adventure

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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PLAY

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!

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

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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Looking Fierce in the City

One thing we love about going to San Francisco is that while daytime fashion tends to be pretty casual and practical, at night you can dress up and go out on the town! Ivy wore her new favorite body-con dress to happy hour and into the night while Eve wore her go-to cute yet casual tunic dress during the day. Can you tell we both LOVE grey? This year, we found an amazing online boutique called Stay Fierce Boutique. It is based in North Carolina and all of its products are under $35 and they have great dresses for any occasion! If you missed our last post featuring a Stay Fierce dress, find it here. We had such a fun time running around the city in our Stay Fierce Boutique dresses. Use our promo code IVYEVE15 at checkout for an additional 15% off your purchase through the end of the year!! 

xxx Ivy & Eve

Ivy's Outfit Details:

Dress Stay Fierce Boutique | Heels H&M sold out (similar) | Faux Fur Coat Missguided 

Eve's Outfit Details:

Tunic Dress Stay Fierce Boutique | Leggings J. Crew | Boots River Island sold out (similar) | Necklace Pacific Gypsea

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.  

Parisian Adventure: Part 2

A Day in Reims

On our second day in France we visited Reims (pronounced like France but with a R…Rance) which is in the Alsace-Champagne-Ardenne-Lorraine region of France. This region is home to many of the world famous champagne houses, known as les grandes marques...some you may know of such as Veuve Clicquot, Domaine Pommery, Taittinger, and Champagne G.H. Mumm. 

Traveling to Reims from Paris is super simple, we don't know why we hadn't taken advantage of its closeness before. The train to Reims is only 45 minutes from Gare de l'Est station and the views of the countryside are lovely. 

When we first arrived in Reims we strolled the streets getting familiarized with the town, which is relatively small. We then visited the Notre-Dame de Reims in the center of town. This cathedral is where the kings of France were crowned! Over the years it has served as a place of worship, a hospital in the First World War, and now as a tourist destination with over 1 million visitors each year. The facade is beautifully carved with the faces of a thousand saints, gargoyles, and architectural elements. It may be one of our new favorite cathedrals! Afterwards we visited the tourist information center to get a map and ask for any suggestions they could give us. We had already booked a tour of Lanson champagne house for the afternoon but Eve had heard that a few champagne houses offered tours without reservations. They suggested heading to Tattinger for one of their tours. They had a tour in about 40 minutes time so we hopped on one of the super convenient busses and zipped over to Taittinger for our first tour of the day!

Pretty arches!

Pretty arches!

The cathedral was having restoration done to the stain glass windows.

The cathedral was having restoration done to the stain glass windows.

When we arrived at Tattinger, we were immediately struck by the grandness of the buildings. We entered the large white buildings to book our tour and then stepped outside for a few minutes of sunshine before our tour began. Taittinger uses chalk caves, called crayeres, to store their wine. These caves were originally made by the Romans in the 4th century for harvesting chalk for building materials for houses and buildings in the town. Chalk, being porous can exchange air and humidity which keep the caves cool and at a constant temperature of 45 degrees all year round. Once the caves were dug out and there was no more need for the chalk the Roman monks started using them for wine storage. Taittinger is the third oldest champagne house and its caves are on the site of the Abbey of Saint Nicaise which was destroyed during the Revolution. Taittinger also owns 712 acres of vineyards outside the city where they harvest only the best crops to make their champagnes. Once they have made their wine, they let them age up to 10 years before selling them. The tour costs 16 euros (more if you want to taste more champagne) and it includes a glass of their champagne at the end.

Yummy champagne & Ivys THEIT Camera Bag!

Yummy champagne & Ivys THEIT Camera Bag!

The chalk caves storing the champagne.

The chalk caves storing the champagne.

