Travelogue: Cayman Islands (Ritz Carlton)


ith only two weeks left before the end of my maternity leave (cue: tears) we decided last minute to get out of the city for a quick beach getaway with the girls. I've been reading numerous positive reviews of how kid-friendly the ritz Carlton in grand cayman was and thought we should give it a shot especially since we've never been to the Cayman Islands.

Getting there:

Flying from JFK on jetblue, It was a quick 3 hour and 15 min flight time which is ideal when traveling with a toddler and baby. We lucked out with an empty row (hello!) so it was smooth sailing from takeoff to touchdown. Deplaning at Arrival required a bit of handling since there's no gateway - it's an old school staircase onto the tarmac and then walking to arrivals / customs.  Because we carry-on our luggage (yep, even with 2 kids) having a bjorn and a walking toddler was efficient and fortunately the jetblue staff was equally helpful in giving us a hand down the stairwell.

Travel tip: on a previous flight to Dallas, virgin airlines broke our umbrella stroller. As a replacement, we looked at umbrella strollers for newborns and landed on a mclaren quest with a universal boogie board attachment that fit the bill perfectly. Granted no car seat this time around but we knew we'd be mostly resort bound and not driving much for this trip. It worked out really well for us. All about traveling lighter and smarter!

The resort: nice big property with two main buildings connected by a bridge on the 3rd floor. There are 2 resort pools, one Oceanside and another on the resort side. In addition to being near the main lobby, the Resort side pool is next to Anidiamo (Italian restaurant) and starfish cay (kids water playground) and the basketball courts. Nearby is the kids environment ambassador club where there's plenty of family and kids programming to keep them busy. If you've got little ones who may never want to leave this area you may actually want a room resort side rather than Oceanside.

*resort tip: get a 3rd floor room close to the elevators if you're the type to drop by your room often. We were in 271 which was at the very end of the hall and having to get to our room was a bit of a trek even from the lobby.

The pool by the ocean is a decent size and is a few steps from the ocean. Both pool and ocean have plenty of chairs that are serviced by Bar Jacks which is your typical poolside eats of grilled foods and salads as well as your cold beers and frozen cocktails (I was a big fan of the shrimp quesadilla and Cuban colada!). Though both pools run about 4 1/2 ft in the shallow end, life vests and some pool/beach toys are available for toddlers and up.


he beach is fairly shallow and there are a variety of activities to partake in. Our crew was too young for these activities so hubby and I traded off in taking our 18 month old, winter, to swim or play while Nyla chilled, ate, or slept.

Food: all the restaurants were fairly decent.

The breakfast buffet at Seven  is good and pricey (~$40/pp) but was included with our room. If it wasn't, I am pretty sure we would have gone to a local restaurant instead to get more bang for our buck. We also had dinner at Seven but didn't have anything that stood out except for the bread (ugh soo good and warm). Service at both meal times was prompt and courteous and accommodated us easily with high chair and a spot for our stroller.

Bar jacks by the pool was good and had we been there for more days, it's a place we'd most likely return to.

In room dining: decently good. Shrimp quesadilla wasn't exactly up to par with the one at bar jacks but it was fine. A little detail I appreciated - they tell you when your order is ready (approx 30 min) by noting aloud what time the order is taken and what time you should expect it at your door. I also believe you can order from any of the restaurants because hubby wanted key lime pie from seven and they made it happen. I had the Creme brûlée and it was delicious

Sushi restaurant: I guess this a popular spot because no walkins were being taken due to capacity so reserve ahead of time. However they will serve you same menu in the lobby lounge which is what we opted to do. Unfortunately this was the worst experience ever. We sat and waited for 2 basic rolls and kids meal for over an hour.  It was really unbelievable as we saw other folk who arrived after us get their food. And with a restless toddler in tow, you can imagine how challenging this could be. the manager was hard to find and our poor waiter who was transferred onto to our table mid-wait could see my anger and frustration and took it upon himself to comp our meal because even he had a hard time tracking the manager. I'm not a sushi person but the hubby said it was quite good and he would have ordered more if it wasn't for the crazy wait and lack of attention.

Starfish cay. Winter did not want to leave. She loved just playing in the fountains and splashing on the ground. Though it's better suited for those over 36" tall to ride the mini slides, younger ones will be just as entertained with the various sprinklers, fountains and overall watery aura of this playground.

Island outings:

Because it was a short trip we didn't get off the property much. Dining alone is a pretty penny so hit up local restaurants if you're trying to save.

TIP: Whenever we travel we take concierge suggestions but we also ask the day to day staff (waiters, housekeeping, taxi drivers, etc) where THEY eat. It always gives us a peek into the local non-touristy life of a place and we always come back with stories and full, happy tummies.

We are at Catch and champion house on this trip. Champion house was definitely a local spot but one that everyone we spoke to recommended. Hubby had the oxtail and I had BBQ chicken which was delicious. Oxtail was "ok" according to him. There's no AC so be prepared if you come on a smoldering day (or order takeout and bring it to the beach or back to your hotel). Catch was our brunch outing and is a fairly newish restaurant. it was really good and a nice recommendation from our concierge. Both hubby and I really loved everything we had and would have come back if we were staying longer. There are interior and exterior seating which is nice if you get hit with a rainstorm. You can still eat overlooking the water.

Our one excursion was to the turtle farm. We figured this was toddler friendly and it is for the most part. I would stick to the turtle section and skip the "water park" - it's literally a bunch of tanks where you can see these amazingly huge turtles and in one part even "catch" them and hold them up. Children under 5 are not recommended to touch or handle the turtles because of bacteria their immune systems may not be developed  enough to tackle. I'd recommend bringing your own hand sanitizer though. It was a cute excursion but it was getting hot and barely any shade so we were in and out in less than an hour. They provide a free shuttle between several hotels and the park at certain times though the staff is pretty flexible and took us and another family back early.

All in all, this trip was exactly what we had planned it out to be. A quick infant-friendly island getaway for some R&R. I recommend the ritz especially for families and the cayman islands for its direct-flight proximity to nyc. On the island, everyone speaks English, takes US dollars (though there is cayman currency) and for the most part very friendly! Small (or big if you like your spirits) thing to note is that Sunday is dry on the island so no alcohol is served/sold Sunday morning (?) so keep in mind if you were on the hunt for a raging brunch day party. Happy travels!

Disney Dream Recap (with an infant!)

