vacation

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Our weekend in Camden, Maine was one I would love to repeat over and over. It involved great food, gorgeous New England scenery, and fun friends. The Hartstone Inn was our home-away-from-home for the weekend and is the coziest little retreat for a relaxing weekend. Our friends have been going for a few years, and when they invited us, we jumped at the chance. We booked way back in September, and when the weekend finally came in April, we were so excited.

Hartstone Inn

We booked the Manor Suite, which was spacious and beautiful, with two bedrooms, a big Jacuzzi soaking tub, a fireplace, and a little foyer. It was in the same house as one of the couples we were traveling with, so we were back and forth all weekend, hanging out for snacks and drinks in the living room in their suite and enjoying their sunny balcony. 

Hartstone Inn

 

Hartstone Inn, Camden, Maine

Our room included a half bottle of wine and chocolates and some cute welcome literature like a recipe for one of the inn’s delicious cocktails.

Hartstone Inn, Camden, Maine

Downstairs, a sunny, enclosed porch welcomed us. Everywhere we looked there were beautiful little touches and cute details. I want the Hartstone Inn to come and decorate my house.

Hartstone Inn, Camden, Maine

 

Hartstone Inn, Camden, Maine 

The main house of the inn was home to reception and the dining room, along with some cozy little rooms for reading and relaxing. Our package included breakfast each day and a credit toward the tasting menu. Food is carefully prepared, creative, and focused on being fresh and local. And it was amazing.

Hartstone Inn, Camden, Maine

Happy Hour featured $5 specialty cocktails and small bites to get us ready for a feast.

cocktail hour

One at the table, we started with a little seared tuna amuse, which we paired with bubbly and a toast to the weekend.

tuna 

While others made some substitutions, I went straight off of the tasting menu.

MAINE SEAFOOD TIMBALE with  citrus aioli, pickled red onions, rye toast points
SWEET POTATO, RUTABAGA AND GREEN APPLE SOUP with maple cream
SORBET – Maine blueberry
PAN SEARED BISTRO STEAK with roasted fingerling potatoes, blue cheese butter
BLUEBERRY-ALMOND SOUFFLÉ with amaretto crème anglaise

It all looked so good to me, and I ended up devouring every delicious bite.

seafood timbale 

You can’t go wrong with Maine seafood, and I love pickled onions. Tart, tangy, refreshing, and light, this dish was a perfect starter.

 

sweet potato soup

Temperatures had dropped during our walk around Camden, and this rich and velvety soup was a yummy way to also warm up and get a dose of veggies. My eating has been terrible lately, especially when I travel, and I appreciate any way to eat vegetables that also tastes really good!

Maine blueberry sorbet

Maine blueberry sorbet cleansed our palates and gave us a taste of summer.

bistro steak

As it got darker, my photos did the food no justice. The bistro steak was perfectly cooked, and you really can’t go wrong with blue cheese butter and potatoes.

blueberry souffle

And then there was dessert. Swoon. The soufflé was hot and fluffy, and the decadent sauce poured over as the top was cracked open was just the icing on the cake, so to speak. Heavenly.

Hartstone Inn      

Breakfast at the inn was just as good. I only ate the first morning as I had some work to do the second day during breakfast hours. We started the morning with a cup of coffee in the parlor, enjoying the super cozy vibe. I rarely feel truly relaxed, and this was one of those moments.

Once at our breakfast table, I had a mimosa in hand and a fruity breakfast starter with a home baked scone followed by an egg strata with the best homemade chicken sausage ever.

breakfast

egg strata with homemade chicken sausage The Hartstone Inn Chef was not on property, but the food was some of the best I have had. I’ve heard that it’s even that much better when Chef is there. When not actually at the inn, you can find the Chef/owners leading culinary trips in Europe, which look like complete dream getaways.

If you’re looking for a lovely weekend away, I can’t recommend the Hartstone Inn enough. We’re looking forward to next year’s visit!

