5 Reasons to Visit Amboise, France

Have you ever been somewhere that makes you feel like you’re walking in a real life fairytale? That’s exactly how I felt as we pulled into Amboise, France, a small medieval town in the Loire Valley. The final home of Leonardo da Vinci and home to  Château Royal d’Amboise, it’s as if you’re walking in the real life version of Beauty & the Beast. The people are friendly, the food is outstanding and if the walls could talk...it would be a hard to top history lesson. About 140 miles outside of Paris, Amboise is one of many stops to make throughout the Loire Valley and believe me when I say - there are many. Known for the highest concentration of chateaus in the world, the Loire Valley is one of France’s largest wine producing regions, especially white wine and sparkling wine (not to be confused with Champagne which can only be made in the region of the same name). While Amboise is not the only town I suggest for a visit in the Loire Valley, it is one of my favorites. If I haven’t convinced you yet, here are five reasons why you should visit Amboise....

5 Reasons to Visit Amboise.png

1 - The History. Amboise has seen much of history from being the home of kings and hosting notable historical figures to being the epicenter of religious turmoil. It’s been used as a place of celebration and a place of incarceration. It’s amazing to realize how much this town has been through over centuries - like I said, if the walls could talk I could only imagine what they’d say. Amboise also served as a fortress during its long life. Because of this, there are underground passageways which offer a unique look back into history. Lucky for us, these tunnels as well as the towers within the fortress are accessible through special tours. The town and château  especially was nearly destroyed during the French Revolution. After being returned to the heirs of Louis Philippe in the late 19th century, the  château went under a complete restoration only to be damaged once again during World War II during the German invasion. Restorations took place for the final time after the war and are now kept by a local organization. Today, Amboise still maintains its Renaissance charm which is what gives it such a fairy tale-like character that seems at times, unreal.

🎶 “Little town…it’s a quiet village…” 🎶

🎶 “Little town…it’s a quiet village…” 🎶

2 - Château Royal d’Amboise is breathtaking inside and out. The château is smaller in size compared to many others but the quaint size is what makes it so charming. Amboise has seen its fair share of neglect but it’s always been rebuilt and today, it shares a window to the past so that we might understand what life was like throughout the centuries that came before us. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, there is much to see at Château Royal d’Amboise. For starters, Leonardo da Vinci is buried in Saint-Hubert’s Chapel which sits atop the castle gardens. For anyone who adores Renaissance art and the great minds from that generation, this is an absolute must. The rooms inside the chateau have been returned to their former glory when royalty made it their home. The gardens that sit on top of the château overlook the town and the valley for some of the best views you’ll find in the Loire.

View from the gardens atop Château Royal d’Amboise

View from the gardens atop Château Royal d’Amboise

3 - Château du Clos Lucé was the final home of Leonardo da Vinci. He lived here for the final three years of his life with a select few students and it is now a museum dedicated to his life and work. Located just outside the town’s borders, Clos Lucé holds many of Leonardo's unfinished work as well as finished pieces and drawings of ideas and inventions he had not yet gotten to. Clos Lucé was originally built by the Amboise family who the town was named after in the 15th Century. It later became a summer home of the Kings of France which is how it came to be da Vinci’s final home. King Francis I admired da Vinci and asked him to be the “Premier Painter and Engineer and Architect of the King” which obviously, he accepted. Clos Lucé pays tribute to more than just the famed artist. There are rooms dedicated to other periods of time and figures who also took up residence on the property, for example, Queen Anne of Brittany.

Saint Hubert’s Chapel where Leonardo da Vinci was laid to rest atop Château Royal d’Amboise

Saint Hubert’s Chapel where Leonardo da Vinci was laid to rest atop Château Royal d’Amboise

4 - The Amboise Sunday Market is a favorite among visitors and locals within the entire Loire Valley. The market features vendors selling everything from food to clothing to furniture. Many people make a day of it and finish with a picnic by the river or tour one of the aforementioned châteaux. Because of the market’s popularity, it’s important to get there early to beat crowds. Grab all the produce you need for the week with freshly grown vegetables and fruits, purchase fresh meat butchered that very morning, and enjoy pre-made cuisine that proves French street food is as good as anywhere else. The market takes place in the Place du Marchée beside the Loire River. It’s quite large and busy but 100% worth experiencing at least once.

