5 Things: A Travel Guide to San Luis Obispo

COMMENTS: 4

travel california  5 Things: A Travel Guide to San Luis Obispo

In “5 Things,” I’ll ask some of my favorite bloggers in cities all over the country to share insider travel tips on where to eat, shop, stay, and play in their neighborhoods (plus, what to pack to make the adventure complete). This week, Jennifer Young introduces us to the town of San Luis Obispo.

5 Things: San Luis Obispo
Jennifer Young of I Art U and Jennifer Young Studio.

Welcome to the happiest city in America (or so Oprah says!). San Luis Obispo, aka SLO, is a charming coastal town located right between Los Angeles and San Francisco. I’ve been lucky enough to call this place home for the past five years. It’s the perfect place to visit for a weekend getaway, whether you’re in need of a trip to the great outdoors or just want a beautiful pit stop when traveling between LA and SF. There’s so much to do in the area, but here are some of my top picks.

EAT:
travel california  5 Things: A Travel Guide to San Luis Obispo

travel california  5 Things: A Travel Guide to San Luis Obispo

Novo, 726 Higeura Street, (805) 543-3986

Novo is a local and tourist favorite in the heart of downtown SLO. Their outdoor patio dining in the evening is an SLO experience not to be missed. They serve a global cuisine with a plethora of wine choices (and great cocktails, too!).

SHOP:
travel california  5 Things: A Travel Guide to San Luis Obispo
travel california  5 Things: A Travel Guide to San Luis Obispo

Ruby Rose, 1235 Monterey Street, (805) 545-7964

Ruby Rose is the best place to shop, hands down. I don’t consider SLO to be a place for great shopping, but Ruby Rose will sweep you off your feet. From the gals at Ruby Rose themselves: “Combined with our love of junking, paired with the spirit of the road trip, we travel around the West Coast in our Airstream trailer. We scour flea markets, thrift stores, estate & yard sales to bring back lovelies to our vintage shop located in the quaint town of San Luis Obispo, California.”

Ruby Rose is open from Tuesday to Saturday, 11 AM — 5 PM, and Sunday 12 PM — 4 PM. Make time in your schedule to visit this gem of a place!

travel california  5 Things: A Travel Guide to San Luis Obispo
travel california  5 Things: A Travel Guide to San Luis Obispo
travel california  5 Things: A Travel Guide to San Luis Obispo

STAY:
travel california  5 Things: A Travel Guide to San Luis Obispo
travel california  5 Things: A Travel Guide to San Luis Obispo

Granada Hotel and Bistro, 1126 Morro Street, (805) 544-9100

Another gem in the heart of downtown, Granada Hotel and Bistro is an ideal place to stay if you want to be in the center of everything — but with only 17 guest rooms and suites, make sure to book early. They have everything you will need for your stay in downtown SLO — access to complimentary Linus bikes; an indoor lounge with a fireplace; a rooftop patio for drinks and people watching; a downstairs bistro that serves brunch, lunch, dinner, and dessert; and a spa. What more could you need? (Oh, and a major bonus if you’re staying there on a Thursday evening — you’ll be steps away from SLO’s weekly farmers’ market. It’s the best!)

PLAY:
travel california  5 Things: A Travel Guide to San Luis Obispo
travel california  5 Things: A Travel Guide to San Luis Obispo

When I think of San Luis Obispo, the first thing that comes to mind is the abundance of beaches and hiking/running trails available. It’s a really great city to be in if you want to unplug and spend some time to soak in the beauty of the outdoors. I have so many favorite trails and beaches, but hiking Bishop’s Peak is high on the list. Make it to the top and you’ll get the best view of this charming city!

PACK:

travel california  5 Things: A Travel Guide to San Luis Obispo

A great weekender bag like this one from Cuyana* would suffice for a trip here to SLO. Oh and don’t forget to pack your sunnies and sunblock if you plan to spend a lot of time outside! Enjoy!

Thanks so much, Jennifer! For more, find Jen’s blog, I Art U, and her Instagram feed, here.

P.S. One of our favorite California coastal drives, that will take you right around San Luis Obispo (where, by the way, so many of my friends were lucky to go to college)! And last week’s “5 Things.” 

(Thank you to Shoko Wanger for her help with this series. *Note that the bag is sold out. Here’s a similar one.)

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5 Things: A Travel Guide to Williamsburg

COMMENTS: 12

travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Williamsburg
travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Williamsburg
I’m so excited to bring you this new travel series! I’ve found that when asking people advice about visiting their city, it’s best to ask them where they’d take a friend.

So, in “5 Things,” I’ll ask some of my favorite bloggers in cities all over the country to share insider travel tips on where to eat, shop, stay, and play in their neighborhoods (plus, what to pack to make the adventure complete)—the things they’d do. In the series’ inaugural post, Shoko Wanger of Sho & Tell introduces us to Williamsburg in Brooklyn, NY. 