Itching to escape the city for a beach vacay, we looked at several caribbean spots but in the back of my head, I always like to put cruising on my list of options mainly for the no-brainer, all inclusive nature of a cruise. Food- check. accommodations - check. Entertainment - check. Relaxation - check plus.  So for vacation, I just happened to look up a disney cruise and everything seemed to line up: dates, price (it was almost half off the regular  cost), and weather. We booked with less than 2 weeks to the sailing date. That gave me 2 weeks to do some serious internet sleuthing to prep for our first time on a Disney Cruise. Things I've learned:
the beds are super comfy
Our stateroom: 7126. That couch turns into a bed. Cribs are available upon request
Which room to book? Due to the last minute booking, I opted for a guaranteed balcony room. This means you don't choose your stateroom but instead get placed based on what's left. We ended up with a great room. The disney staterooms are designed for FAMILIES. So there's space and storage and the split bathroom (a tub and a shower?! and separate toilet room?) was a plus. Don't be afraid to book a guaranteed room - you might end up scoring a better room than you bargained for.
Disney Dream lobby atrium
Cruising with an infant: I thought Winter (and us lol) would totally miss out on all the fun being that she's not old enough to use the Oceaneer's club (starts at 3 years old) which is basically the best daycare/camp I've ever seen for kids but the great thing about Disney is they've thought of that as well and have a decent sized playroom nursery that takes infants younger than 3 and at a very reasonable rate ($9/hr).  
Meals are infant friendly too  
Winter was still in soft-food land so we found the restaurants (as expected) to be very accommodating. And because of the rotational dining system Disney has (with 3-4 themed restaurants you rotate through for dinner), your waiters will be prepared by the second night. Our waiter would have winter's food ready and pureed to go right after seating us. Food wise, I thought it was good not great but better than I was expecting. Coming off Celebrity cruises, I thought their food (and service) was excellent but that's just a different cruise experience I thought that shouldn't be compared. 
infants can't go in the pools but can enjoy the nemo splash area
Win is her name! My baby blowing away the competition...
Activities: Disney is so detailed oriented that there's activities for every age group on board. No one is left out. I was surprised to meet a good number of groups who were traveling without any children at all (strange? a little, but these were hardcore cruisers or Disney enthusiasts so I give them a pass). She was curious and the presence of hundreds of kids was fun for her. She had a few play areas she could venture into (nemo splash area), character meet and greets she could attend and even an activity or two she can participate in (diaper dash?!)
Not staged - it really looks like this.
Ports: We were on a short 4 day cruise to the Bahamas and Castaway Cay (disney's private island).  All cruise reports say to skip bahamas and opt to stay on ship but we've never been so we checked out Atlantis and the Cove. Atlantis felt dated but the water park looked awesome so we'll save for an older Winter. Castaway Cay was as great as everyone reported it to be. We only had Coco Cay (royal carribbean's private island) to compare it to and its hands down above and beyond Coco. The boat literally pulls up to the island, which I assume is an engineering feat unto itself but it lends to easy disembarking  (rather than hopping on a ferry to island like other cruise lines). Again, designed for everyone - (paved roads, trams, private adult only beach/area, cabanas for families, etc) Disney thinks of everything.  I heard about the 5k they host on the island so I laced up and ran in that despite the crazy humidity, sun, and late morning heat.  It's unofficially timed and the crew members who run the race make it as fun-minded and non-competitive as possible (spoiler: everyone gets a medal - even if you cheat the course - which is a little boring, but you get your workout in). 
Don't let the smile fool you, I wanted to a pass out from the heat/humidity!
The beach areas are jam packed with recreational options for families but I liked that even the sand and design of the beach (very gradual slope) were infant-friendly. You're treated to a bbq lunch buffet/picnic on the island so don't skip it!

Overall: It was a great vacation for the family.  I forgot to add they do Halloween on the Seas which lets the kids trick or treat in costume (and families went ALL OUT FOR THIS). Also memorable was Pirates of the Caribbean night (how apropo) where you have a midnight buffet and a fireworks show off the ship (pretty cool). I hear christmastime is also fun and magical for guests. This was an added bonus to the experience.
Arggh! Pirate night!
 I would definitely disney cruise it up again but only when Winter can take advantage of the Oceaneer's club (It's seriously amazing and I'm a bit jealous us adults can't enjoy it!). However if you have an infant and are seriously considering it- go for it! we met a few couples traveling with infants and they like us, took everything in stride and enjoyed the option that they could have alone time whenever they wished or just have a fun new experience together as a family.   As you can see from the video, we had a great time!

Travelogue: Maine

Though I would never choose to go NORTH for a summer vacation, the opportunity presented itself when our dear friends invited us up to their summer home in Rockland, Maine. They've been "summering" for decades and now that we had the kiddies and Mr. P and I didn't have much in planned out in terms of "summer" we thought, why not? I'll keep the writing short because when you have gorgeous scenery about, who needs words. Maine is beautiful and the small surrounding towns of Rockport and Camden definitely give off that quaint, New England summer vibe that a lot of people love. The people were friendly, the weather so-so, and there was enough lobster consumed that it wasn't even funny. I mean..when in Rome Maine...

She's starting to get into that age where she needs to keep occupied. I had bottle and ipad at hand with a few games that kept her entertained. for the most part, we tried to keep her up and awake before the flight so that she ended up falling asleep during it. Mind you, the flight was only an hour (smh).
she's graduated to the umbrella stroller so we finally rented a carseat rather than bring the "SUV" stroller.  

 Viv and Jules reunite with Winter
 Our first morning: we had fresh homemade donuts baked daily at Willow Bake Shoppe. I say go for the glazed buttermilk!
It's like your neighbor invited you into their home to have a donut. 
 The kids' nighttime routine: a bedtime treat, playtime and Thomas the Engine. The adults: wine.
 Our homebase was at the Samoset Resort. Beautiful grounds, golf, pool, restaurant/bar, tennis/bball courts. Rockland was nice because we could get to just about anything (walmart, shopping, sightseeing, neighboring towns, gas stations, chain restaurants like denny's, starbucks dunkin donuts - you're in new england!) within 10-15 minutes or less.
 Did I mention we were here in time for the annual lobster festival?? this is where lobster is caught!
 pounds and pounds and pounds of lobster. $20 dinner or $10 lobster rolls. there was lobster ice cream, lobster stew, bisque, etc..  On the docks, you can get it from the local fisherman who sell the lobster for as cheap as $4.50 a pound.
 The multi-day festival has events, rides, and your typical fair food. there's a lobster crate race that is really popular among the locals. we were leaving the day of the race so sadly we missed it.
 We didn't miss a photo opp with King Neptune or Poseidon or whoever this sea king is.
 Afterwards, we walked around Rockland - town's main street. There's beautiful shops and local eateries as well as the notable Farnsworth art museum that had we more time, I would have liked to browse through.
Gifford's is a Maine-based ice cream chain with very interesting flavors. You can find their ice cream in stores in the northeast like fairway
 The next day morning we headed out to Camden to have breakfast and go on a kids harbor cruise. Unfortunately the boat was broken so we spent the morning walking around town. Apparently Camden is amazing gorgeous during Christmas holiday season.
 My lobster omelet and Maine blueberry muffin at Marinner's Restaurant. If you go out back, there's an outdoor patio deck that overlooks the harbor and a mini waterfall. The kids loved looking at the ducks and fish in the pond.
 I've seen Stonewall kitchen in whole foods but had no idea its based out of Maine. The flagship is in york, maine but you can still get special exclusive spreads and spices and home accessories in their other stores.
 Really loved this store called Jo Ellen Designs. Very cute gifts and home goods and a small section of children's toys that were so adorable. How cute of a gift would this be?
 We then drove to Rockport where we checked out this harbor. I actually really loved this area because you could chill out, picnic, and watch the boats come and go. not commercialized at all but great views and the kids could run around.
 how cute are these two?!
 On our way back, we drove by Hobby Farms to check out these apparently very famous Belted Galloway cows. Mooo.
 Then one of our trip highlights was getting to sail around the harbor. We had the sailboat to ourselves for an hour. The kids were a little apprehensive starting out but after a while they really warmed up to the ride and the ocean air.
 The rocking eventually put Winter to sleep soon after downing her bottle.
 Amazing views.
 and soon we had some new captains steering the boat.
 The captain's assistant.
The following morning was breakfast at The Brass Compass. Known for their extensive menu of benedict dishes and pancakes. I had a Penobscot Benedict which was crabcake and hollandaise sauce.  This is a local spot - the waitresses are brisk but warm, the service quick, all with a hometown local vibe. If you're a food network/bobby flay fan - they were featured in a throwdown - winning over the judges with their lobster club sandwich.
 We didnt know the parade was today and took place right outside the restaurant so we caught a bit of it.
 Our trip was coming to a close so we hopped back into the car to drive back to Portland. We had passed this little shack on our way to Rockland and found out that this was supposedly the best lobster roll in Maine - if not the country. Sooooooo we had to try it.
I think there was enough lobster meat equivalent to 3 lobsters. it was insane. however taste wise i'm still partial to Luke's lobster here in NYC.  you still have to try Red's Eats though. the line is like an hour long and clogs up Route 1. We did it and headed back to the airport.  All in all a very good and surprisingly relaxing trip. We didn't plan things out - just went with the flow and how the kids were acting. We ate well, slept well, played, and still got to fit in enough sightseeing to say we saw and experienced these towns.  If you ever get the chance to go, I say go for it.

