Three Days on the Amalfi Coast

Honeymoon Part 1

One of the best parts of getting married? The honeymoon! After much thought, we decided to embark on a European tour over two weeks covering London, Italy, Switzerland and Paris.

As the designated travel planner, I researched tons of cities and regions, but after many trips with Matt, we luckily know what we like and don’t like, so it was fairly easy to figure out where we’d want to go. In Italy, we chose the Amalfi Coast and Tuscany, which were both much more amazing than we could’ve imagined.

Before I get to our favorites, here are some interesting things to note about Italy, mostly related to food:

  • Bread, napkins, and olive oil are an automatic cover charge at pretty much any given restaurant. That means if you eat every meal out since you’re traveling, you will be welcomed with three baskets of bread throughout the day.
  • Most restaurants don’t open for dinner until 7:30 pm. For those of us who are hungry every two hours, this takes some careful planning and preparation to make sure you can survive the hours leading up until dinner.
  • Just like bread, cheese and meat are staples in every meal. Luckily it’s not processed because if I ate like that in the US I would have easily gained 20 pounds while on our trip.
  • Most bars give out potato chips or peanuts with your drinks, but don’t serve food.
  • All bathrooms are for guys and girls. And many don’t have toilet seats. Luckily I am a pro-squatter.
  • Just like Mexico has homeless dogs walking around, Italy has cats. Tons of cats.
  • Italians know how to maximize their planting. Every public street has loads of fruit trees growing things like blood oranges, pomegranates, and lemons. Our hotel in Sorrento had kiwis growing on the pathway leading to the front door!

Amalfi Coast

If I had one word to explain the Amalfi Coast, I would have to use magical. Between the views, the cascading bougainvillea, and the crystal clear water, it’s quite the vacation spot.

While in the Amalfi region, we stayed in Sorrento for one night and Positano for two nights. While they look close, traffic adds on significant amount of time, and therefore getting around the Amalfi Coast is pretty expensive. The bus is a cheaper option but of course takes even longer.

We found that every website acts like everything is so close but in reality, it takes about 45 minutes to get to and from anywhere you want to go. I thought we would be bopping from town to town, but unless you want to spend your trip savings on transportation, I would definitely recommend choosing one or two places as a home base and make sure they are close to any other city you want to go.

Transportation Costs

  • Car from Naples airport to Sorrento – 110 euros / one hour
  • Car from Sorrento to Positano – 80 euros / 45 minutes
  • Car from Positano to Naples train station – 120 euros / one hour
  • Ferry from Sorrento to Capri – 76 euros / 25 minutes each way

Sorrento

  • Ristorante Fuoro. The lemon shrimp pasta was the best pasta dish I’ve ever had in my life. Top that off with the caprese salad and a bottle of Fuore Marisa Chrome Costa D’Amalfi and we were in absolute heaven.
  • Hotel Favorita bar. We were in awe of the architecture and design. On level two there is a secret garden which is perfect for a night cap and there is also a rooftop bar but we didn’t make it over when it was open.
  • Villa Angiolina. We loved staying at this adorable boutique hotel. It’s affordable and easily walk able to the downtown area.

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Capri

There are two options for getting to the main part of Capri from the ferry landing: hike up the hills or take the shuttle. We opted for hiking up the hills which would’ve been pretty miserable had it been summer, but luckily we were in need of a little post-night out sweat, so it worked out great.

What we didn’t know about about Capri was how much upscale shopping there is in the main part of town. To avoid the crowds, we cruised around the smaller backstreets and hiked up to the Arco viewpoint and saw about three people on our way there.

  • Le Camerelle. While the food wasn’t great, we liked being able to see views of both the water, mountains and the town from here. Plus, it’s super cute, great for people watching, and the white wine is delicious.
  • Giardini di Augusto. For a very small fee (I think it was two euros each), you can get check out this beautiful garden perched on a hilltop and get some pretty spectacular views of Capri.

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Positano

  • Chez Black. The pizza here is incredible. I went for the buffalo mozzarella pizza since mozzarella di bufala is apparently extremely popular in Italy.
  • Le Terrazze. Drinks on a cute outdoor patio with awesome sunset views.
  • Lucibello boat charters. For 120 euros, we chartered our own wooden boat for 5 hours. This turned out to be an amazing way to check out the Amalfi Coast – from the water! It took us about an hour to get to Amalfi, where we got out and grabbed lunch. On our way back, we grabbed some cheese, meat and wine from a couple local shops and had ourselves a little boat picnic in the cove near the Emerald Grotto.
  • Fly Bar. This extremely cool lounge is above Music on the Rocks, the late night hot spot in Positano. It’s pricey, so you may as well splurge on your 19 euro cocktail instead of paying 14 euros for their (light) beer. Worth it for the views and atmosphere!
  • Max. A friend recommended this place for dinner and we were blown away. As a huge fan of Cucina Enoteca, I had to get the ricotta stuffed squash blossoms of course and they did not disappoint. Max doubles as a cooking school, in case you want to make an activity out of it.
  • Villa Rosa. With some incredible views of the ocean and the classic adorable-Positano-houses-on-the-hillside, this boutique hotel serves breakfast on your own private patio. The perfect honeymoon spot. Not to mention it’s in a great location, across from 1 Michelin-star restaurant La Sponda and up the street from the main downtown area.

