SEEING SAN ANTONIO IN 24 HOURS

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If you’re wondering why I’ve been MIA for the last month and not posting it’s because I started a new job recently and I had quite a few events going on! At the beginning of June I started at HomeAway as their Employer Brand and Digital Media Specialist. It’s been awesome so far and I’m learning a lot about the company. I also flew back home to watch my little sister graduate high school and then flew to St. Pete last week for my cousin’s wedding. I’ve been a little busy over here, but I’m excited to get this blog post up because San Antonio is a great little day trip for anyone living in the area.

San Antonio is a charming city and it’s the perfect destination for a day trip from Austin or Houston. My friend from college came to visit me a couple weeks ago and we planned to spend one day in San Antonio.

 

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The first stop we made on the drive was Buccee’s. You can’t just drive past a Buccee’s and not stop — it’s unAmerican. She couldn’t believe that a gas station could also be a BBQ restaurant/bakery/home store/outdoor supplier. After filling up on sweet tea and snapping a pic with Buccee, we got back on the road.unnamed

We decided to book a riverboat tour so we could learn more about the history of the city. Our tour guide made it very interesting and for $10 I would say it was money well spent. The architecture is amazing and the city definitely has a Mexico vibe.

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After the 30-minute tour, we walked the River Walk and browsed different vendors along the way. We noticed The Esquire Tavern right away because it looked so cool from the outside so we stopped in for lunch.

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It’s a historic bar and restaurant with amazing architecture and patio that overlooks the River Walk. They opened in 1933 to celebrate the end of prohibition and it’s exactly what I envisioned a place from the 30s would look like. The appetizer and drink menu was pretty impressive. I ordered a Pimm’s Cup and my friend Nicola had a Moscow mule.

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Next stop was a quick one. We snapped a few pictures of the Alamo and walked around for a few minutes, but it was extremely crowded with tourists because of the holiday weekend. If you feel so inclined, you can pay for a guided tour.

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The spots we hit in San Antonio are really the main points of interest in the city. We didn’t spend much time walking downtown or anything. I’m interested in visiting again in the fall when it’s not as hot. We did manage to see quite of San Antonio in one day though.

In all honesty San Antonio wasn’t one of the coolest cities I’ve been to, but I’m very partial to Austin because of all the fun things to do. It’s a great place to check out for the day simply because of the history and the River Walk. If you have an afternoon to spare, stick to our itinerary and you’ll have a great time!

May Reading List

Part of the beauty of traveling is that you get to relax and read! There’s no better time to disconnect from the world and pick up a book than on a long flight. Since I’m a book nerd and reading is part of my traveling I want to share some good books with y’all so you’re prepped for your next flight. I’ve read all of these in the last month and I highly recommend them.

I usually go for non-fiction, biographies, or Christian inspired books. Occasionally I pick up a fiction book, but only if it’s Harry Potter or vampire related. It pleases my inner 7-year-old, don’t judge me.

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The Vacationers by Emma Straub (Fiction, Romance, Travel): This is the first fiction book I’ve read in a long, long time. Truth be hold I was stranded at LAX last week and got a little desperate for a new book as I was preparing to sit at the airport all day. This is the perfect quick, beach read with a little more substance and backstory. Basically a family goes on a two-week vacation to Spain to bond and reconnect as their daughter prepares for college. Add in a few drama-filled secrets and voila, a great summer read.

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The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor (Psychology, Success, Business): The CEO at theCHIVE gave everyone in the office a copy of this book and while most people stashed it in their desk drawer never to be found again, I actually read it. I’m a huge fan of motivational and success books like The Secret and now this. Shawn dives into how your mindset generates personal happiness in the workplace, despite your position or income. Most people think they will only be happy once they accomplish “X” or make a certain amount of money. He totally crushes that way of thinking and shows how the most successful people are happy no matter the situation using studies and facts. I’ve already started implementing some of his principles!

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The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines (Biography, Christian): If y’all don’t know this I am obsessed with Fixer Upper and the Gaines family. Their book was a quick and easy read (less than 200 pages), but a total feel-good story. They really dive into how they make their marriage work, how they started a business, and surviving the unpredictable times. Their faith shines through in every chapter and even though I don’t know them in real life, I feel like they have to be good people.

