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Advice Journal Travel Planning

13 Of The Most Romantic Destinations In The World

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day coming up this week, today we’re sharing an unexpected list. Say goodbye to tips and tricks for dating and love, say hello to romantic destinations! So, whether you book your trip there with someone special, or just for yourself… get swept away with us today. From the lush countryside, the quiet of starry nights in the jungle or the hushed, full life of a bustling city… we narrowed down our list to include the destinations we believe are provide own unique kind of romance!

Paris, France

It’s a cliche that is just oh so true. Paris oozes a romance. With its rich literary history, dense and delicious culinary treats, opulent architecture and lush music… how could you not be swept off your feet?

Falling in love? Check out our guide to Paris’s most beautiful locations, our art lover’s guide to the City of Light or our literary guide to the city.

Siena, Italy

“La bella vita.” A beautiful life. It’s waiting for you in Siena. Enjoy slow living, savoring each and every moment, the nuances of every nook and cranny of this small Medieval town as you take in the evening sunsets of Tuscany.

Siena sound up your alley? Check out our round up of our favorite Tuscany towns and why we’re always dreaming of the Tuscan region of Italy.

Bruges, Belgium

There isn’t a more charming destination than Bruges. Get lost in the weaving canals, cobbled stoned streets and medieval, cookie cutter, leaning buildings. Bruges really lays it on with its quaintness.

Kauai, Hawaii

The “garden island” of Hawaii is essentially Jurassic Park come to life. Hike the tropical greens of the Na Pali Coast, learning how to surf with locals, sipping on fresh coconut water and watching the sun set over the cliffs of the island.

Tropical islands sound like your perfect romantic destination? Check out some of our other favorite islands in the world.

Kyoto, Japan

The historic, ancient city of Kyoto bedazzles the traveler with its classic Buddhist temples, gardens and imperial palaces. Spend hours taking in the city’s Shinto shrines, classic homes, bamboo forests, exploring the Gion district (once home to geishas) and taking in the city’s incredible cafe culture. Even if you only have a short stay in Kyoto, it’s sure to romance you!

Amalfi Coast, Italy

The coastline of Italy is flush with romance. The rugged shoreline swell with some of the bluest, clearest water to swim in. Imagine yourself sunning yourself on the shore and spending the next afternoons exploring the pastel hued shops and cafes, relaxing under the lemon trees and staying in terraced villas that dot the coast. See why it’s the perfect place for a solo trip or a the ultimate girls getaway!

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona is the laid back city of your dreams. Nestled in the Catalonia region of Spain, it’s the perfect match for the traveler looking for the most delicious foods, wines and landmarks. Take in the modernist art and fantastical architecture of the city as you party into the wee hours of the night with locals.

New York, New York

NYC is often considered an acquired taste. But if it’s for you, there’s no place more romantic in the world. Enjoy the swirling, messy, bustling streets, the quiet historic boroughs, the smells and colors of the city that never sleeps.

Venice, Italy

Venice may possibly be gone in the next hundred years. But that means you absolutely must fall in love with this lagoon lying capital sooner rather than later. Imagine yourself dizzying lost in the canals of the islands, hearing the water lap beside you as you sip wine and nosh on delicious pasta outside of the Renaissance aged buildings.

Spend your time getting lost in this city, and you’ll find yourself utterly in love with Venice.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Lush, tropical Buenos Aires awaits for the traveler looking to feel the hot heat of the sun kissing their shoulders. It’s the perfect mix of cosmopolitan, culturally rich, history and beach-y. Lie on the shore of the South Atlantic Ocean in between stops to the balconied palaces and colorful streets.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Bundle up your scarf and gloves, sip on delicious coffees and fresh stroopwaffles while dodging the bicycles that whisk by. Take in some of the world’s best art in museums and window shop in some of the coolest boutiques. Amsterdam is truly a charmer.

Game Reserve, Botswana

The game reserves of Botswana is where travelers can find themselves incredibly close to the wild, untamed nature you could only dream of. Get in touch with the wonder of this world in beautiful Botswana. Safari exploration sound like your ultimate trip? Do your research! There are so many types of incredible safaris for any kind of explorer.

