Life Lately, Vol. 43

Happy Friday Y’all! Temps are warming up around here, snow is melting and it is really starting to feel like Spring around here! Today’s post will be Easter / Spring heavy so get excited for some great tips & awesome recipes (don’t forget about my Easter weekend hosting tips). Enjoy your long weekend!

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Our bar is stocked, cleaned and ready for Spring visitors!

Baking yummy treats for Easter! Well, I’m actually debating which to make because they all look so good. It’s a Fallon family tradition to make a carrot cake and I think we’re going on 30+ years strong now! Fun fact: when I was little, we would make the carrot cake into the shape of a bunny (like this) and it was the absolute cutest. For this weekend, I’m thinking either a traditional carrot cake, carrot cake cupcakes or carrot cake poke cake. If carrots aren’t your thing, how about a lemon yogurt cakelemon yogurt cake or mini egg cheesecake bites.

Easter side dish recipes for those of you in charge of an appetizer or non-dessert dish! My go to appetizer is, of course, deviled eggs (perfect for Easter). A few of my other favorite side dishes are Greek pasta salad, macaroni salad, scalloped potatoes and butternut squash with feta.

Shopping for Easter dresses or a last minute outfit? For you lucky warm weather folks, I like this lace fit + flare dress and this ivory lace Reiss dress. I’m also loving this wrap maxi and this floral maxi (both easy to throw a light jacket over if chilly). If you’re looking for a more casual piece, I have been eyeing this puffy sleeve blouse (in ivory) and this unique floral top.

This Week on South End Style:

How to Plan a Trip to Africa

Tips for Hosting Easter

Life Lately, Vol. 42

How to Plan a Trip to Africa

Every single person has the same reaction when I tell them that we spent a two week honeymoon in South Africa: “Wow, that’s so incredible, what a bucket list item”…quickly followed by “how the hell did you plan something like that?”. HA! My thoughts exactly. Planning this trip was no easy task – in fact it was challenging, confusing, frustrating at times and a huge learning curve for me. We’re dealing with multiple moving parts (international flights, intercontinental flights, safari lodges, hotels, rental cars, third party travel agencies) and huge time differences (10+ hours) and multiple currencies (USD, GPB, ZAR) and available dates that change within the blink of an eye. It’s overwhelming, to say the least! It is also, however, the most rewarding and mind-blowing trip I have EVER been on so to say it’s worth the trouble is beyond an understatement.

So for those of you interested in planning a trip to Africa, let me help get you organized and give you all of the travel tips and tricks that I learned.

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We picked South Africa for our first African destination as they have so much to offer!

1. Pick a country

Where do I start? This is where you start. There are about 4 main countries that first timers to go in Africa and each has something different to offer. If you know where you want to go, skip to #2. If you aren’t quite decided, let me break it down for you a bit:

South Africa: Known for the “big 5”, referring to the big 5 animals that you will likely see with S.A. as your safari destination: lion, leopard, elephant, water buffalo and white rhino. If you’re a first timer to safari, this is where I would recommend you go, as Kruger National Park is known for their outstanding safaris and animal spotting. S.A. also has so much to offer if you have at least 10 days to vacation (better off with 2 weeks!). Cape Town is a thriving, cosmopolitan city with endless restaurants, bars, shopping & outdoor activities. The Cape Winelands offer a slower pace of life with hundreds of wineries set in beautiful rolling hills. The South African coast offers shark diving, whale watching, surfing and endless beaches. As you can see, South Africa really has it all.

Kenya: Home of the Masai Mara and known for their elephants & zebras, Kenya is an excellent choice for visiting Africa if you want more safari, less city.  They have an abundance of safari lodges, including tented lodges, luxury lodges and ones set within the bush. Kenya is also home to the black rhino, which would be unbelievable to see in person.