Tips for flying with a newborn

Before Winter hits her three month mark, she will have traveled over 10,000 air miles criss-crossing the continental U.S. That's definitely more flying over the course of one month than Mr. P and I have done over the course of any given year! Having seven (yes, 7!) flights under our belt, I can confidently say we've got traveling with (newborn 0-3month) infant down. Here are a few tips I can share:
Book nonstop flights. 
You never know what might happen during a layover. This also simplifies planning as far as diapers, bottles, naps, etc.  which translates to less STUFF you have to carry. Speaking of packing...

You can still carry-on!
I am a carry-on queen. I HATE checking my luggage. Even on an 18 day trip across Europe I packed a carry-on bag (see here). Clearly when I've set the bar so high, I figured traveling with an infant, who's entire 3-month wardrobe could fit in a backpack, packing would be a breeze. Wrong. It's not easy but it's certainly doable.  First consider the equipment. are you bringing a stroller? carseat? a carrier?  We chose to take our carseat since it locks into our stroller base serving 2 purposes: carseat at our destination and stroller just in general. Granted pushing a stroller with one hand and rolling a suitcase with another takes some coordination but it beats carrying anything.
Each airline is different but we flew jetblue which allows infants to have a stroller that can be gate checked and a diaper bag (what classifies as a diaper bag can be open to interpretation). Couple this with your personal luggage requirements (carry-on suitcase + "personal bag") and stuff just ADDS UP. I packed baby's clothes into my roller carry-on suitcase. My personal bag (which could fit in my stroller basket) was one tote. In that tote I had: my wallet and things for flight (mag, earbuds, toiletries) as well as bag that served as baby's changing kit. In the baby changing kit I had:
  • diapers (i estimate 1 for every hour of traveling not just flight)
  • ointment (if needed - travel size)
  • 1-2 changes of clothes (for diaper blowouts),
  • ziplock bag (for soiled clothes) 
  • wipes (travel size)
  • travel changing pad (wipe-clean kind or disposable) 
I did not bring diapers, wipes, etc for the time we were at our destination - we always buy those things when we get there. It saves space and you can probably still squeeze in leftover diapers into your suitcase and replenish travel wipes case for your return flight home. 

You'll have to break down the stroller to fit through xray machine. If it doesn't (ours didn't) they'll have to personally inspect it. You carry baby in your arms through the x-ray machine. All other rules still apply (laptops out, shoes off, liquids limited, etc) For breastmilk/formula: notify the security agent so they can scan those items separately. If you give them the heads up - it'll speed up the process by avoiding having to explain everything after-the-fact.
other flight tips:
  • put baby in a sleeper - they'll be comfortable and warm, and it makes for quick and easy changes
  • have baby sucking (via bottle, breast, or pacifier) on ascent and descent to handle change in pressure
  • consider a baby carrier (bjorn, ergo, sling, wrap, etc)  on the flight - makes boarding possible since i'd be hands free for my roller suitcase + personal bag. Also baby easily dozes off in there so I didn't have to exert much arm strength for the duration of the flight. 
  • if your baby is fairly light/small or you've got a companion sitting next to you - those tray tables can act as a "bed" if your arm starts to feel heavy
  • my baby changing kit was inside one of those disposable totes you get from the grocery store - leaves you hands free to hold baby as you go to the bathroom on the plane without having to lug your entire personal bag
  • a window seat gives you a bit of privacy to lay your head but aisle seats lets you get to the bathroom easier with baby without having to climb over your seatmates (something to think about on long-haul flights).

Winter's US Tour // Part 1 ~ Dallas

Since Winter arrived early, her grandparents missed out on the birth and then the holidays arrived. Since both of our parents live in southern climates (Texas & Florida), and I'm still on maternity leave, Mr P and I figured it would be a nice change of pace to get out of the city and just go visit our parents separately to introduce them to their granddaughter.  Our first stop was Dallas (or specifically - Irving).  At first we thought we'd do a straight trip Dallas-Florida-NYC. But considering this was our first major trip with Winter (and it was cheaper to go back to NYC) we broke the "tour" up into separate mini-trips. So it was a Texas-NYC one weekend, have 2 days to recharge/repack at home and then back out to Florida for the following weekend.  It seems a bit much but it really worked out perfectly. Mr P could attend to his work agenda in person for the days we were back in NYC and Winter and I could rest up and get ready for the next adventure.  
We hit a bevy of "firsts" on this trip - the major one being flying with a newborn. I was a bit nervous to be that girl with the baby on the plane but Winter barely uttered a peep and was showered with praises from neighboring seatmates and flight attendants afterwards.  I'll do a post about flying with baby later!
We had a great time in Texas. Grandma (well, I've renamed her Glam-ma - because she's too fabulous) was smitten with Winter. Auntie S also had the baby whisperer touch - she and Winter became bffs super quick. Since Mr. P's brother and sister were also in from out of town, Glam-ma did a big family breakfast the first morning in. It was a nice reunion.
We pretty much stayed home-bound while home since various other family and friends came to see Winter. But we did dip out to a store or to the mall to get some fresh air and sun.
Whenever we come down to Dallas, I always look for us to do one "touristy" thing. Mostly because the city has changed so much since Mr. P left yeeaaarrs ago. Plus things we visit on these trips weren't around when he was living there so it's new to all of us. It's like rediscovering your home town. So on this go 'round, I opted for brunch at Savor and browsing the Bishop Arts District.  First stop: Savor.
This restaurant sits on one end of Klyde Warren park. The weather was chilly and crisp but sunny so families gathered to picnic, play football (go figure), and relax on the lawn. Savor takes advantage of this picturesque setting - the restaurant's walls are basically all glass so it's almost like your dining outside (there is outdoor dining as well). The menu takes to the restuarant's namesake - the entire menu sounds delicious so it was tough to choose what to order.  We chose the beignets to start.
We also had deviled eggs which are great (but no photo) to start. For our main dishes, I had the Grilled Hobbs Portuguese Sausage with spicy tomato peperonata, cheddar grits, and a fried egg on top. Mr P had the Chicken & Waffles made with nutella and whipped butter.  The chicken was good but surprisingly we weren't a fan of the waffle made with nutella. If you're a huge nutella fan, this might be your thing but it wasn't ours. Still a good dish though (a popular one on their menu).
Winter wanted in on some brunch action too.  
We were pretty full so we skipped dessert (although ordering the beignets again wouldn't have been a bad idea!).  We walked around Klyde Warren park afterwards - it's a great family park with free bookstands, an ice skating rink, a playground, food trucks!, and a massive lawn to spread out and enjoy. I especially loved these trees that were knit-tagged. I like to think of it as textured art graffitti. 
After the lap around the park, we hopped in the car and took about a 10 min drive to the Bishop Arts District. It's a cute little area spanning a few blocks with restaurants, boutiques, and galleries. Via the GPS we thought we were driving into the wrong place because you pass very typical boring suburban sprawl (fast food, gas stations, then old residential area) but you quickly know you're in the right place when you start to see cars parked everywhere on the side of the streets. 
Bishop Street Market sells gift and home items. I saw these great leather tote and messenger bags in there for $80 but I didn't need ANOTHER bag!  The decor and styling of the succulents and other plants and florals were super cool at floral boutique, DIRT
Aptly named Neighborhood, this home design store had really cool accent pieces for the home. It also served as a resting spot for the other two in my party.

