A First Timer’s Guide to Nashville

If you’re a fan of country music, chances are you’ve thought about visiting Nashville (and if you haven’t, well you should!). Heck, even if you aren’t into country music I can almost guarantee you will still find something to love about Nashville when you go. It’s one of my favorite cities, not only because of the amazing music there, but also for the food, shopping, bars and of course the people!

Where to stay:

$$$

Opryland hotel

Perfect if you have small kids, or if you’re just wanting to enjoy the hotel amenities. Even if you don’t stay the night, visiting during Christmas time is a fun activity as they have pretty lights decorating the entire hotel, and the Gaylord ice show going on. If you plan on spending most your time on broadway and downtown I don’t recommend staying here because it’s about 30 minutes away.

$$

On Broadway Courtyard Marriott

This is where my friends and I have stayed twice now. It’s a great location within walking distance of broadway, and the rooms are very nice. If you don’t want to be right in the middle of all the chaos of broadway but still close by this is perfect

$ Air b&b

If you don’t want to spend a ton of money, air b&b is the way to go, or finding something just a short Uber away from broadway. Pretty much every weekend Nashville has bachelor and bachelorette parties happening, so rooms are going to be pricier, but it looks like air b&b has a lot better deals than hotels if you want to budget.

Areas to visit:

Broadway

This is the busiest street in Nashville, and where you’ll find all the tourists. Being a tourist myself, I still have a blast going to the bars on broadway. There’s always good music, almost every bar has bbq food and a restaurant section that’s not so loud as the bar, and the ambiance is always fun. Only downside is drinks are going to be on the pricier side here as opposed to the less touristy spots.

 

The Gulch

This is a cute up and coming area about a 5 minute drive from Broadway filled with breweries, shops, street art and cute apartments and houses. 12 south is the street you want to be on, which is where most the shopping is, along with some famous murals (see Instagram worthy spots below)

Frothy Monkey for an amazing cup of coffee!

 

Where to eat:

Hattie B’s

Best Nashville hot chicken I’ve ever had. I got boneless and it was perfect! Side of fries and mac n’ cheese (super healthy, as always haha). I have yet to try Prince’s but have heard amazing things about that place too!

Biscuit Love

A carb lovers dream. I ordered the breakfast platter that came with eggs, bacon, grits, potatoes and a biscuit. It’s one of those order at the counter then take a number and sit place (actually most the places near broadway seem to be like this). So the service was fast and the food was amazing! We did go on a weekday so it wasn’t as crowded but I hear it gets busy so go early!

 

Five Daughters

The famous bakery known for its hundred layer donuts. I’m happy to report they did not disappoint. I got a cranberry pistachio donut and it sounds odd but it was delicious.

 

Peg leg porker

One of my favorite bbq spots! It’s not on broadway, or in the gulch it’s actually kind of on a random back street. But the food is to die for! Get the brisket and Mac n cheese!

Pinewood Social

The perfect brunch spot! This is the cute restaurant in Nashville you always see with the bowling alley inside. The food is amazing and the ambiance is perfect for anyone!

 

Urban Grub

This place is seriously so cute! They’re able to accommodate large groups, have indoor and outdoor seating and have the best appetizers! Think oysters, charcuterie boards, etc. Everything here is so tasty and it’s always a fun environment!

 

Sight seeing:

Pedestrian bridge

A great spot to take some group photos, and get a good view of the skyline. Rent a bird scooter and scoot your way across the whole bridge or take a nice long walk.

 

Grand ole opry

A country music fans dream. If you don’t know, the Grand Ole Opry is a weekly country music stage concert in Nashville, Tennessee founded on November 28, 1925, by George D. Hay as a one-hour radio “barn dance” on WSM. Currently owned and operated by Opry Entertainment, it is the longest running radio broadcast in US history. Tourists are able to get tours of the studio, and also buy tickets to see a live show! Sometimes they have surprise guests who are pretty big. Every night they have a few artists from the past, a few up and coming, and a few current popular artists. It’s a huge honor to play live at the Opry, and even more so to be inducted into the family as a member. I highly highly recommend going to see a show and getting the tour! You never know who you might see.

 

Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

A great thing to do on a rainy day is visit one of the several museums in Nashville. One of my personal favorites is the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum which has plenty of country music artifacts new and old, featuring both temporary and permanent exhibits.