Tanzania: Arguably the best place to witness these majestic animals, Tanzania is home to the Serengeti National Park (what you’ve likely seen on Planet Earth) and the Ngorongoro Crater, a natural, monstrous watering hole for the local animals. Here in Tanzania you will see not 5 or 10 buffalo, but thousands. The great migration goes through here (and into Kenya) so if you are a true animal enthusiast, this may be your best options. Often times Kenya and Tanzania are coupled together as a trip.

Botswana: Widely known for their eco-friendly and untouched wildlife, Botswana is the least crowded, least commercial and lowest density of tourism. With this, however, comes a price so Botswana is also notorious for being the priciest. It also has a water feature which many don’t – there are boat safaris and canoe safaris since much of the wildlife is best visible by water. You can also head to the stunning Victoria Falls for an easy day trip. If you can afford it, we hear Botswana is definitely worth it.

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September in South Africa is Spring which mean warm days and cool nights. Perfect for hiking up Table Mountain and picnicking in Kirstenbosh Botanical Gardens.

2. The country determines the time of year

South Africa is best to visit year round, though you’ll want to plan for “rainy” or “dry” season (both have perks). November through March is rainy seasons with hot temps but animals are out as water is plentiful. Grass is also green and plants flourishing. May to September is peak dry season with cooler temps. August – September is the best time to go as it’s past school holiday (less crowded) and the brush is low, meaning animals are easy to spot. This is when we went and we absolutely loved it.

Kenya is best to visit in May through October, when it’s cooler. The wildebeest migration usually reaches here in July, so consider that when planning your trip. If you choose to head towards October/November and the start of wet season, you are likely to see newborn animals and prices will be much lower. Don’t forget to stay at Giraffe Manor in Naorobi if you are headed to Kenya – what a cool experience!

Tanzania is best to visit June through October, during the great migration. Again, if you’re going to plan this along with Kenya, it’s best to go in August/September to hit peak migration season in the Serengeti. You could also tack on Zanzibar for a relaxing beach vacation after your safari, which we hear is just fabulous.

Botswana is best to visit June through October, since the Okavango Delta is typically at peak levels and the animals are out. It’s also most temperate during this time so it will be the most comfortable (trust me when I say this makes a difference).

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At our time of travel, the USD was 1:13 for the ZAR which made this exchange rate much in our favor!

3. Know your budget.

Safaris are expensive. Plain and simple. When you’re traveling halfway across the world and spending anywhere from $10-$20K on a vacation (assuming you spend 10-14 days and hit various camps), you want to know that it’s worth it. While I am all for budget travel, I think that visiting Africa and going on a safari is a once-in-a-lifetime trip for many of us, if we are lucky! We splurged since it was our honeymoon; however, there truly are safari camps that fit every budget. As I said above, the country and time of year you pick will greatly determine your budget. If you can avoid peak season, not only will the safari camps be less expensive, but your flights will as well. I think it’s best to pick a total budget (including flights, safari, hotels, etc) and stick to it. You can make it work.

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Tracking this leopard, tracking her prey. What an experience!

4. Book your international flights

Most safari lodges won’t book you without having proof of your international flight (they are all so small that they can’t “hold” spots due to other travelers who may want to book). Depending on where you’re coming from/going to, you will likely have at least 1 connecting flight. Then once you’re on the ground in Africa, you likely have a puddle jumper flight or car commute (we had both). We opted to spend our first night in our arrival city (Johannesburg) from the long international flight in order to catch up on sleep, get on local time and feel refreshed. From there, we spent the first half of our trip exploring the country and we ended on the safari. Our travel agent strongly suggested this and I am so glad that she did – the high you will feel from the safari is unlike any other and I can’t imagine ending a trip any other way!

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Thanks to Go2Africa for helping us plan our stay at Simbambili – best week of our lives!

5.  Find reputable travel agency to help with safari

This is actually the one and only trip that I have ever used a travel agency for and holy cow, am I glad that I did. They helped greatly with the travel once you’re on the ground in Africa. For us, this included small flights, ground transportation, safari lodge scheduling and more. They also helped tremendously with deciding which lodge was best for us. With over 30 to choose from in our area of Kruger, it was beyond helpful to have insider information on price / clientele / vibe / size / location and more. They are able to help with any piece of, or all of your trip. A few that I would recommend are Go2Africa (we used and loved), And Beyond and Getaway.

