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.

 

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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!

 

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Yosemite in a Day

Can I first just say WOW!? Matt and I have never been to Yosemite National Park but it’s always been on the bucket list. When his family planned a trip up to Mammoth Lakes, it wasn’t long before I realized Yosemite is only an hour north – and a beautiful drive at that.

Since we had a few days in Mammoth over Memorial Day Weekend, we cruised up to Yosemite early one morning and spent half the day “driking” around the park. [Driking is a term we made up which means drive hiking – our favorite way to explore. Drive a bit, stop when we see something too pretty to resist, get out and explore the area, repeat.]

Every part of the Yosemite we were able to see was absolutely stunning. The constantly changing terrain which was absolutely incredible. One moment, you’re in a lush green valley and the next you’re standing high up on top of a snowy mountain. I am so glad I brought layers!

Since we entered on the East side, we walked around Lembert Dome, Tuolumne Meadows, Ellery Lake, John Muir Trail and Olmsted Point.

Here are a few of my favorite stops during our short time in the park.

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Ellery Lake

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Lembert Dome

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Dana Fork/Tuolumne Meadows

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Ellery Lake

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Olmsted Point

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Lembert Dome

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Tuolumne Meadoes

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Lembert Dome

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Ellery Lake

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Lembert Dome

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Olmsted Point

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Lookout over Warren Fork heading East

 

 

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4 Days in Ireland 

20151128_151326As the second part to my Euro Trip blog on Copenhagen, I’m finally tackling our trip to Ireland. We had the best time ever and I’m now crazy about Irish people…they are just so freaking awesome.

But first, some realizations…

  • People say “it’s so green!” and it really is. More green than you can even imagine or describe.
  • Happy cows do not come from California. They come from Ireland. I was even a little envious of them roaming around beautiful lush hills, stopping where they please. When I compare this to the crowded, stinky cow ranch you see off the 5 in California, there’s just no comparison.
  • Umbrellas are completely pointless. We bought two at a drug store and within literally two minutes of stepping back outside, Matt’s broke from the wind. I spent more time trying to reign my umbrella in than using it to avoid getting wet.
  • The weather is a bit bipolar. We expected rain the entire time, but what we got was random spouts of pouring rain, a sprinkle, and then nothing at all.
  • I’ve never heard Nirvana and Madonna more in my life…but I’m not complaining.
  • Sparkling water bottles are sold in more places than regular water bottles. We had two instances of thirstily grabbing the only kind of water bottle in the drug store, only to find it fizzing and sickenly sweet. For those of us who absolutely hate sparkling water, this is not the most pleasant thing to discover when you’re parched.
  • “The fish and chips are as good here as they are in America” – Old Guy on DART. Note taken.
  • Cab drivers only take cash, but practically everywhere else accepts card. We learned this the hard way on our way to the airport at 2:30 AM, even though we specifically requested a cab driver who took card.
  • I was hangry a lot. And yes, I mean hungry not hungry. Who knew finding food would be such an issue? Oddly enough, restaurants weren’t open when we needed them to be and snacks were hard to come by. I didn’t realize how much I take for granted the late night bar food and huge grocery stores we’re so accustomed to in America. On the flip side, all the bars we went to in Dublin stopped serving food before 9 pm (What?!?! Don’t they know they’re missing out on beaucoup bucks from drunkies wanting drunchies?) and grocery stores aren’t really existent. I found bananas one time the entire trip.

Now for our four day itinerary:

Day 1 – Cliffs of Moher Tour

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While we don’t generally like tours, we came to the conclusion that trying to get all the way to Cliffs of Moher on the opposite side of Ireland and see a couple other places along the way might be fairly difficult and stressful seeing as though you kind of have to be comfortable driving stick on the left side of the road. So we gave in and booked with Paddywagon Tours for the Cliffs of Moher Day Tour from Dublin. Great decision by the way…minus one minor scare.

After stopping for a quick breakfast at a market about 20 minutes outside of Dublin, we came up to a toll booth and our bus driver John says that we’re approaching a check point and everyone needs to get their passports out. The only problem was, we had left our passports in the safe at the hotel as we had every other day of our trip.

Commence extreme panic and heart dropping into stomach.

Everyone on the bus starts fiddling with their backpacks and this is about the time that Matt starts getting visibly angry. He hulks over to the driver and firmly explains that we weren’t told we’d need our passports for the trip. John continues with “Are you serious?! Ah, you’ve got to be kidding me.” Until John finally says “we’re still in Ireland, why would you need your passports?” Irish sarcasm at it’s finest.

Of course, Matt and John became BFFs from that moment on. We think.

Corcomroe Abbey

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Mini Cliffs of Moher

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Dingle 

There was only one option for lunch, so the line was a little absurd considering the fact that there were probably three other bus tours there are the same time. This was our first encounter with traditional Irish meals, which basically includes a heap of mashed potatoes, a hunk of meat and some type of vegetable, all smothered in gravy.

