Why visit Harrisburg, PA? [A Weekend Trip: Highlights]

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When planning a visit to Pennsylvania, travelers often instinctively think of Philadelphia or Pittsburgh before considering its capital as a worthy destination. Now with a growing food, beverage, and art scene, and its own place in American history, Harrisburg and its surrounding areas are trying to prove that it can always be sunny this side of PA too.

“There has to be a story here.” A man, clearly very confused, stopped a group of seven women casually traveling as a pack in downtown Harrisburg. My college group of friends and I have been fortunate enough to reunite from various points of the US once a year. It started as an effort to visit one another no matter where we in the country we settled into. Four years in, and I’d say the efforts are going strong.

It was our dear PA-based resident’s turn to host for a long weekend. Our itinerary consisted of vineyard/brewery stops, Hershey Park, a scenic, historic stroll, and plenty of time to catch up. It turned out to be the perfect amount of activity and down time to suit the interests of a group our size.

Our home-base was in Mechanicsburg, a mere 20-minute drive from downtown Harrisburg. We were too early for the town’s Jubilee Day, “the  largest, longest-running, one-day street fair on the East Coast” (pennlive.com), but our weekend wasn’t short on memorable moments. We had amazing bites in all our food destinations, though I wouldn’t recommend poutine fries between rollercoaster stops at Hershey Park if you know what I mean.

Have you ever been around Harrisburg? I’ll share my recommendations particularly some must-try al fresco finds in the area in a post soon! Leave me a comment below if you have any questions or check out the Thrillist feature on Harrisburg or VisitPA for any Pennsylvania-related trip planning needs including free resources. Philly is definitely still on my list for my next time in Pennsylvania so I’ll have to make a return in the future. Feel free to link up with your post or favorite related links in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

x,

Valerie

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Planning a Trip to Paris in May [Paris Guide and Recommendations]

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With its steady stream of tourists and unmistaken popularity among travel wish lists worldwide, planning a trip to Paris can be exciting, and easily overwhelming. Every time I visit, there’s something new to discover, draw inspiration from, or rekindle a mix of emotions.

On my last trip to Paris, I was finally able to share it with the hubby. The expectations were certainly stacked high with this being Alex’s first international travel destination. I’m happy to report that it was well worth the hype and Alex, most surprising of all, is officially hooked.

If you’re planning a romantic/family-centered getaway to the City of Light, the City of Love, the fashion, art, and culture capital of the world, here are some tried and tested recommendations for you! And if you’ve been before, what would you add/second from this list?

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Getting there:

  • Kayak.com – as a gauge for prices, airlines, and good dates to go
  • AirFrance/Delta – this worked out well for us to and from Boston and, as airline partners, they offered an excellent SkyMiles rewards program

Where to stay:

  • Le Dokhan’s – a beautiful boutique hotel close to the Trocadero area that can be a destination in itself for its Champagne Bar and gorgeous LV-themed elevator
  • Radisson Blu Hotel Champs Elysees – right in the heart of the shopping center that is Champs Elysees and a few steps away from the Arc de Triomphe
  • A La Carte Paris Apartments – Paris apartment rentals you can match with your travel needs

Places to see:

Places to eat (al fresco guaranteed):

Here’s a glimpse of our week in Paris by the day:

(for an overview of the experience, check the highlights here)

DAY 1 | Saturday

“Getting Our Bearings: Exploring the neighborhood and leading with our noses.”

For us that meant brunch at Boulangeries Saveurs de Pains right beneath our apartment and exploring Les Marais. Place de Georges Pompidou was a short walk from there with lots of dinner options. We continued on with a family stroll to the nearby Notre Dame area, to the Louvre, before making our way back with our first metro ride of the trip.

DAY 2 | Sunday

“Take Me to Church: Appreciating grandiose architecture and history.” 

We took an early stroll around Notre Dame and Saint Michel in our excitement for our first full day in the city. We toured the interior of Notre Dame before attending mass with their Gregorian choir. Sainte Chapelle was next – my favorite discovery on this trip! Then we headed to Sacre Coeur and Montmartre.

DAY 3  | Monday

“Bucketlist Item Complete.”

 1st day of Roland Garros Pre-qualifiers. Cheered for our hosts, the French players, and obviously the Americans 😉

DAY 4 | Tuesday

“A Family Affair” 

Sister’s Graduation at Théâtre de Paris and swanky after party at Cercle de l’Union Interalliée

Day 5 | Wednesday

“Relax and Recuperate.” 