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Seeing this (huge!) lioness take a nap was worth all of the planning & stress…

6. Be flexible

Your dates will likely change. Your first choice safari camp may be booked. You may have to spend a little more than you wanted. The exchange rate may not be in your favor. Look, this is a big trip and a lot can go wrong. Just prepare the best you can, do your homework and know that only so much is in your control. We had a few (minor) things go wrong but nothing dampened our experience in the slightest. Enjoy this trip of a lifetime!

** If you are looking to plan a trip to Africa or want more suggestions, please feel free to reach out to me directly, as I am happy to help!

 

Tips for Hosting Easter

Happy Monday folks! It’s hard to believe that Easter is less than a week away. Last year we hosted some friends and the year before we spent time with family, but this year I think we will just lay low and maybe have an impromptu cookout with friends if the weather allows. I’ve said it before, but one of the main things I look forward to about owning a non-hobbit sized real house one day is being able to host friends & family for holidays, events, birthdays, etc. Hosting is one of my favorite pastimes and it’s something my husband & I have become pretty good at (hint: team work makes it WAY easier!). While these tips are for this Easter Sunday, they’re really applicable to any holiday or event that you may be hosting.

Set the Mood

 We always have 3 key elements that I believe to make a home comfortable for guests:

  1. music on
  2. shoes off
  3. candles lit

  There is nothing more awkward than walking into someone’s home (especially if you don’t know them super well) for a dinner party or event and the place is dead silent. Awkward AF. So let your guests kick their shoes off and walk into a home with a warm welcome – candles in the living space & bathroom and music always seem to do the trick. We like to have either jazz, a light country or some oldies playing. The background noise is nice and when a great song comes on, usually somebody has a fun memory to share.

Set a Pretty Table

It’s not too often these days that we get to really set a beautiful table. I love a festive set up where you can tell the host really went above and beyond – tablecloth, place mats, nice silverware, pretty napkins & accessories to boot. For Easter in specific, I love a white setup with some pastel accents – green, blue, pink, yellow…whatever you desire! If you’re looking for a new piece or two, try Crate & Barrel, Anthropologie or Homegoods.

Splurge on Fresh Flowers

Head to your local grocery and with less than $20 you can find fresh flowers for the dining table, the bathroom (a fun touch) and maybe even the kitchen area. Roses, peonies and tulips are all in season now and make for beautiful displays! Set them in a ceramic jug, a marble vase or a patterned pitcher for a pretty centerpiece. If you’re unsure of how to arrange flowers, I like to start with either (a) the same flowers in various colors (i.e. pink, white & yellow tulips) or (b) different flowers in the same color (i.e. pink peonies, roses and tulips). Add in some greenery and your arrangement will be beautiful!

Prepare Ahead of Time

Almost everything that you need can be done the day(s) leading up to Easter – house cleaning, grocery shopping, table setting, food prep, etc. Make it easier on yourself by making a list and knocking off as much as you can prior to your event. I prefer to set out the bar & set the table the day before, bake most desserts and marinate any meat the night before, and wash / chop / assemble as much food as possible the day before or morning of. Don’t let hosting ruin your weekend! Don’t make it harder than it is. If you need a refresher or are limited on time, check out my post on 5 easy ways to get your home ready for guests.

Be a “Cool” Hostess

What I mean is, relax. You’ve done your prep work, you’ve cleaned your home, you’ve set a beautiful table…pour yourself a drink and enjoy the day! The hostess typically sets the tone for the day so don’t make your guests feel nervous or tense by cleaning up after people or worrying about every little thing. So someone spills on the carpet – it’ll come out! So the cake is a little over cooked – people will still love it. Don’t forget that you invited everyone over to have fun and enjoy each others’ company…the dishes can get done later. Pour another glass of wine and go hang out!