5 Things: Williamsburg
Shoko Wanger of Sho & Tell

I’ve lived in Williamsburg for four years now and have become gleefully accustomed to the steady influx of visitors that stream through in the spring and summer months. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of things to do in the area—we’ve got some of the best restaurants and shopping in the city (though I admit, as an adoring resident, I’m biased). It would be impossible to fit everything I love about Williamsburg into a weekend—but, happily, that’s just another reason to return.

EAT:
travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Williamsburg
travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Williamsburg

travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Williamsburg

Bakeri, 150 Wythe Avenue, (718) 388-8037

The backyard at Bakeri is a true gem—a tiny, tucked-away oasis just minutes from the bustle of Bedford Avenue. It’s a great stop for coffee or tea, sandwiches on housemade breads, or assorted pastries (my favorite is skolebrød, a custardy Norwegian treat showered in grated coconut). Everything’s exceptional—and served up by a smiling staff in powder-blue jumpsuits, no less.

SHOP:
travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Williamsburg
travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Williamsburg
travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Williamsburg

Beautiful Dreamers, 326 Wythe Avenue, (718) 388-4884

Located on an unassuming block on the south side of Williamsburg, Beautiful Dreamers is a bohemian wonderland packed with ethereal treasures: clothing and clay incense burners, handmade pottery and patchwork quilts, plants in every nook and cranny. There’s a wooden swing near the front window; behind the cashier, white doves rest, cooing quietly in a sea-green cage.

STAY:
travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Williamsburg

Wythe Hotel, 80 Wythe Avenue, (718) 460-8000

The rooftop view at the Wythe Hotel is reason enough to book a stay. Further incentives: it’s beautifully built and a paragon of Brooklyn design (it’s co-owned by the same team behind neighborhood mainstays Marlow & Sons, Marlow & Daughters,and Diner). Its rooms feature pine ceilings, furnishings made by local artisans, and custom Williamsburg-themed wallpaper. It’s also home to an acclaimed restaurant, Reynard, and a gorgeous bar, The Ides, where said rooftop views are best enjoyed.

PLAY:
travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Williamsburg

travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Williamsburg

travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Williamsburg

Williamsburg waterfront and East River State Park, Kent Avenue at N. 8th Street

I love the Williamsburg waterfront, with the bridge to the left and the Manhattan skyline straight ahead. Have a picnic in the grass, take a walk on the pier, or hitch a ride to Greenpoint or DUMBO on the East River Ferry. During warm weather months, Smorgasburg—a food-focused flea market with over 75 vendors—makes its home here every Saturday, in East River State Park.

PACK:
travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Williamsburg

Backpack, $42.

I learned quickly that a big bag is key to mastering a day out in New York. Without a car to stow things in, I often find myself carrying ridiculous amounts of stuff around with me every day: makeup, an umbrella, an iPhone charger, a camera, and all the various odds and ends I pick up over the course of a day. A roomy bag makes it easier—and more comfortable—to be out and about with everything a multi-hour excursion requires. I like these backpacks from Baggu, which, as it happens, is a Williamsburg-based company. (You can visit their shop at 242 Wythe Avenue.)

Thank you so much, Shoko—for this and for your tremendous help with the entire series!
P.S. More Williamsburg: Our favorite restaurant (ever), Renegade on the waterfront, and Brooklyn Brewery.

Photos by Jacquelyne Pierson.

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Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

COMMENTS: 15

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

Last week I shared our first stop on our quick road trip around the Cascades—Seattle.

For the last two nights of our #GreatCoastRoadTrip with Coast Hotels, we drove first to Wenatchee, Washington, and then onto Portland, Oregon, before flying home. It was a whirlwind—and of course I’d suggest that anyone considering doing the same to extend this over many more days!

We left Seattle early on a quiet Monday morning, stopping only for some fuel at Top Pot Doughnuts before beginning our drive through the Cascade mountains to the Apple capitol of the World, Wenatchee.

We were quite wary about even the 2-1/2 hour drive because car rides with a four-month-old are pretty unpredictable and we’d already had plenty of scream-filled rides around Seattle. Ten minutes can feel unendurably long when your baby is crying, so we basically resigned ourselves to the fact that we could really only make ground when Skyler was sleeping.

Our saving grace is that four-month-olds like to sleep. A lot. So with only one roadside stop to nurse in the mountains (with a beautiful view!), we pulled up to the Coast Wenatchee Center Hotel around noon—just in time for lunch.travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

I’ll confess that we were at first a little disappointed to leave the mountains and drive into the foothills. The landscape changed from that wet, green lushness that one associates with the Pacific Northwest to one of golden grasses—much more like what one finds in our own region—and even in the Southwest, at times!

