Travel Guide: Reykjavik

I think it’s fair to say that most people go to Iceland to experience the outdoor adventures, the incredible excursions and the scenic views. While Reykjavik isn’t a major destination, it is where you’ll likely stay so I think it’s important to know what to expect and how to properly navigate the city.

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Where to Stay

There are countless hotels here, most on or around Lavagulaur Street. After much consideration, we opted to stay at the CenterHotel Midguardar which is one of the many hotels by the CenterHotel group. The hotel was affordable, centrally located & came recommended. It was the perfect choice for us, as it has 24-hour service, easy check-in and breakfast included (which was actually good – it was a typical American meets European spread with eggs, bacon & sausage, Skyr yogurt with fruit, breads with jam and various meats & cheeses).

We also had some friends stay at the Raddison Blue 1919, which was conveniently located in the downtown area (on the other side of Lavagulaur Street). The lobby was beautiful & it is near a lot of the top notch restaurants, so this is another solid choice.

There are also an abundance of “guest houses” where all of the tours will pick up from, so really the options are endless. You can find these on AirBnB or via many third party website (ex. Priceline, Expedia).

As you can see, there are a plethora of choices for accommodations in Reykjavik. It just depends how much you want to spend and what location you want to be in!

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The hotel lobby of the CenterHotel Midguardar

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Typical Icelandic breakfast, served in our hotel’s restaurant

Where to Eat:

The Fish Market: We tried to walk in but that was obviously a rooky mistake. Apparently, Fish Market books up weeks ahead of time due to their fresh food and popular tasting menu. We heard rave reviews all week so be sure to make a reservation if you’re planning a trip to Reykjavik anytime soon.

Grill Market: Another highly recommended gourmet spot in town. Our friend ate here and raved about the food, drink & ambiance. They didn’t have room to squeeze us in either, but it’s on our list for next time.

Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur: Now I know y’all have heard of this place. It’s the world famou hot dog stand in downtown Reykjavik and hands down the cheapest meal you can find in Iceland. I don’t eat hot dogs but everyone who had them said they’re the best. Terry loved his so much that he went back for a second. A must try!

Nonnabiti: If you’re headed on a full day excursion (like Southern Iceland or The Golden Circle) this is an ideal spot for you to stop before you board. They’ve got great sandwiches to go. It’s basically a sub shop but the bread is soft & its all very fresh. I had a turkey sandwich with all of the veggie toppings and it hit the spot.

Noodle Station: This place was located practically next door to our hotel and full all the time, all day long. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a chance to try it but I’ve heard rave reviews. Given that it’s cold & dreary in Iceland, I can see why noodle bowls are popular!

Glo: Another restaurant that was one my list but we didn’t make it to. Known for their organic, vegetarian style food, it’s one of the healthier spots in town. And their presentation is practically made for Instagram.

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World Famous Hot Dog Stand!

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Pizza was all that was open when we landed at 1am

What To Do:

I’m guessing you’ve likely seen a picture similar to this before:

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Well, it’s taken at the Hallgrímskirkja church in downtown Reykjavik where you u take elevator to top of church tower. It’s a beautiful 360-degree view of the city, the mountains & the sea. A must-see if you’re in the city.

Truth be told, we spent most of our time outside Reykjavik, apart from dinner & drinks at night. The town itself if very cute, charming & walkable. The buildings are colorful and there is art everywhere. It’s definitely worth wandering around.

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Some other activities that we didn’t have time to do, but were on our list were horseback riding, whale watching, and exploring the local markets.

 

Free Summer Fun in Boston

I’m changing things up a bit today and making this more of a local post. After a very long winter and a barely there spring, we are officially in summer here in Boston! The city really comes alive this time of year and being outside is just fabulous. Whether you prefer outdoor concerts, patio drinking, Esplanade running or just strolling through the Boston Commons, this list covers it all. I’ve put together a HUGE roundup of free summer things that you can enjoy here in Boston. If you live in the city, be sure to take advantage of all Boston has to offer! And if you’re not from here, I’d recommend adding our beautiful city to your travel list and spend a weekend here!