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Tags: Camden, Food, getaway, Maine, New England, Travel, travel blog, vacation

I have so much to tell you about Luquillo, Puerto Rico.  While planning a warm winter getaway, we looked at tons of places, including Panama (still  a dream trip for me), Anguilla, Antigua, and many others. Puerto Rico kept popping up as a good option because of the direct flight from Boston to San Juan and our JetBlue points.

After our very exciting safari travel adventure last year, this year I wanted a quiet, relaxed beach vacation. When someone on Twitter mentioned that Luquillo was a “sleepy beach town” I started looking into it, and I was sold. Not only did it look beautiful and affordable, it was a 45 minute drive from San Juan, about a 15 minute drive from all of the boat and island excursions to Icacos, Culebra, and Vieques, and about 10 minutes to the El Yunque National Forest. The more I read about Luquillo, especially about its kioskos (more to come on this stretch of 50+ restaurants and food stalls) the more I wanted to BE THERE RIGHT NOW.

Luquillo, Puerto Rico

So that’s where we went. Our flight from Boston to San Juan was easy; typically it takes about four hours, but due to the winds we got in over half an hour early and were in our rental car with the windows down and the music pumping before we knew it. I LOVED the music in Puerto Rico.

The drive to Luquillo was super easy and took maybe 35 minutes. When we are traveling for more than a night or two, we tend to like houses or apartments as opposed to hotels. We’ve gone with Flipkey in the past for a Sonoma rental (which was AMAZING) and this time we decided to try Air BnB and after lots of research went with a condo in Bello Mar Apartamentos in Luquillo. If you’re traveling to Puerto Rico, I would be happy to share the name of the owner and the details.

The owner kindly met us with the keys and the remote for the gate to park, and then she drove ahead of us to show us where the grocery store was. She texted us tons of restaurant recommendations and also had a binder in the apartment with all of the information we could need.

The apartment was beautiful; the cleaning person was finishing as we arrived, and it was immaculate. It had two bedrooms and two bathrooms, along with a kitchen, sitting room, washer/dryer, and a to-die-for deck.

Luquillo condo rental  Luquillo Condo Rental Air B n B in Puerto Rico Luquillo condo bathroom The apartment was also stocked with everything you could ever need: beach umbrellas, beach chairs, plenty of beach towels, DVDs, books, magazines, coffee, oil, sugar, all of the cooking basics, etc. We were amazed at how much was there.

Since we had an apartment, we bought groceries to have breakfast and cocktail hour on our balcony every day. It’s a great way to save money when traveling but also to relax and keep a chill pace. Our schedule would be to have a leisurely breakfast of tropical fruit and vanilla yogurt, avocado dressed with fresh lime juice, and extra strong coffee on the balcony, then head out to the beach or for an excursion.

Also, we had passionfruit mimosas every day. Vacation.

ocean views Luquillo Puerto Rico vacation At night, after plenty of time seeing the sights or swimming, we returned to the condo for sunset and sundowners, as we started calling drinks on safari. We made up plates of cheese and crackers and enjoyed local beers and Capri Sun like pouches of rum punch until the sun went down, then headed out for the night.

rum punchPuerto Rico sunsetPuerto Rico sunsetmoon over the ocean, Luquillo

When we returned home from dinner, we usually spent time sitting on the balcony listening to the roar of the waves. One night we watched a movie, but mostly talking and staring out to sea was how we spent our time.

Luquillo itself has some areas that look basically like anytown USA, with a WalMart, KFC, etc. But once you are off the main route and onto the side streets, you find some gorgeous beaches, including our favorite, Playa Azul.

Playa Azul Luquillo

Parking was free, and the beach was not at all crowded. It had a great surf for riding waves and a man who sold rum in coconuts. rum in a coconut

coconut flesh Playa Azul palm tree grove Slathered in sunscreen, wearing hats, and occasionally draping ourselves in towels, we also found a perfect grove of palm trees to retreat under when the sun felt too hot. Every day was around 89 degrees, and we definitely felt it!

