London Sky Garden

The Sky Garden/Sky Pod Bar in London is probably one of my favorite “sky high” bars that I’ve been to yet. It’s a little oasis in the middle of the City of London and a nice little break from the crowds and transport and business going on below.

Located in the Walkie Talkie Building (20 Fenchurch St), the Sky Garden is literally that…a public garden in the sky. It’s free to enter, so long as you book a time, and can be visited just to enjoy the gardens, or to enjoy drinks, or even to have dinner at one of the restaurants. I’ve always been only for drinks. Of course, you pay the price of having drinks in the sky, but they are delicious – and beautiful! They also have fantastic cheese and meat platters, so don’t be afraid to arrive with an appetite.

I visited for the first time with my friend Lucy back in the summer and took Sara, Hope, and Sean when Sara was in town last week. They were completely different experiences! In the summer, of course, it was still relatively light outside and you could see everything. This time, it was dark – the city was lit up and beautiful, but it made it hard for us to get pictures. I also have yet to go before the balcony closes in the evening (in my opinion it closes a bit too early, but I understand the concern!) so I feel like I haven’t gotten the full experience.

I highly recommend the Sky Garden for anyone visiting London! Now that it’s been open for a bit, it’s even possible to make a reservation the same day for some last minute plans. My goal is to go back in the daytime next time so I can actually go outside…hopefully when it is warmer as well! I promise better pictures then, but until then, here is a look at my most recent trip….

  [Aren’t the drinks just beautiful?]

    [Glaring eyes is the price you pay for trying to get the whole group in a picture]

      [A blurry (but still beautiful) through-the-window shot of Tower Bridge]

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When Friends Visit

I have a love-hate relationship with having friends come visit London. I love pretty much everything about it: reuniting my friends, showing them my favorite places in London, traveling, etc. But it really stresses me out. I think it’s all part of the wanting everyone to be having a good time always thing. Working from home, I can be around my friends, but can’t really go and do anything with them, so I kind of have to send them off on their own during the day and then meet up with them in the evening.

We also have a very, very small flat. This means that air mattress is a way to go, and I must say…it isn’t a comfy air mattress.

However, despite all of this, I am always inviting friends to come stay. We’ve developed a bit of a routine for when friends/family visit that guarantees they see more than just the touristy stuff. As I mentioned, I ship my friends off into London during the day with decent directions on how to get places and my personal recommendations. Then, when everyone is free, we go for the following:

  • Fish & Chips – We used to pick up fish and chips from Moxie’s in Clapham South and bring it home to our friends. Now that we’ve moved, our go to is Kerbisher & Malt on Abbeville Road. Craft beers + delicious fish (& scampi!) + an overload of chips = heaven on earth.IMG_0001.JPG

 

  • Our Local Pub – Sunday roast, Wednesday burger night, any day drinks – it’s the perfect opportunity to show our friends a *real* London pub.  

 

  • A Swanky Bar – There are so many that I want to try! Rooftops, sky high bars, pop ups. I usually drag my friends to something I’ve never even been to, but sometimes I go for a repeat.  

 

  • Cook at Home – Save money. Eat in pajamas. Show off our new cooking skills. Drink wine. Play Cards Against Humanity. Everyone wins on the nights when we just can’t be bothered to do anything.IMG_5193

 

  • Afternoon Tea – If we have a free weekend day, this is probably my favorite thing to do with visiting friends. It’s extremely British and so good for a girls day out!IMG_4001.JPG

 

  • Ticketed Event – There is ALWAYS something going on in London. From Cocktail Week (Marisa’s visit) to pop up experiences to musicals and plays, there are endless things to do that provide a great London experience without all of the tourist queues.IMG_0020

 

  • Weekend Away – I try to travel with every friend who visits. After all, they’re coming all the way across the ocean, so it’s worth seeing more than just London! This started when Sara visited last year after I first moved here and we went to Nice. Then, Marisa visited and we hit Marseille. We choose a cheap and relatively quick place so we can make the most of it and just go!IMG_1568

This list has changed a bit, but after Sara’s (second) visit this past week, I think this is the best of the combinations. It’s nice to have a little routine that we can tailor to each friend who visits. Next I need to figure out the perfect three day itinerary for sending my friends off to explore London on their own.

Who wants to be my next visitor?

Skiing in Steamboat

I spent all of last week in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, for a ski trip and – oh, boy! – I am definitely still recovering. I don’t think I’ve skied that much ever – 3 full days and 2 half days – but it was so much fun!