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Stay tuned for my next post on Tuscany!

 

ClaudettesCorner

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Yellowstone National Park: A 3 Day Itinerary

First of all, if you haven’t been, you should go.

Yellowstone is basically a big figure 8 so you can take in the entire park over a few days. The park is completely magical, with an incredible amount of variation in the landscape at every turn.

We flew into Bozeman, MT and drove down through West Yellowstone. Below is a map of our route through the park; Day 1 = Red; Day 2 = Purple; Day 3; Orange. We originally planned to skip Canyon to Norris to Mammoth Hot Springs, but due to an accident, we ended up doing some backtracking on Day 3. Turns out the route from Norris to Mammoth is the least popular which worked in our favor since we loved the scenery and seclusion on our stops.

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What to See & Do

Sunrise over Lamar Valley. The amount of wildlife waking up and cruising around at that time was unlike anything. It was silent, pitch black and honestly a little scary driving over there from Roosevelt Lodge, especially since we woke up an extra hour early because the waitress thought the sun rose earlier than it did. Once we finally started to see a little bit of pale blue light rippling across the valley, we were amazed by the enormity and beauty. Not only that, but we heard and partially saw a bear just down by the river. By partially, I mean it was still dark so we saw a big hunched over animal that were assumed was a bison until we heard the sound it made.

Tower Falls. Two words. Truly EPIC.

Wraith Falls. This was a much more secluded waterfall which we liked a lot! It was raining when we walked up the trail and bright and sunny coming down. You never know what you’re gonna get!

Yellowstone River.

Roosevelt to Canyon. This drive was a trip! We went from a hot and sunny hike at Tower Falls to wind & snow at 10,000 ft near Mt. Washburn.

Tons of wildlife. Over the course of our 3 days in the park, we saw turkeys, elk, antelope, wolves (well, Matt saw 2 but I didn’t get a glimpse), a bear, and seriously hundreds of bison.

Where to Eat

Lake Lodge. We came here for dinner but I would definitely recommend going during the day for lake front views. It’s “fancy” for Yellowstone and there was a wait, so make sure to reserve your table or come early.

Old Faithful Lodge. Matt’s dad instructed us to drink a beer at the bar. We got mixed up and went to the other Old Faithful hotel across the way which wasn’t that exciting, so I recommend taking him up on his suggestion.

Roosevelt Lodge. There’s only one place to eat here so you don’t have a choice but I would recommend it if you’re staying there or not. I am now addicted to smoked trout, which I didn’t know was a thing. They also have the best huckleberry pancakes.

Where to Stay

There are lodges and cabins around the park that are very affordable ($75-$100 per night), but you have to book ahead.A lot of people stay in the town just outside of Mammoth Hot Springs and commute in, but we absolutely loved being able to spend each night in the park.

Lake Cabins. We loved waking up in the morning and walking out of our cabin and straight over to Yellowstone Lake. The lodge has a camp style breakfast and amazing views of the lake as well.

Roosevelt Lodge. We may or may not have smoked out our cabin with our wood burning stove but this place was so peaceful to stay at. My favorite part was watching a herd of bison trek their way in a single file line at sunset while we sipped on beer in rocking chairs on the front porch of the main lodge. I mean, what else can you ask for?

Mammoth Hot Springs. By far the most upgraded cabin we stayed in, our cabin was in the semi-large and busy town of Mammoth Hot Springs. There are a few places to eat here as well as hiking trails and of course, the hot springs within walking distance.

Bison cruising around the valleyGrand Prismatic SpringSomewhere along Morris to MammothEn route to Wraith FallsMammoth Hot SpringsAnother view of Yellowstone River

Next time we go back, we plan to check out Grand Teton National Park and leave Yellowstone through Beartooth Highway and back up to Bozeman. We can’t wait to come back!

 

ClaudettesCorner

Photo Guide to Puerto Vallarta

Over Easter weekend, Matt and I took a very last minute vacation to Puerto Vallarta. I had never been to Mexico so this was a great first trip across the border.

