Travel

A Guide to Old Town Edinburgh

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If you hadn’t noticed, we often find ourselves in Edinburgh. We think Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city is a must see when planning a trip to Scotland (or Europe for that matter!). Not only is it Eve's “spirit city” but it is also a city rich in history and things to do! The great thing about Edinburgh is there are so many amazing parts of the city that have their own unique character yet they all still feel distinctly “Edinburgh”. This will be the first of several travel posts covering different areas of the city.

Today, we will focus on Old Town Edinburgh, where the Royal Mile and Edinburgh Castle reside. This area of the city is the oldest and has the most tourist traffic however we don’t mind one bit! To offset the number of tourists, you can always plan your visit during an off-season. The off-seasons typically run from September through November and Mid-January through April. Visiting during these times will dramatically lower the cost of your trip and the number of people wandering the streets and local attractions. We love Edinburgh In January, just after Hogmanay (New Years). The streets are empty and pubs are cozy with their fireplaces lit!

Here are some of our top places to eat, drink, stay, and play in Old Town Edinburgh….

xxx Ivy & Eve

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Eat

Civerinos- $$ Known as the Italian street food and pizza slice bar in Edinburgh. They have a casual dining area with shared tables. We always try and stop in here once each visit for a slice or two. In summer months we order their Frosé!

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The Halfway House- $ Looking for a traditional pub meal in one of the smallest pubs in Edinburgh? Look no further than The Halfway House! Located in the Fleshmarket Close between Market Street and Waverly Station entrance. It’s the perfect place to enjoy real ale and stovies (a potato, onion, and meat dish) while enjoying the atmosphere of locals (Mark the owner is usually at the bar nursing a pint and chatting with customers) tourists, and people waiting for their train.

Zizzi (Roxburgh Court)- $$ Probably the most cringeworthy place to include on a guide BUT Zizzi is truly a guilty pleasure of ours. Zizzi is a chain restaurant throughout the U.K. and we happen to LOVE their food! We recommend ordering their Primavera Rustic Pizza and a bottle of the Montepulciano #delish. They are also vegan, non-gluten, non-dairy, and vegetarian-friendly. If we haven’t convinced you we should mention they have one of the best views of New Town, Edinburgh.

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The Witchery- $$$$ Worthy of splurging a little or a lot, The Witchery, is downright magical. Located at the top of the Royal Mile (the same location as the hotel - see Stay section) this restaurant is famous locally and globally. The menu consists of local Scottish fare and an extensive wine list. We have graced this place only a few times but each time has been perfect. TIP- check out their lunch and dinner prix fixe menu (£22 and £40 respectably) to save a little money while dining BIG!

Oink- $ Perfect for a quick bite at any of their three locations in Edinburgh (two in Old Town and one in New Town). Order a Piglet, Oink, or Grunter size Scottish hog roast on a roll, add some stuffing, and your choice of sauces and you’ve got yourself the perfect meal or snack to keep you going till dinnertime. Eve’s go-to is an Oink with haggis and apple sauce!

Elephant House- $ The sacred location where J.K. Rowling allegedly wrote Harry Potter! Pop in here for a warming cup of tea or coffee before or after strolling through Greyfriars Kirkyard. Grab a window seat at the back for a great view overlooking Greyfriars Kirkyard and the Castle.

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Mussel and Steak Bar- $$ Stop in for lunch or dinner to eat your weight in mussels and steak (who would have guessed?!). This place has a relaxed but stylish atmosphere and a good wine list. We recommend getting a pot of mussels in their creamy whiskey bacon broth!

Marys Milkbar- $ The best ice cream in Edinburgh hands down! They make flavors like violet, brown bread, and passionfruit with lemongrass which are ALL to die for! As you exit, make sure to look up to admire their impressive view of Edinburgh Castle!

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Ecco Vino Enoteca- $$ We previously shared our love for this cozy wine bar and restaurant when we wrote for This is Edinburgh…you can see the full post HERE. Perfect for a leisurely glass of wine and some tasty seafood-centered dishes. On warmer days sit outside or by the open windows to Cockburn Street (pronounced “COE-BURN”).

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The Milkman- $ This specialty coffee shop is a perfect place to start your day. With bench window seating its also a great place to people watch!

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The White Hart Inn- $ Located in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket, this pub is perfect for those seeking traditional Scottish fare and some not-so-traditional menu items. Get the Haggis Nachos…you won’t regret it! One of the oldest pubs in Edinburgh and home to more than a few eerie stories of the city’s dark past.

Drink

The Ensign Ewart- $ Need a break from the busy Royal Mile and maybe a place to warm up? The Ensign Ewart is the perfect place to go. Located on the Royal Mile just yards below the castle gates this pub is not to be missed. We frequent this pub on evenings to enjoy their live local musicians (Our favorite band to listen to is The Gorms). With four Scottish cask ales, a large whiskey list, and hearty pub food you can’t go wrong. If you visit for lunch they also have a great lunch special: any sandwich and their soup of the day for just £8.50.

The Jolly Judge- $ Another favorite of ours. Perfect for an afternoon drink or make it a late nighter. Tucked away right off the Royal Mile is this charming pub. Enjoy their nice warm fire which burns at most hours and a cool replica ceiling of the historic building, Gladstones Land, nearby. Ivy likes their selection of ciders and real ales while Eve always orders the “malt of the month” or a “tour is Scotland”whiskey flight. In warm(ish) weather, sit outside on the picnic benches and enjoy a pint or two!

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Stay

The Witchery by the Castle- $$$$ Located on Castlehill at the top of the Royal Mile. This hotel was described as one of the seven wonders of the hotel world by Cosmopolitan. Each room different and drowning in indulgence. This place is on our bucket list of hotels to stay at. For now, we can dream!

The Grassmarket Hotel- $$ Comfortable and with touches of quirky Scottish decor, this hotel is at the bottom of Victoria Street at the corner of Grassmarket which means it is in the ideal place for exploring! Seriously, they’ll even make you a packed lunch to take with you on our day's adventure!

Fraser Suites- $$$ Quiet and comfortable and just off the Royal Mile. This hotel is perfect for anyone who wants a comfortable place to decompress after a long day walking the streets of Edinburgh.

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The Royal Mile- (Free) The Royal Mile is actually a series of streets that run from Edinburgh Castle at the top of the hill all the way to Holyrood Palace at the bottom. The mile is chock full of “tartan tat” tourist shops as well as great restaurants, boutiques, and historic points of interest.

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Edinburgh Castle-$$ Definitely worth the money, Edinburgh Castle grounds hold several restaurants, a whiskey shop, and SO MUCH HISTORY! Our favorite spots are the Dog Cemetery and St Margaret’s Chapel. TIP: Book your tickets ahead to skip the long lines.

View of castle lit up at night

View of castle lit up at night

Dog cemetery found within the castle walls

Dog cemetery found within the castle walls

National Museum of Scotland- (Free, $ for special exhibition tickets) One of our all time favorite museums. Spend your time in the Scottish History and Archaeology galleries for some pretty spectacular stuff or head to the Art of Living gallery to see what Eve worked on during her internship in grad school! TIP: Head to the roof for spectacular views of Edinburgh Castle and surrounding areas.

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Victoria Street- This colorful street is home to some of our favorite shops. Including Walker Slater for traditional Scottish wear, I.J. Mellis Cheesemonger for the best cheeses around, Oink, and Museum Context which is a Harry Potter themed shop.

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Greyfriars Bobby statue & Greyfriars Kirkyard- (Free) Wander over to Candlemaker Row to see the famous Bobby statue before heading into the Kirkyard. Burials in the Kirkyard have been taking place here since the late 16th century and if you look, you might see some familiar Harry Potter names! Worth a visit if only to see a unique view of the Castle.

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Mercat Tours- $ If you enjoy going on ghost tours, Edinburgh is the city for you! We have been on almost every ghost tour available in Edinburgh and we like Mercat ghost tours the best. We have gone on EVERY single one they offer! Our favorite tour is the Evening of Ghost and Ghouls tour. We love this one because it’s super creepy but if you make it out alive (hehe) you get to enjoy a drink in their cozy candle-lit cellar.

The Real Mary King’s Close- $$ If you aren’t one for straight-up frightening but want a bit of creepy history, we suggest this tour for you! They also have a café and fun gift shop to peruse before and after your tour. Splurge on the photo-op picture for a fun souvenir (see ours below). TIP: Make a night out of it by heading to Zizzi which is right next door for dinner!

Ivy trying to look like a ghost during the tour

Ivy trying to look like a ghost during the tour

The Scotch Whisky Experience- $$ Planning on enjoying some of Scotland’s finest whiskey while in Edinburgh? Learn all about Scotland’s whiskey-making history here! Part educational experience, part Disney-esque amusement ride, the “tour” begins when you step into your own whiskey barrel and ride (yes, ride) through the production of whiskey. Afterward, you step into their seminar room and are lead through the basics of whiskey aromas and production regions. At the end of the tour, you are led into their whiskey collection room (photo below) and enjoy a dram while admiring the collection of rare and old whiskeys. Afterward, sample a few more drams at the bar. We recommend their whiskey and cheese pairing flights! YUM!

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Saint Giles’ Cathedral- (Free with suggested donation) St. Giles’ is one of our favorite places to take a breather from the hustle and bustle of the Royal Mile. Founded over 900 years ago, this church was also the center of the Scottish Reformation. Take a guided tour or just discover it at your own pace. The Thistle Chapel is particularly stunning and looks out for the carving of an angel playing the bagpipes! They also have a small affordable cafe and little gift shop for unique souvenirs.

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Playtime in Park City, Utah

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A while ago, Eve went away on a long weekend trip with our mom to Park City. They felt like getting away to somewhere they could breathe fresh air, enjoy a new view, and relax. While looking at places to go, flight prices to Salt Lake City were really low so they decided to head to Park City, where we have spent many days on the slopes, skiing with our family growing up. This time though, there was no snow, only crisp mountain air, and sunshine (and a little….no, a lot of shopping).

xxx Ivy & Eve

Stay

Washington School House Hotel- This 12-room boutique hotel is in an old converted school house dating from the late 1800’s. Located a block off Main Street, you’ll enjoy a little peace an quiet (Main Street can be a bit boisterous at night) while still being close to all the action!