 Quick photo op checking out the scene.
  We did a quick walkabout and then stopped into Emporium pies because every blog I read who did a little travel recap to dallas swore up and down about Emporium pies. And I do have to say, it lives up to the hype. The pies are GOOD. I had the Lord of the Pies (deep dish apple) and Mr P had the Drunken Nut (bourbon pecan). I almost wished we had bought an entire pie it was that good. However, I wouldn't get to fawn over the cute to-go packaging for single slices. How cute!  

Well after our sugar rush subsided, we spent the rest of the day visiting with family and then took off  on a road trip (another first for Winter!) to Houston to visit my aunt. From there we hopped on a flight from Houston back to JFK. All in all a great stress-free trip. Stay tuned for part 2!

Showered with Love Baby Shower

With Baby Dockery's arrival just a little over a month away, my dear friends Marfa, Nicole, and I (as well as Mr P) took to planning a fun co-ed baby shower cocktail party. After scouring dozens of themes on pinterest I liked the literal theme of a shower - like clouds, rain, etc but wanted to put a glam-fab twist to it. So I opted for a grown up palette of gold, black, and white, and pink accents (nod to the Baby Dockery's gender). We had the whole thing catered by Sal Lamboglia, a chef who has worked the launches of fabulous NYC restaurants like the Dutch, Locanda Verde, and now Lafayette. The food was amazing, the decor exactly what I wanted, and the vibe was fun and giddy as always. Here are some snaps from the night:
Left: my entrance :) Dress from Asos. Right: My dad, Karl, and my good friend and cohost aka (college) "roomie" Kiana

Amazing cloud centerpiece by Nicole at NYCFlowerProject
Black and Gold! I spray painted baby bottles and pacifiers gold. In keeping with the theme, I designed these water bottle labels incorporating our logo (yes Mr. P and I have a logo). I couldn't decide on 1 shower design for the front so I had fun and used all 4!

Throughout the room were a few baby items scattered on tables and on window sills. Nicole made these mini cloud arrangements for various tables. People loved the kid rainboots with hydrangeas. Also scattered about were baby photos of me and P.
 One of the highlights was the slideshow we had looping on the tv showing even more embarrassing kid/baby photos of us as well as couple shots and our maternity shoot.
The Chili Bar was a hit!  
Though we had passed food, I wanted guests to be able to nibble and eat all night long without searching out a server. So this buffet table was a perfect complement to have. I almost didn't get these letter balloons (I had no idea so pricey!) but I'm really glad I did. It made for a good photo backdrop for guests.

Left: Newly engaged family Nicole, Mike, and Mike Jr. Right: my "big sis" Marfa, and our fashionista, Shelley from our Spring & 6th blog days
When I saw all the crazy baby shower games you can play I instantly thought "Heck, no" lol. BUT! there was one game that I thought would be crazy fun for all my lush alcoholic friends: the baby bottle drinking race game.  I wish I had it on video because we were all crying from laughing so hard at the cheers and jeers during the male and female races.
 Why am I not surprised Kiana won this contest? And for the men - it was a close one between Floyd and Antony
And when the party was over...some sweet parting gifts for all our guests. Cotton Candy and mini Prosecco bottles.
Labels and bottle tags by you know who :)
Photography: Cody Swanson and my dad Karl Kindred
Centerpiece and florals: Nicole Laurenceau, NYCFlowerProject
Catering: Chef Sal Lamboglia
Graphic Design and Art direction: moi! 

and special thanks to Marfa Ertilus and Floyd Boyce for not letting me worry about anything or moving stuff during and after the party. Kiana and Lisa for running the games. My makeup by Sariah. Our parents and family for traveling from Florida and Texas and Georgia to attend the celebration and of course all our friends for coming! We had a blast!

OH! and we didn't use paper invitations - we kept it green and used an online rsvp site,  Here's the digital invite that went out as well as part of the thank you email — I think it pretty much set the tone of how we wanted the night to go. Fun fun fun...

Taking stock in october...

It's almost time! Less than 50 days til the big day!

Making : decor items for shower next week. I couldn't help it - I need something to do!
Cooking : comfort food like a yummy chili that will last me 3 days.
Drinking : Decaf iced coffee in the morning and cold cold cold ice water
Reading: about labor and delivery (um.. doesn't sound fun).
Wanting: our dining room table to arrive ... its taking forever.
Looking: like I swallowed a basketball a watermelon. lol.
Playing: a lot of throwbacks (90s R&B and pop)
Wasting: free time on pinterest (soo much cute stuff!)
Sewing: nothing.
Wishing: it was easier to find a position to sleep in. STILL
Enjoying: weekends with no plans (this is what it is like to relax?)
Waiting: for her! but patiently :) 
Liking: the constant dance rehearsals and kickboxing classes in my tummy.
Wondering: how life is gonna change
Loving: still - his daily conversations to her via talking to my tummy.
Hoping: (more like praying) this pregnancy continues to progress smoothly

Marveling: at my ever growing tummy size
Needing: more days off! kind of love chilling at home these days
Smelling: like cinnamon candles and fresh flowers I bought
Wearing: leggings and trying to still work in my pre-preggo clothes (somehow)
Following: lots of mom-ish blogs
Noticing: the leaves change
Knowing: I have less than 50 days
Thinking: of all the things that need to be done
Feeling: fine
Bookmarking: recipes and articles for fall/winter
Opening: lots of UPS and fedex boxes!
Giggling: at my awkward self trying to bend down to pick things up off the ground, get out of bed, or off our couch. it's truly comical.