However, I did end up with Montezuma’s revenge after I got a little carried away with my tolerance and bought a strawberry vodka slushy. But come on…how good does that sound? Unfortunately, I didn’t really get to enjoy much food after that day so my actual food suggestions are minimal and mostly based on Matt’s opinion and the view. Aside from that, we still had a great time and I’m excited to go back and check out Sayulita for a wedding next spring.

Where to Stay

Grand Miramar. Hands down best hotel we’ve ever stayed at. The staff is incredibly friendly and accommodating, the service is incredible (although slow like everywhere else seems to be), the views are insane, as were the grounds.

We chose to stay in Conchas Chinas, otherwise known as the Beverly Hills of Puerto Vallarta, because we wanted to be close enough to downtown while not being right in the middle of it all. We were so happy with this choice because Conchas Chinas was absolutely BEAUTIFUL! We looked forward to the ride up and down to town when we could scope out the cute cobblestone streets littered with bougainvillea leaves. It was absolute heaven.

Grand Miramar offers a free shuttle and free entrance to the El Dorado beach club, which came in handy. We especially loved their pastries, french toast, guacamole, and strawberry margaritas.

Where to Eat

La Palapa. This place was stunning at sunset, with a view of the pier and twinkling lights.

Los Conos on Las Animas, Yelapa. Beach front dining with sand between your toes.

El Set. For a very romantic sunset dinner with less of a crowd, we went to El Set in Conchas Chinas. Matt had the mixed fish bowl and was obsessed with it.

 

What to Do

Visit Boca de Tamatlan. While there’s not much to do here, it is a very pretty stop before heading out to Yelapa by boat. Grab a beer and wait for your water taxi or get some sun on the sand! I heard from multiple people that Ocean Grille is the place to go over on Yelapa but you have to make a reservation.

 

Visit Quimixto by boat. There are cobblestone streets, horses everywhere, a suspended bridge, AND a waterfall. Need I say more?

After some negotiating, we chartered a boat for 1000 pesos from Boca de Tamatlan for 5 hours to Quimixto and then Las Animas for a very late lunch. For $60, this was the best “tour” we could have taken, especially since it was private with no timeline or schedule!

 

Jewelry shop from local vendors. There are vendors everywhere but it’s also fun to visit the flea market next to the Rio Cuale or at Isla Rio Cuale.

 

Explore Downtown Puerto Vallarta. Our favorite part of downtown was seeing the street actors who pretend to be part of the human sculptures along the main street next to the ocean. Sometimes they were hard to spot! There were also a ton of impressive sandcastles.

 

ClaudettesCorner

Florida Keys Road Trip

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Matt and I had a trip to Costa Rica planned for Thanksgiving week, but unfortunately we had to cancel only two days before because of the big hurricane that was rolling in. Thankfully, we were able to book flights to Miami with the ultimate goal of heading down to Key West, Florida.

We started and ended in Miami, taking a road trip down to the tip of the continental US – Key West. On Our way back up, we stayed in Islamorada, a cute little fishing town that was right up our alley.

One thing to note…there are pretty much no beaches in the Keys. Surprised? So were we. Luckily there was plenty to do and it was so fun walking around the islands. Laid back doesn’t begin to describe how cool the Keys were. To watch our video from the trip, click here.

Below are some tips and recommendations from our stay:

Miami

Hotels:

Vintro Hotel South Beach, Curio Collection by Hilton. Very cute boutique style hotel. It was perfect for one night but we would have liked to stay in South Beach where everything is much closer.

Hilton Cabana Miami Beach. Hilton hooked us up with a poolside room on the 3rd floor. No one was out, so we had the entire outdoor area to ourselves and the downstairs hot tub at night. The view was amazing!

 

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Drinks:

Watr at the at 1 Hotel. This is exactly how I envision Miami. Crisp whites, poolside, chic, and views for days. I set up a reservation for night one, which was Matt’s birthday, but unfortunately it rained and they had to cancel on us. We got drinks the first night and came back during the day on our last day. Love this place.

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Hotel 1 – South Beach Miami

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Watr at 1 Hotel

Wynwood Yard. Live music in a backyard setting, this place is v. cool.

Food Must:

Suviche. Matt and I will both swear that we’ve never had a better meal anywhere. They do ceviche many ways but the real treat was their Pescado A Lo Mocho seafood dish. The flavors. Oh. My. God. Needless to say, we tried to convince them that they need to open one in Orange County.