The Caledonian- This trip, we stayed at The Caledonian condos located right on Main Street. Most condos have balconies and hot tubs to enjoy post-hiking or while enjoying your morning coffee. Each condo is privately owned so they all have their own homey feeling. We loved being able to use a kitchen to prepare pre-dinner drinks and appetizers to enjoy on our balcony. We would definitely stay here again!

Deer Valley Resort- For a more luxe “resort” experience stay at any of the Deer Valley lodges or condos. Our family has stayed at several of the lodges and condos over the years as they are all ski-in ski-out locations which is REALLY important for us when we go skiing. There is a plethora of restaurants, bars, shops, and the Deer Valley spa, which we highly recommend post skiing. There is a free shuttle service offered to town which is just a short trip down the hill.

Eat and Drink

Atticus Coffee and Teahouse- Part cafe, part bookshop, Atticus was our go-to for breakfast and pick-me-ups during our trip. They have delicious custom tea blends (that you can also buy to take home) and coffee drinks as well as the most delicious peanut butter oat bars. The best part about ordering your drink is that they come in three unique sizes: Willow (small), Alice (medium), and Hagrid (large).

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Collie’s Sports Bar- For casual dining, we’d recommend Collie’s. Perfect for drinks, lunch, or food while watching a game on TV. This place serves up lots of local beers and what we would call “fresh” bar food. The salads we ordered were delicious and wings in Collie’s “Bobby-Q'“ sauce were SO GOOD.

No Name Saloon- THE classic Park City establishment. Famous for their Buffalo Burger and strong drinks, this place is perfect for a drink and bite on their heated rooftop patio or grab a seat at one of their several bars. Perfect for people watching! (21+)

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Fletcher’s- Delicious food all around. We went here for our last night’s meal and it definitely was the send-off we were hoping for. They have an extensive wine list with great bottles for all budgets and tasty cocktails to go alongside fresh, local dishes. The standouts of the night were the Short Rib Grilled Cheese, Grass Fed Beef Carpaccio, and the Blueberry Bread Pudding.

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High West Saloon- High West is Utah’s first legal distillery since prohibition since they opened back in 2009. While the distillery is outside the city, the saloon is located just off Main Street and is the perfect place for a bite to eat, and lots of whisky! We had lunch and whisky tasting on our first day and came back for drinks again during our stay! Beware: the Bacon Caramel Cashew Popcorn is highly addictive! (21+)

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Shabu- Self-proclaimed as “Freestyle Asian Cuisine”, Shabu serves up delicious sushi, Japanese, and Asian inspired dishes. The waitstaff was very friendly and guided us through the menu to help craft the most delicious and memorable meal! Standout dishes were the Jalapeño Yellowtail, Blistered Green Beans, and Chef’s Selection Hot Pot! They also have a great selection of sake!

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Harvest- We wish we had gone here for breakfast earlier on during our trip because this place is SO good! Owned by Emma who hails from Australia, Harvest’s menu consists of on-trend Aussie dishes. Ivy can attest that Aussies are OBSESSED with breakfast foods (she recently visited friends there). This place makes breakfast feel like a happy, healthy, pretty, celebration on a plate! We loved our Avocado toast, Corn-Zucchini Cakes, Coffees, and warm Golden Mylk (coconut milk with turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, and pepper).

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Hiking- Many of the ski hills turn into the perfect summer hiking trails. We took the ski lift From the Park City Mountain Village up the hill and hiked back down. You can also stay on the ski lift for a scenic view ride. There is also a lift up the mountain from right on Main Street for even more convenience!

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Outdoor pursuits- There are many outfitters that you can hire for fishing, horseback riding, and other outdoor adventures. There are also loads of biking trails that you can (and should) take advantage of!

Shopping- Main Street is packed with outdoorsy shopping establishments like Patagonia, Gorsuch, and a plethora of ski shops. There are also loads of cute boutiques. Our personal favorites are Mary Jane’s and Olive and Tweed. Both had cute and relatively affordable women’s clothing, accessories, and shoes. We left with much heavier suitcases!

Park Silly- Durning June-September, every Sunday Main Street turns into a giant market full of artisans, food vendors, music, and even a Bloody Mary bar!

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Egyptian Theatre- This small historic theater plays host to many well known musical acts, comedy acts, and plays. We happened to come into town when Al Jardine was playing so we (of course) bought tickets and sang along to our favorite Beach Boys songs all night long!

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Scottsdale, Arizona: A Desert Getaway

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Last year, if you had told us that our new favorite weekend getaway location would be in the middle of the desert, we would have probably laughed out loud. Arizona has never really been on the top of our travel list and yet, when we found ourselves in desperate need to get away and just relax, Scottsdale kept popping up in our search results. On a whim, we decided to test it out and boy, are we happy we did! We were so pleasantly surprised at how awesome this little desert town is that we find ourselves daydreaming of the place A LOT.

We booked last minute trip after seeing a killer deal at The Saguaro Hotel on Guilt Travel, which ended up being the perfect base for our Scottsdale adventures. One of the greatest parts was how easy it was for us to get there. Usually, flights out of our local airport are super expensive but this direct flight was amazingly affordable! We left at 6:00 am, took a quick 1.5-hour plane ride, grabbed a taxi from Phoenix, checked into our hotel, and were at brunch sipping mimosas by 9:30 am!!! Both of these deals made it perfect for our spontaneous trip to Arizona. We have put together our favorite places to eat, drink, stay and play. 

xxx Ivy & Eve

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Stay

The Saguaro Scottsdale- $$-$$$ This hotel screams fun! With bright colors everywhere you look, it's impossible not to be in a good mood. We chose to stay here because of its central location, super fun vibe, and great price! This hotel was the perfect place for our weekend getaway. We definitely recommend this place for a girls weekend or bachelorette party (Eve actually planned one of her friends bachelorette weekends there last fall!). We found this hotel on one of our favorite travel sites Guilt Travel. We wouldn't recommend this hotel for someone looking for a very quiet relaxing weekend since there were quite a lot of screaming girls (in bachelorette parties) but if you are visiting Scottsdale with friends it's ideal. The hotel offers bikes you can take for a spin, two pools, and a spa facility where you can choose from a number of treatments. 

TIP: It obviously get REALLY hot in Scottsdale in the summer and come July monsoon season hits and lasts until the end of August where you'll get torrential rainstorms out of the blue. these storms don't last long though so it isn't too bad if you don't mind getting a little wet. We recommend going End of September-June for the best weather. June gets HOT (100+) though so be warned! 

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Eat

Diego Pops- $$ This trendy Mexican restaurant is located in downtown Scottsdale. Their menu includes the typical tacos, and burritos you'd expect but it also includes a few poke bowl options. And if your not hungry just their drinks are worth a visit. The menu features a variety of tropical cocktails, a tequila flight or even a fun snow cone margarita! 

Saguaro Restaurant- $$ Located at The Saguaro Hotel this was the perfect place to grab breakfast or lunch before or after our pool time. they also have a smaller poolside menu with similar options for lunch. We loved their guacamole, nachos, and street tacos alongside a pitcher of frosé! 

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Arcadia Farms- $$$ Located in old town Scottsdale this classic brunch place is perfect for any girls weekend. This was our first stop on the trip and helped get us into vacation mode. (All the mimosas we consumed may have helped.)  We also recommend heading next door to the Arcadia Farms Marketplace. This is an awesome place to grab food to go or purchase some fun gifts!

The Montauk- $$$ This place was amazing! With lots of fresh food options, it was the perfect lunch spot to sit under the misters and enjoy the hot Arizona weather. We loved their frozé and a refreshing rose cocktail. Eve went back for brunch and can tell you it is equally good then!

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The Original ChopShop- $ We grabbed a quick breakfast here early one morning before wandering around old town Scottsdale. With the slogan "just feel good food" this place was the perfect place to fuel up before a day of pursuing shops and laying by the pool. For the morning menu, they specialize in superfruit bowls and parfaits that look good and taste great, along with fresh juices and some tasty breakfast sandwiches. 

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Prado- $$$-$$$$ This restaurant is located in the Omni Resort and Spa in Paradise Valley which is a little ways outside of Old Town (10-minute taxi). We enjoyed a leisurely dinner of Spanish wines and many tapas-style dishes on the patio and enjoyed the sunset views of Camelback Mountain. 

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We brought Mom along for this fun weekend!

We brought Mom along for this fun weekend!

The Henry- Also located in Paradise Valley, The Henry is a perfect place for a larger group because this place is HUGE! There's a large patio, lounge, and expansive dining room. They have a good wine list and tasty dishes. Our favorites were the short rib potstickers and the grilled branzino fish. 

Berdena's- This cute coffee shop is perfect for an afternoon pick me up. They have a tasty selection of freshly baked bars, cookies, and pastries as well as delicious coffees. Eve tried their cherry cold brew and tonic drink and she still dreams about it to this day!

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Play

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art- $$ Enjoy a bit of culture and escape the heat! This museum has great contemporary art exhibitions and a beautiful sculpture garden.

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Shopping in Old Town- (Free) Right outside the Saguaro Hotel, Old Town is a great place to enjoy a leisurely stroll in the morning or afternoon when it's not too hot out. With dozens of cute boutiques and some fantastic southwestern shops within a few blocks, you can have a blast without working up a sweat.  

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Scottsdale Fashion Square- (Free) Just around the corner from Old Town this indoor mall is a great place to cool down and indulge in some serious retail therapy.

The Saguaro Hotel Spa- $$$ The perfect addition to any vacation. We all had a massage treatment in the morning to start our days off on the right foot. Be sure to look on their website for spa deals. 

Hike- (Free) Scottsdale is known for a number of great outdoor activities, hiking is one of the most popular. However, depending on the time of year you go, you may have to wake up really early to avoid the 100+ temperatures that are regular some parts of the year. We recommend hiking Pinnacles Peak Park for its views of the Valley. 

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We recommend checking out Experience Scottsdale's website for more ideas! 

A Holiday Trip: Denver

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Denver, the Mile High City, is known for its sweeping views of the Rockies and the large array of outdoor activities in its backyard. We decided to take a spontaneous trip to Denver to see what all the rage is about. Now that we have been there, we can confirm that this city was built for foodies, beer and wine lovers, and the outdoor enthusiast! 