Window shopping along the Seine, Exploring the 7th arrondissement, Assemblée Nationale, rue de l’université, Champ de Mars and the Eiffel Tower, Bateaux Mouches River Cruise at night

Day 6 | Thursday

“To All the Glories of France.” 

Day trip to Versailles

Day 7 | Friday

“The Possibilities are Endless.” 

While the parents met with old friends and took a trip to Claude Monet’s Garden in Giverny. I took Alex around the Latin Quarter, Jardin du Luxembourg, the Pantheon, then much later, Champs Elysees, the Arc de Triomphe, and Jardins du Trocadero.

Day 8 | Saturday

“Do as the Locals Do.” 

Visited my sister’s apartment and school. Got a sneak peek at a day in the life of a Parisienne, ending with a picnic at the neighborhood park around families and children playing pick-up football before bidding her au revoir.

 

It is so easy to keep coming back to favorites in Paris even when there’s so much more to say. In the spring time, it would take a rainy day and/or a lot of convincing to stand in lines for indoor monuments and pass up Paris glistening in the sun with all its appealing patios to try. There really isn’t a “wrong” way to do Paris if you do enough research and follow your heart (or your nose and hungry belly). It’s all about finding the balance to make it memorable for you and the company you’re with.

Let me know in the comments if you have any questions or anything to add. I referred a lot to the Paris Tourist Office, Time Out Paris, Fodors Travel (c/o our local library) and a variety of people’s recommendations (as well as my tested faves) over the years in planning this trip.

Thanks for reading!

x,

Valerie

 

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Hello Brooklyn, how you doin’?

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One of the things I’ve loved about living in the northeast, particularly in New England, is how easy it is to take a quick trip and be totally transported into a whole other world. Within a few hours you could be bordering Canada or at the center of the world: New York City.

This past month, we planned a little escape to the concrete jungle around a dear friend’s birthday weekend. Now that we’ve gone to NYC a few times, we’ve been able to focus our adventures within our friend’s charming neighborhood in Brooklyn Heights. It is so picturesque and bears a resemblance with Boston’s Back Bay/Historic South End area. If you haven’t, you must see it for your self!

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For some birthday fun, we spent the evening at Zombie Hut (interesting name, right!?). They had a sizable jungle-inspired patio that was incredibly tempting with its greenery and tropical vibe had it not been for the damp and chilly day we were having. Thankfully they have ample indoor space for parties of different sizes, and the zombie elements sprinkled within this quirky little tiki bar make for some interesting conversation starters. We may just find ourselves back there again at some point for some cheap PBRs and Narraganset – yes, there’s ‘ganset in Brooklyn for all you New Englanders – or to try the intriguing $5 Hot Pockets. You have to wonder, in the event of a zombie apocalypse, how much would you pay for a hot pocket?

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The next day we continued our Brooklyn adventures around some drink destinations and of course, pizza.  Our must-see on this trip was Brooklyn Brewery. I appreciated how the tasting room stays true to its warehouse history and Brooklyn roots with minimal furnishings, brick walls, and a charming touch of cafe lights. It’s free to enter plus tours are free on Fridays and weekends. There wasn’t much of a line when we walked in so we easily got ourselves 5 beers for $20. $20!! Apparently there’s deliverable pizza available too, but we wanted to make-up for our derailed Fornino on Pier 6 plans by enjoying a couple of pies at their location a few blocks away.

We didn’t end there. Our food and drink tour of Brooklyn continued on to Spritzenhaus33 where the spacious and hip al fresco vibe is hard to resist a few steps from the subway station. We then grabbed empanadas at La Barrita to quickly satisfy our Latin American small bites cravings, all while facing the street at the open-window bar seats with impeccable people-watching views along Montague Street. We finished the evening with fancy bubbly varietals care of The Binc which was great for its intimate speakeasy feel as we were winding down from a fairly eventful day.

After an amazing cup of coffee at Swallow Cafe, we couldn’t possibly leave Brooklyn the following day without taking a walk around Brooklyn Bridge Park and the piers. The views just never get old. Plus, imagine all the picnicking possibilities!

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What’s on your must-see/taste/drink list for NYC? Share your ideas or thoughts below. I’d love to hear. I would definitely recommend all our stops to anybody looking for delicious food or satisfying drinks in Brooklyn all with an al fresco option. Thanks for reading!

x♡

Valerie


For more questions or information on sights and eats mentioned above, check out Brooklyn Brewery, Fornino, Spritzenhaus33La Barrita, The Binc, Swallow CafeBrooklyn Bridge ParkNYCgo, Yelp, or feel free to contact alwaysalfresco@gmail.com.

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