After our tour of Taittinger we grabbed a few sandwiches from a bakery nearby and ate as we walked across town to Lanson, one of our absolute favorite champagnes! The Lanson winery is different to Taittinger's since it does not use chalk caves to store the wine but old cellars built into the hillside (much like the wine cellars back home in California). The temperature however still stays cool and constant. Lanson also is the first champagne house to have their own estate vineyard right next to their cellars and facilities. We were told that they play music in the vineyard twice a day: once in the morning to help protect the vines and roots from natural damages, and once in the evening to help aid the growth of the plant. Cool! Lanson is also distinguished between the other champagne houses because they do not use malolactic fermentation in their wine making process. This step was added to most champagne houses when it was discovered around 1837. Now it is used in many wines, still and sparkling. The process makes wine less acidic and more of a smooth mouth feel. The other champagne houses in Reims use malolactic fermentation which speeds up the aging process and therefore the wine is ready sooner. However, not using the malolactic fermentation helps Lanson wines keep longer. There are a few levels for the tour and tasting you can choose from 15 euros to 30 euros, we decided to do the most expensive option which includes 3 glasses of champagne after the tour. We got to taste their classic Black Label non-vintage brut, Rose Label rosé (one of the first rosé champagnes ever made), and the Gold Label 2008 brut. Our favorite glass was the 2008 brut which had an added complexity to the fresh citrusy taste of Lanson.

Walking in Lansons Caves...they use special light bulbs that do not create heat and gives an orange glow to photos. 

Walking in Lansons Caves...they use special light bulbs that do not create heat and gives an orange glow to photos. 

If only we had hallways full of Lanson champagne... 

If only we had hallways full of Lanson champagne... 

Black Label non-vintage brut

Black Label non-vintage brut

Rose Label rosé

Rose Label rosé

Gold Label 2008 brut

Gold Label 2008 brut

After our tour of Lanson we headed back to the train station to head back to Paris. On our way we stopped at Maison Fossier, which is a famous bakery in Reims for its pink biscuits. These biscuits were invented in the 1690’s. Bakers in Reims wanted to make something that could be made to use the heat of their ovens after baking bread. These cute pink cookies are traditionally dipped into champagne or can also be eaten with coffee or tea. We bought a few for ourselves and for gifts. They really do go so well with champagne! Once we were at the station, we had time for one last glass of bubbly before zipping back to Paris. 

Walking around Reims

Walking around Reims

Parisian Adventure: Part 1

Bonjour from Paris! 

Today is our last day in the wondrous land of baguettes, champagne, macaroons, Chanel, and too many more of our favorite things to list here (it would take years). We wanted to recap our first day in Paris for you all. We will post more later, but for now here is a taster of what we were up to! 

First off was flying out of SFO at 7:00AM. We took the AirBus from out hometown to the airport and stayed overnight in a hotel. There was nothing special about the hotel, we pretty much picked the cheapest hotel with free airport shuttles. We were only going to end up spending a few hours in the room anyway. 

We woke up bright (not so much, it was 4:00AM) and early an headed to the airport. We printed our boarding passes before we left home and packed only cary-ons so it was smooth sailing through security. (TIP: Always pick security lines with more men than women in them. Us girls usually have more things to put through security such as purses, scarves, fancy buckled shoes to take off etc.) Once we were on the other side, we headed to our favorite SFO food spot, Napa Farms Market. They have delicious pre-made foods, drinks, and gourmet gifts (and wine!). All of the food sold there is local to Northern California. We picked up our favorite on the go breakfast, Slingshots. Slingshots are yogurt based protein drinks with a tasty crunchy granola “shot” you pour into the bottle before you drink it. We also got a few Il Morso mocha flavored coffee bars. These things are delicious! They taste like chocolate covered coffee beans but look like a square of chocolate. the mocha flavor has 14mg of caffeine for a little kick. Ivy also tried a Project Juice Wellness Shot- Tummy Tonic. We had never had their juices before but this little drink was tasty and good for people with sensitive stomachs while traveling. 

We flew through Chicago and had a quick layover before boarding our flight to Paris! During the layover Eve bought a pocket French Phrasebook and a pocket sized Paris Guidebook, both by Lonely Planet. We had a lot of guides at home for planning but none would fit in our day bags. The guide also had a pullout map which was SUPER helpful throughout our trip. (TIP: buy a map before you get to your destination and mark where you will be staying and a few key landmarks. This will help you navigate wherever you are.) We flew with American Airlines, honestly, it was the cheapest flight we could get by hundreds and we definitely noticed the difference. We usually fly with Virgin, AirFrance, or British Airlines, all of which have great inflight entertainment, food, and complementary drinks. American Airlines had NO personal entertainment consoles and TINY seats. This being said, The customer service was amazing. We booked two seats together but we could only pick center seats when we bought them. When we got to the gate though, we asked if there was any way we could get better seats. They took our boarding passes and gave us seats on the side and much closer to the front! When we boarded the plane, a lovely first class flight attendant chatted with us while we waited for the line to move. She ended up giving us glasses of free champagne AND a bottle of first class wine to enjoy in Paris! This was the nicest thing any flight crew has been to us. It goes to show that if you are nice to people, sometimes you get something unexpected in return!

