Destinations & Dates

24 Hours in Mumbai

Sometimes travel allows you to escape reality, forget about your worries and unwind.  Other times, it exposes you to new dimensions of reality that you didn’t even know existed, it opens your eyes to new adversities and alters your perspective on the world in the most profound and beautiful way.  My trip to India was certainly the latter.

Having never been to a third world country or a city with anything close to a population of 20.7 million, I had no idea what to expect when stepping off the airplane in Mumbai.

Even with all Kush had done to prepare me for my time in the country he grew up in, I was not prepared for the sensory overload I experienced as I embarked on the trip that would forever change me for the better.

With just two nights in Mumbai, I quickly realized my time in India would be a rollercoaster of emotions.  One moment I would feel deep sorrow as I recognized the unfair distribution of wealth and witnessed entire families suffering from extreme poverty as their neighbors lived lavishly in the lap of luxury just steps away.  Another, I would feel immense joy as I experienced the locals’ love and hospitality as they generously offered to feed me, take pictures with me and welcomed me into their homes.  Other times, I only felt pure exhaustion from the jet lag!

Through it all, I uncovered some really great finds that you really can’t miss if you have 24 hours in Mumbai.  Do yourself a favor and hire a tour guide who knows how to manage the traffic dense streets and make sure he/she brings you to:


The Gateway of India – Be ready for hoards of people and some pushing and shoving but don’t miss this mammoth monument built during the British rule. Quite literally standing as an arched gateway into the city from the Arabian Sea, this stone structure begs for the obligatory tourist selfie.

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Taj Mahal Palace – You won’t have to go far after stopping at the Gateway of India to find the historic Taj Mahal Palace. Right across the street from the Gateway stands the Indo-Saracenic style structure that is awe-inspiring in its own right but was also the site of the 2008 terror attack involving a 3-day hostage situation.


Dhobi Ghat – Like a scene from Slumdog Millionaire (yes I am a tourist so I had to use that reference), this open air laundromat is a well-oiled machine that unfolds almost like a work of art. It is truly an experience to see hundreds of dhobis (washers) meticulously clean thousands of articles of clothing from local hotels and hospitals.

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Malabar Hills’ Hanging Gardens and Kamala Nehru Park – At this point you may need a break from the densely populated sidewalks of Mumbai. Why not wander into the picturesque Hanging Gardens in Malabar Hills and then explore the breathtaking lookout just across the street at Kamala Nehru Park? Side note: This is the first place the locals asked to take my picture. Jarring at first, it didn’t take long for me to start feeling like a celebrity!


Marine Drive – Also known as the Queen’s Necklace, this crescent motorway along the water is lined with a beautiful boardwalk that’s popular with tourists and locals alike. Like most areas in Mumbai, traffic can get unbearable along Marine Drive, so be sure to head here early.


Shopping – If you feel like you can’t take anymore site seeing, jet into one of the city’s many boutiques and enjoy your very own fashion show. Seriously, I could get use to shopping in India. You just sit down, tell them what you’re looking for and they do the rest.  No weeding through the clearance rack for this fashion maven (ok “fashion maven” may be an exaggeration).


Finish the day off by eat some traditional Indian food and get a good night’s sleep because the trip won’t slow down from there…

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Five Foodie Finds in Portland, Maine

Portland, Maine is seafood by the pier in the summer.  It is warming up next to a cozy fireplace in the winter.  It is roaming quaint cobblestone alleys in the fall.  For me, it’s even half marathons in the spring.  But above all, Portland, Maine is a small town with a big foodie following.

I am yet to try all the mouthwatering cuisine this town has to offer, but I am sure working on it!  Here are my five, favorite foodie finds in Portland so far:


Holy Donut

Some say diamonds are a girl’s best friend but I’ve always thought doughnuts could give the bling a run for its money.   Who doesn’t love a personal sized cake that is totally acceptable to eat for breakfast?!

When it comes to these cream-filled wonders, the Holy Donut is the holy grail.  With everything from salted caramel to vegan coconut, this little storefront has everything a dessert feign like me could ask for.

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I never miss my Holy Donut fix when I make it up to Portland.


Becky’s Diner

Classic diner food on the water, does it get any better than that?  I don’t think so.

You HAVE to try the cinnamon bun.  Trust me.


The Honey Paw

I just discovered The Honey Paw for the first time this trip and it was totally by accident.  We had tried to get into the popular restaurant across the street, Duck Fat, for lunch but the wait was too long for our liking, so we stumbled into what looked like a trendy new spot a few doors down.  Boy, am I happy we did!