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Without further ado…

FITNESS CLASSES

From spin to boot camps to yoga, the Greenway Fitness Program Presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts annually offers FREE fitness classes in the Greenway. See the schedule here.

The Esplanade is one of my favorite places to work out. You get the killer river views and the cool breeze that comes with it. With Zumba, running, sunset yoga & boot camps (I’ve done them, they’re great!), the opportunities are endless. Read details here.

A few other free fitness classes that I learned about via Secret Boston are:

Mondays: Salsa dancing at the South End’s Blackstone Square (6 p.m.)

Tuesdays: Yoga at the South End’s Franklin Square (6 p.m.)

Wednesdays: HIIT in Brighton Square (6:30 p.m.)

Thursdays: Yoga at the Boston Common’s Frog Pond (6 p.m.)

Fridays: Bootcamp at Christopher Columbus Park (6:30 a.m.)

WINE TASTINGS

The Urban Grape (303 Columbus Ave in South End) is offering free sine tastings on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights from 5-8pm. View their offerings here.

Wine Bottega (341 Hanover St in North End) has free wine tasting every Friday from 5:00-8:00. This is the perfect thing to do before grabbing a fresh oysters & raw bar at one of my favorite restaurants, Mare.

BRIX (1284 Washington St in South End) also has free wine tastings on Fridays and Saturdays from 6pm-8pm. You can get more details here.

MUSIC

The Boston Public Library has their annual Concerts in the Courtyard, which are free on Wednesdays and Fridays. Concerts are held at the Central Library on Boylston Street which is too cute – grab lunch and head here for some mid-week relaxation.

With too many to list, The Berklee Summer in the City Concert Series presents more than 400 free performances throughout Greater Boston from May through September.

There are seven concerts by Boston Landmarks Orchestra at the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade. Grab a friend (or date), a picnic basket & a blanket. Perfect evening!

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Shakespeare on the Common is a free show by Commonwealth Shakespeare Company at Parkman Bandstand on Boston Common. The 2017 show is Romeo & Juliet. I’ve done this in the past and can’t wait to do it again. Such a fun weeknight event!

Head to the beach and check out some giant sand art at the Revere Beach International Sand Sculpting Festival, which includes live music, food trucks, and Saturday fireworks.

For a totally different kind of Friday evening, head to the  Museum of Science and check out their free Astronomy After Hours program, where you can view stars, planets, the Moon, and other astronomical phenomena.

MOVIES

Boston Harbor Hotel screens free movies every Friday night. Schedule here.

The MFA is offering a more adult-friendly outdoor movie screenings, with wine & beer available for purchase. View their movie list here.

For the 32nd year in a row (amazing, right?!) the Hatch Shell is offering free Friday night movies.  I heard it gets really crowded, so get there early. Schedule here.

 

EVENTS, MARKETS & FESTIVALS

One of my favorite summer activities is the SoWa market in South End! The SoWa Open Market is open every Saturday and Sunday, April 29-October 29, from 10am-4pm.

While you’re there, check out the SoWa vintage market which is open every Saturday between April 29-October 29, from 11am-4pm, rain or shine. Read more here.

Greenway Open Market: Held on Saturdays and every 1st and 3rd Sunday, May through October along the Wharf District Parks of the Rose Kennedy Greenway. Details here.

 

As you can see, Boston has SO much to offer. I need to start checking these off my list!

Whats your favorite free summer activity!?

 

Jackson Hole Part 3: What to do (in summer)

So you likely read my part 1 (“the wedding”) and part 2 (“food & drink”) posts on Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Today I’ll be rounding out the Jackson Hole series with part 3: what to do in summer. Of course, what to do in Winter is a totally different post and I imagine it involves a lot of snowboarding and skiing! I’m way more of a warm weather type of girl, so Jackson was an absolute blast to visit in the summer! There is seriously SO MUCH to do y’all – for couples, families, kids, groups, etc. We had about 4 free days and soaked up every minute we could, but believe me when I say the list is endless. It’s the absolute perfect place to get outdoors and explore!