Finally we landed in Paris! We took the RER train from the airport and then the Metro to our stop. We were so lucky to be able to stay at our Uncle’s family home in the 6th Arrondissement. The place was MAGICAL. To put the icing on the cake, the house even had its own garden and patio! After settling into the house, we took a quick nap while we waited for Eve’s boyfriend to arrive. P (he wants to be know on the blog as P-man [lol]) comes from Manchester. Eve met P-man on her first day of grad school at Durham University in the North of England. Once we are all together, we went out in search of our first Parisian meal! 

We wandered a little bit away from the house and stumbled upon a wonderful café called Au Chai L’Abbage. We sat on the street patio and sipped wine, and ate a light lunch. We love that lunch is the most important meal in Paris. It is the meal that people tend to enjoy leisurely, starting off with drinks, starters, main courses, desserts, and finally a coffee. Paris is the perfect place for people watching and outdoor cafes are made for it! After lunch, we wandered over to Notre Dame and strolled along the river, getting our bearings on the city and just enjoying being there! Afterwards, we headed back towards our house and got a few groceries for breakfast and snacks. 

For dinner, We headed to one of the Bistros our Uncle recommended, Petit Lutetia on Rue De Sevres. The restaurant was full of lots of locals, and DELICIOUS! For starters we all shared the burrata salad and escargot. The salad was super fresh, and the burrata was so creamy. Yum! The escargot may have been the best we have ever had (that is saying a lot because Eve orders escargot anytime she sees it on the menu). For the main course, Eve had the veal in a mushroom cream sauce, and P-man had the steak tartare. Ivy had the chicken cooked in a individual cast iron dish with a cream sauce with chanterelle mushrooms. All of the mains were delicious but Ivy’s definitely won which was surprising to us because usually chicken isn't the most exciting of dishes. Wow it was good! We didn't have room for dessert and we were all pretty sleepy from our travels so we headed home to bed. 

Next up, Reims for a day of visiting some of our favorite Champagne Houses! 

For now, au revoir!!!!!!

xxx Ivy & Eve

Travel Tips, Tricks, and Secrets!

We have been traveling since before we can remember. Our mom use to take us back to the east coast to see family when Ivy was as little as three months old. With all our experience in traveling here in the USA and abroad we have learned some travel tips and tricks you can use on your next adventure! 

Our upcoming trip is going to start with 6 fabulous nights in Paris. We plan to eat a lot of bread, cheese, macarons and of course drink LOTS of champagne! While we are there we will be taking a day trip to Reims, the champagne region of France and are looking forward to getting the chance to tour some of our favorite champagne houses!  We are also traveling to Versailles - somewhere we've always wanted to go. After Paris, we will head off to London to visit some of our good friends before heading to Manchester for the remainder of our stay. While Manchester will be our "home base" we plan to take many day trips around England. We are so excited to be off on another adventure and we hope you check back often, as we will be posting updates while we are away!

xxx Ivy & Eve

 

Booking Ahead:

Its always a good idea to book ahead. You usually can get better seats, deals, and options all together. Yes, waiting till the last minute could save you money once in a while, but you are running the risk of paying more, not getting the flight you really wanted, and having to sit in a dreaded middle seat. We recommend always booking ahead because the worst thing that can happen is you have more time to pack and repack your suitcase! Here are a few of our travel tips for booking ahead...

StudentUniverse: So not everyone can use this service but its really awesome for youth, students, and teachers. Its a travel booking service that gives those groups great deals on flights, tours, and hotels. We both used this a ton during school. 

Gilt Travel: We just recently started using this site and its amazing! It gives you great discounts on some of the worlds most luxurious hotels and resorts around the world. All the hotels listed are 4 to 5 stars and unique to any other hotel where you have stayed. They have hotels from across the globe - from Mexico to Monaco. We cant wait to utilize this site more!