Here’s the thing about me and skiing:

Pretty much everyone knows this story by now, but for those of you who don’t: I broke my arm skiing when I was ten. It was quite dramatic, but then again I was at that age. We were skiing our last run of the day and for some reason I thought I stood a chance at beating my brother down. I tried to go down the whole mountain making as few turns as possible to gain speed…I was going very fast and hit a patch of ice. The rest is a fall and crying and pain. They had to give me a temporary cast of bubble wrap and cardboard so we could drive the 1.5 hours to the nearest hospital and I was in a little cast for what felt like forever.

Since then, I never got back to the level of skiing I was at. When I was younger, I was so confident and absolutely loved it. As I grew up, I didn’t ski nearly as much and had a huge mental block when I actually went. With Sean in my life, though, I feel the need to get back into it – and I really actually want to.

 [I obviously need to get back into skiing to keep up with this stud!]

In terms of progress, this trip was amazing! We took a half day lesson our first day there and Sean took up skiing for the first time, so we were able to stick together on the mountain (as annoyed I was at the fact that he was immediately better than me…stupid naturals!). By the end of the trip, and after a few highs and lows, I felt more confident on skis, stopped caring about steepness (I still don’t like ice, though), and left Colorado excited about skiing as opposed to scared. There was one moment where I just about gave up on skiing permanently and asked for a ride down the mountain with ski patrol (low visibility in the middle of a snowstorm at the top of a really steep trail I hadn’t skied yet), but I pushed through and made it down…and it ended up being our best day out on the slopes!

  

[At the time of my panic attack, the visibility was probably half of this and we were on a harder run…believe me, I would not have been taking pictures at that point!]

 

Steamboat is an adorable little town – we would wake up early and spend the days skiing, stopping for lunch on the mountain before skiing it all off, then head back for dinner, ending the night with drinks and board games at the house. We went downtown for a couple of dinners and even turned a whole afternoon into a date night with just the two of us – shopping downtown, a trip to the Old Town Hot Springs, happy hour at the Old Town pub, and then dinner at Mahogany Ridge Grill. After visiting both Aspen and Zermatt, I have come to realize that I absolutely love mountain towns and this was no exception!

  
  

[Necessary relaxation after a long day of skiing]

 

[The Old Town Hot Springs were such a nice break from the mountains – so warm in the water, but so refreshing to still be in the cool Colorado air!]

We are heading to Zermatt next weekend with my brother and his wife, and our friends Sara and Hope. I’m so excited to visit Zermatt again, but also itching to get back in skis and keep this high going!  Follow us on Instagram for live updates!

 

My 5 Favorite Couples Travel Blogs

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After browsing travel articles on the Internet and planning some trips of my own last week, I ended up spending a good two or three hours searching through couples travel blogs. At this point, I do not even know how I ended up in that state, but I became obsessed! There is something so incredible about these couples that give up everything to travel together. I think Sean and I are so fortunate to do all of the traveling we do while still maintaining full time jobs, but I cannot help but envy these people who have made traveling their full time job!

Some of these duos are so incredible, doing extremely adventurous (sometimes dangerous) things all over the world and snapping the most incredible pictures and videos in the process. They have even inspired me to add a GoPro to the top of my big purchase list in order to capture water and adventure memories as Sean and I travel this year. I previously wrote about why I love traveling with Sean, and I feel like these couples must feel the exact same way. It’s so incredible to travel and experience new things with someone you love, and you walk away with incredible memories to cherish forever.

Here are five couples travel blogs/instagrams that I am currently obsessing over:

  1. Traveling Newlyweds – This was the first travel couple I started following on Instagram, and I absolutely love them for everything they have done. They’re working day jobs and still getting in a ridiculous amount of travel. Please…teach me your ways?
  2. Couples Coordinates – I keep meaning to get into yoga. Then, I found Couples Coordinates and I really need to get into yoga. Seriously – you think certain parts of the world cannot get anymore beautiful and then you throw in a beautiful couple doing yoga in the spot. Beautiful pictures!
  3. Murad Osmann – Pretty much everyone knows this one. Murad started the #FollowMeTo series when he was traveling the world with his then girlfriend (now wife). All of the pictures are from his perspective of her pulling him along. Gorgeous sceneries and gorgeous photos of gorgeous people.
  4. Lens Between Us – These two are AMAZING. They take pictures of each other taking pictures of each other and put them side by side. It’s incredible to see how a moment was captured by two individuals in the same place at the same time, simply just standing across from each other.
  5. Flying the Nest – Not only does this Australian couple blog and instagram their travels, but they video record them and post YouTube videos…and it looks like they have had the most INCREDIBLE time!

p.s. All of this travel and blog talk has inspired me and Sean to share more of our travel moments. We are now sharing pictures on Instagram under the name @apairofpassports – follow for snaps of our trips as we start a big travel period at the end of this week (he even contributes sometimes!).

