Friday, July 29, 2016

Plans for our California Road Trip


Happy Friday! I'm writing today's post to share a little bit about josh and my next adventure, as well as source some much-needed travel advice from all of you! At the end of the August, we will be taking 10 days to drive up the coast of California - something we've talked about doing together pretty much since the day we started dating. Believe it or not, josh & I have never been to the state of California, outside of a quick work trip I took to LA for a shoot. The only taste of the beautiful west coast we've had is though photos, magazines, or movies, so we're so excited to finally experience it for ourselves. Here's the plan:

  • Weekend 1: We bought one-way tickets to Los Angeles, where we will be staying in the cutest little Airbnb that we've rented in Venice Beach for the weekend with some of our best friends. 
  • Monday: We leave LA to drive up the coast to Big Sur, potentially stopping in Santa Barbara along the way for lunch.
  • Tuesday/Wednesday: We'll be staying in a yurt at Treebones for two nights and exploring Big Sur.
  • Wednesday/Thursday: Wednesday we'll continue the drive up to Carmel for a night, and will be doing the 17-mile drive along the way. 
  • Weekend 2: We'll end the trip in San Francisco, were we'll be visiting one of josh's best friends and celebrating his 28th birthday! Then we fly back to the good old east coast from San Francisco on Sunday.

So here is my ask to you! Over the next month or so, I would LOVE any and all recommendations when it comes to things to do, see, eat or visit during our time out west (road map below). Given that I've wanted to take this trip for years, I have tons of notes jotted down already, but I always find that the best tips come from people I know. We'll be renting some type of vehicle, so can make necessary pit stops along the way, or even veer off the beaten path to see anything worth seeing (or eat anything worth eating). ;)

We've always been a little overwhelmed by the prospect of visiting California because there's so much that we want to see and do there, so we are definitely going to try and squeeze as much into these 10 days as possible. And I also know that there are so many amazing CA destinations that aren't on the road map for this trip (San Diego, Napa, Lake Tahoe, we are coming for you!), and we certainly would love to return to see even more in the future. But for now, these stops are all we feel comfortable squeezing into this particular trip, while still having time to relax, enjoy time with friends, and soak it all in!

So thanks for reading, and please feel free to reach out with any and all travel recommendations! I will be sure to share photos after our trip and in the meantime, you can follow along on our travels at #joshandlutravels. Have a great weekend!


Thursday, July 14, 2016

A Family Trip to Hilton Head, SC

It's that time of the year again! The month of June is what I like to call "Gemini season", where my entire family (aside from myself) celebrates their birthdays. This year was extra exciting because my Dad turned the big SIX-O, so as a gift my mom planned a trip for the whole family. There were a few locations that were contenders for the trip, but we ultimately decided on Hilton Head, which is a place my parents have become very fond of. I am lucky in that I do get to see my family fairly frequently, but it was still nice to escape for a few days to experience somewhere new. I don't think we have all been under one roof for a night since our wedding! We enjoyed hours of ocean time (in water that was warmer than the air), some amazing seafood, lots of live country music, and overall enjoyed the slower way of life down there. My favorite part had to be traveling everywhere by bike! Bikes really rule the roads down there, and it was awesome.

As a birthday gift to my parents, my siblings, josh & I all pitched in to get a professional photographer to capture some photos of us on the beach. I stumbled upon Savannah-based photographer Rach Loves Troy via Instagram, and am so glad I did! She has a beautiful eye and shoots with film, which I've officially been converted to ever since our wedding. If you are ever in the low-country and are interested in a quick shoot, definitely give her a call! We rarely get photos all together as a family, so I think that capturing this trip in a way that we can save forever was one of the best gifts we could have given. Christmas card, check!
^ so corny, but I love it!

Since my last Travel Tuesday update, I've added even more trips to this year's list, including a last minute jaunt to Norfolk, VA to visit my best friend Emily in her new home before we jetted off to Tulum. I've also traveled to Utah and Florida in the last few months for some exciting #jossandmainmakeover shoots, and I feel sure I'll be off to several other locations for work before the year ends. When it comes to vacations, josh & I also have plans for an exciting California road-trip in the works, which I'll be sure to share details around soon! Until then, you can keep up with us on Instagram @ #joshandlutravels. xx


Thursday, May 12, 2016

1 Week in Tulum

Josh and I got back from sunny Tulum, Mexico a couple weeks ago, and I can honestly say it's one of my favorite places I've ever visited. If you followed along on Instagram you may have seen some sneak peeks, but today I'm sharing more photos, as well as diving into some recommendations for those thinking about traveling to Tulum themselves. There are some places you travel to that you will only probably visit once in your lifetime, but when it comes to Tulum, I will most definitely be back. The people, the food, the weather, and just the overall vibe all left me with a lasting impression, and it was such a quick & easy trip from Boston.