WENATCHEE, WA

But the small town won us over and we immediately came to understand what an awesome getaway this must be for folks needing a break from wetter climes: apparently the sun shines in Wenatchee an average of 300 days a year (as opposed to 152 in nearby Seattle). Its prime draws, beyond sunshine, are apple orchards, vineyards, and plenty of outdoor activities—like hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, or paddle boarding. Their chamber of commerce has put together a pretty inspiring website, if you’re looking for ideas.

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

After a warm welcome from the hotel (with little gifts for the kids), we walked a few blocks over to the very colorful Lemolo Cafe, where a sprawling, seasonal menu meant that Aron and I could still try things like Salmon pizza while Hudson could order a PB&J. Everyone wins.

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

The Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center is closed Sundays and Mondays, but they were nice enough to open their doors and give us a private tour. Housed in two joined historic buildings (former postal facilities), the museum hosts both permanent and rotating exhibits. A docent played for us—and let Hudson play—a 1919-built pipe organ, once used to add sound to silent films at the Liberty Theatre. Other highlights included a working model of the Great Northern Railway and an entire apple-sorting line from the 1920s.

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

We sort of rushed through (naptimes were fast approaching!) but learning more about the region’s apple-industry history was the perfect transition to a brief stop at an apple orchard: Smallwood’s Harvest Farm.

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

There are dozens of farms and fruit stands in the area, but this one also had a small petting zoo and some play options that Hudson really appreciated. However, if you are coming expressly to pick apples during Harvest season, I might look around for some options further off the main road.

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR
travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

Next we took a quick walk around the Bavarian village of Leavenworth—probably the more famous tourist town in the area, and a popular spot around the holidays.

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR
travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

That evening, we left the car back at the hotel and walked down to the waterfront for dinner at the Pybus market. The beautiful space hosts restaurants, wine bars, cheese shops, and fruit stands—though Hudson went right for the small lego table that was set out for kids.

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR
travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

Most of the vendors had closed for the night, but luckily the restaurants stayed open late. We chose to eat at the Latin restaurant, South—sitting outside on the patio with views of the Columbia River. (Aron was tasked with trying to bounce Skyler to sleep during dinner, so I should amend that to say that Hudson and I sat and enjoyed the views).
travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

After taking in the views of the valley from atop the hotel at the Rivertop Bar & Grill, looking down at the river we’d be following all the way into Portland… for five hours or so.

This was the drive that really struck terror in our hearts, but it went as well as we could possibly have hoped for. Skyler may not like being in her car seat very much, but she is learning to fall asleep in it! I had to squeeze in between her and Hudson only once to entertain her.
travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

At one point, after going through a stretch of roughly 40 miles with no options for stops, we passed a sign for St. John’s, a Greek Orthodox Monastery that was fronted by a cafe with espresso and baklava and such. We were maybe a minute past when she woke and starting crying so we quickly make a U-turn and stayed there for about an hour or so for lunch.

It was the best find! Fresh savory and sweet pastries, gyros, good coffee, some picnic tables, and little patch of grass and tree stumps for Hudson to run around in! Highly recommended if you’re coming this way.

PORTLAND, OR

This was both of our first times to Portland, so we wished we could have arrived earlier and stayed longer.

Though formally known as the City of Roses, most people are probably more familiar with Portland’s informal catchphrase, “Keep Portland Weird.” For me, the city connotes bikes, bridges, and brews. Roses, eccentrics, or beer? Whichever held true, I was excited to finally have the chance to visit.

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

We pulled into downtown and up to The Benson, a stately 101-year-old hotel on Broadway, and were welcomed inside a grand lobby where gorgeous Russian-wood panelling, beautiful marble floors, elaborate chandeliers, and incredible filigree had us all craning our necks to take in every lovely detail. The idea behind the Coast Hotels brand is that each hotel is “refreshingly local,” and the Benson in particular felt completely unique to the city.

Our room was a corner suite: a double room joined with a junior suite that meant we could put the kids to bed in their own space–such a luxury.

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR
travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

But perhaps what stood out the most was a particularly child-friendly touch: they sent up a fish for Hudson to take care of during our stay!

We named the little blue Beta Phil and Hudson talked to him and showed him his toys. In fact, when we came home to Davis, Hudson said he wanted to go back to the hotel to see “Phil-ly Fish.” A two-year-old more excited about returning to a hotel than about his own dog and his own toys?! That’s golden.

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR
travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

We tried to get started with our look around Portland as soon as we dropped our bags, but after five-plus hours in the car and a hungry infant I’ll admit there was a part of me that just wanted to enjoy the beautiful room!