What’s your favorite Easter hosting tip?!

Life Lately, Vol. 42

Happy Friday Y’all!

We are headed back to the mountains, but this time we’ll be up in Loon, New Hampshire for a friends weekend! Woo Hoo! We have a fun weekend planned, full of skiing, group dinners, playing games & Apres ski in the hot tub. Should be the best time!

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bathroom details – love our navy cabinets with white tile

Researching instant potswhat do y’all think? Our crockpot is pretty small and on it’s last leg so I was thinking of replacing it, when my friend Cyndi mentioned how much she loves her new Instant Pot since it works as a crock pot and a high speed pressure cooker. It seems like a great solution for making multiple types of meals with one appliance (the less kitchen appliances, the better). Have any of you had experience with one?

Cooking a few different recipes for our group trip this weekend. While we’re splitting breakfast / lunch/  dinner groceries (so much easier that way!), each couple is contributing an adult beverage an an app to share! I’ll be making my friend Britt’s avocado + feta salsa (it’s seriously amazing and such a crowd pleaser) and a batch of black bean brownies. Trust me when I say, I would much rather have true brownies, but Summer is right around the corner so I’m trying to make healthier decisions where I can and cut back on sugar a bit.

Shopping for some new jeans. I haven’t bought a new pair of jeans in years (the struggle is real) and most of mine are lower rise. The older I get, the more I’m trying to dress nicer, a bit more age appropriate and really for my body type. My friend Jenn recommended these Madewell Mid-rise jeans and I’m obsessed. My blue denim ones arrived yesterday and the black ones are en route. The higher waisted really sucks everything and makes my legs look way longer (which is a bonus since I’m 5’8″ but have a longer torso than legs). What are your favorite high waisted jeans?

This Week on South End Style

Stowe Travel Guide

Life Lately, Vol. 41

Stowe Travel Guide

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One of the best parts about living in Boston is the close proximity we have to many wonderful areas – New York City, the White Mountains, Cape Cod / Nantucket / The Vineyard, Montreal, Philly, The Adirondacks & more. A weekend favorite of ours in winter is definitely the easy three hour drive up to Vermont for a fun-filled ski weekend. Last year we spent a lot of time at Sugarbush, but this year we have primarily been at Stowe. We both like it better as the mountain is nicer, more updated, more organized and there is a lot to do for everyone – even if you don’t like to ski!
WHERE TO EAT
Green Goddess Cafe (in downtown Stowe): A cute local restaurant with a coffee shop feel. They’ve got sandwiches, homemade soups, salads, smoothies & coffee. It’s a casual, fun place to grab a bite with a friend or dine solo. My favorite for lunch.
The Kitchen (in downtown Stowe): Great local spot with sandwiches, salads & soups. It’s a great place to grab “to go” food for the mountain or for hiking. We’ve actually never dined here but I’ve heard great things.
Doc Ponds (in downtown Stowe): Good for dinner as they have full entrees and an extensive draft beer menu. The perfect spot for warm, comfort food in winter.
Prohibiton Pig (in downtown Waterbury): One of my favorite local spots, this staple is best when you grab a spot at the bar, try a local brew (over 20 on tap) and order a yummy burger. I also really like their pickled veggie appetizer (so good!). They’ve got a tap room next door as well so you could do a beer tasting while you wait for a table.
The Reservoir (in downtown Waterbury): A great spot if you want to grab a drink, shoot some pool, listen to music or sit down to eat some bar food. It’s usually pretty crowded and fun people watching. They have good bar food, including buffalo wings, turkey burgers and fish tacos. This is a great place to stop on Friday night on your way into town.
Bluestone Pizza (in downtown Waterbury): Everyone keeps raving about their wood fire pizza, but I must admit that we haven’t tried it yet though it’s high on our list. They have a million different types and given that American Flatbread is the closest pizza joint in the area (still a good 25-30 minutes away), I’m so happy to see this place here!
The Skinny Pancake (Stowe Mountain Lodge): Though it wouldn’t be my first choice, i’ts the perfect place for a quick breakfast around the mountain. It’s located in the lodge area which is super convenient, but inevitably overpriced.
WHERE TO DRINK
The Matterhorn (near the mountain): This is the best après-ski spot in town and if you ever visit Stowe, you have to go here after the ski day for a drink. It does get really crowded so get there by like 4:00 for a spot if you can. They typically have a band and it’s a very fun, lively crowd. I even hear they have good pizza!
Mansfield Lodge (at the base of the mountain) : Probably the most convenience of all places, you can’t end a ski day without stopping in here to good to grab a beer and thaw out after a day on the mountain. They also usually have a live band and it’s fun for an hour or so until people head home to get a hot shower.
Idletyme Brewing (in downtown Stowe): This local brewery is best when it’s nice out as they have a huge outdoor bar and patio with fire pit. You can sip on beer flights and munch on bar food (burgers, sammie’s, salads) and have a beautiful afternoon.
Alchemist Brewery (in downtown Stowe): While it’s not exactly a “hang out” spot, you’ll want to trust me when I say you should go here and try some beer in the tasting room. Alchemist was made famous on their “Heady Topper” double IPA but they’ve stayed solid and cranked out a ton more local favorites, including Focal Banger. You can also buy their beer directly here, which is nice since it’s typically hard to find in town. 