This Asian Fusion mecca had an eclectic menu with everything from noodles to wings and sandwiches.  I ordered the soft-shell crab sandwich and I’ve been dreaming about it ever since.

We may have wandered into The Honey Paw by happenstance but I am very deliberately planning my next trip back.

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Street and Co.

This is bae’s favorite spot in Portland.  It is the perfect spot for date night.  It is cozy and quaint with an open kitchen to die for.  But be careful, it will require a reservation.

We love to order the Lobster Diavolo to share.  If you are with another seafood lover, it is the way to go.


Central Provisions

Two words: fried cauliflower.  I know it doesn’t sound very convincing but this dish blew my mind.

The restaurant is small and they don’t take reservations so you may be in for a wait. Pro tip: there’s a bar downstairs that serves the same food menu and its first come, first serve.  Our wait went from over an hour to 15 minutes.


After all this food talk, who’s hungry? Let’s go to Portland!

Three Days in Napa and a Lifetime Together

To me, Napa Valley is everything.  It is fine wine and mind-blowing food. It is luxurious hotels with relaxing couple massages.  It is an awe-inspiring countryside with miles and miles of beautiful vineyards.

But most of all, it is where I said yes to spending the rest of my life with my best friend and where we will return to celebrate the engagement of my dreams for many years to come.

Even if you don’t come away from your Napa weekend with a ring, spending two or three nights in the Valley is well worth the trip.

Here are my top recommendations for where to stay, eat and drink in my new favorite place on earth.


Hotel Yountville

Between the location, ambiance and service at Hotel Yountville, I was pretty sure I had died and gone to heaven.  Each room has its own fireplace and they hold private wine tastings in their lobby.  But they are also walking distance to several wineries and some of the best restaurants in the area.  That’s not to mention the couples massage in their spa and their attention to detail as they laid out rose petals and champagne on our engagement night.  It truly was the most romantic setting for our special day.

Schweiger Vineyards & Winery 

Speaking of our special day, Schweiger Vineyard up the road in St. Helena was at the heart of it.  Nestled in the rolling hills of Spring Mountain, this small family-run vineyard was the perfect place for Kushan to get on one knee.  Not only was the wine some of the best I’ve ever tasted, but the staff was so attentive and made sure that we had memories of our engagement that would last a lifetime.

If you are looking for a vineyard where you’ll get an authentic Napa experience without the throngs of tourists and crowds, this is the place for you.

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Bottega

High on love and maybe a little (ok a lot) of bubbly, bae and I had the meal of a lifetime at Bottega to mark the first night of the rest of our lives.

The service was unparalleled and the food bordered on Michelin quality.

Don’t miss the polenta – it is out of this world!

O’Brien Estate Winery

The next day, we were off to celebrate some more with tastings and vineyard tours.

I would highly recommend beginning your tours at O’Brien Estate Winery (especially if you’re a novice like me).  They truly take the time to walk you through a tasting.  They explain everything from how the wine is made to what foods pair best with each bottle.

Best of all they’re super low-key and down-to-earth about the entire experience.  Though you can tell they’re renown experts, they allow you to experience the wine in whatever way best suites you.

Believe me, spending some time with them at the beginning of your day will go far in knowing what the heck you’re doing later.

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Frog’s Leap

By now, it’s probably pretty clear that I prefer the less touristy, more boutique wineries.  Frog’s Leap is just that.  The property is a quaint, quiet colonial style estate set quite a bit off the main drag.  I could have spent hours sitting along the edge of this vineyard soaking in the sun and the Riesling.

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Redd Wood

After a day of tastings, sometimes all you need is some pizza to sop it all up.  But don’t get me wrong, Redd Wood is anything but “just some pizza.”  Like most restaurants in the area, they take their food seriously.  This place was trendy, modern and served up some next level wings and pizza.

If you are looking to hit up some of the more touristy attractions, I would recommend Domaine Chandon and Domaine Carneros.  Despite the crowds, their grounds were beautiful and their wine was spectacular.


Napa will forever hold a place in my heart.   It was setting for the happiest weekend of my life and from this day forward visiting (hell even just reminiscing about) Napa Valley will always fill my heart with warmth.