We rallied, however, and I’m glad we did. We started at the beautiful (and expansive–over 5,000 acres) Forest Park. There, we discovered Peggy the steam engine, a Discovery Center with a Dr. Seuss exhibit, the Rose Test Garden, the Portland Zoo, and a fantastic looking children’s museum. The park itself sounds like an amazing urban treasure, with nearly 70 miles of trails crossing its entirety.

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR
travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

Still, we wanted to give Hudson a little more of a chance to burn off some steam, so next we headed to PlayDate PDX for an hour of jumping and climbing (for him) and a couple of cold beers (for us).

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

Basically, they’ve put a three-story playground inside a loft with a cafe. It’s a brilliant concept–particularly for when the days aren’t as lovely as this one.

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR
travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

But because the sun was shining (and would be, until nearly 10pm), we coaxed him off to dinner at nearby Boke Bowl. They feature ramen with handmade noodles, unique dashis, and seasonally changing ingredients.

The restaurant was suggested to us by our friends, who we met up with for dinner. At their suggestion, I added fried chicken to mine and Aron topped his dish with pork belly and an egg. We rounded things out with steam buns (Hudson’s had peanut butter and jelly inside), and a brussel sprout salad. It was only the next day that I realized we’d forgotten to try the housemade miso-butterscotch twinkies!

Of course, there were countless awesome restaurants (and at least a dozen brewpubs) recommended to us by the many friends who have raved about the food scene in Portland. If only there were more meals in the day…

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR
travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

The next morning, the Benson treated us to a hearty breakfast at their restaurant, the Palm Court. Most of the diners looked a bit more like business travelers, so our table looked especially full by comparison: Blueberry Pancakes (packed with blueberries, the way I like them), Eggs with smokey hollandaise, Almond smoothies, fresh coffee, and hot oatmeal.

Funny side note: our waitress brought Hudson some crayons and he was showing her a stuffed bear the hotel had given him. She asked if he were afraid of bears and he answered “no.” She looked a little surprised and glanced over at us, sort of as if we hadn’t been doing our duty explaining the danger. It was one of the moments when you realize that if you live in the Pacific Northwest, you’d probably talk about bears a bit more often than just reading about that family of Berensteins.

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR
travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

All that food should have meant not eating again for many hours, but alas there was just too much good stuff to find room for. Before 1pm we’d also sampled a scoop of Brown Sugar Sour Cream and Strawberry Jam ice cream from Ruby Jewel, Transylvanian fare from the 10th and Alder food truck pod, lattes from Stumptown coffee, a pork belly and cheddar sandwich from Lardo, and one or two local IPAs. I even tried to score a doughnut at Blue Star (whose sign would fit right in to an episode of Portlandia), but they were sold out!

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

Somehow, in between all this gluttony, we also made some time for shopping and strolling between downtown and the Pearl District. One of the highlights was finally visiting the bookstore I’ve been hearing about for years: Powell’s City of Books. A Portland institution–and rightly so–Powell’s is the largest used-and-new bookstore in the world with nine color-coded rooms and over 3,500 different sections. I was especially partial to the light-filled children’s section.

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR
travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

Other highlights? Union Alley, which housed a Steven Alan and the local brand, Danner; Canoe, a meticulously curated home design store; and Frances May, an indie boutique filled with covetable labels.

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR
travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR
travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR
travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

And of course, coffee at Stumptown and photobooth snapshots at the ACE Hotel. (Shhhh… don’t tell the Benson.)

travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR
travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR
travel  Road Trip: Wenatchee, WA, to Portland, OR

It was probably best for my wallet that we had to leave for the airport after lunch. But we definitely had to go too soon. Portland, we’ll be back.

P.S. Coast Hotels invited me to blog our trip (which they entirely provided) for their website. I’m under no further obligation to write about them here, but we’re grateful to them for this taste of the Pacific Northwest. Read the Seattle travelogue from our road trip.

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Weekend in Los Angeles (West Side)

COMMENTS: 25

travel california  Weekend in Los Angeles (West Side)
travel california  Weekend in Los Angeles (West Side)
travel california  Weekend in Los Angeles (West Side)
travel california  Weekend in Los Angeles (West Side)

After we landed in Los Angeles last Saturday, we went straight to Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice. There were a few cool shops and restaurants there when we lived in LA, but it was nothing like it is now—Steven Alan, A+R, Jack Spade, Firefly, Linus… and a few dozen delicious places to eat and drink line the blocks.

We started with brunch upstairs at The Tasting Kitchen.

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MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)

COMMENTS: 14

travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)
travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)

We skipped town this past weekend and headed south to Los Angeles. (Thank you for your tips!) We had some business to attend to and decided at the last minute to extend our travel and bring everyone—except Sawyer, who had a mini-vacation of his own thanks to DogVacay. (More on that below.)