Overlooking the Loire from the Château Royal d’Amboise gardens

Overlooking the Loire from the Château Royal d’Amboise gardens

5 - The town of Amboise is as charming as its château of the same name. Because Amboise has higher tourist traffic than similar small towns within the Loire Valley, it has novelties and conveniences that others might not. There are many restaurants, bakeries, cafes, shops and fun things to do and see. The gardens of the château provide unbeatable panoramic views of the Loire Valley. The streets of Amboise take you to a different place and time. The people are friendly and welcoming. The food is simply fantastic. It’s hard to hate Amboise from its charming personality to welcoming nature to historical significance. The town and the château have had a rough life but that alone speaks to the people’s tenacity and strength. In fact, I fell in love with Amboise so much that it’s my #1 choice to settle down for a time when I manage to get back to Europee indefinitely. When a place leaves a mark on you that strong, you know it’s meant to be.

Amboise Restaurant ed.jpg

8 Destinations For Solo Travel Around the World

Some of the best adventures are had while we’re pushed outside of our comfort zones. Traveling alone is one of the most rewarding and enriching experiences anyone can have, especially a woman. I cannot say this enough. If you feel nervous, start slow. Plan a long weekend away in the US or your home country. Once you’ve built up the confidence many people feel they need to travel alone, take a longer trip abroad. Regardless of where your first trip may take you, these 8 non-European and US cities are musts for your solo travel bucket list. I call this…8 Destinations For Solo Travel Around the World. It should be a longer list, just like the US and European lists should have been longer, but we’d be getting into novel length territory. As much as I’d love to write the next great American novel, none of us here currently have time for that. So from the temples of Cambodia to the festivals of Quebec, here are 8 destinations for solo travelers around the world.

Cities Around the World for Solo Travel.png

Bangkok, Thailand
Now is the ideal time to plan a trip to Bangkok. I’ll be honest, Thailand wasn’t the first place that came to mind when I thought about solo travel. A friend of mine traveled to Bangkok with family and had an exceptional experience. While I was polling friends and family to find out what countries and cities they felt would be great for women looking to travel alone for the first time, she insisted I consider Bangkok. After a little research, I couldn’t agree more. November to February will see the coolest temperatures in Thailand. December and January see the highest number of tourists so if you prefer a less crowded experience, November and February will offer less crowds without the sweltering temperatures or downpouring rain.

Bangkok is known for their street food which is almost everywhere. It might not be the traditional Thai food you’re familiar with from the local takeout place but it will no doubt blow your mind. Communication might not be smooth sailing as the people largely use their own native language (rightfully so), but you will find plenty of kindness. Thailand thrives from tourism and the people know this so they’ve become incredibly welcoming to visitors. With that said, don’t let vendors take advantage of you! Haggling is a common practice in Thailand and while it might seem intimidating, have a little fun with it. It’s more of a game than an anxious confrontation.

Photo c/o @ yesrenteria

Photo c/o @yesrenteria

Bangkok, Thailand.jpg

Budapest, Hungary
Hungary is a country that should be on any travel bucket list for the history alone. Many different groups of people left a mark on Hungary but you’ll see the strongest influence from the Romans and the Turkish empire. You can still enjoy thermal baths which are as popular with the locals as they are with tourists. Something I did not know about Budapest, it is literally split into Buda and Pest! The two parts of the city are separated by the Danube River and have very different vibes. Buda is home to more of the historical monuments and architecture of the city. Here you will find lots of old cobblestone roads, the Castle District and quiet nights. Adversely, Pest is where you go for a fun nightlife scene. Pest is the home of the Jewish Quarter where there are an endless amount of unique cafes and ruin bars to visit. Even though Buda is where most of the historic buildings are, you can still find things like the House of Terror and St. Stephen’s Basilica in Pest. If you’re worried about traveling solo in Budapest, don’t. It’s very friendly towards travelers, even women who are on their own.