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Settle for More by Megyn Kelly (Biography, Politics, Career): I was really excited to read this book because I’m fascinated with everything surrounding the media and broadcasting. I’ve read several books from the Fox News women and they are all great. Megyn’s book was the most interesting because she talks in great detail about her relationship with Donald Trump and how certain events played out during the election. She is a great career role model for me and I’m sure you’ll get a sense of her work ethic after reading her book. She started off as a lawyer and didn’t even dive into television until 30, which is considered “old” in on-camera years. Her career exploded and she takes you on that journey and all the things that come with being in the media.

That wraps up my book recommendations for May, but I’ll be back in June for more! My best friend Danielle and I tried to start a book club, but we are the worst because one of us is always way ahead of the other. If you have any recommendations please leave a comment!

48 hours in chicago travel guide the sweetest escape

Guide to Spending 48 Hours in Chicago

If I am being completely honest Chicago has never been at the top of my travel list. There was no allure for me simply because of the negative things I heard about the city like how dirty it was, the safety, etc. Boy was I wrong…

londonhouse chicago rooftop the sweetest escapeEvery negative perception I had about Chicago immediately dissipated after my first night. The people are friendly, the food is amazing, and the city  is very clean! I highly recommend going for 3-4 days instead of cramming everything into one weekend, but that was my only option because a girl’s gotta work!

Luckily I have a wonderful friend that has been living in Chicago for the past two years and he was our tour guide for the whole weekend (thanks Baker!) Seriously so thankful we had him otherwise we would have spent most of our time getting lost instead of actually seeing the sights. He knew so many cool facts about the city and the best way to get around town. If you have friends in the cities you are visiting don’t be afraid to catch up with them and see if they can show you around! I went to Chicago with Jen, one of my best friends from work. She also loves traveling and we were so excited to do this trip together.

Use this as your ultimate “Chicago in a Weekend” guide for information on where to stay and what to do. I will dedicate a separate post just to eating in Chicago and all of the restaurants we went to.

chicagorooftopbarBest season to visit: Summer

Recommended number of days: 3-4

Airports: Chicago O’Hare or Midway

Transportation: Uber or you can use the train through the city

Favorite area: Riverwalk

 

londonhouse chicago the sweetest escapeWhere We Stayed

We were lucky enough to snag a room at the new LondonHouse Chicago for the weekend. The LondonHouse is a brand new luxury hotel (only two months old) located on Wacker Drive right across from Trump Tower. The customer service was great and our room was beautiful. The biggest draw to staying here is access to the rooftop bar with great views of the city. Since the hotel is still so new there is a six-week wait to even get a reservation for drinks on the rooftop. We snuck up early one morning just to check it out and take some pictures, next time we definitely plan on enjoying the view over dinner and drinks. If you are a Hilton Honors member you can use your points here like I did.

 

 

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Views from the rooftop bar at the LondonHouse! If you plan on going this summer definitely call and make a reservation in advance since they are booking up quickly.

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 1. Cloud Gate “The Bean” – Millennium Park

Probably the most iconic landmark in Chicago, The Bean is a stainless steel sculpture in the middle of Millennium Park. You’ve probably seen this a million times on your friend’s Instagram, but it’s worth seeing in real life. We specifically wanted pictures with no tourists in the way so our first morning in Chicago we woke up at 5 a.m. to better our chances of beating the crowds. Luckily there were only a few other photographers lingering around and with a tad bit of patience we were able to get a couple of shots with nobody in the background!

 

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2. Lincoln Park Zoo

The Lincoln Park Zoo is the only free zoo in Chicago, you can’t miss walking through for an hour or so and checking out the gorillas, giraffes, and lions! I haven’t been to Chicago in the winter, but apparently there are indoor enclosures so you can see the animals 365 days a year. There are several blocks of beautiful houses in the area and you can walk through the park to reach the lake. I really loved this area of the city and hope to spend more time walking around the park during my next trip.