WHERE TO PLAY
So, the obvious thing to do when you come to Stowe is to go skiing or snowboarding. You can get a day pass, a season pass or an Epic pass (we have). Stowe has the highest peak in Vermont and definitely has that “resort” feel if that’s what you’re looking for. However, there is so much more to do in the area! Whether you come in another season, or if you’re just not that into skiing (like me!), I’ve compiled a list of my favorite non-skiing activities to do around town. Most are family friendly as well:
WHERE TO STAY
Stowe Mountain Lodge: At the base of the mountain, this is the absolute best location you could stay in and by far the most convenient. While it’s not cheap, this is a good route for those who can afford it and want to have everything at their disposal – ski lessons, ice skating, gym, spa, etc. It’s a really beautifully built resort.
Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa: This resort is built within the heart of Stowe, so you’ve got access to the local downtown shops, breweries, restaurants & more. It’s similar to Stowe Mountain Lodge in that they’ve got a gym, spa, dining, etc. but it’s not located on the mountain.  A nice alternative.
Topnotch Resort: We have quite a few friends who have stayed here and really enjoyed it. They’ve got rooms, suites and homes to rent at the resort. It has a lot of activities as well, including tennis, horseback riding, a spa and more.
AirBnB/VRBO: This is what a lot of people do as Stowe can be extremely pricey. If you’re here for a long weekend or with more than four people, this may be your most economical route (a lot of condos have ski busses that will pick you up on the way to the mountain).
Ski House: For us locals, this is the best thing to do. Going on on a “ski share” with a group can be a more economical option than staying even two weekends out of the whole year. We pay a seasonal fee and the house is ours to use, whenever we like.
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the quintessential Vermont covered bridge

Life Lately, Vol. 41

Happy Friday Y’all! What a weird week it’s been. I arrived groggy & out of it on Monday at 6am on a red eye from San Deigo, we had a blizzard on Tuesday, then picked up the pieces on Wednesday and had a normal work day yesterday – is today Tuesday or Friday? HA! I’m hoping to get back into the groove of things next week – I’ve got a lot of exciting projects and travel plans to share over the next few weeks. Speaking of sharing, let me ask you what you would like more of: interior design, travel, lifestyle, recipes, or something else? Let me know!

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our master, with the current lamps

Looking to buy some new lamps for our master bedroom. When we moved, I opted to keep the Target ones we had (sold out, similar); however, I think they’re a bit too short and too blah. Given the grey campaign nightstands, I want to bring in some brighter, white lamps. I like the white + gold on these Safavieh lamps, but they’re too short. Here’s a set via OKL that’s similar. I’m liking the detail on this Pottery Barn lamp (also named the Alexis!) as well as the texture on this set from One Kings Lane. What do you think?