Porto, Portugal

The seaside city of Porto languidly sits awaiting visitors to find themselves lost there. Feel the seaside breeze while you explore the narrow, cobbled streets, Baroque buildings and impressive bridges, stopping whenever you fancy for delicious port wines and tapas. How could you not fall in love with this place?


Has the spirit of romance inspired your bucket list? What is the most romantic destination you’ve ever visited?

Food Insider Tips North America Road Trippin Travel Planning

An Insider’s Guide to the Perfect Weekend Escapes in the PNW

An Insider’s Guide to the Perfect Weekend Escapes in the PNW

As a resident of Seattle, I have been fortunate to experience the beautiful destinations scattered around the Pacific Northwest. What I love most about this part of the country, is that you can spend each season differently and somewhere completely new, which is why I’d like to share with you my favorite spots for each season! Here is our insider’s guide to the perfect weekend escapes in the PNW.

Winter: Lake Wenatchee

Why Lake Wenatchee?

Tucked away in the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains is a glacier and snow-fed lake, known as Lake Wenatchee. If you love everything that comes with winter, then this is the perfect winter escape for you. Lake Wenatchee will give you the outdoor access most suited for snow shoeing, back country skiing and cross country skiing. The closest ski resort, Steven’s Pass is also about 20 miles away.

The Lake Wenatchee area has many options for lodging but I most often book through Airbnb. In fact, the best Airbnb I ever stayed at was at The Duncan Cabin.

An Insider’s Guide to the Perfect Weekend Escapes in the PNW

It’s a rustic log cabin that was originally built in 1890 by Norwegian immigrants and was renovated in 2014. My favorite part about this dreamy cabin was making breakfast on the wood-burning stove; I felt like I was transported back in time!

An Insider’s Guide to the Perfect Weekend Escapes in the PNW An Insider’s Guide to the Perfect Weekend Escapes in the PNW An Insider’s Guide to the Perfect Weekend Escapes in the PNW

Spring: Smith Rock State Park and Vantage, WA aka The Frenchman’s Coulee

When it comes to rock climbing, I couldn’t pick one place. Both Smith Rock and Vantage are equally as beautiful and both are worth checking out, but it really depends on the amount of time you have. Smith Rock is better if you have a long weekend 3+ days, and Vantage is best for a quick weekend trip. The Smith Rock road trip from Seattle is also stunning with beautiful views of Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge.

An Insider’s Guide to the Perfect Weekend Escapes in the PNW

Why Smith Rock?

I mean, first of all look at this place…

An Insider’s Guide to the Perfect Weekend Escapes in the PNW

Found in central Oregon, Smith Rock is not only breathtaking but has routes for all levels of climbers. Here there are more than a thousand routes that are bolted and waiting to be clipped into as well as miles of hiking and mountain biking trails.  

An Insider’s Guide to the Perfect Weekend Escapes in the PNW

An Insider’s Guide to the Perfect Weekend Escapes in the PNW

Why Vantage?

Similar to Smith Rock, Vantage is a popular destination for rock climbers with incredible rock formations along the Columbia River Gorge. It’s perfect for those looking to practice their belaying skills as well as those who are advanced climbers. Nearby you will find hikes with views of the columnar basalt and a seasonal spring waterfall surrounded by blossoms.

An Insider’s Guide to the Perfect Weekend Escapes in the PNW

An Insider’s Guide to the Perfect Weekend Escapes in the PNW

An Insider’s Guide to the Perfect Weekend Escapes in the PNW

An Insider’s Guide to the Perfect Weekend Escapes in the PNW

Note: If you’re a climber it’s best to come here in the spring before the high desert temperatures take affect. It’s also a great escape from the cool spring temps of Seattle. In the spring it reaches 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit and in the summer the temperatures can reach up to 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit.

An Insider’s Guide to the Perfect Weekend Escapes in the PNW

Summer: Shi Shi Beach

Why Shi Shi Beach?

An Insider’s Guide to the Perfect Weekend Escapes in the PNW

Located on the rugged Olympic Coast, Shi Shi Beach is the dreamiest beach in Washington. You can get here by car after you take the ferry from Seattle, but once you arrive at the trailhead it’s 8 miles round trip. Make sure you are prepared to hike in and out with your food, water (or water filter, there is a stream close by) and camping gear. 