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Suviche

Key West

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Hotel:

DoubleTree Grand Key Resort. If we did it over again, we would stay at a hotel closer to Duval street and the main part of Key West. It gets pretty expensive down there, but we also booked our lodging two days before going so I’m sure rates would’ve been better if we booked at a normal time. The Doubletree offered a free shuttle to and from downtown every hour but hinging your daily plans on making a shuttle can get a tad annoying.

Drinks:

Kelly’s Caribbean Bar, Grill, and Brewery. We loved it so much, we came back three times.

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Kelly’s – Key West

The Porch. Exactly how it sounds, grab your beer or wine and hang out on the giant porch of an old Victorian style home, overlooking the main strip.

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The Porch – Key West

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The Porch – Key West

Green Parrot. This is apparently where the locals hang.

Cuban Coffee Queen. When in Key West, cafe con leche is a must.

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Cuban Coffee Queen – Key West

Must-Do:

Latitudes on Sunset Key.With a reservation at Latitudes, you can take the complimentary ferry from Key West to Sunset Key, which is a private island for Westin guests only. We like to get the most bang for our buck, so we may have “accidentally” gotten lost while heading towards the restaurant, and ended up exploring the rest of the island which looks straight out of Stepford Wives. The lunch view was spectacular and the appetizers we got were pretty good too.

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Latitudes – Sunset Key

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Sunset Key

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Sunset Key

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Sunset Key

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Sunset Key

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Latitudes – Sunset Key

 

Islamorada

Hotel:

Drop Anchor Resort and Marina. This place is so amazing. The rooms are HUGE and you walk out of your room straight onto the sand. Paradise on a very affordable budget.

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Drop Anchor Resort and Marina

Drinks:

Cheeca Lodge Tiki Bar. This place must be awesome during the day!

Food:

Islamorada Fish Company. Right on the water with a fire dancer for entertainment. For $10 each, they cooked our freshly caught fish, which was oh-so-satisfying.

Must Do’s:

Bud N’ Marys fishing trip. I probably caught 25+ fish and the only reason I didn’t catch more is because I was catching so many that I had to let me arm take so long breaks! We filleted Matt’s Kobia and had it cooked at Islamorada Fish Company.

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Worldswide Sportsman (Bass Pro). Islamorada is the sports fishing capital of the world, so you kind of have to stop by the Bass Pro and pick up some tourist stuff. We both bought long sleeves which were perfect for spending half the day on the boat under the sun.

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Islamorada Fish Company

The Moorings. If you’ve seen Bloodline, this is the resort where it’s filmed. If you haven’t seen it, it’s still a must-see.

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Moorings – Islamorada

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Moorings – Islamorada

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Bloodline House – Islamorada

 

Comment below if you have other recommendations that we should check out next time. We seriously cannot wait to go back!

 

ClaudettesCorner

7 Things to Do in Mammoth When It’s Not Ski Season

For Memorial Day Weekend, we took a trip up to Mammoth Lakes. Even at the end of May, there were still some snow caps and the mountain was open for half days. Aside from skiing and snowboarding, there was plenty to do around the area.

1. Gondola to Mammoth Mountain

At over 14,000 feet with some ridiculous drop offs for skiers, it’s pretty cool (and a little scary) to near to edges. But anything for a photo right?

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2. Hiking

Less snow means easier hiking. And there’s plenty of it!

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3. Mammoth Brewing Company

With flights, Mammoth-made beer and corn hole overlooking a snowy mountain, how can you go wrong? Just keep in mind that 2 beers is more like 4 there. I may have forgotten the affect altitude has on alcohol tolerance…

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4. Whitmore Hot Springs

About 20 minutes south of Mammoth is a really awesome place called Hot Creek. Scenic views? Check. Stunning winding creek? Check. Steaming geysers? Check!

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5. Convict Lake

We only got to do a drive by of this lake but it was very visually pleasing. In case you’re curious how it got its name, it’s a story about inmates.

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6. Twin Lakes

There are a couple places to check out at Twin Lakes – top of the waterfall, besides the waterfall, and on the bridges that look up to the waterfall. Any way you slice it, the waterfall is obviously the main feature and it’s a pretty great one.

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7. Visit Yosemite

Yosemite National Park is only 45 miles north of Mammoth! If you have the time, I highly recommend taking a half day to go explore. See photos from our trip to the park.

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BONUS: Enjoy the Ride

Depending on where you’re coming from, the drive can be a bit long. From Southern California, we took the 395 north and packed the truck full of my old cds (think Brittany Spears, Elvis Presley, Now 6-14, and Garden State Soundtrack) and tons of snacks. It’s actually a very unique drive full of lots of surprises, including fun mini hills that make for a great little roller coaster ride.

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What’s your favorite thing to do in Mammoth? I’d love to hear!

 

ClaudettesCorner