Eagerly awaiting Spring for a variety of reasons (cold temps & snow being TOP of my list), but one is so that I can clean out my closet and transition my wardrobe from winter to Spring. I feel like it has been sooooo long since I’ve worn a dress or tank! Given that our closets are pretty small, I’ll be following this guide on how to best organize our closet for Spring (it’s a totally different ballgame when sweaters, boots & down jackets are out of the space). Also loving this post titled “How to Spring Clean Like the Pros” – these are great tips that apply to many rooms of the home, including closets, office & kitchen. Bring on the spring cleaning!

Proud of the students at the high school I attended, Lakeside for their collective effort and coming together for the school walkout this week. The students, teachers & administrators all came together and it was a successful, peaceful movement. Without getting political on here, I will say that what happened in Sandy Hook (and the other countless school shootings in 2018, 2017, and prior) should never, ever happen again – it’s just outrageous! So I am proud of these teenagers for standing up in what they believe in and trying to make a change for the better in this world.

This Week on South End Style

San Diego Travel Guide

(All *newly updated* travel guides!)

Life Lately, Vol. 40

Enjoy your weekend! 🙂

San Diego Travel Guide

I was lucky enough to spend a long weekend with two of my best gal pals from childhood and we had the best time. There’s something about friends that you’ve known forever – you can go without seeing them for a few months, yet you back up like no time had passed. That’s exactly what this trip was – catching up, sharing stories and just having the great conversation with my favorite people. Like I said, the best time! Given that I was only there for a few days, we shoved in as much as we could, but of course, there are so many places that we didn’t make it to.

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Beautiful Pacific Beach with two of my best friends

WHERE TO EAT + DRINK

Raglan Public House, Ocean Beach: a local spot perfect for burgers & beers. They’ve got an adorable outdoor spot with a huge greenery wall and overhead lights. Ideal for a low-key night.

OB Noodle House, Ocean Beach: Across the street from Raglan, this Asian inspired spot has a great bar with tvs, an indoor/outdoor vibe and a full crowd. Great neighborhood place.

Wonderland Ocean Pub, Ocean Beach: With a rooftop open to the water, this is the local spot to go for killer views. We enjoyed fresh fish, salads and local with a view of the ocean. A bit pricey but you’re paying for location.

Backyard Kitchen & Tap, Pacific Beach: We came here strictly for the beer, specifically the Cali Creamin’ & Benching Beaver PB Milk Stout, both on nitro. The nitro beer scene in San Diego is huge and it was new to me – we enjoyed sampling the delicious beers while sitting outside on their exposed patio. We didn’t eat, but it looked to be standard bar food.

PB Ale House, Pacific Beach: We started upstairs on their huge deck with heat lamps (it got so chilly at night) where we did a local beer flight, but the best spot was downstairs next to the fire pit. We sipped on some brews while watching the sunset. And what a sunset it was! Wow, I forgot how beautiful California is with the red and pink skies.

Café Coyote, Old Town: Hands down some of the best Mexican food I have ever had. The jalapeno margaritas and salsa had the perfect amount of spice. The fish taco & shrimp enchiladas were both outstanding and incredibly fresh. But the real star of the show was the homemade chips – something about local, house made fresh tortilla chips doesn’t even compare to the junk we buy in the grocery store. The ladies were making the chips & tortillas in the window, which was fun to see. The entire Old Town was a lively, upbeat vibe and you really felt like you were in Mexico. I would love to go back and try another spot in this area – I have a feeling you can’t go wrong!

Pure Press, Cowles Mountain: The perfect treat after hiking for an hour or two, this smoothie hit the spot. All of the smoothies, juices & bowls looked delicious and mine was a mix of berries, vegan protein & spinach. So delicious and refreshing! We kept hearing about all of the amazing acai bowls here but this was the closest we got. Next time!