Even though we used to live in Los Angeles, we hardly know the west side at all, so we decided to restrict ourselves to the coast (with, okay, a small detour into Brentwood).

I took a bunch of photos and will share more about some of the highlights next week, but—in the meantime—one of our favorite stops from the weekend: Blue Plate Oysterette in Santa Monica.

travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)
travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)

We walked from our hotel to Blue Plate Oysterette—which sits right on Ocean Boulevard off Santa Monica overlooking the, well, overlook to the beach. It’s a popular spot (as are the other locations in the restaurant group: nearby Blue Plate and Blue Plate Taco), so because we didn’t have reservations, we just crossed our fingers and showed up early. The wait wasn’t too bad (about 45 minutes to sit outside), so they took our number and we walked down to the sand and played a bit before dinner. But even without that option, I loved that they had sidewalk chalk at the ready for antsy kids.

travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)
travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)
travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)

When we did sit down, I knew exactly what I wanted: a Lobster roll! While the scene was very Los Angeles, the menu was very East Coast, and I was offered a choice of a Lobster Salad roll or a plain, warm Lobster roll with drawn butter on the side. There are two camps on this, but I’m more a lobster salad gal—and this was a good one.

travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)
travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)
travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)
travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)

A sleeping baby, plenty of french fries, lobster and fresh tuni, beer and rosé, and a setting sun… could dinner be better?

Um, yes. Yes it could: Key Lime Pie. (And, frankly, the best non-homemade Key Lime Pie I’ve had since visiting the keys nearly 12 years ago. So good.)

travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)
travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)

Actually, there was more that made it great: while we were out, Hudson told the waiter all about his “black doggy named Sawyer.” We always tell Hudson that Sawyer is having a playdate while we’re away—and this time we were able to give details with full sincerity because we were getting little updates on how Sawyer was enjoying his weekend!

Before our trip, DogVacay got in touch about trying their site and the timing was perfect! DogVacay is a website and app that helps you find great pet sitters. We searched for nearby sitters, booked our stay, and paid online. Sawyer’s host took care of him in her home, sent us cute little emails and photos of what he was up to while we were gone.

travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)

We learned that he spent the weekend with lovely Mia (in the photos on the left) and a pug named Auggie, as well as Charlie the kitten (on the right). He also got a bath!

A funny combination of topics, I know, but knowing that Sawyer was happy made the entire weekend better. If you’re looking to take a night or two away and need a good pet sitter, I’d recommend the site. New users can get $10 off their first DogVacay with the code HITHER!

P.S. Sawyer as a puppy! More from Los Angeles (and from our earlier Pacific Northwest road trip)  next week!

Thank you to DogVacay for putting Sawyer up for the night and for supporting Hither & Thither! All DogVacay reservations include free pet insurance, 24/7 customer support, and daily photo “pup”dates, so pet parents can rest easy knowing that their best friend is in great hands. We’ll definitely be using the site again!

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Travelogue: Seattle in 48 hours (Round 3, with kids)

COMMENTS: 32

travelogue travel  Travelogue: Seattle in 48 hours (Round 3, with kids)
travelogue travel  Travelogue: Seattle in 48 hours (Round 3, with kids)

This was my third visit to Seattle, and on each visit my impression has been consistent: wow. I’m sure it hasn’t hurt that every visit has been free of the notorious drizzle, but even grey skies couldn’t obscure how beautiful this city is.

We were lucky to get to spend two nights in Seattle a little while back as part of Coast Hotel’s “Great Coast Road Trip.” Essentially, I was asked if I’d like to do a three-city leg of a multi-blogger road trip, write about for their website, and bring my family along. I’ve been invited for some press travel before, but rarely with Aron and the kids, so I usually decline. This was such a treat! You can of course read my posts about the trip on their site—and I’m under no obligation to say more—but we had such a great time (even as we were so daunted by the prospect of a road trip with an infant) that I still wanted to share a travelogue here, too.

Anyway, the plan was this: fly to Seattle and spend two nights there before picking up a Zipcar and driving part of the Cascades loop to Wenatchee, and then on to Portland, before passing along the car to someone else and flying home. We had never been to Portland or Wenatchee (and I’ll talk about those stops next week), and it had been 8 years since our last visit to Seattle… when we almost moved there! We were excited to go back.

travelogue travel  Travelogue: Seattle in 48 hours (Round 3, with kids)
travelogue travel  Travelogue: Seattle in 48 hours (Round 3, with kids)
travelogue travel  Travelogue: Seattle in 48 hours (Round 3, with kids)

The flight from Sacramento to Seattle passed so quickly! Aron and I started hatching plans for return trips before we even left the airport. For his part, Hudson would have been happy to never leave the airport tram.