Head to String Lake

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We rented Stand Up Paddleboards (SUP) from Rendevous (they were $40/day) and spent the day kayaking, paddleboarding, swimming in the lake, jumping off rocks, etc. The lake is super clear with the Grand Tetons in back- spectacular view. It was so much fun and all 6 of us had the best time goofing around.

Tip: bring towels, chairs & cooler with food (be sure to store in the bear locker!)

Granite Hot Springs

We thought this was cool but would be more fun in winter, as the springs were very hot & crowded. We made the best of it and enjoyed the natural (cold) waterfalls and hiked around. If you’re there during cooler weather, I highly recommend it. Located on a back road, about 10 miles off the beaten path, the area provides gorgeous views full of wildlife. We saw deer, cows, horses, etc…

White Water Rafting

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The bride & groom organized this as a group activity for the Thursday before the wedding so the families & friends could get to know each other. What a fun idea! We had the best time rafting down the Snake River – the rapids were fast, exciting & sometimes even scary! There were people of all ages (I’m talking 10-70) and everyone had a blast. Can’t recommend this enough.

Relax at the Four Seasons

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One of the nicest hotels in Jackson (the Amangani being the other), we took advantage of our stay here and spent an afternoon drinking rose & laying by the pool. Let me just say- this was the life! Side note: we also ate at the Westbank Grill, which was one of the best meals from the trip. Chef basically brought us out one of everything (literally- bison, steak, shrimp, tuna, brussels, mac & cheese, etc) and we went to town. There were 6 of us and our 4 hour dinner was absolute perfection!

As I mentioned, we only hit about 50% of the things on our “to do” list (due to limited time) but here are some activities I’d love to do when I (hopefully) get back to Jackson:

Horseback riding

Obviously there are horses everywhere in Jackson! This place is full of barns and farms and dude ranches…however, we could never find the time to commit to a half day excursion. Had we done a bit more research I’m sure we could have made it happen though. Next time!

Visit Yellowstone/Old Faithful

About a 2 hour drive (each way), Yellowstone is obviously a “must see” if you have time. A big chunk of our group took a day trip to drive out there & explore the park and they absolutely loved it. They said the scenery, the nature, the history- it’s all worth going.

Hike to Phelps Lake on the Lake Creek Trail

We actually arrived a day too late for this, but the whole group did this hike and everything said how fun it was. They hiked for a couple of hours and ended up jumping off some cliffs into the lake. The pictures were beautiful & it really sounded like a fun day!

Mormon Row

Okay, so I kept reading about this but sadly never made it! They say that if you want to see buffalo in person, they hang out here by the old barns. I actually never saw a buffalo during our trip, but I did see a moose which was super cool.

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Who else has warm weather ideas for Jackson Hole?! I’d love to hear what else I missed so I can plan on it for round 2!

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What To Do In Austin, TX

Back in April, I shared part one of our Austin, Texas city guide, specifically what to eat! Let’s be honest, Austin is known for their amazing Mexican, BBQ, and more. So it only made sense that I started with food; however, I strongly believe in balance (especially while on vacation!) so let’s talk about what there is to do in Austin. One of my favorite parts about the city is the outdoor culture! There are so many outdoor activities you can do and ways to stay active. Of course, there’s hiking, biking, kayaking, lake water sports, and more. Today I’m going to share a few easy adventures those of us visiting can do – no equipment needed other than your shoes, a bathing suit & an open mind:

Barton Springs

Barton Springs is the perfect way to refresh yourself on a hot Texas day! This 3 acre natural cold spring has been formed into a swimming pool where you can drink an ice cold brew, lay out in the sun, or swim some laps. It’s a public space but feels a bit more private because you’re surrounded by trees. Best part? It’s less than $10 to get in.

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Wineries

Texas has a wine country? Yup, I had no idea either until I visited! After spending a day popping in & out of wineries (only about 30 minutes outside of Austin), I can totally see why so many Texas brides get married out here. The stunning views, the warm Texas sun, the friendly people…it all makes for the perfect day! We spent part of the day at Driftwood Winery and then headed over to Salt Lick BBQ after for a killer meal.

