Travel

We’re Back From…

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I haven’t taken the photos from the trip off my camera and this was the best phone photo. :/

…China!

This isn’t going to be a detailed post as my brain is super foggy from 46 hours travel time and jet lag – I’ll go into more detail about why it took us so long to get back in my upcoming China travel post – but I figured an update is in order.

China itself was a mix of huge ups and really low downs and while I can’t say that I love China or that I’d ever really want to go back, I am glad that we went and got to experience most things we did. We saw the Summer Palace, ate some amazing food (and some not so amazing food 😦 ) and, by some miracle, were able to hike a portion of the Great Wall with me being six months pregnant. I’m sure our mothers’ will scold the hell out of me when they find out and see pictures of the death stairs I had to climb crawl up. And I literally mean crawl.

To round off the post, I’d like to mention that we split our time in China between Beijing and Qingdao and I’ll be doing a full write up of our trip details some time in the coming week or so if you’re interested. Another huge detail about our trip is that while we were there I officially entered my third trimester, so be on the lookout for a pregnancy update post in the next few days! 🙂

All in all, my husband and I are happy to be home with some more travel experience and some really cool souvenirs.

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Travel

Ireland Travel Guide

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It’s hard to believe that its been two months since we were coming home from Ireland; the holidays are sure taking their toll on Father Time!

We spent a total of nine days in Ireland, making a loop around the island from Dublin to Galway to Killarney to Cork to Kilkenny and back up to Dublin – with all kinds of stops in between! It was a roller coaster from day one (technically day 0 because we spent most of our departure flight day driving to the airport), but we had a blast. Ireland is a gorgeous country with so much history, we couldn’t possibly do it all. But try, we did. 🙂

We ended up driving ourselves – and by that I mean my dear, sweet husband tried his hardest to keep calm driving through roundabouts three times while I’m holding onto my seat, praying we make it – and we’d totally do it again. Honestly, it really wasn’t that bad. I think our saving grace was that we picked up the car in Dublin at the airport and immediately got out of the city and on our way to Galway and then we turned the car in when we got back to Dublin. Driving through the majority of Ireland is a piece of cake. Dublin, not so much.

And as much I’d love to tell you all that I wore so many cute outfits and got to show them off, that is not the case. It was so cold I ended up looking the exact same every day – jeans, walking shoes, sweater or tee and coat. Even with my plans of going to the hotel and changing into a nice dinner outfit were thwarted almost every night because we ran out of time or it was too complicated to get back or I didn’t want to walk a mile one way to the restaurant in heels. Reality, people. (The photo below is basically what I looked like the entire trip. 🙂 )

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Islands’ View Beach

Galway
This was my favorite city by far and one of my husbands’ favorites as well. This is closer to what we both envisioned Dublin to be like and honestly wished we had spent more time here than in Dublin.

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Bohermore’s Victorian Cemetery

Things To Do

  • Quay Street
    Aside from being totally lost and relatively irate at the bathroom situation, this was the cutest little street! The shops were all quaint and the restaurants all looked so good! we ended up eating at the Quay Street Kitchen and had dessert at Gino’s Gelato – both of which I highly recommend. We also (somehow) managed to find our way to the Galway Market and picked up a handmade bell for my husbands’ mother.
  • Eyre Square Shopping Centre
    Getting lost seemed to be what we were best at and inside the mall was no exception. There were so many shops and places to eat; we ended up getting coffee at Insomnia and just people watching until the mall started to close. The real reason behind going to the mall was to see the Medieval City Walls. Yes, INSIDE the mall. Pretty cool.
  • Bohermore’s Victorian Cemetery
    I know you’re thinking, “she’s recommending a cemetery on vacation”. Yes. Yes, I am. The headstones alone are worth the trip; they are just simply magnificent and when you combine it with a rare sunny day (which we were lucky to have) and the hustle and bustle of the city around it, it is just unreal to be there.

Restaurants

  • Quay Street Kitchen
    First impression: super small and slightly uncomfortable. Second impression: cozy, quaint and totally different than what we’re used to (hello, B Dubs!). Joking aside, the food was really varied and really fantastic. My husband ordered a chicken burger which he said was the best chicken burger he’s ever had and I ordered a vegetable curry with grilled chicken and ate it all! (Eating my entire meal is not usually something I can accomplish. 🙂 )
  • Gino’s Gelato
    Words. Can. Not. Describe. I mean, I am literally just staring at my computer trying to figure out what to write here. Let me start off by saying, if you have a Ferrero Rocher gelato, you are gold on my list. Gino’s IS gold. We only had gelato at this location, but we did track one down in Dublin to have a waffle. The plot thickens…
  • Insomnia
    After this first visit where they made my hot chocolate with a vat of molten chocolate we were obviously coming back. In Dublin we had Insomnia coffee every morning and it was just as fantastic as that first cup.