Top Five Things to See and Do Around Melbourne

To be honest, when we were planning our two weeks in Australia, I did not expect Melbourne to be the highlight.  We had a friend from the area to show us around, so I knew we’d enjoy ourselves, but I certainly thought Sydney, Whitsunday and Bryon Bay would outshine Melbourne.  But this small city packs a big punch.  With the Great Ocean Road a day trip away, wineries an hour down the road in Yarro Valley and a part hipster part trendy vibe, Melbourne quickly earned a place in my heart.

Here were my favorite finds:


Great Ocean Road – Take a day to rent a car and drive up the coast.  You wont regret it.  The views are second-to-none and you’re sure to see some authentic Australian wildlife.  My favorite were the koala bears at Kafe Koala, but we also saw wallabies and kangaroos along the side of the road at dusk.

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Yarro Valley Wineries – Yarro truly felt like the Napa of Australia. About an hour outside the city, Yarro is filled with vast rows of vines lining beautiful rolling hills.  Sitting in a gorgeous tasting room sipping on crisp wine is the perfect way to relax after a morning of sightseeing in the city.  We went to Domaine Chandon but there are countless options. It would be hard to go wrong.

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Street Art — The graffiti that lines the streets in Melbourne is less an act of vandalism and more an act of artistic expression.  I could wander the streets all day taking in the scenes.IMG_9656.JPG


Attend a cricket match – I am not really sure what was happening but the excitement in the stadium was palpable and the people were great to be around.  Nothing compares to experiencing a sporting event like a local if you’re looking to fully understand a city’s vibe.

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Riverwalk — The riverwalk was probably my favorite area of Melbourne proper.  Lined with restaurants, bars and even a casino, this is a popular spot for locals to spend the evening. We didn’t have a chance to eat at any of the restaurants there, but it will be my priority when we make it back.


I am not going to lie to you.  Melbourne may have been the highlight of my Australian adventure (ok one of the highlights).

Three Tips for Managing Flight Cancellations

When we arrived at Airlie Beach in Queensland, Australia, we were excited for what we anticipated to be the best three days of our trip.  We would take a jet to snorkel at the Great Barrier Reef (this one actually happened and it was amazing).  We would ride a boat to Whitehaven Beach to see the inlet.  We’d spend a half day in Hamilton Island sipping on cocktails and shopping in town.

Rain changed all that. 

It rained for 48 hours straight.  Our boat trip was cancelled, Hamilton Island was cancelled and ultimately the road to the airport flooded leaving us with multiple flight cancellations.

We were stuck in the torrential rain for another night — and so was everyone else in Airlie Beach.

Not ideal, but it happens, and you’re sure to be a more seasoned traveler in result.  Here’s what I learned this time around.


  1. Get the travel insurance – In the past, I dismissed this as unnecessary.  When you’re already spending a significant amount on travel this sounds like an easy expense to cut.  Luckily, I booked this flight through my Chase Saphire card, which is one of the best things to happen to my travel routine ever.  It has built in travel insurance that gave us two options.  The first, travel delay insurance, would have covered all expenses related to the additional overnight stay — the additional hotel stay, meals, taxis, etc. — if we took the original flight at its rescheduled time. The second, was trip cancellation insurance, if we booked another flight that could get us to our destination earlier, this insurance would cover the cost of the original, cancelled flight as well as any hotel cancellations we had to make as a result of the travel changes. We choose option two as we were eager to get on the first available plane to our next destination.  This insurance saved us from what could have been almost $1,000 in unexpected expenses.  So whether your credit card has travel insurance, you purchase it through the airline or somewhere else, be sure to get it for all international travel.

  2. Purchase an international cellphone plan— If your flight is cancelled or you have other travel problems, you will need to make several calls.  We spent hours on the phone with the airline, Chase Saphire, hotels and rental car services.  At $2 a minute this can add up fast.  Avoid an enormous phone bill when you get home and purchase an international plan ahead of time.  You can arrange this with your carrier directly before heading abroad or you can purchase a sim card at the airport when you reach your destination.  For about $30 you will have access to a phone line in the case of an emergency.  Access to Google Maps can also come in handy for navigating from place to place.

  3. Think of all adjacent reservations — Your instinct will be to figure out your flight, which should certainly be your priority.  However, if the cancellations are widespread, like our’s were, you should quickly work on securing a hotel for the night.  Everyone will be looking to extend their stays and hotels will fill up quickly.  A roof over your head is a basic necessity. Then, if applicable, call the hotel you’re not going to make it to.  Explain your situation and ask about their cancellation policies.  If they do not allow refunds, your insurance may cover the expense.  Also remember all other transportation reservations.  Did you have a rental car arranged?  Was there a shuttle, ferry or taxi to the airport? Be sure to reschedule or cancel all reservations that will be impacted by the trickle down effect.