As travelers we have been blessed with the opportunity to visit cities all over the world. Denver is definitely one for the books. Whether you are looking for a quick weekend getaway or a week long vacation including ski chalets and mulled wine, Denver has something for everyone. We want to give a shout out to Hotel Monaco Denver for being amazing hosts for us!

Here are some of the best places we discovered over our quick weekend getaway:

xxx Ivy & Eve


EAT

Snooze $$ - When Ivy was doing her undergrad in Northern Colorado the local Snooze quickly became her go-to brunch spot. We highly recommend their Bloody Marys and the pancake flight (3 pancakes) which you can select from an array of sweet and savory pancakes. Although the menu is constantly changing, we suggest ordering the red velvet, sweet potato, or the pineapple upside down pancake if they are on offer. 

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Denver Central Market $-$$ - This is probably our favorite place we discovered on the trip. Denver Central Market is an awesome food hall with all kinds of great vendors from Curio - bar, Culture - meat & cheese, Tammen's - fish market, and High Point Creamery- ice cream! We noshed on a tuna/salmon poke bowl, a cheese and meat platter, and washed it down with some tasty house rosé!

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beast + bottle $$$ - This place is big on farm to table cuisine. The menu was full of perfectly crafted entrees, small bites, and tasty cocktails. We LOVED the chicharrones served with a yummy creamy red pepper dip!

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Marczyk Fine Foods $-$$$ - This grocery store is located just across the street from beast + bottle. They have an amazing selection of cheeses, meats, and bakery goods. This is the perfect spot to stock up on goodies for your outdoor adventures or even a picnic!

Venice $$$ - If you are looking for an Italian restaurant with an amazing wine list choose Venice. It is also located across the street form Union Station. 

Mercantile $$ - Located in the Union Station, Mercantile is part coffee shop, part bakery, and part casual restaurant. They serve tasty sandwiches, salads, and amazing Bloody Marys! We recommend getting anything that will include their house-made pickles. SO GOOD!

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Buckhorn Exchange $$$ - Our Dad heard about this place and has wanted to go for years so he sent us on a mission to test it out for him. We are SO GLAD he did! The Buckhorn Exchange is Denver's oldest restaurant and is a registered National Historic Landmark. The walls are covered with taxidermy animals, old photographs, and other "wild west" memorabilia. They are known for their top-notch steaks and a few more unusual dishes. We started out the night with the rattlesnake queso - warm queso dip topped with rattlesnake meat and a 1/2 order of their rocky mountain oysters (deep fried calf testicles). Growing up in horse country we have had our fair share of these delicacies, and we can tell you these were some of the best! For our dinner we shared the giant buffalo prime rib and washed it all down with some cold Colorado brews! Fantastic!

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DRINK

Forest Room 5 $ - This hip but under the radar bar is a great place to start your evening. Grab a beer or cocktail inside and head out to their side yard for fire pits, a little stream, and even a tipi. We loved its laid back feel and the quirky western films playing in the restrooms. 

My Brother $ - This is Denver's oldest operating bar, making it a must visit. Just down the road from Forest Room 5, this almost secret bar is perfect for your late night hangouts. We ordered a pitcher of beer, fries, and onion rings, but we hear the cottage cheese is worth ordering! 

Terminal Bar $$ - Located in Union Station, during the day Terminal Bar is packed with people coming and going via bus, or train. After hours it turns into a super cool lounge. After all the restaurants and shops close The Great Hall turns into seating for the bar.  

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Ratio Beerworks $$ - Right down the street from Denver Central Market this brewery is the perfect place to enjoy your delicious lunch. We ordered their carrot beer and it was seriously good! 

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Infinite Monkey Theorem $$$ - This urban winery has a really fun laid back vibe with a variety of wines on tap, in cans, and in traditional bottles. Grab a glass, take a seat, relax, and repeat! 

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Christmas Market Free - During the holidays, Denver hosts an adorable traditional German Christmas Market with booths offering everything from German made ornaments to giant pretzels! Grab a mug full of mulled wine or hot cocoa and peruse the shops at your leisure. 

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Parade of Lights Free - This once a year (two nights in a row) parade is definitely worth watching before you head out to dinner. Starting at dusk all of the parade floats and people are covered in glowing lights. This is a fun event for all ages. We liked the fire dancers the most! 

STAY

The Kimpton Hotel Monaco $$$ - We called this place home for the weekend and loved it! The hotel lobby and rooms are beautiful. They have a great restaurant and bar attached, extremely attentive staff, and its location is right downtown, within walking distance of everything Denver has to offer. We can't stop saying great things about this hotel. 

We got into Denver at 5am and we were able to check into our room even though check in is usually 4 pm! One of our favorite parts of staying at the Monaco Denver was the daily happy hour in the lobby from 5-6. At happy hour, there were two wines to choose from and a beer on tap along with a little snack to go along with your drink. One night they had meatballs which were divine! We loved that the Monaco Denver thinks of the details like a "hydration station" in the lobby and even free hand warmers for the chilly Denver evenings! We can't wait to go back soon!

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Happy Holiday!

A Wine Lover's Guide to Edinburgh

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While wine may not be the first thing you think about when visiting Edinburgh, that doesn't mean there isn’t plenty of amazing places to satisfy the wine lover in you. Edinburgh is home to some of the best wine bars and restaurants we have ever been to, and that’s saying something! We can’t think of many better ways to spend an afternoon, cozying up in one of these spots with a glass of wine, a bite to eat, and a friend or two.

We have teamed up with This is Edinburgh to share with you our wine lover's guide to Edinburgh.Follow the link below to find out where our favorite locations for wine connoisseurs and casual wine drinkers to visit in Scotland’s capital city.

Continue reading A Wine Lover's Guide to Edinburgh...

xxx Ivy & Eve

The Fat Pony

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Locals Only Guide to Old Monterey, California

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We were very lucky to have grown up on the beautiful Monterey Bay Peninsula. Raised in Carmel Valley, we spent lots of time in "Old Monterey". These days, we appreciate Old Monterey even more and enjoy the fabulous restaurants and night life it has to offer.

Here are some of our favorite places to eat, drink, stay, and play in Old Monterey. Enjoy!

xxx Ivy & Eve

Eat & Drink:

Jacks Monterey- $$$ Located in the Portola Hotel & Spa this newly renovated restaurant is nothing short of amazing! The Portola Hotel lobby is lined with giant (living) trees which stretch into the restaurant seating area. With lantern like lights hanging from the tree branches, there is a really magical feel to the space. Jack Monterey's menu is full of tasty fresh dishes and creative twists to classics. They also have an excellent selection of local and international wines to enjoy by the glass and/or by the bottle. Their glass selections change frequently so if you are like us and tend to order by the glass (that way you can try several!) you have the opportunity to try something new, or revisit a favorite wine. For starters we recommend the Cast-Iron Skillet Rolls to share with the table. The rolls were SO light and fluffy and paired perfectly with the super creamy artichoke and pecorino sauce they smother the rolls in! You also MUST try the Crab Cakes as well. Probably the best we've had in years! For our entrees, we enjoyed the Diver Scallops Three Ways which was the stand out dish of the night. The scallops are served in a lemon butter sauce (more traditional), salsa verde style (light and fresh), and in a Romenesco sauce (completely decadent). We also tried the Lamb Moussaka - comforting with its mashed potato topping while still tasting fresh with all of the veggies and succulent cubed (not ground) lamb. For dessert we went with the classic Chocolate Lava Cake and coffees to round out the night. Eve had her eyes on their dessert cocktails... so we know we will be back soon!

Overall, we would suggest Jacks Monterey for girls night, dates and other special occasions. We also recommend the lounge and bar as a great place to meet for drinks post-work or just for a date night! It's a 10/10!!!!

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1833- $$$ We love 1833 for it's history and slightly spooky speakeasy vibe. Named after the year John Stokes, (a fake doctor-who ended up killing 40% of Monterey's population one year!) moved to Monterey and into the adobe house that now holds the Restaurant 1833. Their cocktail menu is full of artistically crafted drinks and great wines and beers. With outdoor fire pits and perfectly decorated rooms such as the library room (our favorite) with a cozy fireplace. They also have a great happy hour where you can select a cocktail/beer/wine and a tasty bite for $12. 1833 is a great place to meet friends, share stories, and maybe even see a ghost!

Montrio Bistro- $$ This is a great place for happy hour or a romantic dinner out. With their upbeat and slightly whimsical decor, creative cocktails, and seasonally inspired dishes, everyone is sure to leave Montrio happy, full, and wanting more. They also have two separate rooms for private parties. Eve has planned several parties here in the past and they are always a hit!

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Alvarado Street Brewery- $-$$ This ultra trendy brewery and beer garden is always packed with locals and tourists alike. They make awesome beers in-house (and at their second brewery in Salinas) and serve up great casual dishes created specifically for pairing with beer. We recommend grabbing a brew and ordering their macaroni and cheese, street tacos, and their burgers!

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The Poke Lab- $ A relatively new and popular place for a quick bite to eat. Pick a bowl from the menu or build your own, there's something for any sushi lover here! Very Insta-worthy!

Yummy! (now in even larger containers!)

Yummy! (now in even larger containers!)

Boardwalk Subs Shop- $ If you are a sandwich person you must go here. They have so many cold and hot East Coast style sandwich options it is nearly impossible to pick just one. We love the Chicken Parm, Meatball, and the Jersey Italian Sub. Order a side of Old Bay fries to share and wash it down with their fresh brewed iced tea or rotating list of local beers and wines!

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Paris Bakery- $ For a truly authentic French feel, come here for a croissant and a mini bottle of bubbly (served in cute little coupes). We recommend trying their princess cakes too! They also serve their lattes and cafe au lait in bowls for the true French experience!

Parker Lusseau- $ For the delicious coffee and delicious pastries. We recommend trying the custard filled brioche and chicken curry sandwich!

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Ocean Sushi Deli- $ A cosy local sushi bar with quick service and friendly staff. Workdays we often grab a quick lunch but also love to order their sushi platters to go - when we are too lazy to cook at home. 