An Insider’s Guide to the Perfect Weekend Escapes in the PNW

An Insider’s Guide to the Perfect Weekend Escapes in the PNW

An Insider’s Guide to the Perfect Weekend Escapes in the PNW

Once your camp is setup, it’s time to explore! The sandy beaches are covered with white bleached logs and go on for miles. There are stunning rock formations, also known as Point of Arches at each end perfect for the eager photographer to capture during sunset. At low tide, you can search tidal pools where you’ll discover crab, fish and starfish hidden between the crags of the arches. At night, if you’re able to gather dried driftwood you can make a cozy fire and fall asleep to the waves crashing into the shore.

An Insider’s Guide to the Perfect Weekend Escapes in the PNW

Fall: Leavenworth, WA

An Insider’s Guide to the Perfect Weekend Escapes in the PNW

Two hours east of Seattle is the Bavarian themed town of Leavenworth. This little town is charismatic with twinkling lights strung through the whole town! With Oktoberfest, breweries, Bavarian cuisine, live music, shopping and more it’s definitely worth checking off your list this Fall!

An Insider’s Guide to the Perfect Weekend Escapes in the PNW

An Insider’s Guide to the Perfect Weekend Escapes in the PNW

An Insider’s Guide to the Perfect Weekend Escapes in the PNW

Whenever I visit Leavenworth I stop at Icicle Brewery where I usually treat myself to their raspberry Hefeweizen or Chocolate Stout (warning: it tastes just like a milkshake). For dinner, I like to go to restaurants with live music and schnitzel, because when in Leavenworth, you must eat schnitzel! I’ve most often stopped at the Bavarian Bistro and Bar because there is no cover and they serve the best hot buttered rum in town that warms you up on a chilly fall night! It’s the perfect weekend escape in the PNW.

Bonus Location For All Of You Hiking Fans: Snow Lake

An Insider’s Guide to the Perfect Weekend Escapes in the PNW An Insider’s Guide to the Perfect Weekend Escapes in the PNW

Snow Lake is a gorgeous hike 60 miles east of Seattle in Snoqualmie Pass. It is 6.6 miles round trip making it good for all ages and fitness levels. The trail goes up above the South Fork Snoqualmie River through forests and over a pass to a gorgeous alpine lake. In early fall, I like to pack up lunch, head up to the lake and spend the day with friends surrounded by the striking foliage.  

An Insider’s Guide to the Perfect Weekend Escapes in the PNW An Insider’s Guide to the Perfect Weekend Escapes in the PNW

Limiting my favorite places to only a few was hard because there are countless places around the Pacific Northwest to be explored! However, I can say with certainty, that these have been the most memorable getaways for me and I cannot wait to discover more this spring! 

 

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North America Reviews

How Amtrak is Reinventing Train Travel Within the US With Acela Express

Train travel within the United States has just gotten faster, more efficient and more comfortable than ever before with Amtrak‘s Acela Express. Having just moved to New York City about a year ago, I’ve decided to go on more weekend getaways, especially around the East Coast and with over 500+ destinations to choose from, there’s no better way to embark on these mini journeys than with Amtrak. As I made my way from New York City to Boston, I couldn’t help but appreciate how enjoyable the ride was.  Here’s why I think you should consider Amtrak train travel within the U.S.:

  1. Fast WiFi and plenty of power outlets
    Being a digital nomad has never been easier than it is today. I travel quite often so features such as easily accessible power outlets, fast WiFi and a comfortable seating are essential. All of this was made possible during my journey on the Acela Express and if you need a change of scenery, the cafe has tons of outlets and seating as well. Also, if you prefer peace and quiet, Amtrak offers a quiet car and they’re quite strict when it comes to keeping the noise down there.