2016 Travel Wishlist

I’ve been working on this post for awhile now, mainly because the list changes pretty much everyday. I have the worst attention span when trying to plan travel because I end up wanting to go everywhere and cannot decide how to prioritize! Just today, I’ve decided on like three more trips I want to try and squeeze in. However, here are seven trips I’m currently dreaming of – trying to see when I can squeeze them all in!

A weekend in…San Sebastian, Spain

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First off, it’s a foodie destination. And I love food. I first heard about San Sebastian in Conde Nast Traveler two years ago and have been trying to go ever since. It looks completely different from other places I have been and has it’s own unique culture – just the type of place I’d like to explore for a few days!

Exploring Castles in…Killarney, Ireland

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My obsession with Ireland grows each time I think about it. After spending a summer in Dublin and visiting countless times since, I feel the need to return every single weekend. I haven’t ventured beyond Dublin very much (just a day trip to Cork and a weekend in Galway), so the idea of staying in quaint Killarney and driving around the castles and exploring the Ring of Kerry seems like the perfect romantic weekend away from it all.

A Eurostar trip to…Ghent, Belgium

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After I fell in love with Bruges in May 2014, I’ve been dying to go back to Belgium. I heard amazing things about Ghent, but never actually looked into visiting. Once I finally did, though, I couldn’t stop! This city screams culture, culture, culture. I envision myself wandering around the small streets, exploring along the river, and maybe going for a kayak ride to explore. This is the trip I am most interested in planning at the moment!

A tour around…Japan

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Sean and I are in the process of planning a big trip to Japan in 2017 or 2018 (to be determined). We’re talking two full weeks, exploring as much of the country as we can – a mix  between luxury traveling and budget traveling. One of my friends recommended we go because she thought Kyoto was the most romantic place she had ever been. I started doing some research and fell in love…with all of it. Japan offers beauty, romance, adventure, history, incredible culture, and amazing food. It seems like the perfect place to explore with someone you love – and someone who loves traveling just as much as you.

Relaxation in…The Maldives

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This one’s a dream. But a beautiful one. The Maldives is something I would book with a Christmas bonus or a winning scratch card. I would love to head to there for a week and stay in a little bungalow on the water and just forget about the world.

Adventure in…Croatia

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A couple of my girlfriends and I are planning a week in Croatia for this summer. I never realized how much the country has to offer – hiking, waterfalls, beaches, sailing cruises, history, food, local culture. I’m currently looking into doing a trip which would take us to Split – Hvar – Dubrovnik.

A return trip to…Tuscany, Italy

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(photo: my own)

Sean and I talk about returning to Tuscany pretty much all the time. Last time we went, we stayed in Florence and went on a wine tasting tour one day which allowed us to experience the magic of the hills and vineyards. When we go back, I would like to rent a car and just stay in little Tuscan villages for a wine tasting trip. After spending a day driving through the vineyard towns in Alsace, I imagine that doing the same in Tuscany would be the most breathtaking thing I’ve ever done.

Do you have recommendations for any of the places I mentioned – or any other places I should consider?

A Weekend in NYC

I spent this past weekend visiting my friend Sara in New York City. It was my first time seeing her since May (that’s a long time for us) and my first time in New York City in over a year! In typical Sara & Kelly fashion, we did as much as we could while barely doing anything at all. We’re talking brunch, shopping, sleep…and plenty of Nemo snuggles.

I arrived late on Friday night, so we got into our old habit of late night pizza delivery while catching up at Sara’s apartment. There were a lot of Nemo snuggles during this since I hadn’t seen him in a year!


  
On Saturday, we met up with our friend and sorority sister, Kelsey, who trekked all the way in from New Jersey. We went to brunch at Barraca – delicious food and a two hour unlimited sangria bar in the West Village. They were filling up our sangria before we could even process that our glasses were empty. It was so nice to catch up with Kelsey and share our information on where everyone has ended up with each other.

[This dish was literally heaven on earth – steak, friend egg, roasted brussel sprouts, and potatoes – aint she a beaut?]

After brunch, Sara and I went back to her apartment to take Nemo on a walk. We had planned to go for a nice dinner and a night out, but ended up falling asleep at 7. I was still a bit jet lagged and the sangria did not help, so 7:00pm quickly because 9:00am the following morning.