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Scales Seafood & Steaks- $-$$ There are dozens of restaurants along the wharf to end your hunger for seafood. We usually dine at Scales on the Go, which is Scales Restaurant's sister cafe. Here you can enjoy food to-go or sit down and relax in their small cafe and enjoy their seafood spread. We always get clam chowder in a bread bowl. Yes, we recommend splurging on your calories and carbs here because the bread bowl is so delicious!

Stay:

Although we rarely have a need to stay in hotels in our hometown we have visited all of these hotels below and recommend each one.

Portola Hotel & Spa- Home to the Jacks Monterey restaurant mentioned above this hotel is lovely and features a great location to nearly everything in Old Monterey. We also highly recommend making reservations as their spa, the pool has some of the most gorgeous views of the bay around. A massage + wine + a great view = perfection!

The Monterey Hotel- This hotel is perfect for those looking for a boutique hotel with true character. Featuring Victorian style furnishings that are sure to charm you and within walking distance of everything your heart desires while exploring Old Town Monterey.   

Casa Munras Garden and Hotel- This historic hotel has stayed true to its' past life as a Spanish Hacienda. These days rooms feature Spanish style furnishings with modern luxuries. Another great location.  

Hotel Abrego- Eve has stayed here and completely recommends it! While it is a few blocks away from the excitement from Old Monterey (it's on the same block as two gas stations and a Denny's). It is easily walkable to all Old Monterey locations and has free overnight parking which all other hotels we mention do NOT have! The hotel features beautiful rooms with electric fireplaces, a small bar (open pretty late) and breakfast daily. 

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Monterey Museum of Art- Did you know Monterey was one of the earliest West Coast artist colonies? For a dose of art and culture, head to the MMA! Their 6 small galleries are brimming with wonderful California art dating from the 1800s to the present. You will find galleries focused on Early California paintings, Photography (Edward Weston and Ansel Adams were both locals), and contemporary works.

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Golden State Theater- From country music stars, big name comedians, up and coming artists, and old classics- Golden State Theater has something for everyone. Built in 1926, the exotic Moorish style interior makes your visit unforgettable. We recently fulfilled our dreams of seeing the Beach Boys in concert here and it was nothing short of magical!!!

Wale Watching- This is a quintessential Monterey activity!  Monterey Bay is home to some of the most extraordinary wildlife. You will almost always be guaranteed to see dolphins, whales, seals, or otters. Plus, its a great way to see our beautiful coastline from a different perspective. 

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Ghost Tour of Old Monterey- Monterey was California's first capitol city, and that being said there is a LOT of history here. It is so historic that Old Monterey is only second to Williamsburg, VA for having the most historical buildings in America! While on the tour, learn about Old Town Monterey's dark past and spooky secrets!

24 hours in Napa, CA

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During the week, Eve works as a curator at an art museum. One of the perks of the job is that she is sometimes asked to visit artists' studios and select art for donation or exhibition. A few months ago, Eve was asked to visit an amazing California landscape painter, Jack Stuppin, up north and we decided to make a quick trip out of it!

We arrived in Napa around noon and went straight to Clif Family Winery. We only recently discovered this Napa winery and had to stop in to say hi and try their food and wine pairing. Created by the founders Gary and Kit of Clif Bars, Clif Family Winery is full of fun history, great food, and of course great wine. The winery was created after Gary and Kit's cycling adventures in Italy. Their adventures included cycling, leisurely Italian meals with wine, and great food and hospitality and sparked the idea to create their own wines from their property on top of Howell Mountain. Now they grow grapes for their delicious wines and organic veggies for their Bruschetteria food truck.

We tasted through their wines each paired with a little bite to eat fresh from the food truck out front. The wines were delicious and the food pairings were perfect. Troy and Tom, who were our servers, made sure we had an awesome time. We were first served some wines that were not included in our Bruschetteria Trio, the 2016 Rosé of Grenache, 2016 Rte. Blanc Sauvignon Blanc, 2014 Bici "MRV" White Blend, and the 2015 Mendocino Grenache.

For the Bruschetteria Trio which started with a seasonal Arancini that was super tasty. The first wine pairing for the flight was the 2015 Oak Knoll Chardonnay which was paired with Porchetta Bruschetta (pronounced "Pork-etta" with pork, herbs, red onion, aioli, and parmesan. Next was the delightful 2013 Gary's Improv Howell Mountain Zin. This yummy wine was paired with their Pimento Bruschetta which included roasted beet pimento spread, goat cheese, and Clif Family Kitchen smoked paprika almonds. The last wine on our flight was the 2013 Kit's Killer Howell Mountain Cab, this heavy and scrumptious red was paired with their Funghi Bruschetta which featured local mushrooms, fontina, and chives.

Lastly Troy brought us a delicious chocolate and red wine reduction "pudding" with Zinfandel salt sprinkled on top and a small bowl of chocolate covered caramels and cherries. Just thinking about them makes our mouths start watering! Our favorite wines were, of course, the rosé and the 2015 Mendocino Grenache (which Troy told us we should try chilled 20-30 min). We ended up leaving with a few different bottles and later tried the Grenache chilled back home and it was quite refreshing!

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After satisfying our palates and stomachs, we headed down the road to Napa Soap Company. We loved this cute shop and its lovely smelling soaps all made right in-house. We picked up a few of their bath "teas", soaps, and some shaving bars for the boys. They have the most amazing array of scents to suit everyone! 

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After doing a little shopping, we drove to Domaine Chandon where Ivy is a wine club member (YAY!) and we took full advantage of the benefits seeing as we rarely ever make it up to Napa. We sipped through the bubbly wine tasting flight which was delicious and nibbled on some truffle popcorn, and cheese plate. The Chandon tasting room is surrounded by green lawns perfect for picnicking, patio seating, a restaurant, and lawn chairs to admire the Napa Valley vineyard views. This is definitely a beautiful place to sit back and relax some bubbly wines while in Napa. 

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After our leisurely bubbly flight, we headed to our hotel to check in. Since the trip was last minute we picked one of the cheapest we could find- Ivy Hotel. It was under renovation, which we were unaware of and it was much farther away from everything than we expected. This wouldn't be a hotel we would normally stay at but it was clean and comfortable for the price.

Once we settled in we headed to the sushi restaurant, Eiko's near the Napa water-front for drinks and dinner. This sushi place was über cool, and the menu was very creative. We're totally trying out the sushi tacos and pizza next time we come! Lexie ordered a bunch of tasty rolls and the blackened edamame which was really yummy! Ivy also got a MASSIVE glass of champagne and Eve tried out their extensive sake menu. You can order sake by the glass (2oz), carafe (10oz), or bottle. Eve loved that you could order glasses because that means you can try a few!

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The next morning we only had time to grab a bite to eat for breakfast at the Long Meadow Ranch. The only thing open when we got there was the Cafe which had nice blankets to bundle up in since it was a chilly morning and heater lamps were turned on. The coffee was delicious and so were our pastries! On the grounds, there is the main restaurant, the General Store, a tasting room, and an outdoor area where you can hangout on the grass or sit at the picnic tables and listen to live music. We definitely want to come back here for lunch or dinner. 

xxx Ivy & Eve

Photo credit:  Long Meadow Ranch

Photo credit: Long Meadow Ranch

Killer Day Trips from Manchester, England

Last summer on our England adventure we spent a week stationed in Manchester City (see our Manchester trip here). With Manchester as our home base we had a lot of great options for day trips once we were satisfied we had explored Manchester enough. First up was York, which we featured on the blog a few months ago (read article here).

Liverpool

The second place on our day trip list was Liverpool. Neither of us had ever gone, and seeing as it's the birthplace of the Beatles, we knew we couldn't miss it. The train from Manchester to Liverpool was super simple and under an hour long. The only thing we planned was an afternoon tea at Panoramic 34

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This was a perfect way to start our day in Liverpool as we got to enjoy one the best afternoon teas we have encountered all while enjoying the Liverpool cityscape! Each table in the lounge had binoculars so you could get a closer look at the sights from the 34th floor! Simply spectacular!

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After stuffing ourselves with the delightful sandwiches and cakes, we took a stroll along the Liverpool waterfront. The Port of Liverpool is where many people from all over the UK and Ireland boarded ships to migrate to America. Recently we even found out that our 4th great-grandmother migrated to America and left from Liverpool's port to head to the New World back in 1854. Really cool right!?

Liverpool has a lot of great museums, the Tate Modern museum being one, but since we were limited on time, and the fact that Ivy is not the biggest fan of museums, we didn't make it. (Funny, since museums are one of Eve's most favorite things - so much so that she works in one!). Instead we visited the Museum of Liverpool and later the Beatles Museum. Eve plans to come back another time for some serious museum hopping.

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Then we wandered over to The Beatles Story- Liverpool. We like the Beatles, but to be honest we are not diehard fans. Don't get us wrong, we love "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and all that, we just grew up listening mostly to country music. The museum is one of the few in the UK that charges admission (£15.95) so make sure you really want to go.

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Tip: Be sure to take the audio tour guide because without it the whole museum is pretty pointless, we repeat POINTLESS. The gallery guide didn't suggest them and the museum itself is a fun visual experience, but without the audio you miss most of the history behind the band. Definitely take the headphones.

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Chester

The third day trip on our list was Chester. Chester is a very old Roman city rich in history. The only thing we had planned here for the day was a ghost tour that evening (Ivy loves ghost tours) so we spent most of the day leisurely exploring this little city. 

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 Since it was a beautiful warm day we spent most of it wandering the streets and walking the Roman walls surrounding the city. 

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Cheshire Cat along the wall

Cheshire Cat along the wall

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In the afternoon, we spent some time in the Chester Cathedral. Founded as a Benedictine abby in 1092. This cathedral is a wonderful place to soak up some history, architectural beauty, and faith. There was a military service that day as well so the whole cathedral ground was full of people!

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Cool stained glass windows inside the cathedral

Cool stained glass windows inside the cathedral

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Colorful doors

Colorful doors

After walking the some of the Roman wall and visiting the Cathedral, we stopped at Dinky Donuts for some sweet treats! Literally a hole-in-the-wall shop built right below the clock tower, they serve up some of the most delicious creamy ice creams we have ever tasted made by Cheshire Farm Ice Cream. Eve got the boozy Rum 'n' Raisin, Ivy got the classic Strawberries and Cream while P-man, Eve's BF, got donuts. YUM! 