Above all, just embrace it.  There are worse places to be stuck than on vacation.  Kick back with a cold one, play a board game, grab some great food and stay safe. 

Checking Off Bucket List Items in Australia

As I jet over the Pacific Ocean and reflect on my Australian adventure thats coming to a close, I can’t help but feel extremely lucky.  In just two short weeks, I was able to check multiple items off my bucket list.  From underwater explorations to fireworks over Sydney Harbor, the past 14 days have been some of the best of my life.

Want to make some serious progress on your bucket list? Here’s how we did it!


Bucket List Item 1: New Years Eve in Sydney Harbor

First, take advantage of the extra days off around the holidays and head to Australia at the end of December.  This will ensure you make it to Sydney, work out your jet lag and reenergize in time to celebrate New Year’s Eve.

If anyone tells you to avoid Sydney Harbor on New Year’s Eve, ignore them. We were warned of boat traffic and over congestion, told it was overrated and generally deterred from ringing in 2017 by the harbor.  They weren’t all wrong — the harbor is loaded with people and there are tons of boats — but it is all worth it.

We not only ignored the warnings but went directly into the center of the chaos to a floating bar in the middle of the harbor called The Island.

Set off the coast and among hundreds of boats, on a normal day, The Island offers breathtaking views of the bridge and Opera House.  On New Year’s Eve, it’s the optimal vantage point for the greatest fireworks display in the world and home to one hell of a party.

As the countdown drew down and the fireworks exploded, I stole a kiss from my fiancé and took time to bask in this remarkable pinch me moment. 

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Note: If the bar/party atmosphere is not your scene, there are plenty of areas and activities for all ages and interests along the harbor.  They even set off a round of fireworks at 9PM for families with young children.  Be ready for some crowds. People begin camping out the night before, but sometimes maneuvering the crowds is worth it.


Bucket List Item 2: Snorkeling along the Great Barrier Reef

After spending some time in Sydney, jump on a domestic flight and make your way north.  We stayed on the Whitsundays Islands at Airlie Beach (highly recommend the Coral Sea Resort), which is a quiet beach town with a more intimate vibe.  If you’re looking for higher paced, party atmosphere, check out Cairns. 

Both areas offer day trips to the Great Barrier Reef — the ultimate highlight of our trip.

We boarded a seaplane early in the morning along with six new friends and embarked on a three hour journey filled with unparalleled views of the crystal clear waters, islands and reefs below.

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Before we even made it to the boat for snorkeling, we saw giant see turtles gliding through the waters below, white sandy beaches, vast amounts of coral stretching on for miles and, my favorite, Heart Island.

As the seaplane made a remarkably smooth water landing by the Great Barrier Reef, we disembarked and climbed aboard a glass bottom boat that would take us to the perfect spot for snorkeling.

Stinger suites zipped up tight, we dove in to check out the reef from underwater. It was an entirely new world.  Bright colors radiated from the reef as fish of all shapes and sizes floated around us in search of the perfect piece of coral.  Though we missed them, some members of our group even saw hammerhead and reef sharks.

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We could have snorkeled the reef all day (and still not made a dent on the 1,600 miles it stretches along Australia’s coast), but our tour guides beckoned us back to the boat an hour later. 

Back on the seaplane, an unexpected path flew us right over Whitehaven Beach and it’s infamous inlet. 

In three short hours, we’d felt like we’d seen the best of what Whitsunday’s had to offer.


Bucket List Item 3: Find a Koala!

Let’s be honest, I am still a little girl at heart and I wanted to see a cute koala bear more than anything during my time in Australia!

I could have gone to a zoo or sanctuary, but I could do that at home too.  What I really wanted was to find a koala in its natural habitat. 

Queue the Great Ocean Road.  We dedicated a day to this drive, which boosts coastal views, cultural landmarks and (wait for it) koala hotspots!

The area behind a cafe, appropriately named the Kafe Koala, is known as a popular spot for these furry creatures to hang out and it did not disappoint.  We spotted three in just the half an hour we were there!

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We also spotted a kangaroo along the drive, which was just icing on the cake for what turned out to be one of our top five days on the trip.


Bucket List Item 4: Skydiving

Ok, full disclosure I didn’t actually get to do this, but you should!  We’d planned on doing our first skydive in Airlie Beach (even had the reservations) but ultimately circumstances just didn’t work out for us.  However, it is a very popular activity in Australia and having seen the views from above, I understand why.