Killarney
Killarney is where we saw a lot of evidence of Ophelia and Brian. The national park was flooded and there were areas that were completely inaccessible. We did, however, get to see all that we wanted in Killarney without being affected by it.

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Muckross Abbey

Things To Do

  • Ross Castle
    Being right on the edge of the Killarney Lakes, this is where we saw most of the flooding – the roadways were underwater and I’m pretty sure the bathrooms were totally out of order, but the castle itself was peachy keen sitting on top of its’ hill. This was one of my favorite castles – not for the size or the style, mind you – but for our guide. He was so incredibly engaging and informative that we actually learned most of everything we learned about how and why castles were built a certain way and the lives that would have taken place in them.
  • Muckross House and Abbey
    If you walk to the house, you pass the abbey so these two are just going to be lumped together. The abbey itself is incredible – totally open to the elements, totally free and 100% slippery. You can basically just wander around wherever you want here and really get a feel for what it would have been like living in it. The house is also incredible, but I was a little frustrated that there were no pictures allowed inside. We walked over a mile one way to get there (in the rain), we paid something like 10 or 15 Euro each to get in and not allowed to take a single photo inside. As opposed to its’ counterpart (the abbey) which was a 10 minute walk, totally free and I could snap to my hearts’ content. Regardless, both are worth the trip.

Restaurants

  • The Porterhouse Gastropub
    We ended up walking a mile each way from our hotel to get to this little gem – we didn’t have to, but that’s what we did and I would even go as far to recommend it. We got to walk down Plunkett street which had a similar feel to Quay Street in Galway and it was really fun to feel like we were part of the local culture. My husband ordered some sort of steak burger with onions – it was definitely one of the best things we ate in Ireland – and I ordered the traditional lamb stew which was good, but I ended up wishing I had done the steak burger as well.


Cork

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St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral

Things To Do

  • Old English Market
    We most likely looked like goofy Americans as we walked through this little market, but it was just so unlike anything we have in America. There were butchers and bakers and stalls selling local produce – it just seemed as though we stepped back in time to, well, an old english market. The only thing we ended up buying were two desserts from a bakery that we ate the next morning for breakfast. 🙂
  • St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral
    Full disclosure: I almost had a melt down when I realized I left my camera in the car almost a mile away-this cathedral is the most beautiful church I have ever been in and it still makes me mad when I look at my sub par iPhone photos from that day. Just walking into the cathedral feels like you are stepping into history. It’s just the most unexplainable, surreal feeling – I literally had tears in my eyes as we were leaving, I was that moved. If you’re going to see a cathedral, this is the one you want.
  • The Everyman Theater
    This was probably the most stressed I was during our entire trip. We were literally driving around and around the (if I remember correctly) Merchants’ Quay area trying to find parking. (When you are used to rural American parking, Ireland – and my best guess is most of Europe – parking is a NIGHTMARE.) We ended up picking a direction from the parking deck, praying it was the right way, somehow miraculously finding the theater and getting to our seats with maybe five minutes to spare. Totally stressed. However, since it was around Halloween we were lucky enough to see The Addams Family and the theater itself is just gorgeous. Even if you don’t see a play – just go to see the theater. Seriously.
  • Blarney Castle
    Not technically in Cork, but close enough. We got here literally at the last moment – last admission was 5pm I believe and we got there at 4:50. We did have enough time to see the castle and some of the gardens and to do the most important thing – kiss the Blarney stone! The castle itself is not renovated so it has that dark, castley feel to it – I just happen to love that, by the way – but it is slippery so you have to be super careful walking around. My husband is afraid of heights so kissing the stone for him was a big deal and he got a bit concerned when it was my turn; I was about 8 weeks pregnant at the time, so he was understandably a little agitated. 🙂 But we kissed the stone and are now blessed with the gift of eloquence! We even got our pictures done and received a little certificate. 🙂

Restaurants

  • Gourmet Burger Bistro
    Adding to the stress of the night we went to see The Addams Family, we hadn’t eaten since lunch we were 100% positive that by the time we got out of the theater we wouldn’t have enough time to make it to the restaurant we had picked. However, as soon as the lights went up, we booked it out of there and (again, fingers crossed) picked a direction and walked. We ended up getting to the restaurant maybe a half hour before closing and we were the only people there. Regardless of the fact they were obviously tidying up and closing down for the night, our waitress was friendly, the food was fresh and absolutely perfect. I believe my husband had a lamb burger that was on special and I had the pulled pork burger. Oh my, it was incredible! If we ever go to Ireland again, we definitely be eating here. 🙂