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Later, we grabbed coffees to recharge at Jaunty Goat Coffee. We would recommend coming back for breakfast or lunch or even a bakery item because their menu and bakery case was drool worthy!

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After coffee we wandered the lovely antique shops Chester has to offer. We love visiting antique shops in Europe because they have so many more old objects to peruse and purchase. Once we had our fair share of shopping, and P-man was ready for a break, we wandered into a wine bar called Taste at Corks Out. With a few dozen wines on tap it was the perfect place to take a break before heading to the ghost tour that evening. We even saw a local wine from our hometown Monterey County, Hahn!

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After sipping on some tasty rosé, we headed to Town Hall, where we met our guide for The Original Ghost Tour of Chester. The tour took us around Chester's most haunted buildings and other locations of hauntings. Since Chester was an old Roman fort, the sinister stories and tales of hauntings date back to the 1st century A.D.! Chester claims to be one of the most haunted cities in England and we don't doubt that claim after going on this tour!

Overall we loved visiting both Liverpool and Chester. They are manageable day trips from Manchester and are a great way to get a sense of local history in a short time. We do plan to visit both cities again to explore more!

xxx Ivy & Eve

The Best Of York, England

With summer quickly approaching, we have been reminiscing last summer's European adventures. We have great news that we will be back in the UK this summer for a Scotland/Northern England expedition! Between now and the end of July, we will also be posting travel blogs on the lovely cities of Chester and Liverpool. So stay tuned for more awesome UK cities!

Last summer we spent a day in York wandering the historic Shamble's and cobblestone streets. The weather was so very "British" that day and we were so cold (and wet) that we actually bought hats! Besides the typical English weather, York was completely charming. This was not our first trip to York as we have thoroughly enjoyed visiting a few times before! We put together some of the best places to stay, eat, drink, and play for you all to check out!

xxx Ivy & Eve

Map of some of Yorks best from The Perky Peacock http://perkypeacockcoffee.co.uk

Map of some of Yorks best from The Perky Peacock http://perkypeacockcoffee.co.uk

Stay:

The Royal York Hotel - $$$$: This five-star hotel is the perfect place to enjoy a luxurious stay in York. Book a spa treatment for extra R&R time. 

Hotel du Vin & Bistro $$$: If you're looking for a great hotel, but not looking to completely splurge on a room, this is the place! Hotel du Vin is located down the street from the York train station and just out of the busy hustle and bustle of downtown York. We love the tasty smorgasbord breakfast buffet, beautiful bar, and in-room Nespresso machines!

The Old Rectory $$: This B&B is located just outside the city center of York in the rural village of Thormanby. The Old Rectory was built in 1737 and is a grade two former rectory. It has tastefully decorated rooms and with a scrumptious breakfast menu featuring local eggs and produce whenever possible.

The Trembling Madness Apartments $$-$$$: If you are looking for somewhere to stay in the city center and are up for a spooktacular night, we recommend trying one of the apartments at the Trembling Madness (not all rooms are claimed to be haunted). Bonus: they have a lovely pub and bottle shop attached to the building! See the Eat & Drink section below for more! 

Holiday Lets $-$$$$: There are some amazing deals for holiday rentals in York like this apartment with beautiful views of the Minster. These flats are perfect for families or groups traveling together. To get you started: Holiday Lettings, York Boutiquelets, Skyes Cottages, and Visit York.

Eat & Drink:

The Perky Peacock - $$: After our hour train ride from Manchester we wanted a little pick-me-up and stopped in this cute coffee shop. Situated right along the river in a tower, there are only a handful of cafe tables inside. If the weather is nice they have tables along the river to sip espresso and nibble on a toasted and buttered teacake (or more substantial breakfast items) before heading off for some York mayhem. They also have adorable logo mugs and totes, both of which Eve's BF P has bought for her.  :) 

Bettys Cafe Tea Room - $$$: Bettys is famous in York for your classic afternoon tea experience, however you have to make reservations in advance and it is very expensive. We opted for the Bettys Cafe Tea Room just down the street for a more casual, less crowded experience. We also ordered cream tea (this is tea, scone and clotted cream) since we wanted to go grab lunch later and a full afternoon tea leaves you stuffed for hours. Tip: We find a full afternoon tea is simply too much food. We suggest ordering cream tea and bubbly for the fancy effect of the afternoon tea without feeling overly stuffed. 

Trembling Madness $: For a late afternoon lunch, we stopped in this medieval pub. Also known as Delirium Tremens (DT's), this pub has been open since drinking became a thing, and it has seen its fair share of disaster and death within its walls. The rear end of the building was first built in 1180AD, people were drinking there 312 years before Columbus sailed over our way. We were pleasantly surprised with how cool this place was! On the first floor of the building is a bottle shop where they sell beer, scotch, cider and more. On the second floor is the pub. We hunkered down in an alcove off to the side of the main dining area. The interior of the pub was fun with mounted animal heads mounted all over the place, and other hidden preserved animals (a baby alligator) were around the room. The beams of the pub are from an ancient ship that last set sail over 800 years ago! We ordered some hardy medieval inspired faire of a classic cheese board (cheese, bread, and assorted accoutrements), and a steak and ale pie, all washed down with real ale and some cider.

The Refectory - $$$$: Looking for the fanciest place to dine for dinner? Then look no further than the Refectory. They serve dishes made from delicious local ingredients and delightful cocktails made to order. They also serve a magical Champagne Afternoon Tea that includes a glass of our favorite bubbly...Lanson.

Love Cheese - $$: This cheese shop has a large selection of Yorkshire, British, and Continental cheeses for sale. In their shop they also have cheese boards available to pair with a glass or two of wine. 

No. 88 Walmgate - $$: Located in Hotel Indigo this bar serves up amazing York inspired dishes and some crazy cocktails. This bar is famous for its "Freakshakes" concoctions. These Freakshakes are loaded with anything from Kit Kats to gingerbread men.  

LICC (Luxury Ice Cream Company) - $$: For a bit of heaven, head to LICC for some divine "lux" ice cream. You won't be sorry!

Perky Peacock

Perky Peacock

Bettys

Bettys

Trembling Madness

Trembling Madness

Play:

York Jorvik Viking Center -$$ : This museum tells the story of York's rich Viking history. This is truly an immersive experience where you smell the odors (good and bad) of a Viking town, sample the food they ate, and even get to try your hand at blowing a Viking horn!

Shambles Market - free: Wander York's most famous street- the Shambles, and visit its market full of local produce, goods, and souvenirs. 

York Minster - $$: Visit the largest Gothic cathedral of Northern Europe. This place is visible from many points in the city, seemingly popping out from around each corner.

York Brewery - $: Not only is the York Brewery a place to sit and grab a pint and some pub food, they also have tours of the brewing magic. These are offered four times a day Monday through Saturday, and the cost includes 4 mini pint tasters (£8-Adult £6-Senior/Student £4-Child).

Antique Shopping - Free: There are a bunch of lovely shops to fix your antique needs. We really like the Red House Antique Center  right across from the Minster. 

W. Hamond - $$$-$$$$: If you're looking for a pretty souvenir, we suggest heading to W. Hamond. This jewelry shop on the Shambles is tiny but packed with lovely treasures. Whitby Jet is one of the local stones of Yorkshire (found on the coast) and W. Hamond has a great selection of the slightly Gothic yet completely chic stone jewelry. 

York Museum Gardens - free: If you like English gardens, then the York Museum Garden is the perfect place to visit. Surrounded by St. Mary's Abbey, these gardens are filled with botanical wonders and over 30 species of birds. Be sure to stop in the York Museum as well which is rich with some of England's most precious archaeological treasures. 

The Original Ghost Walk of York - $: This tour claims to be the first of its kind in the world! Held nightly, this tour will surely satisfy anyone's appetite for scary stories as York has been named the most haunted city in England, and possibly Europe! 

York Pass - $$-$$$: If you are planning to visit more than two of York's attractions in a day, then the York Pass is great bang for your buck. With this pass, you have complete access to over 30 fantastic attractions in York (York Minster, Clifford's Tower, Castle Museum, York Brewery, York Art Museum, or York Dungeon to name a few) and includes some great discounts on a number of other places. 

Seemingly, all roads lead to York Minster 

Seemingly, all roads lead to York Minster 

Eve wandering the Shambles

Eve wandering the Shambles

One of the Gatehouses of York

One of the Gatehouses of York

Exploring one of the many tiny passages

Exploring one of the many tiny passages

Part of the Roman Wall surrounding York City

Part of the Roman Wall surrounding York City

Cambria Girls Weekend

We are so excited to announce we are Cambria Ambassadors! Thanks to the great people at Visit Cambria, we were able to take another girls weekend getaway a few weekends ago. 

This trip, we stayed at a lovely B&B, The J. Patrick House. Tucked away in the pine forest above the town, this B&B was the ultimate cozy base for our Cambria adventures. The hosts, Linda and Ron, were extremely welcoming and gave us a quick tour of the place before showing us to our room, the Dublin, where we happily called home for the rest of the weekend. The J. Patrick House is wonderfully decorated with antiques Linda has collected from all over yet still has a nice contemporary feel to it. This is NOT your grandma's B&B. Another feature we loved about the J. Patrick is that each guest room has its own fireplace. We found ourselves turing it on every time we went to our room. There is just something so comforting about a fireplace don't you think? After we settled in, we joined the other guests for happy hour in the main house (more on that later) before whisking away for our first seafood dinner of the weekend!

On our first night we enjoyed dinner at the Sea Chest Oyster Bar and Seafood Restaurant.  We wanted to eat here the first time we visited Cambria (read about that here) in December, but they were closed for their yearly break which made us even more determined to visit this time around! The Sea Chest doesn't take reservations, and we have heard that a line starts to form outside the restaurant even before they open!