Taking Stock...

A peek from my maternity shoot with Armando

Saw this post idea on this blog

Making : Paintings...received a cool commission so have to get 2 out the door this week!
Cooking : more like baking - been using the oven a lot for chicken, grilled cheese sandwiches, and apple desserts.
Drinking : Decaf iced coffee in the morning and cold cold cold ice water
Reading: the internet - soo much to read and research for this little one who's coming
Wanting: our dining room table to arrive. i'm excited.
Looking: like I swallowed a basketball lol.
Playing: a lot of Lorde and any other newish artist that has that vibe.
Wasting: some of my meals. My eyes are hungrier than my stomach sometimes.
Sewing: nothing!
Wishing: it was easier to find a position to sleep in.
Enjoying: the fall weather in NYC - looooove it.
Waiting: for her! but patiently :) 
Liking: all the baby gap royal line...the crown sleeper!
Wondering: what she's going to be like
Loving: his daily conversations to her via talking to my tummy.
Hoping: (more like praying) this pregnancy continues to progress smoothly
Marveling: at my tummy moving at the randomest times
Needing: more days off! kind of love chilling at home these days
Smelling: like cinnamon candles and fresh flowers I bought
Wearing: leggings. leggings. leggings.
Following: my heart
Noticing: other people's baby related brands on the street (like strollers!)
Knowing: there's so much to look forward to
Thinking: about how life is gonna change
Feeling: optimistic and nervous 
Bookmarking: (more like pinning!) every thing that is cute (clothes, blogs, party ideas, etc)
Opening: boxes
Giggling: at my dance moves in this new body ...sometimes.

Travelogue: Anguilla (part 2)

After touring the viceroy grounds on day 1, I figured we'd get some activities planned so that we can mix it up and not get bored. The hotel has their own weekly agenda of activities of which some are free (like the movie night) and some aren't (sunset cocktail cruises). Despite being about 5 months pregnant, I felt pretty good enough to do a few activities. The one that stood out the most to me was the hotel's bike tour. So we signed up and were able to fill in the last two empty slots for day 2 of our stay. Once that was arranged, we set off to find a spot to do dinner...

I've read about how Anguilla's restaurants are top notch (and) expensive (somewhat) so I was anxious to get to eating.  Problem was that with us moving into off-season, some places were already on vacation.  So our dining options were somewhat limited.  The other thing that factored into dining - Cabs.  It was recommended that we rent a car for the week but I really wanted to play it by ear on how mobile we wanted to be. But after the cost ($30) of our first excursion to our first restaurant, Tasty's - which wasn't even that far - I soon realized that if were back, we should rent a car just to save on taxi fares alone.

Tip: Coming from NYC where cabs are aplenty, taxis are more of shared car service on the island. Basically whoever we used leaving the hotel would be the one taking us back. Take their business card to give them a call when you're ready OR just let them know when you want to be picked up. Also, everyone is fairly helpful enough that a restaurant can call a taxi for you.
L: oxtail, R: coconut custed fish

Tasty's Review:  Being one of the few restaurants open and everyone's generally positive reviews, we gave them a try.  It was packed when we got there but we got a seat immediately. Unfortunately it took like 10-15 minutes until someone came to check on us to finally take our order.  Service was pretty brisk - if not a little cold.  Mr. P ordered oxtail and I had a coconut-crusted grilled fish with coconut rice and vegetables.  We both thought it was good but nothing to rave home about. Tasty's gives a local, neighborhood-y vibe, but the prices were anything but.  I thought it was overpriced especially for the lackluster service.  Not only did it take like an hour to get our entrees but just hailing down a waiter took forever. I felt forgotten about and soon got impatient.  It didnt help that it was hot in there (no air) but thankfully we were seated next to window so that I got a few breezes here an there.

Did I mention it was August Monday on our first night? It's Anguilla's annual carnival/holiday party day so everyone kept telling us to go to Sandy Ground.  How did this play out in general?  For one, I think it affected the service at the hotel.  The staff who was there just did not seem at all happy to be working that day (for good reason). They were also hard to find (short-staffed?). I'll get into my service review of the viceroy in a later post but as were heading out to Tasty's we actually shared our cab with a group of women from chicago heading out to check out the party at Sandy Ground. We jumped out at Tasty's and they continued on. But no later than 45 min had passed until we see them entering the restaurant.  I could see it on their faces but I asked how was it and they shook their heads and was like "...ehh.. we're back."  LOL.  I think it was past party stage and probably into drunk, party dying down stage for the locals.  So that nixed our after dinner plans so we headed back to the hotel to get up for our 8am bike tour.

The bike tour was awesome.  Granted it was described as a 3 hour leisurely bike tour (on trek bikes) of I believe 8-10 miles or so?  "Leisurely" it was not.  Anguilla is hilly. They are NO JOKE and nothing compared to your fancy spin class :)  however the views were pretty amazing. Our tour guide, Anthony (?), was great and super knowledgeable. During high season I hear the tour stops at Geraud's bakery for a snack but it was closed for us (bummer).  We were part of a big group of 10 of a family from Miami but we all got along well and helped take each other's photos. Speaking of which, definitely bring a camera because you can't pass up views like this:
Mead's filter - the water IS that clear!
Overlooking Sandy Ground

The tour was great and there was a part where we went "off-roading" which was somewhat scary but fun and adventurous. The weather was HOT but passing through shaded neighborhoods with the breezes made it bearable. For the most part we were on side roads but at the end we did have to bike on the main road back to the hotel - luckily it was mostly downhill (thank goodness) and cars just went around us.
All smiles at the end of the bike tour.

After that workout, there's nothing else to do but pool or beach it up.  With the hotel being somewhat empty in occupancy, we ended up finding ourselves at the Sunset Lounge pool over Aleta.  Main reason being that I felt there was more staff in that area in case I wanted to order a drink or food whereas Aleta pool was pretty deserted.  And the sunset lounge pool really does give you the greatest place to witness some spectacular sunsets:
The infinity pool at the Sunset Lounge. Paradise!
We opted for dinner at Straw Hat this time.  You can see it from the hotel - and I thought skip the cab and just walk along the beach. It seemed like a good idea until I felt some sprinkles. I couldn't walk that fast in the sand but I was definitely huffing and puffing a little by the time we got to the restaurant. Fortunately - it didn't end up raining. It took about 10-15 min to walk there.
Straw Hat - outdoor seating area

Straw Hat review: great. Recommend it and would eat there again.  Service was much better and more of what we are used to. (I think I'm just spoiled living in NYC).  Now I can accept the island time and have more of a relaxed approach to dining compared to the hustle and bustle of NYC but Tasty's was a snoozefest. Straw Hat was definitely better.  Food wise - almost everything sounded good on the menu but again I went for a local grilled fish with rice and Mr P had um... I forgot lol. But he ate it all!  I did however snap a pic of his appetizer which was like a tuna tartar pizza I think.  Food was great, atmosphere was great (the ocean breeze and night-time dining was pretty dreamy), and service was great. I think the prices were comparable to Tasty's but just felt like it was more justified here at Straw Hat.
P's app, tuna tartar pizza I think, and on the right, my grilled fish, rice, and mango salsa on the side.

