My Seven Handbag Essentials

Today I’m sharing a few of the little staples I keep tucked away in my day to day handbag. While a girl can’t be caught without a hair tie, bobby pins or ear buds, these select few items are also in my bag at (almost) all times.

  1. Two different shades of lipstick. I always travel with at least one coral-ish color that could work with either pink or red as well as one darker, more fall-like color. Currently, these are my favorites: coral & nude.
  2. Neutogena makeup remover wipes.  If you carry lipstick in your bag, especially one that’s a bright color or stain, you should definitely carry these…. just in case.
  3. RXBAR. Whether I’m catching a quick train to a client meeting or need a little snack to get me over my afternoon haze, I love having my Blueberry RXBAR at hand. The consistency is thicker too, so I never worry about having it get broken up in my bag.
  4. Oil blotting sheets. You never know when you’ll need to get rid of a little shine. These are a few of my favorites. This one, this one & this one.
  5. PartySmart Pill. Some say these don’t work at all but I have used them for the past year & my morning-after nausea is always lessened when I take this little guy. All herbal so if nothing else, a vitamin.
  6. Emergen- C. You never know when you’ll start to feel sick & I swear by these when I’m flying.
  7. L’Occitane Hand Lotion. Nine times out of ten, I leave my apartment without lotioning my legs. I love keeping this near for dry hands or legs. I love it because it won’t leave you greasy & isn’t over scented.

What are you guys up to for the weekend? In two weeks, I have a three week span of weddings so I have some preparation for that. Bridesmaids dress alterations, gift shopping, etc.

Cheers

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Chicago Bachelorette

Last weekend was one of my very best friend’s bachelorette in Chicago. Planning a bachelorette in Chicago is similar to planning a bachelorette in NYC, there are SO many good places to go with such little time. Here are a few places we popped into this past weekend…

Friday

We stayed right on Michigan Ave so we popped into Eataly for a quick lunch & did a little shopping. We of course could visit Chicago without getting the bride some deep dish at Giordano’s before heading over to Second City to start off the night with a few laughs. I highly recommend almost any show at Second City, they have trained some of the most highly regarded comics. Later that night, we sang our hearts out at Howl at the Moon and shimmied down to Three Dots & A Dash to end the night.

Saturday

Kicked off the morning at Summer House which is a bright instagrammable little spot with incredible brunch. After, we took a nice walk to the beach & caught some sun on what may have been the most perfect beach day. Since we knew we’d have a late dinner, we grabbed some small bites at Pierrot Gourmet and sips at 3 Arts Cafe (inside Restoration Hardware) before heading to Polish & Pour for manis & prosecco! We played some hilarious games as we got ready for dinner at Girl & The Goat– which was absolutely delicious. The escargot ravioli was my favorite. Perhaps the highlight of the entire weekend was dancing the night away at Celeste’s Disco.

Sunday

After groggily waking up just hours after we had fallen into bed, we walked down to Beatrix for some nourishment. Everything from the lemon pancakes to the chilaquiles are delicious and sure to kick any hangover.

So hard to squeeze in all my Chicago favs in one weekend, I’m looking forward to another trip this fall!

Cheers,

Viñales Itinerary

My excursion to Viñales was one for the books. Viñales was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site and is almost completely undisturbed beyond the city limits. Knowing there were so many activities we wanted to accomplish, we booked a private tour with Discover Viñales Tour Company. We were picked up by our driver early in the morning in Havana and departed for our two hour drive. Once in Viñales, we picked up our guide, Yaniel and headed toward the Indian Caves. We walked through the caves to the boat that guided us through the remaining cave. 

After the caves, we headed toward a tobacco field, sorting house and paid a visit to Rene, an expert tobacco farmers who’s been rolling organic cigars for over 50 years!

After the tobacco field tour, we had lunch at an organic farm overlooking the most picturesque valley. The meal was the freshest meal I’ve ever had, as we walked up the to the restaurant, we saw farmers pulling fresh vegetables from the ground. Talk about farm to table.

the view wasn’t too bad either

After lunch we visited the prehistoric mural and rode horses through the Silent Valley. 

I can’t recommend visiting Viñales enough and booking a tour with Yaniel through Discover Vinales. This city is the most undisturbed, beautiful area I’ve ever seen.

Cheers,

Havana Itinerary

Friday

Arrive in Havana midday and take a cab to your Casa Particular in Miramar- a neighborhood of Havana. The airport is approximately 30 mins away from Havana so it’s a great way to see some of the rural landscape as you head into the city.

After getting checked in, waste no time and head into Old Havana. Most casa’s have access to call a cab for you but I highly recommend taking a taxi collectivo. It’s the Cuban version of Uber, except you flag a car down on the street and you pay a small fee to get wherever you’re going. Cubans use this method of transportation as the buses are over crowded and many drivers only charge 2-4 CUCs depending how far you’re going.

Every night, my recommendation is the same…dinner & dancing. Head to StarBien Restaurante for dinner. 