 

Where to drink:

⁃ Whiskey row

⁃ Jason Aldean

⁃ Acme

⁃ George Jones

⁃ Honky Tonk

⁃ Florida Georgia

⁃ Frothy monkey

⁃ Jackalope

My favorite spots for the music and a fun crowd are Whiskey row, Jason Aldean and Honky Tonk. If you’re there with. Big group the dueling piano bar on broadway is a blast too (especially if it’s a bachelorette party or something like that). Acme has amazing food and George Jones rooftop bar has a great view across the river plus a more chill vibe with great live music. If you’re looking for some good coffee, frothy monkey is always a favorite and if you’re looking for some good breweries check out the gulch area. Jackalope is my favorite!

Pedal Tavern

One of my favorite parts of my friend’s bachelorette party in Nashville was the pedal tavern we all rented! If you don’t know what it is, look it up. They’re popping up all over the place, but have been in Nashville for a while. Basically if you have a big group this is a perfect way to bar hop and see the city. A pedal tavern  basically a trolley that you all pedal to keep moving, and you’re going to have a “driver” with you as well. Basically they’re going to be your tour guide, bartender, DJ, and steer for you while everyone else onboard keeps the thing moving. I think it was around $60 a person when we did it, and you do have to bring your own booze, but you also get really good drink specials at all the bars you stop at. Not to mention IT’S SO FUN! Highly recommend doing this regardless, but if you have a bachelor or bachelorette group its a must!

 

Instagrammable spots:

⁃ I believe in Nashville mural

⁃ What Lifts You Wings

⁃ Biscuit love Nashville sign

⁃ Pedestrian bridge city skyline

⁃ Acme or George Jones rooftop

⁃ Honky Tonk balcony (2nd or 3rd floor)

 

One last thing before you go! 

If you’re on the market for some new cowboy boots this is the place to buy them! They have so many deals and sales constantly, and you can find anything from a $20 pair to $500+ really nice ones! It’s fun to just look around the shops on broadway and around Nashville regardless, so go check it out!

 

I hope this gave you some ideas on what to see in Nashville next time you visit! Or if it’s your first time a little guide of what to expect!

 

 

 

A Guide to Portugal’s Best Kept Secret: The Algarve Coast (Lagos)

The algarve coast is hands down Portugal’s best kept secret. I never would have imagined the Gatorade blue water, grottos, and mountains that surround southern Portugal to be so beautiful (in fact, I didn’t even know they existed until a few months ago!).

Just about a 3 hour drive from Lisbon, Lagos is a must stop spot in Portugal if you’re going to be there more than a few days. Or if you’re crazy like me, you can manage to see Lisbon, Cascais and Lagos all in 4 days total. Yes it’s exhausting but my recent trip is proof that it’s doable.

Algarve is the southernmost part of Portugal home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe if I do say so myself. Really, a lot of it reminded me of my trip to Greece. The grottos, rock formations and ice blue water was more than anything I could’ve asked for when visiting Portugal. There is so much to see on the Algarve coast, but this post will focus on Lagos, which is the town I recommend basing yourself in when visiting this area.

Sights to See

  • Ponta de Piedade
  • Praia dos Estudantes
  • Marina de Lagos

Ponta de Piedade

This overlook is what drew me to visit Lagos in the first place:

Once you drive up to the top you will see what I mean, it seems no matter where you look you are getting a beautiful view of the ocean, and rock formations surrounding the cliffs. You’re also able to take some steps to get to the bottom, where some locals have set up grotto boat tours to take you through the rocks and into caves.

The tide differential is huge here (10+ ft) so at low tide you will be able to walk around the very same area the boat tours were taking people through just a few hours earlier.

 

Praia dos Estudantes

This sandy beach is hidden between cliffs, and has manmade tunnels connecting it to it’s neighboring beach, Praia da Batata beach. Make sure you pay attention to the tides though, as it gets harder to pass through when the water is high. There’s also an arch connecting two of the rock formations, which makes for a great photo op!

 

Marina de Lagos

The marina, built in 1994 is a hotspot for tourists and locals, filled with plenty of restaurants and cafes overlooking the boats, as well as the meeting spot for many of the excursions and boat tours you can take out of Lagos. Stop by and take some pictures, or grab something to eat or drink before you head out on a tour!