Hanoi, Vietnam
The capital city of Vietnam, Hanoi is a busy, bustling experience surrounded by beaches, mountains, ruins, and more. Whatever you can think of to want in a travel experience, Hanoi has to offer. While it might be overwhelming at first, Hanoi deserves a chance if you’re willing to be a little adventurous in your solo travels. A great place to stay in Hanoi is the Old Quarter. For starters, many of the popular hotels are located here which is convenient in itself. Second, many of the sights that will be on your list are also located here such as Hoan Kiem Lake. It’s also a hub for shopping, dining, and more. A few things that you’ll want to make sure are on your list: Vietnamese coffee (trust me), street food (one of the things Hanoi is known for), and the Hanoi Night Market. The Night Market is a reprieve from the general rule of staying in at night as a solo traveler. If you feel comfortable, venture out. The market will still be crowded enough to feel safe but not as congested as the daytime markets feel. There’s less haggling as well since the vendors and shopkeepers are much more casual and relaxed.

Sites to consider visiting include Van Mieu, Hao Lo Prison, and the Vietnam Army Museum. Van Mieu, otherwise known as the Temple of Literature, is supposedly the most beautiful to visit. Hao Lo Prison, also known as Hanoi Hilton, can be a little controversial. The information the museum shares isn’t exactly historically accurate according to accounts from those who experienced the prison during the Vietnam War. If you keep an open mind, it’s an interesting exhibit sharing insight into what the Vietnamese went through while trying to gain independence from France. The WanderBlogger has a great guide to Hanoi featuring 8 things you should do.

Mexico City, Mexico
When you think of Mexican travel spots, Cancun and Playa del Carmen might be the first cities that come to mind. Mexico City, although not a beachside city, should be at the top of your Central American bucket list. Bursting with cultural experiences, Mexico City is filled with Mexican history and culture from the food to the art scene. This destination is ideal for the foodie, the history buff, the art lover, the frugal traveler, and most definitely...the solo traveler. The bustling city has the second largest collection of museums (who knew?!), thousands of restaurants including high-end dining experiences, and an unlimited amount of things to do.

Let’s start with history. Mexico City is surrounded by some of the more notable Mayan, Aztec, and Mesoamerican ruins. For art lovers, on top of the many art museums and ancient sculptures littered throughout the city, you’ll also find many to Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. There’s a museum solely dedicated to Kahlo located in her old family home as well as to both Kahlo and Rivera in their old studio. While Asian countries are said to have the best street food in the world, natives of Mexico City might disagree. From tacos to tamales, the capital city has a lively food scene that rivals those of Thailand and Vietnam (also mentioned in this post). That doesn’t mean you can’t find a gourmet meal though! Oh no, Mexico City has many restaurants that provide unique, high-end dining experiences including tasting menus. The difference between Mexico City and say...Chicago? It’ll cost you a lot less. Ultimately, Mexico City should be a bucket list item for the solo traveler or at the very least, the frugal traveler.

Photo c/o @ yesrenteria

Photo c/o @yesrenteria

Quebec, Canada
Hopefully my next solo excursion this fall, Quebec is the closest US natives can get to Europe without flying across the Atlantic. Similar to France, Quebec has a strong, proud culture and history. There’s an episode of No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain in the first season that really dives into the culture of the region. It’s actually one of the reasons I was inspired to include Quebec rather than any other Canadian city or province in this post. Expect to speak the Quebecois dialect of French with signs throughout the cities only in French. It doesn’t take a linguist to translate the meaning of said signs but it’s something to prepare for. When traveling to the Quebec province in Canada, there are two big city options: Quebec City and Montreal. Both are worth adding to your itinerary but they each have their own individual experiences.