 

Playa Azul Luquillo swimming

Besides sitting on the beach, we did tons of swimming and floating and riding waves. Being a Jersey Shore girl, I love big waves and a strong current. Luquillo definitely had that. The only regret I have is not taking surfing lessons. . . but I was just too busy relaxing with my rum-filled coconut.

Luquillo is a dreamy getaway, if you are looking for something a little off the beaten path and not super fancy. It does have a couple of resorts, but for me, when I am at the beach, I like to be a little sandy and salty and dressed as down as possible. Luquillo was the perfect place to let out that beach bum that resides in me.

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Tags: beach, islands, Luquillo, Travel, travel blog, travel blogger, Travel Tuesday. Puerto Rico, vacation

I camped in the Serengeti. If that was the only thing I could say about travel in 2015, that would be enough. This was, I believe, my most-traveled year of my life. From November 2014 until the end of December I made three trips to Ireland, about seven trips to NJ, two Sonoma trips, a Chicago trip, a Myrtle Beach and Charleston trip, and many New England weekend trips, including Mystic (twice), Newport, Portland, and Cape Cod. Phew. Can I do it all again?

Throughout the year, especially August – November where I flew about every two weeks, I swore I wanted a quiet, homey 2016, but here I am, once again wanderlusting. So much of the world to see and such a short life. I am grateful for each corner of it I have been blessed to see. Here are just a few highlights from my 2015 travels.  Since there are so many photos to share, I am going to break this up into two posts. . .enjoy!

Serengeti camping

 

Serengeti sunset

Serengeti sunrises and sunsets were pretty much life-changing.

 

Maramboi Tented Camp

Escaping a Boston winter to lounge poolside at a game camp wasn’t too bad either.

 African elephant

I will never forget the first elephants we saw in Tarangire National Park. Mind, blown. I’m getting a little teary-eyed just writing about it.  I fell in love with the Tanzanian landscape, the food, and the warm welcome of the people. And the kids. I absolutely loved and learned from these little ones.

Between November 2014 and November 2015, I got to visit Ireland three times, which made it feel even more like home. Over the course of the Ireland trips, we got to eat my favorite things and to spend lots of time outdoors.

Connemara

Ashford Castle

Seeing Ashford Castle from a boat on Lough Corrib was sensational. Ashford Castle and Cong are must-visits on any trip to the West of Ireland!

zipline adventure

Ziplining in Ireland was another step outside my comfort zone. Between camping and zipping, I feel like I was pretty brave in 2015! Ireland visits gave us a lot of family time, something I would like to be better about in 2015. I need to slow down and be present; travel and family make that happen.

Galway was Galway, and with the length and frequency of our trips, I got to spend a lot of time just being there, and I loved it.

sunset over the Claddagh, Galway Ireland

In addition to logging international miles, I also zigzagged across the country twice this year to visit Sonoma for work! In June I traveled to Sonoma County to meet a client and to plan for Sonoma Wine Country Weekend PR and Social Media. Combining work and one of my favorite places was, as you can imagine, pretty amazing.

Willi's Wine Bar

There was obviously a lot of food and wine but also learning and connecting.

wine tasting

I loved the wine at Ram’s Gate and Fog Crest and Cain and so many others. Getting to take not just one, but two trips to the high country at MacMurray Estate Vineyards, a journey reserved mostly for press and other VIPs, was one of the highlights of both trips.

MacMurray Estate Vineyards

MacMurray Estate Vineyards Soaking up the sun and discovering new Sonoma food and wine favorites with my husband after the work was done was the icing on the cake.

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Tags: Africa, Ireland, Serengeti, Sonoma, Travel, travel blog, travel blog posts, travel blogger, travel blogging, vacation

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