On that note, public transportation into the city center is supposed to be simple and efficient, but we opted for a taxi as neither Hudson nor Skyler are carrying their own things yet—and they seem to require so much!

travelogue travel  Travelogue: Seattle in 48 hours (Round 3, with kids)
travelogue travel  Travelogue: Seattle in 48 hours (Round 3, with kids)
travelogue travel  Travelogue: Seattle in 48 hours (Round 3, with kids)

We arrived in Seattle right around nap time, so after checking in at the Roosevelt (our first Coast hotel), we took a little break before heading back out. We were downtown and, I noted, just off of the main shopping strip and blocks from the original Nordstrom. I briefly considered bidding the weary crew adieu for some afternoon shopping, but we had a fairly full itinerary.

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Headed south (& Friday links)

COMMENTS: 19

uncategorized travel  Headed south (& Friday links)

We’re flying south for a really quick getaway in Los Angeles. We’re staying on the cusp of Santa Monica and Venice which, while we lived in LA for five years ( a long time ago), isn’t as familiar a ‘hood to me. As much as I’d love to just visit all of our old haunts in West Hollywood and East LA, we may try to stick to the west side. Any tips?

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to sharing photos from our brief stay in Seattle, next week on the site, as well as the finished laundry room (we’re not talking miracles, but it is so much better than before).

Until then, some things of note… 

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Date Night: the Napa Wine Train

COMMENTS: 4

travel california  Date Night: the Napa Wine Train

travel california  Date Night: the Napa Wine Train

travel california  Date Night: the Napa Wine Train

We’ve been visiting Napa and Sonoma for years, but it wasn’t until last week that we finally spent an evening enjoying the Napa Valley Wine Train. We’ve seen it glide past (while we’ve sat at a red light, roshambo-ing for the role of designated driver) and have always been curious. So when they offered us a chance to come aboard for a date, I didn’t hesitate.

In case you aren’t familiar with it, the Napa Valley Wine Train is an antique train (think refurbished 1915-1917 Pullman Cars) that runs on 25-miles of track through the valley while you sip wine and eat a multi-course meal (prepared onboard). This summer, it celebrates its 25th anniversary!

Here are some scenes from the evening—which was gorgeous!

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The Blue City of Jodhpur

COMMENTS: 19

uncategorized travel  The Blue City of Jodhpur
uncategorized travel  The Blue City of Jodhpur
uncategorized travel  The Blue City of Jodhpur

Have you seen JCrew‘s catalogue set in India? I recognized the setting immediately as Udaipur—our first stop in Rajasthan when we visited a few years ago.

The entire state of Rajasthan was such an explosion of color; it was incredible. I think my favorite city from our brief tour was, however, Jodhpur—or “the blue city.” I wrote extensively about our visit in Part two of our India Travelogue, but a highlight was ascending to Meherangarh Fort. Incredible in its own right (ramparts of the fort extend from a massive sandstone outcropping and are themselves made of finely carved sandstone), the Fort also afforded us beautiful views of the indigo-hued homes below (apparently painted so because indigo was thought to protect the buildings from insects and help with cooling, and caught on after the Brahmin caste used the color).

uncategorized travel  The Blue City of Jodhpur
uncategorized travel  The Blue City of Jodhpur
uncategorized travel  The Blue City of Jodhpur
uncategorized travel  The Blue City of Jodhpur
uncategorized travel  The Blue City of Jodhpur
uncategorized travel  The Blue City of Jodhpur

At sunset, the dwellings truly glowed and the cool air filled with birds and the sounds of prayer from the temples.

uncategorized travel  The Blue City of Jodhpur
uncategorized travel  The Blue City of Jodhpur
uncategorized travel  The Blue City of Jodhpur
uncategorized travel  The Blue City of Jodhpur

It was just one of the highlights from this vibrant and generous city.

P.S. The portion of India Travelogue featuring Jodhpur. The portion featuring that spot in the JCrew catalogue, Udaipur (along with Mumbai and Narlai). And one way to preserve a souvenir from the trip.

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Visiting DisneyWorld (with a toddler)

COMMENTS: 30

travel family  Visiting DisneyWorld (with a toddler)
travel family  Visiting DisneyWorld (with a toddler)
travel family  Visiting DisneyWorld (with a toddler)

Curious what it’s like to visit DisneyWorld with two under three? We just spent a week exploring the resort parks in Orlando over the course of a five-day-hopper pass with Skyler (3 months), Hudson (almost 3 years), and my parents; Aron joined us most days after wrapping up at a conference. Here are some photos from our family vacation—along with some notes and tips I gleaned during our stay.