Mexico has the reputation of being built up by huge all inclusive hotels, but Tulum more like the anti-resort of the Yucatan Peninsula (and has been dubbed the Williamsburg of Mexico). You won't find any clubs, swarms of tourists, or anything all-inclusive here. Because of this, you feel much more like a local and get to experience everything that this little jungle/beach town has to offer, instead of just feeling like a tourist trapped inside a resort. We wandered the streets with no shoes on, biked to and from town, got food or drinks and many of the hotels along the beach without restriction, and explored just as we would at home. The sense of  community in Tulum is strong, and it's one of the things I loved most. And after seeing Tulum pop everywhere in newspapers, magazines & in some of my favorite blogs over the last couple of years, I had a pretty clear idea of places I wanted to visit while there. Luckily with one week and a town that's only a couple of miles wide, it was easy to see it all!

Where to Stay

Ahau Tulum 
I picked this hotel because it was the #1 rated hotel in Tulum on TripAdvisor, and once again TripAdvisor didn't steer me wrong. Ahau, which is best known for it's commitment to the environment and morning yoga classes, was a relaxing retreat centrally located right in the middle of all of the restaurants, hotels, and hotspots on Tulum Beach. We opted to stay in one of Ahau's smaller "Bali Huts" for the first half of the week, which you can see a few photos of below. Your floor in the hut literally just fits a bed & bathroom, which to be honest is really all you need when you're living on the beach. The small quarters and open air elements make it almost feel like camping, and waking up to views of the ocean and the breeze blowing through our bedroom canopy was something that I wish I could bottle up forever. After four nights in our beloved little hut we were almost sad to move into our larger hotel room, but that feeling was short-lived when we walked through the door. The added space to unpack our clothes felt like a luxury at that point, and we had the most amazing private balcony with a hammock that we loved taking afternoon siestas in. I'm so glad we were able to experience both rooms, and truly got to see everything Ahau has to offer. If you ever visit Tulum, you must must stay here!
Coqui Coqui
This hotel was right next to Ahau, about a 2 minute walk down the beach. Started by male model and Yucatan transplant Nicholas Melleville, it has quickly become "the place" to stay in Tulum, and countless celebrities have been spotted on its beach. It was completely sold out when we were booking our trip so it wasn't an option, but we made a point to spend a lot of time there. It almost looks like an old beachfront castle, that has been completely renovated in a chic (yet effortless) boho/nomadic way. Fringed hammocks and seagrass pendants hang from the ceilings, incredible scents waft out from the first floor "perfumeria', and every turn is an Instagrammers dream.
For more of an in-town experience, I have also heard great things about this beachfront hotel! We biked by it many times during our time there and it was flooded with Americans, almost like a mini NYC lounge/bar in the middle of Mexico. Music is also a major component of the hotel, and it has been frequented by some of the best DJs in the world.
Where to Eat
Ahau Tulum
Josh and I aren't big breakfast eaters, so when we go on vacation, enjoying breakfast is one of the biggest luxuries. Every morning we devoured a spread of perfectly cooked poached eggs with toast, salsa, avacado, cheese & black beans - it's one of the things I miss most. And if you stop by for lunch, don't miss their shrimp tacos or their frozen drinks, served in the cutest smiling pineapples! Most of the time we chose to eat in the oversized daybeds in lieu of chairs, which left me wishing every restaurant back home had the same setup. :)
Casa Jaguar
The main street of Tulum Beach is bustling, but as soon as you step foot off the road into Casa Jaguar, you feel like you are miles away in the middle of the jungle. Exotic music and some sort of smoke (likely to keep the bugs at bay) flows throughout the space, and the whole experience just feels really cool. Don't miss their delicious cocktails, or the decadent Mexican chocolate fondant cake, which we admittedly when back for twice!
Hartwood
If you want to find every hipster New Yorker in Tulum, look no further than Hartwood restaurant at about 2pm. They start taking reservations at 3pm and are fully committed for the night about a half hour later, so getting a spot in line early is a must. If any of you know josh, there's nothing he hates more than lines, so as we stood there waiting for a half hour in 90 degree, we were a little grumpy and a lot skeptical as to if it would be worth it. But after reading this article in the NY Times about a year ago and hearing "long lines, but worth the wait!" from everyone we asked, we knew we that Hartwood was a spot we couldn't miss. And when we returned that night for our reservation, we quickly realized what all the hype was about. The restaurant has no appliances outside of a blender and runs completely on solar energy, so everything on the menu is cooked over a wood fire. The flavors in every dish were out of this world - definitely one of the best and most memorable meals I have had in a long time. My line-hating husband even wanted to wait in line the following night to eat there again!
Gitano
We had so much fun at this little jungle mezcal bar! If you go to dinner here, be sure to go after dark, when this restaurant is completely mesmerizing. Light from the plentiful string lights and mini lanterns reflects off hanging disco balls, and the result is insanely dreamy. We ate here our first night in Tulum, but stopped here multiple more times for drinks after dark.