Kilkenny
We did not get to spend as much time as I would have liked in Kilkenny. I honestly would have opted for a second day here over having three in Dublin. We didn’t get to everything on our list, but we did see the big things we were most interested in. Bonus points for the fact that it feels like I (and probably most Americans) think Ireland should feel. Lively and quaint, old and beautiful. 🙂

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Jerpoint Park

Things to Do

  • Kilkenny Castle
    Everywhere we went around Kilkenny we were asked “have you seen the castle” and told “make sure you go to the castle”. Yes, it is impressive and a bit of a shock when you come down a bustling street into shops and restaurants and there’s this huge, looming castle right smack in the middle of it. Truth be told, it was my least favorite of the trip. It just wasn’t very engaging – I much prefer the tours with guides who tell you obscure little details and keep you guessing than just wandering around reading facts. However, it is a beautiful castle, both inside and out and I’m glad we made the stop.
  • Jerpoint Park
    It’s out of the way. It’s wet. (The guide actually gave us little “waterproof” slippers to cover our shoes and they still ended up totally soaked.) And oddly, we were told by our guide that he was the “foreign language” tour guide and he hadn’t done a tour in English in well over a year. But it is 100% worth it. If you have the opportunity to go, it is an absolute gem. For those of you who don’t know, Jerpoint Park was a medieval town that is home to the grave of St. Nicholas. (Our tour guide told us he tells people he watches over Santa Claus’ grave. 🙂 ) It’s steeped in history and still has a lot of the original buildings that were part of the town. Through the years it has been neglected and forgotten, but it now under the ownership of people who are really proud of it and treat it with the utmost respect.

Restaurants

  • Kyteler’s Inn
    Founded in 1263 by an accused witch, we were obviously eating there! It’s a bit difficult to find – I would have walked right by the little alley leading to it had it not been for my husband – but well worth the adventure. My husband had some sort of a steak burger that he really liked and I had the vol au vent. My meal deserves its’ own blog post, I swear to you it was that good. It was literally the best thing I ate in Ireland and that’s saying a lot because, well, I ate A LOT.


Dublin
Dublin was supposed to be the highlight of the trip, spending a total of three days here for our grand finale. By day two, I was telling my husband that I hated Dublin. That may have been an exaggeration brought on by pregnancy hormones, but in all honesty we were both pretty disappointed with Dublin. We still had tons of fun and we don’t regret it, but in hindsight we’d have only spent a day or two here.

As many things as there are to do in Dublin, there were a lot of complications. Unknown to us, we happened to be in Dublin for some huge marathon weekend and were told that there were an additional 20,000 people in the city for it. Holy crap. We had so much issue getting around that we wasted a load of time just travelling to where we wanted to be. And half the time when we got to where we wanted to be, it was closed or sold out. (And when I say closed, I mean we literally checked the hours on the website the night before and when we got there, they had a paper on the front gate with new hours – I’m looking right at you, Botanical Gardens.)

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Library at Trinity College

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St. Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre

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on the Butler’s Chocolate Factory tour! 🙂

Things to Do

  • National Museum of Ireland – Archeaology
    This was one of our favorites and we wished we had had more time to spend here but we were on a schedule that day and could not miss a tour we had already paid for. This was the only museum we visited in Dublin and it’s a miracle we even made it to this one by accident – all we knew is that we were headed for the National Museum (there’s a couple different ones right next to each other and we happened to fall into this one). There are tons of artifacts from jewelry to swords to skeletons – really something for everyone here. Bonus points: it’s FREE!
  • Book of Kells
    This was extremely packed – marathon, holiday weekend, add in the fact that it’s a functioning college and you have yourself a can of sardines. The exhibit was neat – a bit overpriced in my very honest opinion – but I actually ended up loving the library more than the Book of Kells. It was just incredible.
  • St. Patrick’s Cathedral
    Also extremely packed; there was a line of probably 100 people waiting to get in. It just really took away from the whole experience and that’s probably why I had such a crappy time in Dublin. Too many people. Everywhere. In everything. There was just no escape. The church itself is beautiful and unique, but St. Fin Barre’s was just a whole different experience. Being able to walk around in silence and be the only two in a cathedral is just magical.
  • Butler’s Chocolate Factory
    One of my favorite parts of Dublin! This Butler’s chocolate factory is the only one in the world. How cool is that? So even when you see Butler’s chocolate in America,  this is where it came from. I have actually never been on a chocolate factory tour, so it was all really interesting for me. There were a bunch of samples and we even got to decorate our own chocolate pumpkins to take home. I highly recommend it!
  • Grafton Street and St. Stephen’s Green Shopping Center
    People overload. The shopping is great if you’re looking for fashionable clothes. There does seem to be an over abundance of Irish souvenir shops everywhere, but not much else. We were really looking forward to have our caricatures done in St. Stephen’s Green, but he wasn’t there. So there really wasn’t much else for us to do than finish up our gift shopping.
  • Dublin Hell Fire Club
    We were lucky enough to be in Dublin close to Halloween, giving us the opportunity to attend the more frequent ghost tours. We chose the Hell Fire Club in the Dublin mountains. Our guide took us up to the mountains after dark and the entire group hiked up to the structure and were able to go inside and hear about all the macabre happenings that are said to have taken place here. This was absolutely my favorite thing we did in Dublin.