 

What to Eat & Where

  • Casinha Do Petisco “De Luis Rosa” (Known for having the best Cataplana)
  • Restaurante Ala do Castelo (This is where we got the amazing shrimp)
  • Goji Cafe (Lots of vegetarian and vegan options)

The beautiful street we took to get to Goji Cafe

The cutest little cafe! I got an açaí bowl and matcha latte, Colton got a pesto chicken sandwich and a coffee that came with a scoop of ice-cream on top! SO GOOD.

 

  • Cataplana (A special seafood stew served with rice filled with mussels, clams, octopus and so much more)
  • Pasteis de Nata (Vanilla cream puff pastry)
  • Shrimp Mozambique (The most flavorful, spicy, sweet & garlic shrimp you’ve ever had)

What to Do

  • Fishing
  • Kayaking
  • Grotto Boat Rides
  • Paddle boarding

All of these are excursions you can easily book through your hotel, or by visiting the local marina and going to one of the tourist desks in between the restaurants. The only one we opted for was fishing since we were short on time, and all we did was a short trip. The water was rough and it wasn’t the right time of year for a lot of the fish we were interested in catching, but we went anyways just for fun to see if we got a good one. We ended up catching only little ones but it was still fun!

 

Where to Stay

The Vila Graciosa- Tranquility Oasis Bed & Breakfast is where Colton and I stayed for our trip. We came across it on booking.com,  did a drive by to check it out, and ended up booking it right there on the spot. The location is PERFECT, it was within 10 minutes of everything we wanted to do, and the price was very reasonable. The rooms were clean and the pool area was super cute. They also had massages you could book in advance to get by the pool, and a buffet breakfast you could pay a little extra for every day.

I loved how colorful their buildings were!

This was one of the hotels I found with the beautiful views, and a modern, sleek look to the rooms. The prices were high when we looked at this hotel, but you can find these rooms for well under $100 a night if you book in advance.

Another hotel I looked at booking, but they were sold out on our dates. It has a super cute rooftop pool and cafe overlooking the beach, and was priced really well. This one also had great reviews.

Keep in mind Portugal is one of the cheapest countries in Europe to travel to, so even the more expensive hotels here are a lot less than some other not so nice hotels and resorts in other cities in Europe may cost you. My “$$$” price scale is based off average rates, and in comparison to other hotels in Portugal.

We absolutely loved our time in Portugal, and hope some of these photos have inspired you to visit this beautiful country!

 

 

 

4 Ways to Pack Smarter for your Next Trip

Last year I was able to visit Hong Kong (and Thailand) and it seriously the most amazing trip. But trying to figure out how to pack for a trip to Asia for a week using only a carryon was a little stressful. So here are a few of the tips I used when packing for my trip abroad to Asia so I wouldn’t overpack:

1. Plan your days:

My number one tip to getting ready for a trip is to have a general itinerary of what you’re going to do each day so you can pack just one outfit for each day you’ll be there. I’ll repeat this, DECIDE ON JUST ONE OUTFIT PER DAY. In order to do this you’ll need to know more or less what you’ll be doing. Will you be walking a lot? Wear comfy shoes. Will you be going somewhere cold? Bring a jacket you can layer with plenty of outfits. Is it going to possibly rain? Don’t forget a light rain jacket. Checking the weather is very important before you start packing. Don’t assume it’s warm where you’re going just because it’s summertime where you are from!

2. Buy packing cubes:

These little organizers have seriously saved my life. I like to have one for each pair of shoes, one for my undergarments, socks and swimsuits, one for activewear, and one for my regular clothes and dressier outfits. Not only do packing cubes keep things organized but they also help keep things less wrinkled and clean. Put some drier sheets in there and it’ll smell amazing!  I bought mine from eBags but you can find them at plenty of department stores now.

3. Only bring the necessities:

If you think it’s impossible to travel with only a carry on, then you’re packing too much! Try to bring clothes that you can mix and match to create different outfits out of. Black leggings (or shorts if you’re a guy) are my go to item that I ALWAYS have in my bag. I wear them on hikes, or I can dress it up with a cute top to wear around a city. When it comes to toiletries, only bring carry on size items. You don’t need a huge shampoo bottle and a full sized lotion. Just bring what you need!! Nowadays there are a ton of options that are available to you that not only are travel sized but liquid alternatives as well! Lush has an amazing shampoo bar and conditioner bar that will last you well over 60 washes. It looks like a bar of soap and will fit perfectly in your carry on without breaking any liquid rules at the airport.

