She’s Nauti and Nice [A Weekend Getaway to Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod: Highlights]

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There’s something about her that just seems to capture the hearts of those she comes into contact with. With pristine beaches, blue ocean waters, and the breezy salty air to sweep you off your feet, it’s easy to get carried away by the lure and the charm of Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod.

One trip, let alone one day, is hardly enough to do it justice, but a short and sweet encounter is better than none at all. Recently, a group of friends and I — mostly hailing from the metro-DC area or further south — hoped to scratch the surface on what the northeast has been keeping secret from us all this time.

Since, A and I are based in Boston, we were the resident “guides” spearheading this trip. Our friends flew from Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York and Virginia and arrived on a Thursday, allowing us a nice long-weekend stretch for maximum adventuring and eats.

Our first full day was dedicated to our daytrip to Martha’s Vineyard. Because our homebase was in Cotuit, it made the most sense for us to drive for the ferry from Woods Hole in Falmouth first thing in the morning by parking our van at the dedicated off-side lot (approximately 4 miles away), and take the shuttle from the lot to the terminal. The ferry ride certainly played a big part in the build up to our vineyard experience. It was so peaceful and so beautiful, and just the perfect distance to enjoy without any fear of motion-sickness (knock on wood).

Once we made it there, it was truly all that I had imagined a quintessential New England small beach town would be. In Oak Bluffs, was our terminal of choice and therefore where we spent our first and last few moments in the island. The area was very walkable and chockfull of surprises. Although there were a handful of businesses closed for the season post-Labor Day, a good bit of seaside activity remained for locals and non-peak season visitors. Edgartown wins the popularity contest for sure, and is home to the Vineyard Vines. However, if you look hard enough and are patient enough, many things lie off the main streets and back roads of these quaint towns. By far the highlight of our trip in my opinion was our pursuit of Bad Martha Beer.

For a day trip, our focus was to enjoy our time together within the three main towns at the tip of the island – Edgartown (our farthest point), Vineyard Haven, and Oak Bluffs. We made sure we had ample time to hit the mandatory sights, such as the Gingerbread Houses/Cottages and Trinity Park Tabernacle, and leisurely stroll around the neighborhoods following our instincts for food and drink stops as well.

As for the remainder of our weekend, we weren’t quite as lucky with the weather, and had to make plans for colder temps. What’s great about Cape Cod and the islands in this case is the multitude of options for groups, couples, families, and adventurers of all comfort levels to create the experience you’re seeking. For equal parts of adventure and solitude, we spent a morning biking along the Cape Cod Rail Trail courtesy of our Dennis Cycle Center rentals. I have not touched a bike in YEARS but they made the process so easy, and the trail right next to the store had a couple of appealing pitstops (hint: one is a winery along the trail!). Well worth the exercise, I tell you.

We of course couldn’t miss an afternoon in the classic town of Chatham for some a lighthouse sighting, beach time, and sunset (or close) cocktails. This vacation life could have lasted forever, in my opinion, but alas we knew it had to end. At least for now.

What’s your must-do/favorite part about Cape Cod and the islands? I have yet to make it to Nantucket so that’s certainly on my list!

I’m sharing our al fresco finds on the trip as well as our quick getaway guide + recommendations based on insight from our Cape Cod-based friends, prior research, and what worked for us on this trip.

Leave me a comment below if you have any questions or check out the Travel + Leisure features on Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod, MassVacations.com the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce and the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce websites. Feel free to link up with your post or favorite related links as well!

Thanks for reading!

x,

Valerie

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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):

A glimpse at our week in Paris by the day (for an overview of the experience, check the highlights here):

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. DAY 3 – Monday: Bucketlist Item Complete. 1st day of Roland Garros Pre-qualifiers. Cheered for our hosts, the French players, and obviously the Americans 😉
  4. DAY 4 – Tuesday: A Family Affair. Sister’s Graduation at Théâtre de Paris and swanky after party at Cercle de l’Union Interalliée
  5. 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
  6. Day 6 – Thursday: To All the Glories of France. Day trip to Versailles
  7. 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.
  8. 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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