris or what you hope to one day do there!

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P.S. One of our favorite restaurants was Au Père Louis. It was close to our hotel in the Latin Quarter, and if you’re ever in that area I highly recommend it! It’s a charming little place with AMAZING food.

Travel Series: The Beauty of Barcelona

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Tomorrow we will do beautiful things.” –Antoni Gaudí

It’s the first week of May, and, as promised, I’m starting my travel series. I’m kicking it off with one of my favorite cities in the world: Barcelona!

A little context first: with this series I plan on sharing my favorite cities and sites, recommendations from personal experiences, what to pack, and where I can’t wait to go back! Though I’ve checked quite a few places off my personal travel bucket list, there are still many places that I dream of going or places that I hope to visit again and again. I’m so grateful that my husband loves to travel as much as I do, and it’s something that we’ve made a priority in our life together.

Know that I’ll still be talking fashion, style, and some literature throughout this series, but within the parameters of that particular post’s travel destination. This is not intended to be a comprehensive guide; instead I’ll be sharing specific insights, experiences, and things that I enjoyed. For the month of May I plan on sharing some of my favorite spots in Europe. In June, I plan on doing a local travel guide of Portland and surrounding areas (such as coastal destinations and Mt. Hood), and I also plan on covering two additional US cities (more on that later).

So without further ado… Barcelona.

The picture above is of Gaudí’s stunning Park Güell, with its gingerbread-house-style buildings and panoramic views of the city and coastline. I loved Gaudí’s whimsical architecture (Catalan Modernism) and wandering through this truly unique park.

I recommend buying tickets for the park at least a day in advance. On our first day in Barcelona we stopped by the park (without tickets) and would have had to wait all afternoon to get in (they assign you a specific time slot based on availability). So we ended up rearranging our plans and buying tickets for the following day.

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As much as I enjoyed the park, I was in awe of Gaudí’s lifelong project, the Sagrada Familia. We’ve been to St. Peter’s, Notre Dame, and Westminster Abbey–all of which are beautiful with their own styles and historical significances. However, that being said, the Sagrada Familia is my personal favorite. Despite that this church has been under construction since 1882 and has yet to be completed, this stunning basilica has this ethereal, dreamlike quality that quite simply captivated me. Even though there are cranes towering above the spires, I loved the intricate facades, the Gothic influences, and the immense stained glass.

I also was struck by the fact that in Gaudí’s own lifetime, not even one-quarter of the project was finished. It’s bittersweet that he could never see it completed, but also inspiring that he contributed to such a lasting legacy. Allegedly, the church will be completed by 2026, which would mark the 100-year anniversary of Gaudí’s death. We hope to return one day to see it in all its finished glory.

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Something that was particularly special for my husband, who has played soccer since childhood and played in college as well, was the chance to see FC Barcelona play at the famous Camp Nou, which is Europe’s largest soccer stadium. This stadium is massive and the energy was truly electric; we also got to see Lionel Messi (one of the best players in the world!) score a hat trick.

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As for hotel accommodations, we stayed at the Hotel Jazz, a lovely modern hotel in the heart of the city. Our room was spacious and had a great balcony, with a gorgeous view of the Barcelona skyline (shown below). We also very much enjoyed the rooftop pool and bar!

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The hotel is located just a few minutes’ walk from the Ramblas, a famous street that has restaurants, florists, shops, and is great for people-watching. One of my favorite drinks is Sangria (a Spanish classic!), and my husband and I enjoyed cocktails and tapas on the Ramblas and watching the hustle and bustle of this iconic promenade.

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For each destination in this travel series, I want to provide a sample of what I packed. As illustrated below, I like to stay within a certain color palette when traveling because it maximizes outfit options without overpacking! Black, white, stripes, and a dash of red accents were perfect for our trip to Barcelona. As I mentioned in a previous post, the Longchamp Le Pliage totes are so convenient for travel. They’re durable, water-resistant, and fold flat if you need to pack them into a suitcase.

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Floral Skirt: J. Crew Factory (similar here and hereBlack Top: Lush (similar here)  Red Top: Pleione (similar hereBlack Ponte Pants: Jolt (similar hereStriped Top: H&M (similar here)  Scarf: FC Barcelona (similar here)  Tote:Longchamp Small Le Pliage  Sunglasses: Ray-Ban Clubmaster

Barcelona is one of those places I instantly felt at home and truly can’t wait to return. Not only is the city very charming with its eclectic architecture and romantic atmosphere, the people themselves are so kind and welcoming.

Hope you all have a wonderful week!