  2. Friendly customer service
    Sometimes travel plans change and it’s not always easy to make these changes (especially with airlines!) but I thought I’d give it a shot anyway. As I requested an earlier train, I was immediately presented with a new ticket with my desired time free of fees, no headaches, no issues. Thank you Amtrak!
  3. Sight see during the journey, not just when you arrive
    With Amtrak’s large windows and observation decks, you can sight see during your journey. We stopped in Providence and I spotted the Rhode Island State House right from the comfort of my own seat! Not to mention the stunning views of lakes, oceans, mountains and more along the way. Another feature I really loved was the Location Tracker on the AmtrakConnect website that gives you a real-time perspective of where the train is and what stops are coming up ahead.

  4. Snack car
    As mentioned before, the train’s Acela Cafe has tons of outlets, seats and large windows but it also offers an extensive list of options to snack on during your ride so you’ll never grow hungry.
  5. Generous luggage and extras policy
    Want to bring your pet along for the ride? your bicycle or two carry ons and two suitcases? don’t fret- Amtrak won’t give you any trouble for bring along any of these things as they have one of the most generous policies.

All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. I was invited as guest in partnership with Amtrak. As always, all opinions are my own.

 

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Food Hotels North America Reviews

Hotels We Love: Hotel Monteleone, New Orleans + Insider City Tips

From a rooftop pool with panoramic views of the city to a location in the heart of the French Quarter, the Hotel Monteleone is truly the best place to stay in New Orleans. It’s no wonder that the hotel is a member of Preferred Hotels, a group that represents some of the best independent hotels globally.



Rooms
This 4-star hotel is traditional and historic and is home to over 550 rooms, many of which have gorgeous views of the French Quarter or the Mississippi River. I stayed in room 1480, a Preferred King room that had so many windows and views, I didn’t know where to look first! My favorite part of the day was waking up for sunrise and watching it right from the desk of my room. Also, every room in the hotel features marble and granite baths, raised ceilings, and a mini-bar. What more could a girl want?



Dining
Criollo restaurant
We absolutely loved our lunch experience at the beautiful and modern, Criollo restaurant located right inside the hotel.  For authentic creole cuisine, look no further than Criollo. I ordered the Gulf Seafood Napoleon and it surely did not disappoint. You know you’re in the South when your lunch looks like this!


Carousel Bar
What could be more quintessentially NOLA than a revolving bar in a form of an authentic carousel? The hotel’s bar is not only a favorite of many guests’ and visitors but it just so happened to be a favorite hangout of Mr. Ernest Hemmingway himself.

Things to Do

Jackson Square
The St. Louis Cathedral is the heart of New Orleans and is located right in Jackson Square. The cathedral is also the oldest cathedral in the United States. You’ll also be entertained by horse drawn carriages, street performers, art vendors and more in this square.

Streetcars
Go for a ride on the city’s charming streetcar located on Canal St. The green street car takes you all the way to the Garden District where you’ll find tons of beautiful mansions to marvel at.  Cost: $1.75 one way, $3.00 for an all day pass.

Bourbon Street
We’ve all heard of the famous Mardis Gras’ event and Bourbon Street is truly where all of the fun happens. I had a blast walking up and down the street and watching the street performers.

Frenchmen Street
But if you want to hang out where the locals hang, then you go to Frenchmen street. I walked straight down Royal Street from Hotel Moteleone until I reached Frenchmen St. and discovered many charming homes to photograph along the way. While you’re in the area, make a stop at the famous French Market just around the corner.

If you’ve worked up an appetite after all that walking, stop by Dat Dog where you’ll find a long list of creative house made hot dogs with over 30+ topping to choose from.

Cafe Beignet
Beignets at Cafe Beignet make for a great way to start the day but beware as this place is just two blocks away from Hotel Monteleone which can be deliciously dangerous!

Café Dumonde
The cafe is known for their cafe’ au laits, so don’t forget to get your caffeine fix, located near the French Market.

Make reservations at one of the city’s many fine dining restaurants
Mr B’s Bistro

Brennan’s Restaurant


Discover hipster spots in the Central Business District
This is where you go to find those trendy spots that you see all over Instagram. A walk down Girod Street led me to Stumptown Coffee and Drip Affogato Bar, a cafe dedicated entirely to my favorite, affogatos! Head further down into the Garden District to find more of these gems.