We woke up fresh on Sunday morning and ordered breakfast in. Seriously, the best thing about New York is that you can order literally anything at any time of the day (thank you Seamless!). After devouring our breakfast (we slept through dinner the night before), we headed out for some shopping. I stopped to drain my wallet at my U.S. favorites (Madewell and Sephora) before swinging by a news shop to get a Powerball ticket (which will hopefully fill my wallet back up!).

Of course, I didn’t leave New York without some Magnolia banana pudding with me! It is probably one of my favorite desserts – and that says a lot! I’m trying to eat it slowly so I can savour it as long as possible, but I feel a binge coming on.


 
It was a really short trip to New York this past weekend, but I had such a great time seeing Sara (and Nemo!) and Kelsey. I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to travel the world and live in London, but there is nothing like coming home to old friends.

Favorite Travel Websites: Transport & Accommodation

I promised Sean I wouldn’t start planning a bunch of trips for 2016. Yeah…I lied. The thing is, I love to travel. And everybody knows that. So I’m pretty much always planning some trip or another. With the year winding down, I cannot help but look forward to what trips I can take next year, so the past couple of days have been spent looking up itineraries and flights and AirBnbs.

I’ve been so fortunate to travel so much over the past couple of years that my friends often come to me for advice on planning trips – where to go, where to get cheap deals, etc. So, since I’m doing a bit of planning on my own right now, I’ve decided to put together a list of my favorite places to go to find accommodation and transport for the many trips I plan in my head.

Flights & Trains

Direct Websites – BA, EasyJet

For loyalty purposes, I go straight to British Airways. It’s always my first stop for flight checking. BA is easiest for me since I’m flying out of London, but when I was Boston-based it was JetBlue. I recommend picking an airline that serves your local airport and covers nearly any destination you could need to get to! I also use EasyJet when they’re having a sale. Honestly, you can get European flights for so cheap…usually about £60 RT even if booked last minute. It’s not the most comfortable airline, but I really don’t mind it that much, especially for the price.

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[A quick (and cheap) EasyJet flight to Nice and bam…this view!]

Skyscanner

When I’m not getting my way on the BA website (aka prices are extortianate), I pretty much always use Skyscanner to find the cheapest flight options. It pulls together different airlines and even mix and matches to find the cheapest combination. My favorite part is that I can filter the departure times to get the most out of my stay!

Seat61

Sean and I do so many weekend trips that trains are not usually an option. However, for longer trips (often when I’m doing many cities at a time), I find it to be a cheaper and more scenic alternative to planes, especially when traveling within the same country. Seat61 is great because it tells you the best and cheapest way to get from place to place.

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[My friend Jamie and I did a lot of train travel on our Salzburg – Vienna – Budapest – Bucharest trip. I used Seat61 throughout the entire planning process to figure out our options]

Accommodation

AirBnb

As I’ve stated before, and will continue to state, AirBnb is my first choice when it comes to planning trips. For a cheaper price, you get clean and modern accommodation (if you look carefully) in a great location with a host that will give local advice. I’ve had some amazing experiences and some questionable ones, but I still consider it to be the best source for accommodation. I recommend researching neighborhoods and reading reviews before picking a place to stay – pictures may lie but reviewers rarely do!

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[The AirBnb Marisa and I stayed at in Marseille is probably the nicest one I’ve stayed in yet – I honestly wanted to copy and paste the furnishings into my own home!]

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[Sean and I stayed in a gorgeous and perfectly located AirBnb in Florence with THIS view. It was right on the water, so I’m not even kidding that this was the exact view. I was in heaven for four straight days.]

Booking.com

I found the B&B my dad and I stayed at in Bruge on Booking.com and it is probably my favorite B&B…ever! This website brings out unique options, not all of the main brand named hotels. It has a mix of expensive and inexpensive, so is good for anyone. The only downside is that there aren’t many listings in some cities.

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[Our breakfast at Maison Bousson in Bruges, complete with a flight of juices/smoothies/yogurts]

Expedia

For everything else, there is Expedia. It’s great for last minute deals or special packages, but I don’t think the prices vary much when booking in advance, which is why the above two booking methods always come first!

Bonus: Groupon

I like to keep an eye on Groupon deals because they can sometimes cover both flights and accommodation! Sean and I booked our trip to Milan for about £220 for both flights and two nights accommodation in a 4* hotel. Of course, they try to get you to buy add ons and try to rip you off with flight times and hotel location, but it was a nice to not have to worry about finding stuff for ourselves. I love planning, but for those who don’t (or for a last minute getaway), packaged deals are great!