After dinner, it was time to call it night so we walked back on the beach to the hotel. It's actually really really dark so I did use the flashlight app on my cellphone to see our way. It wasn't unusual however to pass other people walking on the beach to get to and from the restaurants/hotels along Mead's Bay so I'm just being a wuss.

Travelogue: Anguilla (part 1)

Our European summer vacation plans had to be changed last minute so instead we headed south to try our hand at being a lot more low-key and having a beach vacation.  This was new to us as we usually do multi-stop trips with a mix of action and culture and relaxation. A whole 5 days of just beach though? It was definitely going to be interesting.  I do have to say I did come back rested!
Ok, ok, ok.. we did fit in 2 days in Miami (a lil action and culture) beforehand but I called it a transition to ultimate "nothingness."  We flew from Ft. Lauderdale into St. Maarten (with a short layover in Puerto Rico).  As you get closer to landing, you immediately know what you're getting yourself into (ie tropical drinks, a book, and a lounge chair).  I believe that is anguilla in the distance btw and St. Maarten in the forefront.
Anguilla can only be reached by charter plane or boat. I don't do turbo props and such so we opted for a ferry.  I booked our transfer via email with Calypso Charters and the process was as easy as everyone in the travel forums had written about.  Our flight did get in early but after you pass customs in the St. Maarten airport, find the information desk and they'll point you to wherever you need to go. A representative from CC met us in the airport arrivals area. We got in a van and drove all but 5 minutes to the ferry "terminal" where you fill out paperwork, pay for your ferry fare (credit cards accepted), pass immigration and hop on a speedboat and head on your way.  Everyone was helpful and nice and it was EASY.  I think they have boats that leave just about every hour so it was also fairly quick.  The boat ride itself is fast and can be quite bumpy depending on the tide. Sit in the back of the boat for the smoothest ride. Mr. P commented that if you're prone to seasickness - this might not be that fun but then again it's only 15-20 minutes (and for me, it sure beats a prop plane!)

The Anguilla port is like a small "house." Passing through immigration and customs can be quick or slooowww depending if your boat arrives at the same time as the public ferry and then its a bit of waitfest.  Granted our arrival was the same day as August Monday - the island's carnival holiday (biggest event of the year) sooooo it was a bit challenging to deal with the island pace.  However, once we passed customs, we were met by a Viceroy Rep who shuttled us to a taxi that took us to the hotel:
 No question - the Viceroy is beautifully designed and the decor is just the perfect mix of island accents and modern touches. Our room: the Viceroy studio ocean view.  Brownie points for them reading our pre-arrival requests (they send you a whole slew of info via email before your arrival) and catching my request for extra pillows :)
The bathroom was huuuuuge! if you can see in the reflection, there's a huge shower and next to that is a deep soaking tub which I never used because... also have a private plunge pool overlooking beach. Enough said.

Complimentary treats and nibbles to celebrate our arrival
 Aleta Pool. Aleta restuarant is also here (i'm standing in front of it) where you can have breakfast.
The pool cabanas-which I can imagine are in high demand during peak season but definitely not worth it for our stay. They come fully stocked with tv, beds, food/drinks and butler (?) service. These sat empty (along with a majority of almost every common space at the hotel) during our entire stay.
The Viceroy is amazing but there were a few things that were not so great that I will comment upon in my next post.  When I was reading reviews about this hotel every commenter on the forums had expressed the same mixed feeling.  It's always: "its beautiful but..."  There's always a "but" which is sad because it would make this good hotel go to unbelieveably great should management pay attention to everyone's critiques.  It is the largest and newest hotel on the island though so if modern/cool is your style you really don't have an option unless you go the villa route (which is another post in itself - but I can definitely see why villas are probably the most popular (and valuable) option for vacationers)

Anyhow... after an early morning of travel on planes, boats, and cars - we unpacked, switched to our bathing suits and just relaxed for the remainder of the day. Will post Part 2 soon! 

Summer Vacay warm-up: Miami

We had grand plans to do western mediterranean cruise this summer and tour spain and the french riviera. But our little one has already started to insert its own 2 cents into our plans. Unfortunately cruise ships have a pregnancy week cutoff that I would pass so we had to go back to the drawing board. Instead, we decided to try and unwind and go for some serious R&R with a weeklong caribbean vacation in Anguilla. To ease into the island life, we decided to do a quick 2-days warm-up in Miami. We decided to stay a little further north up the strip for a change at the Fontainebleau and found it to be a quick and perfect way to gear up for Anguilla.

1. This resort is massive. My photog skills would not do it justice so here's a photo from their site. 2. Even a basic deluxe room is a good size and I especially love the imacs that come with it (and free wifi). 3. Our first stop after landing at 8am - hitting up Yardbird for some chicken buscuits. 4. All that comfort food was a little much so I hit the treadmill for a 20 min walk and a Nike training club workout. 5. I negated the workout with poolside (virgin) pina coladas until ...6) the storm clouds started rolling in. 7) Got a little nap in before heading to Barceloneta. 8 & 9) A selfie 10) ending the night with a little pool at the Delano.

18 days. 6 countries. 1 bag: Taormina/Sicily (day 6)

That day 6 outfit is peeking out...too chilly!
And we're sailing!

Finally a home base for 10 days.  I loved our stateroom. We booked on Aqua Class on our celebrity cruise on board the Equinox. I'll get into all the perks of the AQ in a later post but for now, I'm jumping onto day 1 of the cruise and our first stop in Sicily/Taormina.  I'm keeping this short and sweet but I do have to note that we decided on the ship's sponsored excursion since it was one less thing to have to plan :)  The weather was pretty chilly and overcast but not overly cold. We got onto big tour buses with this woman who had the thickest accent ever guiding us through the sites. All I remember was her pushing these coupons that would get us a free bottled water up at some restaurant in Taormina. After multiple plugs for this free bottled water, P and I ditched the group and headed to explore on our own. the town is small and basically runs on one main street.  It was sunday and off-season so a lot of the shops were already closed but highlights of the town were the spectacular views (i can only imagine how breathtaking it would be on a clear sunny day), the amphitheater, and the cannolis. I never really liked cannolis but after trying them here, it was a whole different ball game. They were so good that we turned around after snacking on two and got more and snuck them back on the bus. Delizioso! 

This was probably the only time we woke up at 6am on this entire cruise. Luckily, this was the view from laying in bed with the curtains opened :)  The life....

Sites from Taormina

More views and oh those cannolis

Day 6 Outfit recap! 
You can't see it because of my raincoat but I'm wearing a floral printed blouse, teal cardigan, my wide leg navy khakis, and gold ballet flats.

18 days. 6 countries. 1 bag: Let's go to Civitavecchia! (day 5)

It's been almost 3 months since I jumped on here- my bad! A whirlwind of things have been keepin me from the bloggy blog. But I happened to be reading old trip posts and felt the urge to continue the travel memories. So let's get on to day 5 - departure day of our cruise!

If you ever do a cruise around the Mediterranean and Rome happens to be one of your stops, then what they don't tell you is that your boat actually docks in civitavecchia (to this day I still can't say it but it's "CHEE..V..TAA..VICKY.. AH") which is about an hour northwest of Rome. It's quite a trek! But it's a trek that tens of thousands of cruise tourists make every year.