Restaurants

  • Golden Palace
    We ate here on a whim the first night in Dublin – it was late, we were starving and we did not want to navigate our way into Dublin to try and find food in the dark. It was actually one of our favorites of the whole trip! It’s an all you can eat Chinese place were you can order whatever you want from the menu and it’s made fresh as you order it. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much in my life. Between the two of us we ordered the Cantonese duck (twice), sweet and sour chicken, Thai noodles, another chicken dish of some sort, fried rice and two orders of fries (I was newly pregnant – don’t judge 🙂 ). For the price, it was a welcome dinner for two (and a half!) very hungry travellers.
  • Boojum
    Basically a Chipotle. Service was fast and friendly and the food was fresh and tasty. What more could you possibly ask for?
  • Bleecker Street Cafe
    Another late night dinner. We both ordered the special which happened to be beer battered cod and fries. It was our first and only fish and chips. We are just not big fish people, but had to do the traditional dishes. I really enjoyed mine, where my husband said it was okay and that it just “tasted like a big fish stick”. Which is fine by me, because I really like fish sticks. 🙂 All in all, a good place; we’re just not fish people.
  • Bunsen
    One of the best burgers I have ever eaten. From a fast food place. Incredible. The menu is really simple: single or double, cheese or no, add pickle, lettuce, onion, tomato, ketchup, mustard, mayo or not, hand cut, shoe string or sweet potato fries or not and soda, milkshake or beer. Best idea ever. They’re also cooked as requested and my husband was super impressed that his medium rare was actually medium rare.
  • The Old Storehouse Bar & Restaurant
    This was a spur of the moment option when we realized we wouldn’t be able to eat where we had planned. The moment we walked in we were greeted with a band and the entire pub singing along – it was sort of a moment where we both looked at each other and thought “this really doesn’t happen”. But it does and continued to do so most of our dinner. My husband ordered the lamb chops and I ordered the cottage pie – they were both absolutely perfect and my husband could not stop raving about the gravy.


Other Stops

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Charleville CastleOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Cliffs of Moher

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Dingle Peninsula

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Kilmacdaugh Tower

  • Cliffs of Moher
    The Cliffs of Insanity! At least that’s what it feels like. Considering Ireland had just received two massive blows from Mother Nature – Ophelia and Brian – everything was wet, so my intentions to hike along the cliffs was thwarted. It was just a muddy mess and the path is so close to the edge, we just did not feel like risking it. The cliffs themselves are incredibly beautiful and you get a real sense of just how small you really are compared to nature.
  • Holy Cross Abbey
    This was a really neat little side trip for us. The abbey itself is beautiful and houses the oldest bell in Ireland. It is also home to a relic of the true cross. This was our main purpose for stopping – even if you’re rolling your eyes and saying “everyone claims they have one”, we have never seen one and it was a neat little artifact.
  • Dingle Peninsula
    This should be on the top of your Ireland to do list. On the top of your bucket list, in fact. We did not do the Ring of Kerry or the Ring of Skellig (we wanted to do Skellig island, but the boat tours to it were closed for the season – I just wanted to be a Jedi!). We instead, opted to do the Dingle Peninsula. It is hands down one of the highlights of the trip and one of the most beautiful places we have ever been.
  • Rock of Cashel
    Another one of my favorites. I just really love old, crumbling walls and cemeteries. The guided tour was fascinating and quite sad, hearing about the attacks on the fortress and how a family is letting a grave go to ruin.
  • Kilmacdaugh Tower
    The tallest tower in Ireland and, apparently, little known. It’s completely free and there was no one else there with us. There’s not a lot in the way of historical information available at the site, but it is an incredible place to visit and see the old graves and buildings. I preferred this to Glendalough.
  • Glendalough
    Sort of the same as Kilmacdaugh in that it’s an old monastery site, also free. The biggest difference is the location. Although it’s in a beautiful, mountainous area, it’s so close to Dublin and that means more people. There were about 50 other people all wandering around the site with us and it just takes away from the awe. Especially when those people are letting their children run around screaming and jumping off the laid down headstones.
  • Charleville Castle
    This was our first real stop in Ireland and it was such a great first impression. I think it actually spoiled us a little as we were the only people on the tour so we really got to interact with our guide (who was an absolute blast!) and we could really take our time in the parts of the castle we were most interested in. Bonus points for no people in our photos! This is off the beaten path, but 100% worth it – on the way there we saw our first and only fairy tree the entire trip.
  • House of Waterford
    This was an interesting little tour. Again, we were the only ones on the tour so we really got to ask lots of questions and hang back in the spots we were most interested in. My husband went into this thinking “why is this stuff so expensive” and came out saying “now I understand why this stuff is so expensive”. He actually enjoyed it more than I expected him to and now we’re on the look out for a piece of Waterford crystal we can display in our house.
  • King John’s Castle
    Not my personal favorite, but an education little stop. The coolest part of the castle is the view from the walls; we stood up there for probably twenty minutes looking at the river and the surrounding town. The second coolest part of this castle is that you can actually walk underneath it to see the foundation and where the sieges took place all those years ago.