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Such Great Heights (and Friday links)

COMMENTS: 14

travel  Such Great Heights (and Friday links)

travel  Such Great Heights (and Friday links)

I vividly remember walking across this suspension bridge as a kid. My parents have a hilarious video (probably stashed away somewhere, on a giant Beta) of me crossing it—and crouching down every few steps when it would slightly sway!

The Capilano Suspension Bridge is just outside of Vancouver, in British Columbia, and is the longest suspension bridge in the world. When you step out onto it, it looks like it’s a mile long! It’s surely incredibly secure, but you do feel it moving with the wind and foot traffic as you cross a beautiful gorge, 230 feet (23 stories) in the air! Eeek!

I have a mild fear of heights. I can feel the butterflies in my stomach and my heart rate accelerating when I look over a steep cliff. Milan Kundera, in The Unbearable Lightness of Beingtravel  Such Great Heights (and Friday links) ( a favorite read), says that vertigo is not the fear of falling but rather the fear of the temptation to fall “against which, terrified, we defend ourselves.” I have no suicidal tendencies, and yet I understand what he means. There’s this immediate, palpable understanding of how close the perilous lies.

Are you afraid of heights? Do you have any phobias?

Here are links for your weekend. Hope it’s a good one!

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Napa: Lunch at Redd, Yountville

COMMENTS: 8

travel food drink california  Napa: Lunch at Redd, Yountville
travel food drink california  Napa: Lunch at Redd, Yountville

Earlier this month, over the mother’s day weekend, Aron and I drove into Yountville (a little town in Napa that you may have heard of thanks to some fella named Thomas Keller) and had an anniversary lunch at Redd.

Redd won me over with the best mocktail (and a delicious meal) when I was pregnant with Hudson. This was the first time we’d been back, and I still loved it. The menu is a bit eclectic—many dishes have a bit of an Asian-fusion aspect whereas others are steadfastly European—but everything we’ve had has been great. I was especially excited about indulging in things like hamachi sashimi and tuna tartare (their take is amazing), oysters and (real) cocktails—the sorts of things that had been off limits last time (and throughout most of the past year).

But I was also reminded what a pleasure it is to indulge in a special midday meal.

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Kids on planes

COMMENTS: 48

travel family  Kids on planes

travel family  Kids on planes

By the time you read this, we’ll have taken Skyler on her first cross-country flight. In anticipation, I found myself thinking back on this proposal for a kids’ class on airplanes. (Which is a mistake, because the commenters get hostile and it will do no good to think about that.)

It feels like, every few months, news of a new way to make travel more intimidating for parents comes about. Another airline bans parents from business class, another mom has to taste-test her breast milk, and another blogger posts about passing out care packages of whiskey, earplugs, and snickers bars to all of passengers seated within earshot of his or her infant… as if it weren’t enough that you spent the past year researching devices and gizmos that will help you shlep your kids and all of your stuff as you navigate TSA lines and baggage fees.

Back when I posted my top tips for traveling with a baby or toddler, I recall there being some healthy debate in the comments about how much your fellow passengers really care (or are really predisposed to give you the evil eye when you board with a small child). Were you imagining it? Or are you really their worst nightmare as you shimmy down the aisle?

So whenever another news story hits about a “no kids class” on airplanes, I have to assume that—yes—indeed you are.

What do you think about child-free flights or child-free classes?

Part of me says it’s ridiculous: as if being a few rows apart from a troublesome tot will spare you any disturbance. Put on headphones and do your best to ignore the company of others, just as I do when I don’t want to get stuck in conversation with the adult beside me. (Frankly, I like sitting by older children… they never strike up unwanted political conversation, they prefer to immense themselves in their iPad and ignore you, and they rarely take over your armrest or knee space the way grown men tend to do.) Another part of me says, hey—sure—as long as you’re the one paying the extra fee and supporting the airline business! Why not? We pay for everything on flights now.

But it does set an interesting precedent about who we get to choose as our company.

travel family  Kids on planes

Photos from our last flight with Hudson, to Grand Cayman, trying out the Cares safety restrainttravel family  Kids on planes and using these toddler headphones. (Here are our current picks for best toddler travel gear, and a trick to kid-proofing your iPhone or iPad.)

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In My Bag: Carry-on Pouch of Essentials

COMMENTS: 13

travel  In My Bag: Carry on Pouch of Essentials

I’m starting to think about what I’m going to pack for our flight to Florida this weekend, but there’s one thing I never have to think about: my carry-on essentials. I keep a little pouch packed and at the ready to toss into my bag. Actually, in general, the contents of my larger carry-on have varied dramatically over the years: glossy fashion magazines have been traded for childrens’ books and a buffet of finger foods—even if I usually still pack a few in my checked bag. But there’s always a pouch with a few key items that’s waiting to be whisked off at a moment’s notice (and stashed in the seat pocket in front of me).