4. Invest in good luggage:

There’s nothing worse than having your luggage break mid trip. If you’re going to Asia specifically I highly suggest investing in a good backpack because chances are you’re going to want to stop at a few places, and you’ll be taking public transportation such as a bus, train or ferry to get to where you need to go. Having a rollaboard is convenient for carrying around on a good smooth road, but when I went to Asia I found that having a back to carry everything in made the travel so much easier than rolling a suitcase around.

So those are my top 4 tips for traveling light and traveling far! I hope these suggestions help you pack for your trip to Asia, or wherever you may be going soon!!

 

10 Easy Last Minute Halloween Costumes

Halloween is definitely one of those holidays that sneaks up on you. No pun intended. And finding a costume last minute that doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg can be a struggle, especially if you don’t want to settle on dressing up as a black cat for the 10th year in a row… So I’ve put together 10 ideas I thought of on the airplane today for Halloween costumes you can make from things you (mostly) already have in your closet. No promises some won’t be basic though, maybe next time ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  1. Sugar Skull

One of my favorite costumes I’ve done is dressing up like a sugar skull from Mexico’s celebration of life and death, “The Day of the Dead” or “Día de Muertos”.

You can put this together with pretty much any clothes you already have, as it focuses around your face makeup and accessories. The only thing I had to buy that I didn’t already have was a flower crown, which I actually made from fake roses, a hot glue gun and a cheap headband I bought from the dollar store. I wore a black dress I already owned, but you could wear black leggings and a black top, or opt for a very colorful route like these girls below did. Makeup-wise I just used stuff I already had in my makeup bag: Eyeshadows, red lipstick, black eyeliner, Light face powder etc. You can make it as simple or complicated as you want!

 

2. Sandy from Grease

This was my friend’s go-to the same year I was the sugar skull. Another costume that you can most likely throw together with things you have in your closet, consisting of black leather pants, a black top & red shoes. Curl your hair in curls as tight as you can to top it off!

 

3. Law Enforcement

I’ll admit this one has been overdone a lot, but still a classic! One that does’t require any special makeup either if that isn’t your thing. Once again, an all black outfit works perfectly, but if you happen to pick up a shirt that says SWAT, FBI, etc. that works even better! If you can’t find a cheap one you can buy some iron on letters and make it yourself for a few dollars. Don’t forget to add your aviator shades and some plastic handcuffs if you can get your hands on some to hang around your belt loop.

 

 

4. Deer

Another one that I’ve seen a lot lately, but it’s what I dressed as last year (and my boyfriend in camo) after we decided to go to a Halloween party last minute. I threw together some black knee highs, a brown skirt, and white tank top, found some antlers and a headband at a craft store and glued it together to turn myself into a deer (hey, at least it’s not as basic as a cat…). If you don’t have time to make antlers just put your hair in two top knots. For makeup, do some contouring but exaggerate it. Extra bronze on the outside and very white in the middle. Draw a black nose if you want, and some white spots around your cheek, and forehead area. Super easy!

 

5. m&m

For my minimalists, Go out and buy an oversized plain colored shirt, some white puffy paint, or an iron on letter. Throw a white “m” on there and you’re done. No crazy makeup, or shoes, or anything else really. So if you’re not feeling like doing anything wild but don’t want to be labeled as the person who didn’t dress up at the halloween party- here you go.

 

6. Mermaid

This one’s been my go to for the last few years now. Although I used to put much more effort into this one (cue the bedazzled shell top). Find yourself a lime green maxi skirt (or green leggings) and a purple tank top. Paint (or iron on) two black shells over the shirt, and put a starfish clip in your hair, and as much seashell jewelry you can find. Use a colorful eyeshadow and extra highlighter in your makeup!

This but with shells instead of hearts! (and purple)

 

8. Viking

Here’s one I really haven’t seen too much, but Amber Fillerup killed it so I had to add it to the list. You can get pretty creative with your outfit this time, but a simple dress or maxi and a fur vest or coat will work perfectly. If you have gladiator/lace up sandals they will go perfect with this outfit!

 

9. Princess Leia

For all my Star Wars fans out there, fear not. You don’t have to buy an expensive costume to dress the part (or at least we don’t, ladies). If you want to dress up as the princess, throw your hair into two buns on each side of your head, and wear a long sleeve white dress with boots, or white pants and white shirt. If you can find a belt to match that’s a plus. No crazy makeup here, just do you. May the force be with you.