All in all, we had a blast! I 100% recommend Ireland if you ever have the chance to go, but keeping Dublin a short stop instead of the main event. You’ll meet wonderful people, eat incredible food and experience beautiful places.

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Tips & Tricks · Travel

Overnight Flight Survivial


Today I am boarding my first overnight flight! In preparation, I ordered my husband and myself some items to help make our trip a little more comfortable. I just love having excuses to buy fun stuff from Amazon! 🙂

Carry On Bags
The one downside of getting a simple set of luggage is that there are not two of any size piece of luggage. I don’t know why, but it drives me nuts that although my suitcase and my husbands’ match, one is bigger than the other. I have plans to buy a second matching set so that we each have the perfect size suitcase (and when we have kids, they’ll match mommy and daddy, too!), but for now buying two matching carry ons will have to tide me over. Here are the bags I purchased.

Entertainment
My husband has ADHD. Diagnosed, unmedicated ADHD. He stopped taking his medication because as it wore off, it had extremely negative side effects and in the long run just wasn’t worth it. As he has gotten older, he manages it much better, but there are still times I want to kill him. When he drives, he bounces his leg because he’s bored; if he’s a passenger he is constantly complaining that he’s bored and how much longer. It’s a vicious cycle. Luckily, we have all the equipment we need to keep ourselves entertained while we’re awake; we each bring a laptop, mp3 player, phone and a book. I purchased these headphones specifically for our flight.

Sleeping
My husband likes to say that I can sleep anywhere, anytime. Although that statement is 100% true, if my head is not supported, I CAN NOT SLEEP. So I took this opportunity to buy two much needed travel pillows so I’m not a total witch when we land. 🙂 Additionally, I like to bring layers in my carry on because I freeze pretty much everywhere we go. This flights’ layers include: tank top, pullover sweater and a poncho (ponchos or shawls are good substitutes for blankets!).

Skin Care
Because our flight is leaving late (8:35pm) and we’ll be in the car pretty much all day getting to the airport, I am wearing absolutely no makeup. I know after all that time, I will not be in the mood to go through my entire routine, so for you couple strangers who actually care, Spongebob said it best: I’m ugly and I’m proud!

Clothes
Overnight flights are not the flights you want to be wearing jeans and heels on. I don’t care how cute you look, it’s ridiculous. I picked up a pair of joggers, this super cute sweatshirt and a pair of compression socks to be as comfortable as possible while I’m trying to get some shut eye.

Snacks
Most of my family has some sort of anxiety/paranoia issue and I will be the first to admit I am one of them. It’s nothing to be ashamed of – my belief is that 100% of the population has an anxiety disorder on some scale about something. One of my things airport security. I fully understand that I’m not doing anything anyone should be worried about and that these ladies and gentlemen are doing their job to keep everyone safe, but they scare the crap out of me! I don’t particularly like to bring snacks for this reason and we usually grab something in the after security shopping areas to bring on board. Call me a scaredy cat or whatever, it’s just one of those things. 🙂

The Morning After
You’re in another country (or back in your own)! What’s the first thing you want to do? EAT SOMETHING! For me, travel is a huge energy drain. As I like to tell my husband, “I don’t travel well”. Which sort of makes me sound like a sandwich, but hey. I will be the first to admit, I have issues when it comes to getting where I want to be, but there are steps I take to make it as pleasant for myself and everyone else as possible. When you step off the plane, find a bathroom and follow your typical morning routine: use the restroom, wash your face, brush your teeth and hair and get changed into street clothes. (Since we’re getting in a rental and driving for two hours, I’ll be doing my makeup in the car.) Secondly, finally and probably the most important tip: sit down and eat breakfast. I don’t care if it’s Burger King in the airport or you want to drive fifteen minutes down the road to a cafe, but order something, sit down and just unwind. This is the perfect time to really “start” your vacation.