Last but not least, the best way to see New Orleans is to get lost
The city center of New Orelans is incredibly walkable and you can get almost anywhere by foot. My favorite experience of my trip was getting lost in the streets and stumbling upon corners like this:

To see more of New Orleans, follow my hashtag: #nastasiainneworleans

All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site.I was invited as guest by Hotel Monteleone and Preferred Hotels. As always, all opinions are my own. #Sponsored

 

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North America Outdoors

Haiku Stairs: Hiking The Stairway To Heaven

When I saw a photo of the Haiku Stairs for the first time, I said myself : ” No way, I have to get there one day!” It was an epic view – so epic that it seemed almost unreal and I couldn’t help thinking the photo was photoshopped… But after watching a few videos I knew it wasn’t.

The Haiku Stairs, also known as the Stairway to Heaven, is a hiking trail on the Oahu Island, Hawaii. In fact it’s a military object constructed during the Second World War and used to provide the fast access to the radio station on the top of the mountain. Today it’s not used by the army anymore and the staircase became one of the main tourist attractions on the island.

An important thing about the Haiku Stairs : this hike is illegal and one risks to get a fine for doing it. The amount of this fine isn’t quite clear, different people talk of the fines between 600 and 1500 US dollars. The reason is a long-term dispute between the owner of the land and the local authorities. So formally hiking the Stairway to Heaven is prohibited and there’s a risk to be caught by police.

I was totally conscious of these facts when making my decision to climb the Haiku Stairs but two thoughts determined my choice. First, there’s no real harm to anybody caused by this hike – no damage to the nature or somebody’s property, no risk to life or health. Second, I didn’t find any stories about getting a fine told in the first person ; they’re always about ‘a friend of a friend’.  For these two reasons I decided to take a risk and do the most incredible hike in my life!

Was it hard ? Yes, it was – I got up at 3a.m., drove to another side of the island (the exact destination point is 46475 Kuneki street, Kaneohe), found a way through the jungle, avoided the security guard and climbed for one hour and a half in the darkness, using only a head light. Some parts of the staircase are damaged and you have to be very careful when passing them. Another danger – humidity: the metal stairs and railings are covered with the night dew and very slippery! I didn’t take any gloves and regretted it badly.

You don’t need to be in a super shape to do this hike but it’s quite challenging. If you are not sure of your physical condition, better to plan at least two hours for getting to the top. I was out of breath when I reached the final point of the Haiku Stairs, even though I workout every day and get used to long jogs…

Is it worth the effort? My answer is yes, no doubts about that!

It was still night when I achieved the top. In the darkness I could only see the faint lights of the highway far below. I sat on the humid metal stairs and waited. The sky became clearer slowly and I began to perceive the coast. It was time to switch on my camera and start taking photos but I was so fascinated by the view that could only stay motionless and observe. Suddenly the golden light lit the mountainside and I finally woke up, grabbed my camera and started to shoot… It only lasted a few minutes, and immediately after sunrise the clouds covered the mountaintop, creating moody and mysterious atmosphere. I was incredibly lucky to catch both the sunrise and the cloudy weather ! I honestly can’t decide which one is better for the photos…

When I was looking at the stairs following the edge of the mountain, it suddenly struck my mind that initially they were an important military object. Have the soldiers who climbed those stairs during the war ever noticed the beauty of the landscape ? Have they ever felt the powerfulness of nature and the greatness of the World ? I’m sure they have, despite the danger and risk they were running. That view many years ago has filled, I thought, the fighters’ hearts with proudness for their Motherland. And today we feel the same admiration and marvel as they felt.

Going down is surprisingly harder than climbing up. First, by night you don’t see the emptiness behind you and second, it starts to get hot very quickly after 9a.m. I seriously wonder how some people manage to do this way during a bright time of the day – they should suffer a lot under the pitiless rays of sun!

The Stairway to Heaven hiking isn’t an ordinary thing to do on Hawaii. It’s a challenge, an adventure, an experience, a risk… But a chance to find yourself in a wonderland, even if for just a few hours, is priceless. That sunrise on the top of the Haiku Stairs is a prize trophy in my sunrise collection and if I lived on Oahu I know I would do this hike again and again, just to see the golden rays of sun on the mountaintop.

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