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wrigley field bleachers chicago3. Wrigley Field/Wrigleyville

Unfortunately we weren’t able to make a game because the Cubs were away, but regardless of the schedule you have to see Wrigley Field while you’re in Chicago. Baseball fan or not it’s an iconic American landmark so you’ll want to get a picture or two. There are many old-school game day bars in Wrigleyville and newer places that are great for Sunday Funday. My friend that was showing us around also graduated from the University of Alabama so we obviously had to visit the Houndstooth Saloon in Wrigleyville to get our Bama fix.

Next time I visit I want to make sure I can go for a Cubs game, I can only imagine how fun it would be based off everything he told us!

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4. The Signature Lounge

The Signature Lounge at 96th gives you sweeping views of the city. We went at night and we saw a whole firework show off Navy Pier! Most people opt to do the Sky Deck in Willis Tower. Basic admission is $22 and that will get you to the top of the tower where you can step in the glass “ledge” and take pictures.

Our friend recommended going to The Signature Lounge instead, slightly less touristy plus you get to sit and have a drink while you enjoy the view! If you choose to do just one or both make sure you bring your camera.
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5. Architectural Boat Tour 

chicagobridgeThis was one of my favorite things we did while in Chicago. It’s always nice to squeeze in a little education about the place you are visiting. Chicago is a great mix of old and new architecture so it was cool to learn about the history of each building. We went with Wendella Tours, but there are several other options to choose from. Tickets were $35 and the tour lasts for 75 minutes. Our guide was a native Chicagoan and knew a lot of interesting facts about the city. Since it gets pretty hot in the summer I would suggest either going first thing in the morning like we did or at the end of the day because there is no shade on the boat!

 

 

 

 

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6. Taste of Chicago

The main reason we choose this weekend in particular to visit Chicago! We heard Taste of Chicago is one of the best festivals in the city to go to and since we are both foodies we couldn’t pass up the chance to check it out. All of the well-known restaurants that would be on your Chicago bucket list were there! It’s a 5-day festival held right in the middle of Millennium Park with food trucks, concerts, beer gardens, and other activities. You pay per ticket and each “taste” costs between 4-5 tickets or you can buy a full serving of a particular dish for more.

Whatever weekend you are visiting Chicago you should check out the calendar and see what events are happening around the city, chances are there is something going on. I hear there are many festivals, farmer’s markets, and concerts (Lollapalooza!) during summer.

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Basically I love summertime Chi and I can’t wait to go back! I’m not quite sure I would survive a winter there, but I could always stay inside and eat deep dish pizza for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

On that note stay tuned for my Chicago Food post later this week!

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Travel Well,

Kayla

5 Favorite Murals in Austin

I’ve been to Austin three times now and each visit I fall a little more in love with the city. It’s so weird yet southern at the same time. The perfect mix of California and Texas, kinda like me I guess! 

Austin is known for its slew of amazing street artists. There are always freshly painted murals around downtown and you can find wall art everywhere you go. It’s taken me three trips to finally pick my favorites, but here they are! I can’t imagine these particular murals disappearing anytime soon, especially the “I love you so much” wall since it’s so famous! Click on the links to learn a little more about some of the murals. 

1. “Willie for President” – Stag Provisions for Men  1423 S Congress Avenue 

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2. “You’re My Butter Half” – United Way for Greater Austin 2000 E Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. 

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3. “Greetings From Austin” – Roadhouse Relics 1720 S 1st Street

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4. “I Love You So Much” – Jo’s Coffee 1300 S Congress Avenue 

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5. “Historic Sixth Street” – 6th and SB I-35 Access Road 

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Best Jumping Spots on the Colorado River 

I am excited to incorporate a new “Travel Tuesday” series on my blog! With the amount of traveling I have been doing lately and more trips planned in the near future I think detailing the best part of my adventures weekly is a great way to keep you in the loop. Hopefully some of these places make it on to your bucket list.

These are the four best spots on our part of the river spanning from Topock Gorge to Jack Smith Marina, which covers about 20 miles by boat. If you are familiar with the area feel free to share your favorite spots in case I missed anything, we are always looking for new places to jump!