 

10. Skeleton

This one has been pretty trendy lately, so it’s not hard to find a skeleton onesie or body suit to wear, but if you can’t find one just wear all black. You could also attempt to make your own with cheap black leggings, a black tank top, and some white puffy paint. Paint at least half of your face to resemble a skull and you’re good to go.

 

Hope these helped a little if you were still looking for a costume for tomorrow!

 

**Not all photos are my own, and are linked to the appropriate sources**

Know Before You Go: 10 Things to Know Before Visiting Thailand

If you’re from the states like me, visiting a foreign country as far away as Asia can feel a little overwhelming as you begin to plan. So if you’re planning on visiting Thailand soon, here are 10 quick tips to make your vacation easier.

1.Take cash out

Lucky for people from the states, the exchange rate for the dollar to the Thai baht is almost 1:33. That being said, many places in thailand only except cash (food stands, tuk tuks, bars etc.) so it’s important you keep cash on you at all times!

2. Tipping

Tipping isn’t necessary in most situations, nor is it expected unless we’re talking about a private tour guide or occasionally rounding up a taxi fair. If you do feel like tipping at restaurants and bars, leaving the change from your bill is totally acceptable.

3. Transportation

Depending on where you’re staying in Thailand, you will have a few different ways to get around. The most popular being renting scooters or taking Tuk Tuks. Other options might include ferries and speed boats in the islands, or busses if you are going long distances. From what I saw in Phuket, I would not reccomend renting a scooter unless you feel extremely comfortable driving one. There aren’t too many street signs or lights in southern Thailand and people drive kind of crazy. If you’re just trying to go short distances, tuk tuks are definitely the way to go.

4. People really ARE that nice!

Don’t be surprised if people come up to talk to you or ask if you need help finding something. The Thai people are genuinely some of the nicest people I have ever met, and they really do seem to love all the tourists their country brings in.

5. Try all the tropical fruits

Southeast Asia is not only home to some of the best Thai food and curries I’ve ever had in my life, but also some of the best tropical fruit. You can find dragon fruit, lychee, jackfruit, guava and passionfruit everywhere just to name a few of my favorites! Not only that, they don’t come with the expensive prices they have in the U.S. for being imported fruits.

6. Eat your vitamins

I never understood why my mom was so obsessed with making me take vitamins as a kid until now. Traveling is going to make you sick. You need to prepare for that, but if you can prevent it that’s even better. One way to keep from getting sick on vacations is to take plenty of vitamins. My go-to’s are Zinc, Elderberry and Charcoal pills. When I’m at home I try to take these whenever I feel like I might be getting sick, or when something’s in the air, but when I travel I take them every day meticulously.

7. Coverup when visiting Temples

The buddhist temples in Thailand are beautiful, and have become a very popular tourist attraction, but we need to remember that this is a sacred place for many Thai people, and visitors alike. It’s not uncommon to be turned away if you aren’t dressed appropriately when visiting the temples. It’s understandable to be wearing light clothing because of the heat, but if you don’t want to wear pants or a modest shirt all day, I suggest bringing a kimono for your shoulders and a light sarong to wrap around your waist if you are in shorts.

8. Book in advance

During peak season, it’s important to book certain activities in advance. Specifically ones such as elephant sanctuaries that may not be as common as boat tours, etc.

9. Do your research on animal “sanctuaries”

Speaking of elephant sanctuaries, make sure you do your research before you book one. Thailand is home to hundreds of animal tourism spots, but only a few are really considered to be ethical. Familiarize yourself with these, and make sure you aren’t giving your money to people who are only using it to abuse and neglect these animals more! In Phuket the only elephant sanctuary I could find that was truly ethical was Phuket Elephant Sanctuary. If you want to learn more about it you can click here to watch one of their videos. I’m focusing on elephants because this is the activity we chose to do, but the same goes for tiger encounters, monkey handlers you can find on the beach, and more.

10. Don’t drink the water (ice is fine)

This goes without saying in most foreign countries, but do not drink their tap water. Just because the people who live there drink it does not mean your stomach will be able to handle it. Apparently the ice is fine though, because there are plenty of ice factories that make ice with purified water. Businesses will buy from them rather than waste time making their own 99% of the time.

 

I hope you find some of these helpful before you visit this beautiful country! What are your best travel tips for visiting Thailand?