Did I miss something? What are your tips?

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coffee break sweater joggers  compression socks  carryon travel headphones travel pillow

Fashion & Beauty · Travel

Outer Banks Travel Guide

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Crop Top / Culotte Shorts / Cat Eye Sunglasses

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Wrap Romper similar here / Pointed Toe Heels similar here / Zipper Satchel similar here / Pearl Studs similar here

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“Mrs” Tee similar here / Levi’s 501 Shorts in Roadside Blues / Cat Eye Sunglasses / Flip Flops

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Off Shoulder Floral Dress similar here / Dress Sandals / Triple Ball Earrings

Beaches. Forests. Food. What more could you want? Oh yeah. That quaint hometown vibe with a very minimal touristy feel. That last one is a biggie for us. The Outer Banks is a place where as soon as we’re gone, we want to go back.

Apologies for some of these photos! I triple checked my camera every time we went outside to shoot because the humidity kept fogging my lens, but some of the fog got by me. Oops! And yes, those cat eye sunglasses were my absolute favorite on this trip. 🙂

Where We Stay
Duck. Duck. Goose? No, just Duck. Seriously, the best area on the Outer Banks. It’s south of Corolla and north of Kitty Hawk and it’s a drive to get to the best restaurants and things to do but worth it to be out of the way. The best thing about Duck (and Southern Shores) is that there is absolutely no public beach access – the entire area is all private beach for owners and their renters. And yes, the beach is within walking distance no matter where you stay. From previous experience staying in Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills, I will absolutely stay in Duck or Southern Shores from now on.

Restaurants
Food is a huge part of our lives – on vacation, it’s no different. Although it’s not feasible for everyone, we make a point to eat out every night because it’s a huge part of the experience for us. We’d much rather eat fantastic local food than hit up the expensive touristy attractions.

Blue Moon Beach Grill in Nags Head
We had a 45 minute wait, there were people waiting for an hour and a half and about 50 people turned up and decided not to wait. It was literally that popular. It currently holds the top restaurant spot in Nags Head on Tripadvisor and it definitely lives up to that honor. Every single thing that came out of the kitchen looked and smelled incredible. I ordered the Truckstop (pork tenderloin over skillet potatoes smothered in sage gravy) and my husband ordered the Shrimp & Grits and both dishes were perfect! Mine was literally one of the best things I’ve ever eaten and although I do not personally like grits my husbands’ shrimps were huge and cooked perfectly and the flavor combo of the grits was out of this world.

Kill Devil Grill in Kill Devil Hills
This small diner themed restaurant scores huge all across the board. The staff is super friendly and attentive, the food is incredible and the retro feel is so fun! We loved this restaurant so much the last time we were in OBX that it was immediately on our list to return to. I got the same thing that I did years ago (the Big Kahuna Burger) and it was just as awesome as I remember. My husband ordered the highly recommended special (swordfish with cheese grits and pineapple tomatillo salsa – I had a bite!) and it was just incredible – the plating was beautiful and the swordfish was like butter. Well worth the trip back.

Donutz on a Stick in Duck
I’ll be honest, I had no intention of going here – doughnuts on a stick sounded incredibly boring to me. Boy, was I wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong! If I can remember correctly they have about 30 flavors of doughtnuts and 20ish flavors of ice cream (hand scooped and soft serve) plus a few toppings and coffee drinks. Naturally I ordered the most calorific sounding item on the menu – a doughnut sundae. Best. Day. Ever. They literally make the doughnuts fresh as you order so they’re still warm when they scoop the ice cream on top. The combo I chose was chocolate doughnuts with salted caramel truffle ice cream and they top it with hot fudge, whipped cream, nuts and a cherry. Talk about the most amazing sundae I have ever had. Period. No shame in admitting I drank the melted ice cream bit left over at the end. Yes, literally drank it. I’m also not ashamed to admit we got ice cream here three times during the week we were in OBX.