Saturday

Wake up early and head to Hotel Inglaterra, where you meet your tour guide, Saúl, for a day tour of Havana. This tour was an incredible way to get our bearings around Havana and cross off some of learning some of the history. I highly recommend booking through Locally Sourced Havana Tours and asking for Saúl. The morning consists of a walking tour through Havana, a full lunch and a classic car tour which all wrap up at Hotel Nacional for drinks around 4 or 5pm.

Grab dinner at El Cocinero and head next door to Fabrica de Arte to dance the night away.

Sunday

Wake up and have a leisurely breakfast, head to Santa Maria del mar. It’s about a 40 minute drive from Havana but the beach is absolutely incredible. Locals boast that the water is five distinctly different shades of blue and they were certainly right. Spend the day at the beach and head back to Havana to get ready for dinner at Paladar Atelier. 

Monday

On this specific trip, we checked out of our Airbnb this day and stayed our last few days at the Melia Cohiba. The hotel was nice but definitely not a “must.” We spent the early afternoon at the pool and spent the early evening grabbing drinks before dinner at La Guarida.

After dinner, walk along the Malecón where many locals hang out at night. The Malecón is a roadway and seawall along the coast, which is a great spot to get some relief from the heat.

Tuesday

Day trip to Viñales… coming tomorrow! Stop back to read more.

Wednesday

Spend the morning roaming around Old Havana and pick up any last minute cigars you want to bring back home, grab a street churro for one last sweet taste of Cuba and head to the airport.

Sips

La Floridita– bright pink right at the top of Ospibo St (Bishop St). A bit touristy but the location boasts it’s most famous guest Ernest Hemingway.

La Bodeguita Del Medio- definitely touristy but this is where the mojito was created. There is always a crowd but great live music. Perfect to catch a mid day cocktail while you explore the streets of Havana

Hotel Saratoga rooftop – poolside drinks with a great view of the city. Perfect for a relaxing night.

Hotel Nacional de Cuba– this infamous hotel is great for a drink out on the veranda. Easily the best mojitos in Havana and a great spot to put up your feet and enjoy a cuban cigar

Dancing

King Bar– lots of dancing and live music, very much a club atmosphere but a lot of fun

Fabrica de Arte– probably my favorite evening out in Havana. Fabrica de Arte is an incredibly restored warehouse that is a night club combined with an art museum. Plan to spend all night here as between the art, live music and incredible DJ’s, you won’t want to leave. The line is incredibly long and starts to form early but if you’re dying to get in, you can sweet talk the bouncers for a few CUCs.

Casa de musica- live music and two shows a night, go early to avoid the line

Eats

El Cocinero- directly next door to Fabrica de Arte, this nondescript restaurant has amazing rooftop dining. Definitely ask to be seated on the roof

La Guarida– this “hideaway” paladar is one of the most unique places to dine in all of Havana. The restaurant sits inside what appears to be a run down building but once inside, you’ll see all the charm La Guarida has to offer. Asked to be seated on the roof and make sure to go up to the highest point for an incredible 360 degree view of Havana

Paladar Atelier – this paladar is one the most highly rated restaurants in all of Havana. The food options may seem a little odd on the menu but friends agreed it was one of the best meals of their life. I had to agree.

StarBien Restaurante- a quieter paladar in a residential area in a beautifully restored home. Asked to be seated outside and enjoy the Italian/ Cuban fusion.

*make all dinner reservations prior to arriving in Cuba, check out more tips from yesterday’s post

Overall, there are so many places to “get lost” in while visiting Cuba. The people are so friendly so if you need help or are looking for a recommendation, just ask! There were so many no-name places we stopped into to grab a drink which were all fantastic.

Feel free to reach out with any questions. If you’ve traveled to Cuba before, is there anything I’ve missed?

Cheers,

Cuba Travel Tips

I’m so excited to finally share my Cuba travel guide with you! I’ve been lucky enough to travel to many beautiful countries but I can honestly say Cuba ranks very highly amongst them. Since the embargo was lifted, Americans citizens can now fly directly to Havana from most international airports. Cuba’s main months for tourism are from November-early May, so I took advantage of the last week in April to indulge in all the Cuban culture I could soak up in one week.

Since there are so many good tidbits to share, I’m going to be sharing travel tips and itineraries over the next few days. Below you’ll read some of tips I picked up on while traveling to Cuba…

cruising down the streets of Havana in classic cars

Visas– Americans are still required to carry a visa and list one of 12 reasons to visit Cuba. Most tourists are able to obtain an Education/ People to People visa. Check your departure airport but most airports have designated areas to get your visa on the day of your departure for $50 or $75. Just plan to arrive earlier than normal as there is usually a line.

Checking bags– Not something I recommend. I had heard not to check bags but alas, my flight was full so several passengers had to check their bags and I was one of the lucky few that were chosen. Bags that are checked are subject to extensive search and Cuba hasn’t quite conquered the amount bags coming through security.. it took over an hour and a half for my bag to come out. My recommendation would be to plan to carry on and make sure you have priority boarding so you can absolutely take your bag with you.

Currency– despite what anyone may tell you, Cuba does NOT accept ANY American credit cards so be prepared to bring a stack of cash. Most airports do not keep CUCs in their currency exchange so it’s best to exchange to Euros or Canadian dollars in the US and then exchange in Cuba.