We lucked out as we went there around 7:30 so the rush had died down a bit. We put our name on the list, grabbed a glass of wine from the bar, and waited outside by their giant fire-pit. Before we finished our first glass of wine they had called our names and we headed in for a smorgasbord of seafood.  We love oysters so naturally we had a 1/2 dozen and decided to try their escargot as well. Both were delicious! For mains, Ivy chose the seafood linguini and Eve went with the cioppino. Everything was delicious and we had to practically roll ourselves out to our car. FYI: this is also a cash only restaurant so bring cash or your debit card (they have an ATM) and be prepared to wait for a table. Definitely worth the wait!

In the morning we dinned at the J. Patrick House. We were warmly greeted by Linda and Ron and the smell of freshly brewed coffee. The first course was a delicious fruit bowl with thinly sliced apple, red berries, and a homemade granola and yogurt. We could have eaten 12 bowls of the fruit salad!  The main course was the JP blueberry pancake, mini banana muffin, and sausage. SO DELICIOUS!!!

After stuffing ourselves, we headed for a guided tour of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve. We went on the Bluff Trail walk lead by Docent Gil. They offer three different tours in the springtime on Saturdays (for more info click here).

The weather couldn't have been more perfect for a walk along the coast.  While we walked, we listened to Gil as he taught us about the property's history, the importance of the ocean for the people and animals that call this coast home, and identified plants and animals along the trail. We even did some bird watching and saw some ancient mortar holes from the Playano tribe. We couldn't imagine a prettier place to grind acorn flour and prepare meals. 

After all the walking and learning we had quite an appetite so we headed to Indigo Moon for lunch. We sat on their covered back patio and ordered their artisan cheese plate which had a trio of cow's milk cheeses (Midnight Moon, Cotswold, and Mahón) accompanied by caramelized walnuts, and pears. We enjoyed a refreshing glass of wine while discussing what we wanted to do next.

For our main dishes Eve ordered the pistachio crusted goat cheese salad with greens, ruby grapefruit, chicken, cucumbers and a lovely Meyer lemon champagne vinaigrette. Ivy ordered the grilled chicken sandwich with brie, onion jam, apples, and focaccia. This is sure to become one of our go-to spots for lunch. Everything is so fresh and delicious!

After lunch we stopped by our favorite shop, JunkGirls! We met Jenny and Melissa who are the owners and masterminds of the JunkGirls shop. These ladies are seriously amazing people and we could have spend many more hours with them sharing stories and wandering the nooks and crannies of the shop. We knew we wanted to bring home at least one of their amazing creations and we ended up leaving with custom spoon rings Melissa made for us and some amazing ladle board wall art pieces designed and created by Jenny! We especially loved picking out our spoons and watching them do their magic to create us unique beautiful rings. Nothing is impossible for the Junk Girls!

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After some more perusing of the other shops we headed to Cutruzzola Vineyards for some afternoon wine tasting. The tasting room is located at the very north end of town right off Highway 1. They had a lovely variety of wines to taste and we bought the 2015 Chardonnay and 2013 Gloria Estate Pinot Noir to bring home and share.

After enjoying some wine tasting we headed back to J. Patrick House for their happy hour (which should never be missed!). Linda and Ron have a large selection of local wines (red, white, and sparkling) to pick from to enjoy while chatting with the other guests. They also have appetizers set out for you to snack on before you head off to dinner.  Our first night featured an Italian appetizer selection while the second night was Mexican! We loved the happy hour because it was a great time to meet the other guests, get recommendations on where to go, and enjoy a glass of local wine. 

After enjoying a little downtime at happy hour, we were ready for dinner at Moonstone Beach Bar and Grill. Like Sea Chest Oyster Bar, they do not take reservations so make sure to plan ahead. They have a large beach front patio with plenty of heat lamps as well as inside dining. We ordered a half a dozen oysters and fried jalapenos (very spicy!) to start. We think their oysters are some of the best we have had on the west coast, that's saying something because we love oysters! For our main courses, Ivy tried their New York steak served with a side of smashed potatoes and a garlic cream sauce while Eve had the Moonstone's Best Catch served with Spanish rice and a delicious lobster shrimp cream sauce. The food was delicious and the service was great! We definitely see ourselves coming back and enjoying a glass of wine, oysters, and more on the patio at sunset during the summer. 

The next morning we had another lovely gourmet breakfast at J. Patrick House before our morning Flow Yoga class at GYM 1 with Kristina. For breakfast they had a beautiful (and delicious) fruit bowl with grapefruit, tangerines, and blackberries. For dressing they had Linda's family poppy seed recipe which went perfectly with the sweet berries and citrus fruits. For the main dish we had a personal skillet breakfast with eggs cooked anyway we wished. We had them sunny side up and they came with delicious homestyle potatoes, a side of bacon, and toast with delicious bacon jam. After breakfast we reluctantly packed our bags, said goodbye to our lovely room, and checked out. We were sad leaving but know we won't be able to stay away for too long! We left our hearts at J. Patrick House!!!

After yoga we headed to Moonstone Cellars for some much deserved wine tasting (yoga is hard!). Moonstone Cellars is located just behind the main street in downtown Cambria. We really enjoyed their wine flight, because they have some really interesting varietals like the Gewurztraminer, which is not typically grow back home in Monterey County. We bought their Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Sauvignon Blanc to bring home. 

After yoga and wine we were hungry so we decided to stop at the Cafe. The Cafe was an impromptu stop but so worth it! We decided to try it out because over the weekend it was consistently the most recommended place to eat. We are no sandwich connoisseurs but this place is GOOD! We had their famous hot pastrami sandwich which came with a side of coleslaw, pickle, and a pickled pepper. The Cafe is seriuosly amazing and completely lived up to the hype!

After enjoying the Cafe we headed to our last stop, Linn's for their famous olallieberry pie. Fresh baked everyday, this pie is truly dreamy. It is served with whipped cream and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. We sat in the sunshine as we devoured our slices, reminiscing on the weekend's adventures, it was the perfect ending to our lovely girls weekend in Cambria. 

We also wanted to mention a new company we recently discovered, Brakitty. With all the traveling we do it's great to have a case to hold your bra's and undies without crushing them. Brakitty cases are super cute and really well made (they are water resistant too). We brought them on our trip to test them out and ended up loving them and knew we will be using them on our upcoming trips. Not only do we use them to stash our bras and undies- we also keep our jewelry and other small things that would get lost in our bags. We have the Pastel Supernova and Vintage Florals (on sale right now!). Buy your own Brakitty here!

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There is so much more to explore in this little beach town we can't wait to visit again! Have you visited Cambria? Let us know about your trip!

xxx Ivy & Eve

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Eternal Summer in Santa Barbara, CA

A little while ago, Eve headed down south for a mid-week mini trip with her boyfriend P, her high school bestie K, and her boyfriend C. With P and C not being from the Golden State (P is English and C hails from the East Coast) K and Eve decided that they should all take the drive south to Santa Barbara for some quintessential California weather, wine, and culture.

K is a fellow foodie and wine lover so planning this trip was a piece of cake: eat all the food, drink all the wine, and enjoy as much sunshine as possible. Check her out on Instagram: @cooking_with_koko

Eve and the crew headed out for the two-night getaway early on Monday morning to make the most of the trip. Here are some of our SB favorites:

xxx Ivy & Eve

Stay:

  • Hotel Milo- This beachfront boutique hotel is the PERFECT basecamp for all of your Santa Barbara adventures. They host a daily happy hour (featuring local wines), have an amazing daily breakfast, a fleet of cruiser bikes which are free to use! We stayed in their Deluxe King room with a sleeper sofa, which was perfect as our cousin J stayed with Eve and P for a night.  

Eat:

  • Lucky Penny- Lucky Penny serves to-die-for pizzas, salads, and brownies (we would go as far as saying the best pizza in SB). You order at the counter and can take it to-go or do what we did - and sit out on their picnic patio and enjoy the warm Santa Barbara weather. 
  • Lark- Owned by the same people as Lucky Penny and located just next door, Lark is the older, more sophisticated sister. The menu is broken down into three categories: From the Farm, From the Ocean, and From the Ranch. They serve only the freshest ingredients and have an impressive wine list. Great for a date or special occasion!
  • Sandbar- Sandbar is a great spot for casual cocktails and tasty (and affordable) Mexican fare. Their Happy Hour lasts from 3-7pm Sunday-Friday. We recommend any of their margaritas!
  • State & Fig- Hands down the best spot for lunch. State & Fig is located in one of the quiet outdoor arcades just off of State Street. Each item on the menu looked better than the last. We finally chose our dishes - and we were not disappointed. We recommend having a glass (or two) of bubbles and trying anything on their daily specials list; or go for the Fig Burger which ended up being the group favorite!
  • Sambos- A true Santa Barbara classic and has been in business since 1957. Our Mom used to go here on the weekends when she was in college and it is pretty much exactly the same! Their Eggs Benedict is amazing. P got the Crab Benedict which was a special and Eve got the California Benedict with tomato, avocado, and spinach. They also serve up the biggest mimosas we have ever seen! Sit on the patio to soak up the sunshine and people watch. 
  • Backyard Bowl- This place creates the tastiest Acai bowls, smoothies, and hot breakfast bowls. We recommend Backyard Bowls for a quick, nutritious, and totally Instagram worthy breakfast!

Drink:

  • Joe's Cafe- Another true SB classic. Opened in 1928, Joe's serves classic steakhouse meals (order a French Dip if you're hungry) and some of the stiffest drinks in Santa Barbara. Order a drink and step back in time. 
  • Funkzone wine tasting- Santa Barbara's Funkzone is home to 13 different wine tasting rooms. You can easily spend a whole day exploring the Funkzone but if you can only stop at one Tasting room, we wouldn't miss Kunin Wines (see below). 
  • Kunin Wines- Our hands down favorite tasting room in Santa Barbara. Kunin is everything we like in a tasting room. We were greeted with a smiling and knowledgable host and chose from several tasting flights. We ended up having 2 red and 2 white flights so we could all share. Above the bar the sign reads "join the coolest wine club in town" (they know they're good but also don't take themselves too seriously). The atmosphere is fun and casual; like having a drink at a friend's house. We all left with several bottles (none lasted unopened very long). 