La Zebra 
This place not only has great food, but also offers salsa lessons on the beach almost every afternoon! We stumbled upon this hotel a little ways down the beach towards the end of our trip, and were drawn in because of the fun music and amazing-looking lunches. After a week of fresh food - tacos with grilled fish caught that day, salsa made right in front of us, juices straight out of the pineapple or coconut - we found ourselves craving the cheesy, greasy Mexican food we were used to back home (which was seemingly nowhere to be found)! But with nachos, quesadillas, beer battered fish, and Mexican street corn all on La Zebra's huge menu, we were finally able to satisfy our cravings.
Posada Margarita 
This restaurant was a little further of a walk down the beach from where we were staying, so we put off making the trek until one of our last nights. But wow, was it worth the walk. This place is a weathered wood, shabby-chic dream. From the beach, it almost looks like a beautiful shipwreck. It's also one of the only places in Tulum that serves Italian food, so it was a nice little break from all the fish tacos we'd been eating.
Like I did in my post about our trip to Greece, I also love sharing things that surprised me, or that I didn't know in advance of visiting (despite lots of reading & research). Here is that list!

Things to know:
- Bugs: Obviously with this year's frenzy around the Zika virus, everyone is on high-alert when it comes to bug bites and there was actually bug spray provided both at the airport and hotel. However, despite being in two nearly open air hotel rooms, I didn't notice a single mosquito or flying insect. All of our bites came from little sand mites, which were almost invisible but can do a number on your body. So don't get me wrong, josh & I were both covered in bug bites by the end of our trip, but not the bad kind!
- Cash Only: There was only one restaurant that we ate at in Tulum (La Zebra) that took credit cards, everywhere else was cash only! I wish we had known this in advance, as every ATM along Tulum Beach charged a whopping $20 for every $100 that you withdrew. Luckily Mexico is fairly inexpensive as it is so not much cash was needed, but looking back we should have traveled down with more dinero. Also, no need to swap your money for pesos, everywhere in Tulum took US dollars!
- No flushing: You can't flush the toilet paper down the toilet anywhere in Tulum, not even in your hotel room. I think this is true for most of Mexico, but it was definitely something to get used to! :)
- Surfs up: The waves along Tulum Beach are BIG! If you were envisioning the calm, still waters of the Caribbean (like we were), you are very wrong. This was actually one of the most exciting surprises to us, as josh & I are obsessed with boogie boarding and were able to really hone our extreme boogieing skills over the course of the week. We definitely got thrown into the sand a few times and came back with some intense sand scars to prove it, but we always came up smiling. Josh isn't as good at doing nothing on sunny vacation as I am, so it was nice to be able to do an activity on the beach while still getting my much-needed sun time.
- Nightlife: Tulum is more of a zen, yoga town and is where people go to relax and recharge, so there is not much of a nightlife scene there. If you are looking for clubs, discotecas, or all-night dancing, stay in Cancun! We did find a few parties along the beach during the day and spent many nights enjoying margaritas at mezcal bars like Gitano (above), but most nights we were in bed by midnight.

And there you have it, Tulum in a nutshell! Of course there is so much to do outside of Tulum in the Riviera Maya like visiting the ruins, swimming in cenotes, snorkeling etc. that I didn't cover here. Mexico is such a beautiful country, that left me feeling relaxed and inspired. It's so nice to cross a destination off your bucket list and have it be even better than you ever imagined. Tulum, we are pretty obsessed with you. We'll be back! xx