Tours– I was skeptical about scheduling tours as sometimes I feel they can be a bit of rip off . For this trip, I wanted to make sure I got my bearings of the city so I scheduled a tour with Locally Sourced Havana Tours (formally known as Havana Tour Company) for our first full day. I’m so glad we did. Not only was the tour incredible, local and authentic, our whole group ended up going out together that night and danced the night away. Saul, our tour guide, was incredible I highly recommend booking a day with him. We also did a private tour of Viñales, which was incredible. I never even saw other tourists the entire day. Yaniel, our tour guide, took us to an incredible organic farm for lunch, the underwater caves, horseback riding through an organic tobacco field and the Silent Valley. It was incredible. More to come on Viñales this week, too!

our airbnb front courtyard was so dreamy

Airbnb– another issue was a skeptical on but Casa Particulars (aka Airbnb) are 100% the way to go in Cuba. The hotels are nice but overall outdated, very expensive and several are own by the government. Casas are a perfect way to see Havana like a local. I could NOT recommend our Airbnb more. Sonmy and her husband were fantastic hosts and their home is beautiful. Just make sure to choose a Casa with air conditioning- you’ll want a little relief from the heat at night.

Where to Stay– There are a plethora of Casas to choose from in the various neighborhoods of Havana but we chose to stay in Miramar which was perfect. It was just a short ride in a taxi colectivo to Parque Central and it was quiet at night. Note that Havana nights are very lively (read: loud).

Cabs– getting around Cuba is incredibly easy. There are always taxis in populated areas, especially near hotels but it’s must easier to get a taxi colectivo from the side of the road. Think of it as Cuban Uber. You hail a taxi colectivo on the side of the road, let the driver know where you are going and pay a fraction of what you’d pay for a regular cab. There are also many classic cars you can take as a taxi too, which I definitely did a few nights for dinner. They’re pretty cool.

Reservations– with the influx if tourists from all around the world, many of the restaurants fill up quickly. Be sure to make reservations prior to arriving so you won’t miss out. Check back tomorrow for a list of my favorite places to dine.

Cuban architecture is all in the details

Language– make sure to brush up your Spanish before landing in Cuba. While many restaurants have English speaking waiters, almost all cab drivers or taxi colectivo drivers do not.

Wifi– Wifi is still VERY hard to come buy in Cuba. Most hotels in Havana have wifi cards available but they are for guests only. There are also wifi parks every few blocks in Cuba where you can purchase a card (about 3 CUCs) for an hour and log on there. You’ll know how to find these parks because you’ll see a large group of people on their phones. In all honesty, disconnecting and indulging in the culture (versus scrolling through Instagram) is the way to see Cuba.

People of Cuba– The Cuban people are incredible. They are excited to see their country boom with tourism and are one of the more friendly cultures of places I have visited. I recommend bringing a few extra toiletries with you as the stuff we take for granted is hard to come by or very expensive in Cuba.

The Beach– While planning this trip- I kept reading the beaches of Veradero were not to be missed. Veradero is about three hours from Havana and while we had a trip to Viñales planned, I wasn’t sure we’d be able to accomplish both. Once in Havana, we heard that Playa del Santa Maria was just as beautiful and only a 40 minute drive. The ocean is literally five different shades of blue! We spent Sunday at the beach which is what many local Cubans do as well. Don’t feel like you’re confined to Havana if you’re only staying for a short trip – definitely recommend a trip to Playa del Santa Maria.

Tomorrow I’m sharing my Havana itinerary and all the best spots for sips and eats. You don’t want to miss it!

Cheers,

The Greenbrier: My Trip + Review

Growing up, we’d spend a week of the summer every year at The Greenbrier. The resort is a 5 star gem nestled in the mountains of White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Built in 1778, this incredible venue has hosted some of the world’s most prestigious guests, spent time as a hospital and even housed a secret congressional bunker. The history alone is incredible.

Between Christmas & New Years, my family decided to schedule a quick trip & much needed get away. The Greenbrier is decorated to the nines year round (Dorothy Draper’s magnum opus) but during Christmas, houses of 75 impeccable trees as well.

One of my favorite aspects of The Greenbrier are all the events, amenities & activities it has to offer. The resort is home to five golf courses, an incredible spa, indoor/ outdoor tennis courts and pools, a casino as well as several amazing dining options. Fly fishing, horse back riding, skeet shooting & off roading in the mountains, the outdoor activities are equally as incredible as the surroundings. You really get the most perfect balance of fighting boredom & achieving relaxation.

On our most recent trip, we took an incredible Holiday Mixology class with Henry Hill, who was recently featured in Southern Living magazine. The lead mixologist at The Greenbrier shared his tips on an incredible pumpkin old fashioned and sweet holiday punch. We made time ice skate, tour the bunker and watch Christmas movies in the gorgeous theater. Perhaps my favorite daily ritual is high tea (ok AND the evening champagne toast!)

If you’re not in driving distance, it’s just a short trip from DC and accessible by train. I can’t emphasize enough how stunning this resort is, every moment is 5 star from the second you walk through the door.

Cheers!