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Hamilton Pool

This was our favorite thing we did while in Austin! About 30 minutes west of Austin, the Hamilton Pool is a stunning nature preserve that is basically a huge swimming hole/grotto that was formed when an underground river collapsed thousands of years ago. We began by hiking for about 45 minutes into the woods (there’s a quicker, more direct path there but we were trying to sweat out the previous night’s libations!) and then all of the sudden, the trees open up to this beauty:

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Stunning, right? The water was a gorgeous blue-green color and so refreshing (warning: it’s freezing!) We spent a few hours there jumping off rocks, exploring the waterfall & frolicking in the water. You can hike & explore the area for hours, which I highly recommend. In fact, we stumbled across a huge river about 15 minutes away that was equally fun to wade through & take pictures. Definitely go here!

Murals

Lastly, you must do the touristy favorites and snap a few Insta-worthy photos. There’s the  “i love you so much” sign, the “greetings from Austin sign” and more. Check out this article to read about all of the creative, beautiful murals in Austin.

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What’s your favorite thing to do when you visit Austin?!

 

 

 

 

Switzerland Travel Guide: Zurich & Interlaken

So last May we went to Europe for 2 weeks and randomly decided to fly home out of Zurich. We knew we wanted to see France & Amsterdam, but wanted to take advantage of United’s open jaw flights so debated which 3rd country to visit. We ended up on Switzerland because we’ve heard time & time again how beautiful the country is. Once we found out that we could fly home direct via Zurich, we booked it.

Best. Decision. Ever.

We were only in Switzerland for a short 72 hours but we had the best experience and cannot wait to go back. We stayed at the Sheraton Neues Schloss which was a bit outdated and very pricey, but an excellent location. I’d recommend it, especially for those enrolled in SPG. Below is my Switzerland travel guide, specifically for Zurich & Interlaken.

Tip: Switzerland is expensive. Like, insanely expensive. Be prepared for all costs (hotel, transportation, dining out, etc) to be very inflated.

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Walk around Zurich

Despite being a small city, it’s a huge hub for large financial institutions and banking giants. It’s divided into 12 districts, each containing 1-4 neighborhoods. The public transportation here is stellar, making it extremely accessible and simple to get around. There’s the “old town” and the “new town”, divided by the water. There are endless churches, galleries, museums, restaurants, stores, winding streets, gardens, etc. Get lost and explore!

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This city is very clean, very safe & very walkable. One of the first things we noticed is how impeccable everything in Zurich is – the buildings, the greenery, the people. Everyone looks like a wealthy banker and is dressed to the nines. Honestly, we saw so many good looking people it was kind of intimidating! Lucky for us, they were all very friendly and all speak English.

View the City by Boat

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Zurich is located in north-central Switzerland at the northwestern tip of Lake Zürich.We didn’t know much about the area, but the boat tour was really fun because you can hop on/hop off in different towns around the lake. The weather was a bit misty & overcast when we went, but we grabbed a bottle of wine made the most of our two hour boat adventure. I totally recommend doing this!

Day Trip to Interlaken

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So, on a whim we decided to try to head down to Interlaken for a day. I have a zillion friends who went here while studying abroad and I’ve heard endless good things! The train was quite expensive (maybe because it was last minute?) so we were able to snag a rental car for under $100 total. Lucky for us, this is Switzerland and the “economy” car was a new C-Class Mercedes Benz….don’t mind if I do!

Let me start by saying- if you are ever within 2-3 hours of Interlaken, GO! We so desperately wish we could have stayed 1-2 nights here and just explored. Oh my gosh this town is SO adorable- filled with super friendly people, restaurants & bars, parks and endless outdoor excursion opportunities! We were originally signed up to go canyoning but due to the heavy rainfall the previous few days, the trip was cancelled and we were offered a white water rafting trip instead. Best $100 we ever spent and hands down, the best day of our entire trip to Europe. Words cannot describe the magical, out-of-body experience that happens as you’re floating down a river, tasting fresh (crystal clear!) water and looking up to see the majestic Swiss Alps staring back. It was truly one of the best experiences of my life and I cannot recommend this enough. The tour itself was exciting and we met a lot of awesome people. We stopped by the Balmers Hostel after for a few beers and snacks on their back porch – they have an amazing lawn filled with hammocks, picnic tables & killer view of the Alps. We wanted to spend the night here but it’s super popular & sells out way in advance. It’s on my bucket list to come back.