Do:

  • Mission Santa Barbara- The top cultural attraction in Santa Barbara and nicknamed the "Queen of the Missions". Simply stunning. 
  • Biking along the beach- We rented bikes (free at the hotel) for 2 hours and explored the coastline on the wonderful boardwalk trail. 
  • SBMA- The Santa Barbara Museum of Art is the perfect place to spend hours exploring over 5,000 years of human creativity. 
  • The Blue Door- A labyrinth of a shop spanning 3 floors filled with vintage and new items. We spent far too long in here for the boyfriend's liking. 
  • State Street- State Street has everything and anything you would want in a day of serious shopping. You'll find a mix of high street and boutique shops. There is something for everyone! 
The beautiful Hotel Milo...

The beautiful Hotel Milo...

Just outside our room

Just outside our room

The sunny breakfast patio

The sunny breakfast patio

Mission Santa Barbara 

Mission Santa Barbara 

NOM NOM NOM

NOM NOM NOM

Eve and P

Eve and P

Kunin Wines

Kunin Wines

The Blue Door

The Blue Door

Sambo's

Sambo's

Crab Benedict

Crab Benedict

California Benedict

California Benedict

Giant mimosa

Giant mimosa

Besties outside State & Fig!

Besties outside State & Fig!

Biking along the waterfront

Biking along the waterfront

Happy riding!!!

Happy riding!!!

Cambria Weekend Getaway

A few weeks ago, we took a weekend trip down south to Cambria for a bit of relaxing "sister time" before the holiday festivities began. Cambria is a small beach town located midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. When we decided to head south to Cambria for a quick girls-weekend, we chose to stay at the fun and trendy Cambria Beach Lodge. We teamed up with the Lodge to show all that Cambria has to offer! 

xxx Ivy & Eve

Here is a map the Cambria Beach Lodge provided for even more great suggestions!

Stay:

  • Cambria Beach Lodge Situated right on Moonstone Beach, this newly renovated and trendy hotel is the perfect place to spend a relaxing weekend in Cambria. The lodge is centrally located, making it a quick drive to downtown Cambria or Hearst Castle. The rooms were trendy yet inviting with a great mini bar full of tasty treats and even a set of binoculars for all of your outdoor adventures. Outside each room is a small porch with bright turquoise chairs and there is a large glass surrounded deck on the top floor overlooking Moonstone Beach. We took full advantage of this amenity by toasting our trip with a bottle of bubbly before going off to the Christmas Market and dinner. Each morning, they serve a simple yet tasty continental breakfast which is a real perk for when you want to relax with a cup of coffee and pastry and watch the early morning surfers on Moonstone Beach! The Lodge also has beach cruiser bikes for guests to borrow. We loved cruising the boardwalk across the street! There are many quality beachfront lodges in Cambria, but none quite have the fun and hip vibe that the Cambria Beach Lodge has. We totally recommend it!

Perfect view of the sunset from the viewing deck!

Perfect view of the sunset from the viewing deck!

Moonstone beach access right across the street!

Moonstone beach access right across the street!

Eat:

  • Madeline's Restaurant Located on Main Street, this is the perfect place to go for a romantic dinner date or for just a great glass of wine! We went here per our awesome Uber driver's suggestion. The restaurant's cozy ambiance, great wine list, and delectable menu make this a must try restaurant for everyone!

  • Indigo Moon Located also on Main Street, Indigo Moon is s a great place for lunch or outdoor dinning spot (weather permitting). They have three large outdoor dining areas and a great indoor/outdoor patio. Ivy had a delicious BLTA sandwich with a fresh green salad while Eve had delicious prawn fettuccine with a light white wine sauce and to die for cheesy garlic bread.

  • Sea Chest Oyster Bar and Seafood Restaurant Located right next to the Cambria Beach Lodge, the Sea Chest is known to locals as the best place to eat fresh seafood. The menu serves up everything from Oysters Rockefeller to New England Clam Chowder. Since this place is so popular be sure to get there right when they open to put your name on the waitlist (no reservations). Luckily they have a Wine Bar sitting area that includes a fire pit with a great view of the ocean so you can wait for dinner with a glass of wine.

  • Cambria Pines Lodge This hotel is where the Cambria Christmas Market is located. They have a sit down full service restaurant as well as their Fireside Lounge which is the perfect place for a drink while listening to live music. They have tasty local wine list and a creative cocktail menu.

Ivy's chicken dinner at Madeline's

Ivy's chicken dinner at Madeline's

Eve's sea bass dinner with rice and veggies

Eve's sea bass dinner with rice and veggies

Ice cream and fresh berry crumble

Ice cream and fresh berry crumble

Lunch at Indigo Moon.

Lunch at Indigo Moon.

Play/Shop:

  • Moonstone Beach- The rugged pebbled beach is known for its moonstone pebbles. If you're lucky though you'll find a few pieces of jade as well! This beach and boardwalk is perfect for surfing, hiking/walking, biking, and beach combing.

  • Elephant Seal Vista- A few miles north of Moonstone Beach, this place is perfect for spotting the giant Elephant Seals. They can weigh up to 8,800 pounds and over 20 feet long!

  • Antique malls- These antique emporiums are dotted along Main Street. We especially loved Rich Man Poor Man Antiques. They have well thought out displays and very friendly and helpful staff. Eve left with a pair of beautiful Wedgwood candle sticks.

  • Cambria Christmas Market (Only runs from November 25th-December 25th)- When we initially planned this trip we did not know that Cambria had a Christmas Market. This was the highlight of the trip! We have spent Christmas in Europe before and always loved the European Christmas markets with their little artisan stalls and mulled wine! This particular market is known for its Christmas light displays. They have over ONE MILLION lights on display. We really enjoyed walking through the gardens and vendors, googling at all the Christmas lights. We are already planning a trip back to visit next year!

  • Hearst Castle- William Randolph Hearst's grand estate is a few miles north of Cambria. An architectural and Interior Design marvel, any tourist should visit this spectacular home. Make sure to take the tour that visits the pool room as it is our personal favorite.

  • The Shops at the Garden Shed- We spent several hours perusing the shops in this secret garden shopping center. To visit all of the shops, first you must go though the Cambria Garden Shed shop. This shop is full of beautiful and thoughtful gardening related gifts and tools. Once you hit the back of the shop, it opens up to a small courtyard full of wonderful shops. A few of our favorites were Ocean Heir (great gifts, clothing, and books), Junk Girls (upcycled awesomeness), and GROW Nursery (succulent heaven).

View above Cambria from HWY 46

View above Cambria from HWY 46

Ivy's favorite...succulent shopping at GROW!

Ivy's favorite...succulent shopping at GROW!

Junk Girls

Junk Girls

One of the many antique malls

One of the many antique malls

Mulled wine to keep us warm at the Cambria Christmas Market!

Mulled wine to keep us warm at the Cambria Christmas Market!

Beach boardwalk above Moonstone beach

Beach boardwalk above Moonstone beach

Watching surfers at Moonstone Beach

Watching surfers at Moonstone Beach

Pebbles on moonstone beach

Pebbles on moonstone beach

San Francisco: Union Square and Japantown

San Francisco is the closest large city to our hometown, making it our go-to destination for culture, major shopping, and of course a glass of bubbly (or two). We were recently in the city for a quick overnight trip. We arrived just in time to meet up with a friend for happy hour and dinner. The next day we made a few necessary shopping stops and then we headed to Japantown for a day of culture, shopping, and tasty (and some funky) treats. Here is what we were up to!

xxx Ivy & Eve

Stay: We typically stay around Union Square which is the shopping hub of the city. It is easily accessible from the highway, and from here you just grab a taxi to anywhere in the city.

  • Clift Hotel-  The Clift has a modern glamorous vibe. The lobby is larger than life with whimsical and eclectic furnishings and two hotel bars that go from quiet and casual in the day, to lively and trendy at night. We booked through Expedia and since the Clift is an Expedia VIP+ hotel, we enjoyes a free upgrade to a deluxe city view room, late check out, and two free drinks at the bar! The room was well appointed with comfortable and slightly glamorous furnishings and a nice city view even though our bathroom was a bit tight. This is typical of San Francisco Hotels though- as the buildings tend to be pretty old. Overall a great place to crash after a night out! This was our first time staying at the Clift and we will definitely be staying here again. 
Plenty of cool chairs to pose in!

Plenty of cool chairs to pose in!

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Eat/Drink: These are the places we stopped by on this trip. This is by no means our only recommendations! 

  • Farallon- This is our favorite place to eat and drink in San Francisco, hands down. Located just a block off of Union Square, Farallon is buzzing with locals and tourists alike for their ridiculously fresh coastal cuisine and an incredible happy hour. Our go-to picks are a few plates of 1/2 dozen oysters, charcuterie board, truffled parmesan fries, and a few glasses of sparkling rosé: each $7. We dare you to find a better deal!
  • Brazen Head- We just discovered this hidden gem in the Cow Hollow/Marina district. This restaurant and bar has an old school vibe with dark wood paneling and stained glass windows. The food has a French flair and the drinks are stiff. This is a cozy spot to catch up with friends or hide away from the tourist crowd. 
  • Rambler- Recently opened this spot is part of Hotel Zeppelin near Union Square. We had a wonderful early brunch here. Ivy ordered the cinnamon currant french toast with poached pears and ricotta while Eve noshed on the smoked salmon and fromage blanc toast. We shared a gigantic pot of french press coffee and mimosas. YUM.
  • Nespresso (90 Grant Ave.)- This is technically a store but the Grant Avenue location has a small coffee lounge on the first floor which serves specialty coffee drinks, fresh baked pastries, and you guessed it...bubbly. We head downstairs first to test out the newest coffee blends (free tastings!), buy pods for our machines back home, and then once we has sufficiently caffeinated head upstairs for a pastry and a glass of bubbly. What more could you ask for!
Happy Hour at Farallon...cheers!

Happy Hour at Farallon...cheers!

Brunch at Rambler.

Brunch at Rambler.

Coffee tasting at Nespresso

Coffee tasting at Nespresso

Japantown: After brunch, we headed to Japantown, the oldest and largest of the three "official" Japantowns in the U.S. and is full of quirky shops, tasty treats, and a unique community. The entire district encompasses just 6 blocks which makes it easily manageable to visit in a day. We love going here because everyone always seems SO happy...how could you not be happy when you are full of sushi and mochi!