Gilt City: This is another great site to use when you are traveling (USA only). It is like a high-end Groupon where you can purchase deals for spas, restaurants, tours, shops, etc. We always check this out for deals before we head to San Francisco (or any city in the USA).

Picking Seats: Now this can apply to planes, trains, and ships. If you travel as a couple or like us with your BFF, pick one seat by the aisle and one by the window (leaving the middle seat open). Most likely, no one will book to be between you and if they do you can always ask if one of you can take their middle seat...and lets be honest no one ever wants the middle seat. We do this all the time and practically always get an extra seat between us!

Train Tickets- When traveling by train in Europe and the UK, always look into travel discount cards before you book. In the UK, if you are traveling a lot by train, there are several options for discounts. If you are a student or under 25, you can get a student rail card which will give you 33% off the regular ticket prices. They also have rail cards with the same discount for seniors, disabled people, people traveling with children, and people who always travel together (two-together card). Each of these cards are £30 and are valid for 1 year. If you are planning on traveling by train more than once, you will most likely save over £30 on your first round trip!

Virgin East Coast Rail: These are our favorite UK trains. These trains are beautiful, super fast, and have THE MOST AMAZING FIRST CLASS. First class includes cushy seats and tables, at least one meal, unlimited snacks (such as fruit, cakes, and crisps) and water, tea, and coffee. On weekdays, when you travel first class, they serve unlimited alcoholic beverages. You also get free wifi! They also have amazing First Class lounges at most train stations along the route. Many times, the cost of an upgrade to first class is less than the cost of a typical sandwich and drink on the standard class meal trolley. Definitely look into first class before booking!

 Apps Worth Having:

MiFlight- This is awesome especially with all the crazy lines lately for security at the airports. This app gets its information in real-time from other users and tells you which security checkpoint has the shortest line so you don't have to guess and stress! 

Uber- You probably know this one already, but now its available internationally! Its great because you don't have to worry about having enough change in your wallet for taxis, but be careful of surge prices (these are prices that can be drastically more depending on various reasons like - its a really busy time of day, or if their is an event going on) before booking a pickup.

Citymapper- This is a great app for travelers everywhere. It helps you navigate subways, trains, and busses so you don't have to do it on your own. Simply type in the destination and it will show you a few ways to get there. This is really helpful for navigating the metro in Paris or the tube in London. If you get any travel app, GET THIS ONE!!!

Phone Plans- When traveling to Europe, most people either decide to not use their cell phones or purchase an added international roaming plan for the time they are traveling. While this is good to use for emergencies and short trips, We recommend going to any mobile phone store when you land and purchasing a sim card and pay-as-you-go plan. These typically cost around $20 and you get data which you can use for looking things up online, iMessaging, etc. You can also top-up your phone plan at almost any ATM.  And you can feel super cool having your own European phone number! When Eve lived in the UK, she used Virgin Mobile which has a great phone and data plan.

Other Tips:

Google Street View- One thing we hate when we go to a new place is to not know where anything is! We recommend once you have booked your hotel, hop on Google maps (in street view) and take a look at what the surrounding block or two looks like. It only takes a few minutes but you will feel like you already know your way around before you even get there! Ivy has already saved locations of a bunch of patisseries around our neighborhood in Paris to visit...yummy!

    Wallet- Yes, we know you were going to pack one but make sure to have one with a large coin pocket, or bring a separate coin purse with you because you will gather a ton of coins in Europe! (we recommend using your extra coins at self checkouts in markets and at the airport on your way home so you keep the weight down in your purse/wallet and you don't have to count them out in front of the cashier..just dump them in the change slot and voila!) 

      Copies of Passport & Itinerary- Make sure to have copies of your passport and even save a photo on your phone if you want, also have copies of your hotels and flights incase you do not have internet access.

      Tipping the waiters- While in the USA, we always tip for meals out. In Europe, a lot of the times the waters are paid higher so you don't have to tip them as a consumer- however in the UK, we we tend to tip about 10% when dining out and round up to the nearest pound/euro when ordering drinks at the bar. In France, it is normal to tip a few euros at a casual restaurant, and 5% at fancier places.