Ironside Fish & Oyster, Little Italy: If you want a trendy spot with great service and outstanding seafood, this is the spot. We absolutely loved everything about Ironside, from the décor to the rose on tap to the oysters. I had seared yellowtail over a fresh Caesar salad for my entrée, which was out of this world. We all licked our plates clean and agreed that this was one of our favorite spots and great for a girl’s night out!

The Prado, Balboa Park: We stumbled across this place while exploring the park and lucked out that it was happy hour on the back patio. With beautiful scenery and an inexpensive happy hour menu, we each had one drink and shared a few small bites. It was the perfect spot to chill for an hour and refuel ourselves.

Great Maple, Hillcrest: Move over smoked salmon plate, I’ve found my new favorite brunch item. Holy sh*t y’all, if you haven’t had Chilaquiles, I recommend that you find some immediately. They’re basically Mexican breakfast nachos and they’re to die for. Again, the local tortilla chips made all of the difference. To balance it out, we shared these and a salad but truthfully, we had a hard time deciding. The brunch menu is amazing and I can see why the place was fully packed the entire time we were there.

Dukes, La Jolla: An ocean front spot in La Jolla, this restaurant did not disappoint. The mahi-mahi fish tacos were so fresh and the view was even better. Make sure to snag a table outside on the patio if you can. The restaurant has a Hawaiian theme and there was a lot that looked great on the menu but I was craving fish tacos – excellent choice.

Poke, everywhere: I couldn’t remember the exact name of the place we went but I know there are a million to choose from. Having heard about poke bowls forever, I was thrilled to finally have one. Let me tell you, this did not disappoint. Basically, a deconstructed sushi roll, if you like raw fish this is the best. Mine had spicy tuna & salmon over lettuce, topped with seaweed salad, cucumber, avocado and spicy soy sauce. Yum!

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The stunning waterfront view from Dukes in La Jolla

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There’s nothing like a California sunset!

WHAT TO DO

Hike Cowles Mountain: With beautiful 360 degree view of San Diego (all the way to Mexico), this was one of the most beautiful hikes! Our route was about 1.5 miles each way and took around 75 minutes, including wandering around at the top. The parking is easy, the entry is free and there are bathrooms at the bottom. I heard that locals will do this often and I can see why – it’s quick, challenging & fun!

Explore Balboa Park: This 1,200 acre park is home to over 16 museums, endless gardens, various performing arts centers & multiple shops and cafes. We enjoyed just walking around and exploring. We stumbled upon quite a few gorgeous gardens and had happy hour at an adorable outdoor café. There’s so much to do here and it seems like they have a lot going on for those interested in the arts.

San Diego Zoo: We didn’t go here on this trip, but I have been before. It is consistently voted the number 1 zoo in the world, due to the wide variety of animals. I remember loving it and because the weather is pretty much perfect in SD, you can visit it year-round. It’s definitely worth going to once in your life, especially if you have kids or enjoy animals.

Visit Torrey Pines Nature Reserve: This is where my friend was married on the beach and, wow, it was stunning!  We hiked up to the top and then down to the beach, where we walked along for a while back to the car. Having the mountains meet the beach is especially unique and the fact that it’s a well-protected reserve makes it even more beautiful. The golf course is nearby (which you’ve probably heard of), as is downtown La Jolla, so you could really make a day of it.

Walk around Mission Bay: We took the pup for a long walk around the bay which was filled with bikers, rollerbladers, runners, etc. It’s a great spot for locals to go if they want to get some outdoor exercise while avoiding traffic and cars. The entire loop is about 8 miles so I can see why a lot of people who are training for marathons run it!

Well, there you have it – my city guide to San Diego. I’m hoping to visit again and add many more restaurants, bars, beaches & local attractions into my repertoire as I’m sure the list is never-ending. We had a fabulous time and hope to return soon!

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View from the top of Cowles Mountain

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The beautiful beaches of Torrey Pines Nature Reserve