Eduardo’s Taco Stand in Ocracoke
Yes, I know – most people don’t go down that far. And I don’t blame them, unless you’re staying in Ocracoke, it’s really not worth the trip; not much to see, the houses and shops and restaurants are so close to each other it feels like the island is going to pop and frankly it’s a hassle to get back and forth from the island to the mainland. However. This mexican food truck serves the most incredible mexican food my husband and I have ever had. I ordered a ground beef burrito and he got a spicy carnita burrito – both were out of this world! There was a line from the time we came onto the island to when we headed back to the ferry. It’s the most consistently busy food truck I have ever seen. Would I go back to Ocracoke for the stuff to do? Not likely, unless I was staying the entire week on the island. Would I go back for Eduardo’s? Hell yes.

Food Dudes in Kill Devil Hills
Unfortunately, we did not get to eat here this time around – we ended up going to Sanya and although it was really good, our hometown sushi place is just as tasty and I ended up wishing we’d gone to Food Dudes instead. Last time I ordered a pulled pork taco and my husband ordered a southwestern steak wrap – both were to die for and those waffle fries, oh my! If you’re going to eat out only once my recommendation is for either Blue Moon Beach Grill or this place! Seriously, one of my all time favorite restaurants anywhere.

Miller’s Waterfront in Nags Head
As beautiful as it would have been had we eaten here at sunset, we opted for lunch instead. I ordered a shrimp po’boy and my husband ordered the crab dipped burger. Seriously, the best fried shrimp I have ever had – the sandwich was overflowing with it! – and the house made tartar sauce was just incredible. My husband thoroughly enjoyed his sandwich – he’s giving it a solid 9 out of 10 –  and then he enjoyed the rest of my sandwich that I was unable to finish (curse my small tummy!). And although it wasn’t sunset, the view was still amazing.

Duck Donuts
I typically don’t do cake doughnuts, but these are my exception. Usually, we both pick six flavors each and eat on them for a few days but this time we showed some restraint and only got one each. I got just a powdered doughnut – I had been sick the night before and the morning of – and he got a chocolate and peanut butter drizzle. They have lots of coatings, drizzle and topping options and you can mix and match to make some really unique flavors – some customer favorites include lemon coating with coconut, Oreo with vanilla and chocolate drizzle and maple coating with bacon crumbles!

Things To Do
Because Outer Banks isn’t a massive tourist trap, there’s not a whole lot to do if you’re into the super touristy stuff. Luckily, we’re not and we still had plenty to do.

Destination Fun in Kill Devil Hills
Maybe not for everyone, but totally worth it if you’re into arcade games and laser tag. I’ll be honest, I was not looking super forward to playing laser tag – I had never played before and really wasn’t sure what to expect – but my little brother was looking forward to it all week, so we went. I had a blast! I was literally running all over the laser tag room and crawling on the floor (it pays to have a pair of sandals in your purse when you wore heels to dinner!). Our team consisted of me, my husband, my sister and her husband, my other sister and my brother and everyone walked out of that room sweaty and smiling. Side note: we beat the other two teams (a team of 7 and a team of 5) by 10,000 points. Sorry, not sorry.

Nags Head Woods in Nags Head
Until two or three years ago, we had no idea that this place existed. We figured you go to Outer Banks to go to the beach, so no hiking trails. Wrong! There are actually quite a few places to hike in the Outer Banks, but this one is our favorite. There are seven trails, all of which are nothing alike; some take you just through forest, some go through marshy areas and at least one leads you out to a really cool beachy area that I believe is along the bay. It’s a nice break from the beach if you need it, or on not so beach friendly days. Bring your bug spray!

Duck Town Boardwalk in Duck
And we’re back to Donutz on a Stick. Not really, but it is located on the bay side boardwalk along with a bunch of quirky and fun shops, cafes and the like. The sun sets right over the bay, so it’s a nice spot to meander along at the end of the day, ice cream in hand, waiting for the sunset.

Lost Colony Show in Manteo
This is also something I did not know existed until this year. Tripadvisor, folks, Tripadvisor. The theater itself is where the events of the play are supposed to have taken place, which really creates a supernatural feeling. Not a creepy, unpleasant sort but more of a feeling of oneness with those who came before. Tickets are from $20 – $35 depending on how close you want to sit – we sat in $20 seats and it was perfectly fine. The show itself is amazing – from costumes to acting, everything was spot on. Unfortunately, I ended up feeling really sick through the first act, and then being sick during the second – but all was good after that. I’d definitely see it again, sick or not. Bring your bug spray!