Train to Utielberg

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A friend-of-a-friend who lives in Zurich recommended that we check out Uteilberg and I am so glad that we squeezed it in! We took train (so easy and only S10) to Utielberg and climbed to the top for some seriously amazing views. The summit gives you a panoramic view of Lake Zurich, the Limmat Valley & Swiss Alps. There’s a restaurant up there (we didn’t go in) and the entire trip only takes about an hour. Worth doing!

Favorite Restaurants

B. Good

Funny story – as we were meandering through Old Town, we turn the corner and the first thing we see is B. Good (those of you Boston folks are probably getting a kick out of this!). They said this location was the first international spot & that so far, it was very well received. I had to support my local business, so we shelled out 33CHF for a salad & burger w/ fries (yup, it’s pricey!)

The COOP

  The COOP is the local grocery and has everything!Since Zurich is so expensive, we wanted to get a few items for the room. We picked up baked goods, fruit, chocolates (duh), wine and snacks for our trip. This grocery is clean, affordable & has everything you need! It’s great alternative if you want to avoid dining out for every single meal. 

Zeughauskeller

Our favorite Zurich spot! This actually came recommended by quite a few people. It’s actually an old armory, still decorated with tanks, canons and huge rifles. It’s a really cool vibe. Sure, it’s a wee bit touristy, but not overpriced or tacky. We sat outside because the weather was awesome. This spot is a fun, traditional Swiss restaurant with about 90 entrees and 88 of them being sausage. Ha! T got spicy sausage, while I ordered the chicken. All entrees comes with the world’s best potato salad, a traditional potato cake & green salad. Of course, we both had house beer. It was so awesome that we came back again for dinner (we usually are not repeat diners!) and had an even better time!

Santa Lucia

Since we had clearly had our fix of sausage & potatoes, we opted to try some Northern Italian food. Located down a winding road in Old Town, this was a hidden gem! We sat outside on the adorable back patio and split a glass of wine, salad & pizza. This did not disappoint. If you want a cute date or Instagram-worth spot, this is it.

Ristorante Italia

One of T’s clients who is a chef/restaurant owner here in Boston recommended this place and let me tell you…it was to die for! Given that it was in the opposite direction of where we spent most of our time, we never would have found this place. Upon entry, it feels super swanky and sultry- perfect for a date night. The delicious Italian red wine was pricey, but not by Zurich standards. They brought homemade bread & olive oil right away, which was incredible. We shared a starter salad of parmesan and fennel carpaccio…y’all, this salad was hands-down one of the best things I have ever tasted. Omg, I still dream about it! For entree, I had linguini nere with shrimp & pomodoro sauce, while T has ghnocci al pomodoro. Everything was fresh, handmade & beautifully presented. My only regret is that we didn’t have enough room to try the tiramisu because I’m sure it was outstanding. 

Side note: It was too dark to take any food pictures, but trust me and just go here!

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Overall, I can’t recommend Zurich enough! Yes, there are many other places in Switzerland that are high on my list, but if you happen to be passing through it’s a good city to have as a base to explore the area. Switzerland, we can’t wait to be back!

48 hours in Montreal

After spending three days/two nights in Montreal, I really feel like I got a grasp on the city. It definitely has a European feel all around- small cobblestone streets, sidewalk cafes, cute coffee shops all around, everyone speaking French…maybe that’s one of the reasons I loved this city so much? It takes me back to Europe and even though you’re a mere 60 miles across the border, you may as well be 6000 miles away.fullsizerender-9

{Notre Dame of Montreal}

DAY ONE

We stayed at Le Westin Hotel in Old Montreal & I can’t recommend this hotel enough- it’s perfect location for walking around the city, the rooms are huge & comfortable and the staff is awesome. We brought the pup and they showed up with this adorable dog bed & food/water bowls so she would feel at home. How adorable is that?!