Without further adieu, here is a list of the best spots to cliff jump and rope swing on the Colorado River starring my brother, Walker! Rope Swing on the Topock Bridge

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All spots are located within 10 miles of the Topock rope swing. To get directions use “Topock66” as your destination.
  1. Rope Swing on the Topock Bridge 

You can’t miss this landmark you have to drive your boat under the bridge in order to get to Topock66 or Pirate’s Cove! There are ski handles permanently tied to the steel rafters. It’s actually a train track so if you wait long enough you’ll see the train go by as you’re swinging off!

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2. The “Keep Off” Tower Between Topock and The Gorge

There isn’t an official name for this spot besides the fact there is a “keep off” warning painted on the side. It’s fairly easy to climb up since there is a staircase, but the concrete and metal is VERY hot during the summer since temperatures skyrocket to 120 degrees or hotter.

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3. The Topock Gorge

There is really only one cliff to jump off in the The Gorge. Since it’s a “no wake zone” it’s easy to have a boat drop you off close by and wait. Once again the rocks are extremely hot during the summer so bring sandals or water shoes. This spot is more for experienced cliff jumpers, the lowest platform is about 25 feet and the highest is around 40 feet.

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4. The Silver Penis

I’m not sure if we gave it this name when we were younger or if it’s always been called “the silver penis,” but either way you can’t miss this spot! You can take backroads from Highway 40, but it’s easiest to reach by boat. If you head upriver it will be on your left before you hit Jack Smith Marina. As you can see it’s not very high so you’ll see plenty of younger kids jumping off as well.

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Safe Travels,

Kayla

Arizona + Utah Road Trip

 For Memorial Day Weekend I took a road trip to Utah and Arizona with three friends from work. We visited Zion National Park in Utah and Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon in Arizona. There was no shortage of beautiful scenery on this trip that’s for sure! The red rock canyons, turquoise river, and desert landscapes are a photographer’s dream. Luckily my crew was patient so they didn’t mind stoping and taking a thousand pictures!

 

Zion

We left Newport Beach at 4:30 a.m. Saturday morning and headed straight to Zion. By 1 p.m. we started our hike up Watchman Trail, a shorter hike, but still a great view! Since it was a holiday weekend everything was moving a little slower because of traffic and longer lines, but once we were on the trail we had plenty of space. I fell in love with Zion it’s definitely a place I want to spend more time! Several friends recommended hiking The Narrows and after looking at photos I am so bummed we didn’t do it this time, but now I have something to look forward to next time. There were a lot of cute hotels and restaurants in Springdale, which seems like the best place to stay if you are spending multiple days hiking.

Horseshoe Bend

The next leg of the trip was a two and a half hour drive to Page, AZ where our hotel was for the night. We woke up at 4:30 a.m. again on Sunday to make it to Horseshoe Bend before the crowds descended. Even though we were a little sleepy in the morning, standing on the edge of a 300+ foot cliff quickly woke us up. Seeing Horseshoe Bend for the first time gave me the chills and I just felt closer to God because of how beautiful it was. It makes you wonder how something this amazing was created. It was my favorite part of the trip and next time I hope to catch the sunset over the bend!

Antelope Canyon

Our final stop was Lower Antelope Canyon. Since we got an early start we were one of the first groups to arrive. For those of you that haven’t done this road trip before your best bet is to do it on a non-holiday weekend and take a day or two off. If you must go on a holiday weekend make sure to get an early start with EVERYTHING. None of the tours were taking reservations for the weekend due to the high volume of traffic coming in, but we were lucky enough to sneak in with one of the first groups. Keep in mind summer in Arizona is extremely hot, so the temperature can easily creep up to the 100s by noon, but the best lighting in the canyon is also later in the day so you have pick your poison on that one.

Antelope Canyon was just as beautiful in real life as it is in pictures. The only bummer part about the tour was the amount of people in our group so it was a little difficult to take our time with photos. Luckily the tour guides are super knowledgeable on camera settings and the best places throughout the canyon to take pictures so just ask for help when you need it. You can choose between Dixie Ellis Canyon Tours or Ken’s Tours, you are required to go with a tour company to see the canyon and entrance costs about $25. I do not recommend going to Lower Antelope if you can’t handle steep inclines or stairs. To get in and out of the canyon there is a steep, uneven, metal staircase and narrow canyon walls that you have to squeeze through. To figure out what photos I wanted I looked up all of the places we went to on Instagram beforehand to see what people were posting and to get photo ideas!