Ghost Tours of the OBX
This is the one you want, not OBX Ghost Tours. This tour is the original ghost tour of the Outer Banks and it shows. Our tour guide was dressed in a very Jack the Ripper-esque outfit, carried a real lantern and the way he told stories had a very “dark and stormy night in an old Irish pub” feel to it – it was fantastic! On the other hand, the second tour, OBX Ghost Tours, was a woman in jeans and a tshirt carrying a battery powered lamp leading about 60-70 people around. (Our tour had only 37 people and let’s be honest, ghost tours are not ghost tours with that many people – takes the spook out of it.) If it’s not Jack the Ripper and it’s not a real lantern, it’s not the real deal.

Been to the Outer Banks? Live there? If I missed anything you’d recommend, I’d love to hear it!

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Travel

Road Trip Survival Guide

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Recycled Karma Hello Friday Sweater similar here / Levi’s 501 Shorts in Roadside Blues / Nine West Zipper Satchel similar here / Tommy Hilfiger T Strap Sandals similar here / Circus by Sam Edelman Gray Glasses similar here

By the time you’re reading this I will be in Tennessee. I will have hopefully endured an eight hour drive with my limbs, sanity and husband in tact. Fingers crossed. Here are my tips and tricks for not coming out of the car a convicted woman.

Have a meal plan.
This is HUGE for me. (Notice the bold, italicized capital letters.) I have worked extremely hard to lose about 30 pounds and I am not about to rebound. Obviously, eating well while you’re travelling can be difficult so here are my tips.

You don’t have to eat fast food. Shocking, I know. But just because you need to get back to the road doesn’t mean you can’t (or shouldn’t) stop for a bite. Long drives can do a number on your physical and emotional wellbeing and more often than not an hour to sit and enjoy a meal out of the car is a welcome relief. Still feeling the time constraint? Pack a meal before you leave and picnic at a rest stop. Saves calories, time and your budget.

Pack snacks. A road trip is not a road trip without snacks and having some on hand will decrease the number of stops you make and keep you from getting hangry. Some things you’ll find in my cooler are snack bars, Fiber One Brownies (the mint one is to die for!), something salty like pretzels or chips, at least two different kinds of candy and plenty of drink options.

A first aid kit is a must.
I have a DIY first aid that I’m always adding to and I keep it in my car at all times. You never know when you’ll need it and it’s better to be safe than sorry. Basic items to include: bandaids, tylenol, dramamine, itch relief, sleeping pills, antiseptic, tweezers.

Organize, organize, organize.
My little mama gifted me the American Tourister Pop Plus 3 Piece Set for my bridal shower last year and it is perfect; simple, well made and…black. Love me some black. (It also comes in a few other colors if black isn’t your thing.) She also gave me a set of Amazon Basics Packing Cubes (2 medium, 2 large) and a set of the smaller Amazon Basics Packing Cubes (4 small). Typically, I use the large ones for clothes, medium for swimsuits or pajamas and the smallest for lingerie and undies. We purchased the Lavievert Toiletry Bag because the luggage set above doesn’t actually come with a toiletry bag and I have a separate makeup travel bag for all my beauty products. I use a David Yurman travel jewelry case my sister picked up at a thrift store for $1.78, similar here.

As for documents, I have this document organizer on my wishlist for next trip. I plan on using it to hold reservation confirmations, prepurchased tickets, passports and to organize carry-on items.

Invest in travel “guides”.
I do not like being lost. Let me repeat that. I do not like being lost and when I’m in the car we don’t get lost. Ever. I like to keep four essential travel helpers in my car at all times. A GPS, an actual paper map of the state we’re visting (you can find these at rest stops or what I like to do is have one mailed to me for free before we go – just google free road map of ________ state), a wirebound atlas (it’s easier to keep open) and my trusty Next Exit book. The Next Exit book is my absolute favorite because it lets you see what is off an exit WAAAAAAAY before the road signs do so you can plan ahead to stop for lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings 100 miles before you’re there.

Dress to impress….
…your butt into your seat. I don’t ever travel in jeans and heels. It’s not practical, it’s not comfortable and road trip ninja skills are always necessary. My favorite travel outfits always include: leggings, a tunic, some type of wrap or cardigan and flip flops.

Music.
Preferably not something your husband listens to or you’ll have to listen to him screech the entire trip. (Just kidding!) Here are my favorite eight albums to have on my MP3 player for trips.

Your Favorite Weapon by Brand New
Self Titled Album by Good Charlotte
We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank by Modest Mouse
Greatest Hits by Journey
Oracular Spectacular by MGMT
Self Titled Album by Foxy Shazam
Self Titled Album by The Used
Fang Bang by Wednesday 13

What do you do to stay sane on the road?

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