{Mela loved Montreal, both in the Westin & in the park!}

We started Friday evening with a pre-dinner drink and appetizer from Tiradito. We stumbled across this place by chance and I’m glad we did. Recently open, this bar-only seating restaurant had a very NYC vibe. It was a dim, sultry, swanky, funky spot. It’s a self-proclaimed Peruvian-Japanese fusion restaurant. For drinks, I had a pisco sour (typical South American cocktail) and it was amazing! He had a bourbon based cocktail, also creative & delicious. For our app, we had halibut ceviche- so fresh & delicious. I would love to go back and dine at this place.

{Notkins menu – Tiradito drinks – Notkins oysters}

For dinner, we hopped across the street to Notkins– an oyster bar that came recommended by a friend. Fun fact: the owner (I believe) holds the record for most shucked & cleaned oysters in an hour. It was over 8,000- can you even imagine!? After we heard that story, we knew we were in good hands. The place has a sophisticated, yet casual vibe. They’ve got a big raw bar, an even bigger wine list, and a live DJ spinning slow jam lounge music. It was a fun date night spot! We splurged on oysters, halibut fish tacos, cold lobster tail & frites. The service was excellent, and although it was a bit pricey, we both felt as though it was money well spent.

DAY TWO

We started off our next morning the way every day in Montreal should start- with a jog around the Mount Royal park (gorgeous park with tons of hiking trails, grassy areas, picnic tables & killer views), followed by some St Viateur bagels. I gotta say, I didn’t realize how doughy & fresh & light bagels could (should?) taste, until I had these. Words can’t describe how awesome they are- we sampled whole wheat, everything & rosemary. Surprisingly, the rosemary was my favorite. The flavors were baked into the dough & every bite was so delicious…

{Watching the guys make bagels in the huge oven}

After spending the next few hours walking around town, exploring local shops, park & stores and checking out the Montreal Olympics site, we decided to pop into Les 3 Brasseurs & chill for a bit. We shared a flight and, of course, poutine! (This is obviously a *must do* when in Montreal. There are countless places that claim to be “Montreal’s best poutine” so why not try a few?! I’m pretty sure you can’t go wrong!)

{Exploring cute streets & buildings around Old Town Montreal}

{Run in the park + poutine = balance}

Based on the suggestion of a stranger (thanks, Chris!), we went to dinner at  L’usine de Spaghetti. Holy deliciousness! I’m not sure if it was the two glasses of house red I had, or the warm, quaint, European feeling vibe this place gave off, but the lobster linguini that I had was the best meal of my trip! The bf got grilled lamb chops over pesto spaghetti and he didn’t seem to complain either-we both happily licked our plates clean & then polished off a piece of tiramisu. Vacation for the win 🙂

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{Our awesome table in front of the impressive wine cellar}

On Sunday morning, we wanted to grab a quick, healthy meal before hitting the road. Thanks to Instagram, I found Olive & Gourmando: an adorable coffee shop on old street in Old Town with awesome home goods shops, restaurants & clothing stores. It’s got a very local, funky vibe with organic & healthy feel. I got a cha-cha-chia bowl: cute jar with layered chia pudding, coconut flakes, fresh banana & apple slices, quinoa, granola & cranberries. After my decadent Italian dinner the night before, this was exactly what I needed. If you like healthy, cute coffee shops (who doesn’t?), this is your spot.

{O&G’s interior – cute Halloween decor – world’s best chia bowl}

One thing I loved about Montreal (similar to Europe) is that while the food can be rich & decadent, the portions are small. Given that we chose to split most of our “splurge” dishes and that we walked all over the city (15K steps both days, woo hoo!), I didn’t leave feeling “gross” or “blah”. I felt like I experienced the culture, I tasted a few local treats, and I had an overall balanced trip.

Montreal, you’re adorable. I can’t wait to be back!