This recap will be from rome to the port . The easiest way to get there is to take your cruise's transfer which is either from the airport to port or from hotel to port. Hassle free and your boat won't leave you if you book through the cruise ship. Downside? It's $100-$200 per person one way! 

Here's what we did: From our hotel, we took a cab to St. Peters Station (Roma S. Pietro). You can view the schedules for the train on the trenitalia website ((Roma S. Pietro to Civitavecchia). I picked two times to catch the train and even though our hotel was close to the station it still took more than I planned so we just missed the first train. The second train came 20 minutes after (the next one would be an hour later so that was a big no-no).  You can buy tickets using the kiosks but I still didn't trust myself and went to the ticket agent. He spoke NO ENGLISH.  however, this is nothing new to them (tourists with suitcases going to civitavecchia? - cruise passengers!)  So he sold us the 2 one-ways in 2nd class. It was around 5 euros each which was around $7! 

First I looked for the yellow boxes to validate tickets. Make sure to follow the direction on how to place it into the box - i've heard and read stories of people who validated their ticket wrong and still got fined from an overzealous ticket collector. After validation, we then found the track (there are monitors saying which train arrives on what track)  Be sure to pay attention. Once the train arrived (on time btw) we hopped on and found 2 seats and was on our way.  Note: this is a regional commuter train - it gets packed as you start to leave rome and then gradually gets less and less as you get closer to civitavecchia. I kept an eye on our belongings but still enjoyed the scenic ride along the coast. 

If you wonder where to get off, it's the last stop.  There's a good chance there will be other cruise passengers on your train so take notice. If you can befriend them along the way or after you leave the train station there will be cabs waiting to take passengers.  Funny how this cab to the ship costs more than the 1hour train trip. but hey, it is what it is - make friends so you can share the ride. I believed we paid 20 euros including tip since our cab driver didn't actually allow us to split the fare because he knew weren't traveling as one group. I'm sure you can get away splitting if you just act like you all are together. Just sayin...  Another option is the free shuttle buses that take you to the different ships. We didn't take this until our return after the cruise and good thing we did. It's quite a walk (maybe 5-10min).  When you exit the train station, make a right and travel along the sidewalks (the water will be on your left as you walk) until you get to the entrance to the port. the buses should be there.  The good thing about being on a cruise is there's a really good chance that you aren't the only one taking this option. Watch other people who are going in your direction and don't be afraid to ask "are you going on the cruise?" sometimes there's safety and confidence in numbers.

After we got to the port, you check in and go through security. this all takes place in a big tent posing as a terminal (such a difference from the monstrosity in Ft. Lauderdale!) There is luggage dropoff, security, and check-in counters. Don't be alarmed - celebrity counter agents take your passports at check-in - you get your seapass cards in exchange. The cards serve as your passport/cash/keys/access/life (lol) so keep it on you and guard it with your life! once that's done, you're set to board the ship and ready to cruise the world!

Didn't forget: Outfit recap! 
Day 5: similar to my day 2 outfit - different shirt! Jeans, biker boots, orange striped shirt, cardigan, leather jacket By the way, my bag is an MZ Wallace bag. Such a workhorse for traveling that withstands the elements. And it's in my favorite color!

18 days. 6 countries. 1 bag: Rome - Day 4 continued

Long story short: We got home at 4am the next morning.

Long story long: Remember my travel "rule" for new places?  
Spend half a day hitting the "must-sees",  a local restaurant for dinner, and do one nightlife-oriented event (bar, club, activity, etc).
Well my "activity" for our second night in Rome included bar, club, activity, AND etc... HA!  As a dancer, whenever I travel to new places, if I get the chance to teach or take a class, I always go for it.  Now I'm not gonna front, I get intimidated like any new kid starting school in a new place.  But it makes for a good experience because you get to step a little outside of the touristy realm and into more "real" people realm.  Youtube has its benefits - do a search for "hip hop dance competition italy " and you get this crew.  Break da Beat crew from Roma…they'd definitely give ABDC a run for its money.  I was able to find which studio, the choreographer, Emanuele Battista, taught at and sent him an email about classes. I was in luck because he had a class the last night i was there!  yay! So off me and Mr. P went after the Coliseum - back to the hotel so I could change into my getup and then took a cab to Maison de la Danse (Via Assisi 37 Metro: Ponte Lungo)   

I was so nervous - this crew was good. What if I sucked?  Too late to back out now…so I got there just when they were in the middle of warmup (and i was late! dangit!) 5 min into the class and I was in a groove and started to just enjoy learning someone else's style.  Emanuele asked if he should speak in english or italian and i said no, don't mind me, italian is fine.  More reason to believe Dance is a universal language - you just follow and I had no problems following.   The class was awesome - here's where I netted out with the routine (which was dope by the way)  

After class, with no time to change, I literally switched to a maxi dress and flats that I had stuffed in my purse. My sneakers (Nike Free TR Fit Winter) were awesome because they are flat and super flexible (but still look good) and took up barely any room in my purse.  I layered up over my maxi dress with a cardigan and my leather jacket, some accessories and headed to dinner at Glass Hostaria
Glass Hostaria in Trastevere
Getting there was an adventure - the cab driver dropped us off on a corner in Trastevere and just motioned into the alley like "there"  lol.  so we kinda walked in circles until after asking a few people we finally found it.  I'll keep my review nice and short: It is a gorgeous place with modern decor and design. However it's something we're accustomed to seeing in NYC. The food was good. Service: decent.  Mindblowing? no.  Italian? not so sure...I think it was a modern/fancy take of Italian cuisine.  If you had one night to do dinner in Rome - I would say skip. If you have a few nights however, I would recommend. Needless to say, we left still hungry. There were a lot of good reviews for Glass but after the day we had, I should have chosen something more local and hearty.  Out of 5 sefastars: I give it a 3.5 (I think NYC spoils me lol).  Glass Hostaria (Vicolo de' Cinque, 58  00153 Roma, Italy)

Travel tip:  I'm a loyal fan of and happened to stumble upon a european counterpart called that works very similar. I was able to read reviews (majority english) and book reservations.  Most had perks when booking a reservation.  Easy - no language barriers - done and done.  I recommend.

When we left Glass Hostaria, we headed to this bar that we had passed earlier that night while in search for the restaurant. They were playing hip hop (current hip hop at that) and figured why not go for a drink afterwards?  
G. D.J.-Bar in Trastevere
DJ-bar (Vicolo del cinque, 60, Roma) felt like a place college kids would hang out at but it wasn't just students in there. It was a mix of people and personalities. The vibe was very casual, fun, and celebratory.  The DJ was great - we kind of posted up right next to him and I would just make requests and he would just play them!  I wasn't surprised about him playing them - I was more surprised that he had the songs!  Travis Porter, Chris brown/weezy "Look at me now", jayz/kanye "Paris", T-pain, Ross, Drake, Wiz Khalifa, Yung Joc, Nicki,  etc  you name it he had it. I was jamming!  In an hour's time, we had made a few friends (or lets say Mr. P had made a few fans haha) and caught the attention of the owner who invited us to another spot after he closed down.  So come 2am roll around and DJ Bar shut down, we head with the owner to another club called Akab in who knows where (found out later, Testaccio) and partied it up VIP style with a few Roma futbol players. Crazy. Music good (hip hop, dancehall, house). By 4am I don't think my body was agreeing to this 24 hour party time so we finally said our goodbyes and headed back to the hotel.  ahhh the good times.
Akab in Testaccio
We "woke" up 5 hours later, realizing the only damage done was that I had left the chunky infinity scarf I had purchased in London at Akab (doh! and I was slightly pissed at myself b/c I could have used this scarf in several places later in the trip). Anyhow, we woke up, quickly threw clothes into our suitcases and headed to the station to catch our train to Civitavecchia to board our cruise!  