Cliffs of Moher

Annnnnd the grand finale…the Cliffs of Moher! We were scheduled to spend an hour and a half here but when we arrived, it was hard to see even twenty feet in front of us. My advice? Wait until closer to your trip to book this tour. That way, you can avoid the days that just show a dark cloud on your weather app.

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Bunratty Castle

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HQ Restaurant and Wine Bar

When we got back to our hotel around 8:30 pm, we were extremely hungry of course (but thank god for that enormous heavy lunch back in Dingle). We quickly realized that our hotel, The Clayton, wasn’t near any open restaurants/cafes/stores but luckily found a swanky wine bar that happened to still be serving dinner to mostly corporate types. Crisis averted.

Cheersing to a successful day, we decided to be lame and go all American with burgers, beers and fries. We also asked for mustard which is apparently extremely odd. Now, I’m not sure if this is because I was delirious from lack of sleep and overly hungry, but I’ve never had a better burger. But, I still think it’s because Ireland has super happy cows, so clearly their meat would also be superior.

Day 2 – Dublin Walking Tour

Matt routed a nice little walking tour of Dublin for our second day.

Temple Bar 

This street/area is quite controversial. All travel sites say “Yes! Go there” and all cab drivers and locals say “No! Avoid at all costs”. We had to check it out regardless of all the negative comments and I have to say that I thought it was great.

We went during the day when it wasn’t very crowded, shopped around, and grabbed a pint from The Temple Bar. They played live Irish music which we were told is not actually a normal thing in every day life for the Irish folk, much to Matt’s dismay. Either way, it was a good time. Night time is a different story as it gets really crowded and a little rowdy, so we didn’t stick around.

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St. Patricks Cathedral

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Dublin Castle Gardens

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Farmer Browns

For dinner, we headed over to Ballsbridge, near the rugby stadium. We stumbled on Farmer Browns, a cute little hipster joint. Again, I had one of the best burgers I’ve ever had, but this time it was chicken, so maybe their chickens are happier too? AND our waitress happened to have stayed in San Diego during her J1 a few years back, so we had a fun chat.

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Leinster vs. Ulster

Neither of us had ever been to a rugby match, which made this all the more exciting. We soon found out that Leinster is actually pronounced “Lahn-ster” and the go-to chant is “Leinster! Leinster! Leinster!”

In typical Matt fashion, he tried to start his usual “Let’s go BLANK” chant which works best with a team having two syllables, so Leinster was perfect. Not sure how this is possible, but it did not catch on. At all.

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We finished out the night with two guys we met at the end of the game, who took us to a bar downtown. Like I said, Irish people are so awesome and friendly.

Day 3 – Howth

When researching things to do in Ireland, I didn’t see much about Howth, but from what I did see, I thought it would be right up our alley. For 12 euro, we took the DART 30 minutes north and got off at the Howth junction which turned out to be the wrong stop, but we ended up finding our way to the right place after getting back on the train.

A quaint fisherman’s village, Howth was our favorite part of our European getaway. It’s no wonder their website is called HowthIsMagic.com.

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Cliff Walk

We strolled over to the cliffs where we could see Ireland’s Eye and Lambay Island. While we were hiking around the cliffs, the sun magically came out and no one else was around, making it a pretty romantic little adventure. 20151128_155849

St. Mary’s Abbey

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Fallon and Byrne

For dinner, we got fancy and tried Fallon and Byrne which was delicious. I also took advantage of the cute little shopping mart downstairs and grabbed some Irish-made chocolate to bring back for the fam.

To be honest, we were pretty spent after the past 7 days and planned on having an early night in, but our cab driver guilted us into going back out, which I am especially grateful for, since it turned out to be a blast.

Flannery’s

This place is awesome. They played hits from 3+ years ago all night and we made friends with a group of people who think it’s really hilarious we might have Donald Trump as our next president. They even started a Donald Trump chant that grew throughout the bar.

Day 4

Guinness Factory

I’m not ashamed to admit that I don’t like Guinness, but I was also told that it tastes completely different in Ireland. So completely right – it’s smooth like butter and probably just as filling, but it definitely tastes better in its authentic location. I also learned that it’s one of the lightest beers, at only 125 calories, which is surprising.

As far as the tour itself, it’s self-guided which we liked and the roof-top bar overlooking Dublin is especially cool. All around a must do whilst in Dublin.

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St. Stephen’s Green

We got here about 5 minutes too late, but I’m putting it on the itinerary anyway because there’s a tea room inside that sounds pretty awesome.

Olesya’s Wine Bar

This was the perfect last stop on our trip before we spent the remaining hours hulled up in our hotel relaxing and trying to stay awake until our 5:30 AM flight.

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I’d love to go back to Ireland eventually since there are so many other places to explore. So, until next time, Ireland!

 

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