My goal for summer is to become a weekend warrior and plan more two-day trips so I don’t have to miss work. Taking time off work is a struggle everyone deals with and I’m trying to find the best destinations that allow for enjoyable trips without missing days. Road trips are great because it eliminates the hassle of flying and if you live somewhere with several boarding states then you have plenty of out-of-town options! Stay tuned for my upcoming summer adventures and tips on how to make the most out of weekend travel!

 

Sydney Travel Guide

This post is slightly delayed, but in light of my crazy schedule and being insanely sick it’s nice to work on this guide and smile looking back at all of the great pictures and memories!

Prior to leaving I did a little research on Pinterest and travel blogs to get an idea of sights I wanted to see once I arrived. My list included Bondi, the Sydney Opera House, and Manly. For the most part I just let my friend show me around, it was nice not having a set schedule and going with the flow!

Sydney is a beautiful, diverse,  clean and overall very fun city.  I’ve been daydreaming about Sydney ever since I returned from my trip a few weeks ago. If you’re planning a vacation to Australia no amount of time is long enough to be honest with you. The city is huge like New York with many neighborhoods so it could take you weeks to see it all!

Below is an outline of the some of the stops I made in Sydney including landmarks, restaurants, and beaches. I would love to go back and explore other parts of the city I missed like Bronte Beach, the downtown area, Surry Hills, and Watsons Bay.

 

 

Food/Drinks

 

Speedo’s Cafe – I found this place on Instagram and my heart started pounding the moment I laid eyes on one of their over the top cronuts. They have an amazing dessert menu and they are known for their cronuts (a cross between a croissant and donut.) Follow them on social media to see even more totally photo worthy dishes. I also tried a yummy pitaya bowl pictured below!

 

More coffee with ice cream….

I tried an espresso martini for the first time in Sydney and I’ve been hooked since! My Aussie friends insisted on drinking these to help with the jet lag, especially on the first night since we went to a boat party!

One night we went out in downtown and I had the pleasure of trying a Scary Jar from Scary Canary. I definitely do not recommend having more than one haha. Scary Canary was a great time I would check it out if you’re looking for a fun party bar!

Mrs. Jones’ Bakery in Freshwater had delicious croissants and coffee. Just looking at all of the desserts in the window is enough for me to hop on the next flight to Australia…

 

Sightseeing

Of course I couldn’t miss the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. It’s nice because you can take pictures of both at the same time and you get a great view as you’re coming in on the ferry. I didn’t do the bridge climb, I heard mixed reviews from friends some said it was worth the money said some it wasn’t. Considering it was such a short trip and the bridge climb takes several hours I skipped it this time, but who knows maybe I will do it during my next trip!

 

One thing that was very different compared to the U.S. is people in Sydney take ferries to work! If you live in north Syndey by Manly/Freshwater you can take a ferry from Manly Wharf right into the main harbor. Best part of the ferry ride was the bar, you can drink beers on your commute! I took some great photos since it was such a scenic ride.

I really loved Manly. I decided that if I ever moved to Sydney I would try to live as close to Manly as possible. It’s your typical small beach town most comparable to corona del mar. As I was walking along the paths I found these man made tide pools, these seem to be a really popular thing in Australia! Check out that view though, I hope to someday be the person lounging on that yacht in the background 🙂

 

I wrote a whole post about Bondi Beach, but I highly recommend staying in the area for a couple of days. Bondi was by far the most breathtaking beach I saw in Sydney. There are tourists everywhere, but I think that’s all part of the experience. I hear you can pay a couple of dollars and swim at the Icebergs for the day, which sadly I didn’t have the time to do!

This about sums up my time in Sydney, I had such a limited amount of time there was way more I wanted to see and do once I got there, but now I have things on my list for next time. My favorite thing I did in Sydney was exploring Bondi, it really is all it’s cracked up to be so put it at the top of your checklist!

 

Safe travels,

Kayla