Considering we were up at 8am the day before that's almost 24 hours of being out and about.  It's a shame I didn't take pictures on our second and last night in Rome but that's why I've got the internet to help me out*  Until next time....

*Unable to find photo credits for these but would be happy to give credit where credit is due!

18 days. 6 countries. 1 bag: Rome (days 3-4)

When I only have a day or two in a new city—US or abroad, I always accept the fact that I can't see everything.  It's just impossible.  Instead, I have a personal "rule" that I go by: Spend half a day hitting the "must-sees",  a local restaurant for dinner, and do one nightlife-oriented event (bar, club, activity, etc).  In my original plan, for our 2 days pre-cruise, I wanted us to see St. Peters in the morning and Rome cultural sites in the afternoon on day 1.  The next day, take a day trip to Florence, and be back for dinner in Rome by the evening.  
Flying into Rome; my day 4 outfit; what's that arrow doing there? Looking down Via del Corso while standing in front of the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele at sunset. 
What really happened was this: our flight got in at 9a, we were at the hotel by 11, we didn't leave till 1p, we ran to the vatican for our pre-booked St. Peter's tomb/Scavi tour at 2p, finished by 3p, grabbed a late lunch at 4 (but why was it getting so dark already?) got back to the hotel by 5ish - took a nap  which turned into a looooong nap that caused us to wake up at 9p, look at each other, then fall back asleep for the night lol (our day did start at 3am to make a 6a flight out of Gatwick- I should have known better!).  On day 2, we nixed Florence and walked around Rome for the entire day.  Plans are great but be flexible!  It is a vacation after all!
One of my favorite sculptures on the entire trip: The statue of Laocoön and His Sons. The expression, strength, and movement captured in marble is amazing. There are sculptures everywhere in this city - each a work of art.  Not gonna lie - for some reason the vatican walls always made me flashback to the scene of Tom Cruise scaling the walls in Mission Impossible.  I was on the lookout for broken utility trucks! Bottom right corner: silence in the Sistine Chapel!!!  yeah we know there are no pics allowed but seriously, any photos no matter how professional, just doesn't do the real art justice. 
Some tips: 
  • You can totally walk rome. Wear comfortable shoes
  • The vatican is a must see.  The guidebooks are right about the vatican museums/sistine chapel - you could easily spend an entire day there.  The scale and detail is hard to describe and just doesn't translate via photo or video. It is massive and breathtaking.  It is recommended you prebook tickets. I hadn't actually planned to go to the Sistine Chapel (just wanted to see St. Peter's - it's free to enter) so I bought tix online at the hotel right before we left to go there.  Ended up, I didn't need to - the lines were nonexistent.   
  • I prebooked a tour of the Scavi - Vatican Necropolis.  Think of it as a behind-the-scenes tour of the vatican.  Only 10 people go at a time and it's totally private.  Our tour guide's knowledge was good but his english was pretty bad and he also really liked playing with his laser pointer so it's a hit or miss on this one.  It's amazing to travel underneath this massive complex and see how everything has been built above these tombs.  Do I recommend?  If you have limited time in Rome (say, hours), I say skip.  If you have a few days, I recommend. Securing tickets is odd - I filled out a form with my travel dates, scanned it in, and emailed the Papal office, waited, was sent a date that fit in my time slot, sent a credit card info, got confirmation via email, reconfirmed it (odd i know), then had to go to office to get tickets.  I did a lot of researching to figure out where to go and what to do but its only as I write this post that I found a site giving straightforward personal account of the process. Read here.
  • Which leads me to another tip - visit Rome in mid-november, and if you can mid-week: there were hardly the long lines I was reading about.  Yes, there are still tourists, but not enough to cause waits. Also - even though it's chilly it wasn't hot nor was it cold.  I wore leggings, sperry topsiders (comfy!), a dress and leather jacket and scarf.
  • People swear by this and I concur: ditch the tour guides and download Rick Steves audio tours to your ipod/iphone/mp3 player. We used it for seeing the sistine chapel, pantheon, st. peters, as well as additional sites on our whole trip. It gives you enough context to appreciate the art you're looking at but is also fairly quick commentaries and you go at your own pace. I don't know how to fast forward a tour guide!  

Highlights from the vatican museums and making our way down the streets of Rome

  • I knew no Italian but I got very comfortable saying ciao (hello/goodbye)graczi (thank you), and prego (you're welcome). When traveling I attempt to use the native language. Attempt being the key word here!  I always feel like people are more likely to help you out just because you're trying.  Also, using your hands and pointing to your maps, pics, etc will take you far.   
  • We didn't get a ROMA pass b/c everything was walkable or free - we only had a few hours so didn't need entrance tickets (except for Vatican Museums)- i just wanted to SEE the colosseum, SEE Trevi fountain, SEE the Pantheon (though it was free to walk in).  
  • Our friends said to stop wherever you can and get pizza and gelato - OFTEN. So we did.  I like to pick the places that have locals which are usually off the main streets. 
  • I read a lot about pickpocketing to get me nervous about it but then again I see they write about that for visiting NYC which is totally not on my radar. I will just advise to use common sense.  Carry/wear pockets and bags with zippers, travel light, and just try to blend in. 
  • I usually try to use my credit cards whenever I can so as to limit the amount of cash I carry on me.  But ATMS are hard to find and not all places (especially local food ones) might not take credit cards so you'll have to pack some dough.  
  • Wi-fi and Skype are your friends. I will do a future post on tech and travel.
  • And don't be afraid to wander!  Roman streets are a maze so we resolved to just wandering in the right general direction rather than what google map directions is saying what to do. Believe me, you'll go crazy trying to stick to this street and turning left at that street.  Just go in the direction, twist and turn wherever you feel like it.  You'll stumble onto piazzas, little neighborhoods, and shops which is the beauty of it all so just take it all in.

I brought a sketchbook with me on the trip since drawing forces you to really stop and look at things. I make my sketches in 5-10 minutes. It's a nice break to have when you've been walking everywhere.  Top: Colosseum; Trevi Fountain; St. Peters at night from Day 3 right after our Scavi tour.
Our evening on Day 4 warrants its own post (I smile just thinking about it) so check back soon for the recap! 
Rome wasn't built in a day but we saw most of it in 24 hours!  Above: our walking route.

Outfit recap: 
Day 3: Jeans, biker boots, orange striped shirt, cardigan, leather jacket
Day 4: Leggings, Sperry Topsider loafers, Navy Blue striped dress, cardigan, leather jacket.