It would be very easy to check this item off your bucket list along with the others.  If you do, let me know how it goes.  I am itching to cross it off my list as well — maybe we’ll make this a honeymoon activity!


If your bucket list is ever-growing like mine, I would also suggest adding more Australian adventures like wine tasting in Yarro Valley and hiking to the Cape Byron Lighthouse for sunset.  Australia is full of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities you just can’t miss.

Planning a Three Day Getaway to Fiji

Bula!

Cue the ukuleles and prepare the kava, I am taking you to Fiji. 

Home to crystal clear waters, vibrant wildlife and the nicest people in the world, Fiji is comprised of more than 330 islands.  We only made it to two during our three day Fiji getaway before traveling on to Australia, but I can safely say no matter which island you visit, you’ll leave with more than just a sunburn to remember it by.


Day One:

After the Fijian welcome complete with a live folk music performance at the airport and a taxi ride turned tour of the island, you’ll arrive at the hotel.  “Bula,” the doormen will exclaim as the country’s traditional welcome as you join the line of honeymooners and families waiting to check in.

We stayed at the Westin in Denarau — mainly because we’re slightly addicted to the Westin’s breakfast which is seriously unbeatable no matter where you are in the world.  However, there are several hotels scattered around Denarau including the Sheraton and Raddison Blu.  We walked around all three, so I feel confident saying that you’ll enjoy first class hospitality at all of them.

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Given our short trip, we choose to stay close to the airport in Denarau and take a day trip to the outer islands.  If we had more time, I would have definitely preferred to venture to a more secluded island and escape the tourist area.

Regardless of where you stay, you will likely want to dedicate the first day to relaxation and jet lag recovery.  Grab your book, a cold drink and prop up next to the pool while you overlook the Pacific Ocean and scope out the islands in the distance for the next day’s adventure.

I wasn’t kidding about that sunburn either.  Be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen and remember that the shade is your friend.  Being so close to the equator, it doesn’t take long to fry and ruin the rest of your vacation.  You can easily spot those who challenged the Fijian sun to a duel and lost in epic fashion.  Don’t be that person.

If you’re feeling up to it, you can rent a kayak or jet ski and explore the waters around your island. But don’t stay out too long. You’ll want to secure the perfect place to kick back with a Fiji Bitter and watch the sunset.

If you do stay in Denarau, I suggest the Sheraton’s Flying Fish.  From what feels like the eastern end of the earth, the day burns away as an intense orange and red sunset kisses the coast good night.

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Don’t forget to eat (a phase no one has ever had to utter to me).  Some of Denarau’s best restaurants are at the marina.  We enjoyed Nadina which serves traditional Fijian dishes and even offers Kava tasting ceremonies.  My fiancé jumped at the opportunity to try this popular local tea that is packed with Vitamin B and is known to for it’s relaxing effects.

After you feast, rest up because tomorrow you’re island hopping!


Day Two:

Ready to venture off the resort, day two is the perfect time to jump on a chartered boat and make your way to a private island.

We used Captain Cook Cruises which took us to Tivua Island.  Not more than a half mile wide by a half mile long, the island was only inhabited with the boat full of us that came over.

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The crew at Captain Cook keeps you thoroughly entertained on the hour and half long journey to the island.  They sing, they play instruments and even host a Kava tea ceremony (once again, bae was the first in line).

On the island, we had the choice of snorkeling, a glass-bottom boat ride, paddle boarding, kayaking and diving.  We jumped at the chance to snorkel along the coral and bae even saw a shark! (Don’t worry they were relatively harmless if unprovoked.)

Our tour guide on the glass bottom boat ride explained the devastating effect extreme weather and climate change is having out our coral reef. It was a stark reminder to never take our planet’s natural wonders for granted.

After a delicious cook out and some refreshing Fiji Bitters, we were on our way back to the hotel — just in time for another mind-blowing sunset.

Awesome dinner spot number two: Rhum Bar at the marina.


Day Three:

We dedicated our third day to mental and physical rejuvenation.   An early morning run along the coast and a couple’s massage at the Westin with our own private bath was the perfect balance.

Once you feel like you’ve reached the perfect level of zen, hit up the resort’s traditional Fijian show with music, dancing and fire walking!  The food is nothing to balk at either.   This little piece of Fijian culture is the perfect end to your island layover.

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Full disclosure, seeing only two of 330 islands left me urning for more so I’d suggest at least four days but these three will get you started!