If you recall, one of our favorite strategies for flying with very small children is staying off the plane as long as possible. Aron usually gets on the plane first and grabs some overhead space, takes care of gate-check, installs the carseat and whatnot. He’s the one who has decide what goes at our feet (or solely in the seat pocket, if we happen to score the bulkhead), which is all the more reason for making sure that what I need at my fingertips is easy to grab when the seatbelt sign goes on.

Here’s what I like to keep at the ready:

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Monterey Bay Aquarium Eats

COMMENTS: 4

travel california  Monterey Bay Aquarium Eats

travel california  Monterey Bay Aquarium Eats

travel california  Monterey Bay Aquarium Eats

I was thinking back fondly on our visit to the stunning tidepools outside of Monterey, and it occurred to me that I had a lot more to say about that trip and about paying a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium on your next trip to the central coast of California.

For one, where you should eat—which you know is always of chief concern to me. There’s a relatively new restaurant (it opened last year) inside the aquarium called Cindy’s Waterfront. If you’re traveling with kids and you’re absolutely sure that you can’t get them to settle for a sit-down lunch, there’s a new café attached as well; but if you can manage it, be sure and make reservations for window seats at the restaurant. We stopped by the desk first thing when we arrived and put our name in, but just to be safe, call ahead (they’re only open 11-3).

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Planning for spontaneity: Italy

COMMENTS: 90

travel  Planning for spontaneity: Italy
travel  Planning for spontaneity: Italy
travel  Planning for spontaneity: Italy
[Polignano a Mare // Sorano/Trentino // Sardinia/Santa Maria al Bagno]

We’re going! We’ve booked our tickets—three and a lap-infant—to Italy for the end of summer! Italy has been on our minds since our trip to Sardinia, as you might recall.

In her editor’s letter in the revamped Condé Nast Traveler, Pilar Guzmán, said something that felt so spot-on for me and how I like to approach traveling: “Sometimes a truly memorable trip is the one when the unexpected happens, when you get lost in a good way. But spontaneity takes planning, gathering, and the collective wisdom of travelers you trust.” So many of you have already left such helpful comments, so I’m hoping I can solicit your collective wisdom again.

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Bring a children’s book to life (Boston)

COMMENTS: 7

travel family  Bring a childrens book to life (Boston) travel family  Bring a childrens book to life (Boston)

Lately, in our house, we have been spending a lot of time looking at Larry Gets Lost in San Franciscotravel family  Bring a childrens book to life (Boston) , a children’s book about a boy and his dog who get separated and, of course, reunited after the dog has some fun adventures around the city. I love hearing Hudson pronounce “San Francisco” and “Golden Gate Bridge.” We talk about the cable cars and the sea lions (which he remembers), and the curvy streets and colorful Victorian houses (which he does not).

I love the idea of discovering other children’s books to bring to life and combining them with travel. It was an idea explored so sweetly by Bridget Hunt (on her blog, Tales of Me and the Husband) last year. In fact I couldn’t stop thinking about the video (below), so I asked if she would share the experience of bringing Make Way for Ducklings to life. Here’s what she had to say…
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Under-the-radar Caribbean: Roatan

COMMENTS: 15

travel  Under the radar Caribbean: Roatan

travel  Under the radar Caribbean: Roatan

travel  Under the radar Caribbean: Roatan

travel  Under the radar Caribbean: Roatan

I rarely hear Central America discussed when the topic of tropical getaways surfaces, but the Honduran island of Roatan is definitely worth some serious spring-break (or even summer) consideration—especially for anyone who wants to go snorkeling or diving.

It’s been a few years since our trip. We were living in New York and flew down via Houston. We actually went in August–the temperatures are fairly consistent year-round and the island lies south of the Hurricane belt (which doesn’t mean no risk, but there’s less).

We continue to talk about going back. The island is surrounded by reef, and the off-shore snorkeling was great and the diving was fantastic. (And so much more affordable! It would be a great place to get certified.) The reading under palm trees on a white sandy beach wasn’t bad either.

There was definitely less tourist infrastructure than on many Caribbean islands, but I expect a lot has changed since our visit. They’ve since opened a new cruise port. Still, when I search online for information, I get the sense it’s off the beaten track. Has anyone been recently?

I’ve just updated our Travelogue, if you’d like to take a look.

travel  Under the radar Caribbean: Roatan

travel  Under the radar Caribbean: Roatan

 

 

travel  Under the radar Caribbean: Roatan

travel  Under the radar Caribbean: Roatan

travel  Under the radar Caribbean: Roatan
travel  Under the radar Caribbean: Roatan

travel  Under the radar Caribbean: Roatan

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