  • Japan Center Mall and Peace Pagoda- Japantown is centered round a five tiered concrete pagoda gifted to San Francisco by their sister city, Osaka in 1968. On either side of the Peace Pagoda is the Japan Center Mall (East and West). Inside you will find shops, restaurants, and specialty stores. It is a perfect place to spend a rainy day. 
  • Nippon-Ya- Japan Center West. This specialty shop sells a variety of mochi, cookies, tea and gifts. The packaging itself make you want to buy everything in sight. We always buy a few boxes to bring home and share with our family. Bonus: they usually have a box of two at the counter to sample!
  • Chocolate Chair- Located inside the Japan Center West, this shop sells boba tea, made to order nitrogen ice cream, and the infamous Dragons Breath! Dragons Breath is essentially large balls of cereal (tastes a lot like Trix) which they dip in liquid nitrogen. This instantly freezes the cereal and makes them "smoke". When you eat them, the smoke comes out of your mouth and nose making you look like a dragon! While it wasn't the tastiest thing we have had in Japantown, it was super fun to eat. 
  • Kui Shin Bo- Japan Center East. This tiny restaurant is located in Japan Center East. It has a cozy laid back feel and delicious food for a great price. Eve ordered the Takoyaki (savory pancake balls filled with bits of octopus) and shabu shabu (traditional Japanese hot pot with veggies and thin sliced beef). Ivy ordered a Red Dragon Roll and miso soup. We both had a glass of the house wine which was very drinkable and only $4! 
  • Daiso- Japan Center East. Here, you can find everything from sake sets to impossibly cute stationary to false eyelashes. We can spend hours in this shop and the best part is almost everything is $1.50!
Japantown Peace Pagoda

Japantown Peace Pagoda

Mochi dreamland!

Mochi dreamland!

Billions of adorable bento boxes.

Billions of adorable bento boxes.

DRAGONS BREATH at Chocolate Chair!

DRAGONS BREATH at Chocolate Chair!

Tasty traditional Japanese lunch spot!

Tasty traditional Japanese lunch spot!

We love how the Peace Pagoda lights up at night!

We love how the Peace Pagoda lights up at night!

Big Sky Montana, Helena to Great Falls

We love Montana and its endless big sky. Our Dad was born and raised in Great Falls and every year we visit our Grandpa who still lives there, and unwind in our family cabin in Wolf Creek. For the past several years we have been spending Thanksgiving at the cabin, and although this holiday we could not make the trip all together, Ivy and our Dad went for a long weekend trip.  Ivy visited Great Falls and Helena (Montana's Capitol) but she spent most of her time at our cabin hiking with our dad and enjoying some time off. Lucky Her!

Big Sky coffee in the morning frost.

Big Sky coffee in the morning frost.

Dad hiking & hunting 

Dad hiking & hunting 

Here are some of our recommendations for things to do and places to eat & drink.

xxx Ivy & Eve

Bites & Sips:

The Sip 'n Dip Lounge Great Falls, MT. This place is a serious MUST see. It's inside the O'Haire Motor Inn, walk right in and head up the stairs to the Lounge. It's essentially a Tiki Lounge with ocean themed decor and the focal point being a huge glass 'Mermaid' tank behind the bar with real mermaids swimming around! Be sure to check out the schedule so you are there when they are swimming behind the glass. They also have a killer $2 well drink/domestic beer happy hour Monday-Friday 6-7pm and again from 10pm -12am.  We recommend trying their fishbowl (with some friends) and their signature blue mimosa!

Photo from http://ohairemotorinn.com/sip-n-dip/

Photo from http://ohairemotorinn.com/sip-n-dip/

$$ The Celtic Cowboy Great Falls, MT. Ivy stumbled upon this place when looking for places to eat in Great Falls. This place definitely has an Irish pub atmosphere including their menu and decor. They have everything from fish and chips to bangers and mash to fill your Irish heart (and stomach) with joy. We tried the Irish nachos that include house made potato chips topped with an assortment of goodies on top including dubliner cheese and corned beef. It was tasty but we warn you the portions are HUGE! 

$$$ The Hawthorn Helena, MT. We wish they had a sister store here in CA because this place was amazing! The Hawthorn is a wine bottle shop and tasting room. Wine bottles with individually hand written tags line the shelves on either side of the entrance. A long wooden bar made from reclaimed pine bark beetle wood (the pine bark beetle leaves a blue ting to the wood) welcomes you.  They have an extensive wine list and wine on tap! You can even fill growlers of wine for the road as well. Our favorite item on the menu this trip was the chardonnay slushie. This is the perfect place to meet friends!  Grab a drink and meat and cheese platter for an afternoon snack or a drink before dinner. 

$$ The Parrot Confectionery Helena, MT.  Although this place is locally known for their chocolate shop don't overlook the diner! The Parrot has been open in downtown Helena since 1922, and makes 130 different types of candies. We have been going here for as long as we can remember and ALWAYS order the same thing. A small bowl of chili. We wouldn't say its the best chili in the world but it always tastes the same, and always tastes good. (Try it with a side of vinegar and Saltine crackers.) Also on the menu is a large selection of flavored sodas, milkshakes, malted milkshakes, and phosphates (a tart twist to a regular soda). Ivy always orders a huckleberry milkshake, Eve usually tries something different each time but the malted milkshakes are her favorites. After a bowl of chili you can't pass up the sweets!

$$$ Izaaks Restaurant Craig, MT. Craig is one of the most popular fly-fishing areas in Montana - located in the middle of nowhere - between Great Falls and Helena. The town sits on the banks of the Missouri river. Izaaks Restaurant was born out of a need to feed the hungry anglers after a long day on the river. If you're in the area we highly recommend this place - great steaks! Bad news for anyone visiting in the fall-winter they are only open during the fishing season (around April-September). 

Photo from http://www.izaaks.com/

Photo from http://www.izaaks.com/

Play:

$ C.M. Russell Museum Great Falls, MT. If you are a fan of western art and history this museum is for you. A treasure trove of C.M. Russell's art and life, the museum also features other Western artists. The museum includes C.M. Russell's original artist's studio and cabin.

 Free Giant Springs State Park Great Falls, MT. This park set on the scenic Missouri River is steeped in history. Recorded as the largest freshwater spring in the country by Lewis and Clark in 1805, it is the perfect place to picnic, walk along the trails, feed fish in the hatchery, or visit the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. There is plenty to do for adults and children.

Free Gates of the Mountains Helena, MT. If you like hiking, this is the place for you! A wilderness area made up of 28,000+ acres and 53 miles of trails. 

Free-$ Holter Lake Helena, MT.  Holter lake is located in the Gates of the Mountains. The lake offers swimming, boating, and camping. Try a Ferry Tour which runs from May-September. Adults are $16 and children $10. Book a tour here!

$$ Spokane Bar Sapphire Mine & Gold Fever Rock Shop Helena, MT. This mining shop is really fun to visit. You can buy a bag of sapphire gravel at the store and sift through it outside looking for a variety of stones including diamonds, rubies, and of course sapphires.  

Exploring Manchester, England

For the last leg of our England trip we called Sale home. Sale is a little canal-side town in Greater Manchester. Since we were stationed at P-mans comfortable abode, most mornings we ate in at P-mans house. We munched on Marks & Spencers crumpets, yogurts, scones (with clotted cream and jam of course) and a big cup of tea. After breakfast, we would head to the center of Manchester to do shopping, sight seeing, and more eating. The metro from Sale to Manchester is only about 15 minutes long, and its extremely easy to navigate. 

Manchester is one of the biggest metropolitan cities in England, nicknamed "Cottonopolis" for its involvement in the cotton trade in the 19th century. Now Manchester is a city filled with tons of shops, restaurants, bars, and a plethora of cultural institutions. Over our week stay we discovered a lot about this city such as its unabashed obsession with tapas bars and so much more!!

This post will dive into all of Manchester, and Greater Manchester's secret gems. We are excited to share them with you!

xxx Ivy & Eve

Eat:

Sugar Junction-$$ This place has a charming atmosphere and a yummy cream tea! We stumbled upon this place and Ivy couldn't resist stopping when she saw "Cream Tea" listed on the menu outside. They had a great selection of lunch items and tasty cocktails we sipped on happily. They have a cocktail and cake deal which is to die for!

Moose Coffee- $ This place reminded us of an American-style diner with a hipster feel. Their coffees are to die for and you can buy beans to brew up at home! Ivy had great fresh mint tea, and ordered a tasty cheesy hash brown with eggs on top.  Eve had their tasty Moose Macchiato, milky coffee with an extra double-shot of espresso, caramel syrup, chocolate syrup, and whipped cream. For Eve's meal, Eve ordered the double Dutch, a giant platter of pancakes with bacon and hotdogs inside (actually pretty tasty) topped with fried eggs and loaded with butter and maple syrup!

Lunya Catalonia Deli- Restaurant & Bar inside the Barton Arcade- $$ This is one of the many tapas bars in Manchester. We think it is one of the best! Upstairs is the main restaurant space, while downstairs has a more casual bar and a deli/market where you can buy tons of Spanish delicacies to enjoy at home! We ordered a delicious cheese and meat plate with a side of olives and three different olive oils to dip our bread in. We sipped on some crisp rosé from Catalonia, which was lovely! 

Pot Kettle Black- $ Also inside the Barton Arcade, this coffee shop is the perfect place to grab a quick bite and recharge before heading out on the town once more.

Bakchich- $ This is a Lebanese street food restaurant. It was in the University district, and the portions were huge- to satisfy the starving & poor students. We liked it for casual dining as it had lots of flavor and a lively interior decor which helped lift our spirits on the cold and rainy day.

Zizzi- $ We love this place so much! It's another budget friendly restaurant we visited, mainly because it is a chain restaurant. Eve and P-man used to go to Zizzi's all the time in grad school and it became a comforting favorite. We always order a Zizzi Anitpasti, Primavera Rustica Pizza, and wash it down with a bottle of the Montepulciano Abruzzo wine. Perfecto!

Cottonopolis- $$$ This is an über hip restaurant bar in the trendy North Quarter of Manchester. They serve up Asian Fusion food, tapas style and a creative cocktail menu that will make you want to order one of each!