Montreal is the more cosmopolitan of the two cities and Quebec City is much more historical. Not to say that Montreal doesn’t have its fair share of history and Old World feel. Quebec City just has more doors to the past. For example, Quebec City is home to Old Quebec where you can find the original walled fortifications of the city now designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Quebec City is also where you’ll find the Citadelle of Quebec which is Canada’s oldest military building and the Notre-Dame de Quebec Basilica that dates back to the 17th century. Let’s not knock Montreal though. This city has plenty to offer all it’s own. While Quebec City might have a more Old World feel to it, Montreal has embraced the 21st century while still remembering where it came from. Montreal has a vibrant food scene with classic patisseries, English pubs, food markets, delis and more. It’s a city that loves festivals with more than 90 in a calendar year especially their famous Jazz Festival. The art scene is established and always growing. Regardless of which city you choose, there are plenty of things to occupy your time, more than enough restaurants to keep your belly full, and enough culture to make you leave feeling enriched and ready to return at a moment’s notice.

Queenstown, New Zealand
There are a lot of reasons why New Zealand deserves to be on this list. The people are incredibly friendly, it’s one of the safest countries in the world, and there’s a range of adventures from city exploration to remote hiking trails. One day you can be exploring a Hobbit Town, the next you can be on a vineyard tour sipping delightful wines, and the next you can be staring up at a crystal clear sky in the mountains. The versatility of the country is unique. Queenstown in particular is more of the adventurous region of New Zealand. Home to a vast number of nature activities from hiking to skiing, there is plenty of land to explore and things to do. A visit to Queenstown is great for the scenery alone. The landscape and backdrops that surround you all over are breathtaking.

Santiago, Chile
It may be surprising (it was to me) but Santiago Chile is one of the safest cities to visit in South America. With low crime rates and trustworthy police, Santiago has become one of the more popular Latin American travel destinations and rightfully so. Santiago has everything going for it from a rich urban culture to gorgeous mountains and vibrant vineyards and wineries. Let’s talk about those for a minute. The best travel times for Santiago are from March to May and August to November. However my vote is March to May because that’s fall in Santiago which means harvest season. Wineries in Chile, just like any other place in the world celebrate the harvest with festivals and it’s a wonderful time to enjoy the world-class wine from the region. The weather is also mild making it a comfortable time to travel without the crowds that summer brings. Santiago is a great city for frugal travelers as the conversion rate is in the American’s favor plus everything is less expensive. There are also a large number of things to see and do for free. For foodie travelers, dive into classic sopaipillas, explore Peruvian cuisine, and enjoy fresh fish caught that morning. If you ask me, I’m in for the sopaipillas alone!

Siem Reap, Cambodia
Known as the home of Angkor Wat, Siem Reap is a city rich in history, culture, and welcoming locals making it a great destination for traveling alone. Depending on where you’re traveling from, Siem Reap might not be particular cheap to get to but it’s rather inexpensive to visit. Walk ancient ruins in Angkor Wat (translated to “City of Temples”), the largest religious monument in the world. This is a high traffic area for tourists so if you’re one who tends to avoid crowds, do a little research to see which of the temples are not as popular or head over early. The early bird always misses the crowd. Because Siem Reap is a smaller town there isn’t much nightlife which works in the favor of solo travel. However, if you’d like to grab a post-Indiana Jones adventure cocktail, Pub Street is the place to be! Cambodia as a whole is known for their cuisine and lifestyle rooted in strong wellness practices. From yoga retreats to spa days, there is no shortage of opportunities to rejuvenate before the long flight home.

San Antonio Dining: Supper at Emma

San Antonio has plenty of spots to grab a bite. My favorite part of traveling is all the research and preparation before a trip. There were an endless number of restaurants that I wanted to visit while in the Southwestern city but there’s only so much a stomach can handle. Once the list has narrowed a bit, it’s easier to decide which restaurants fit best into your plans. Supper at Emma in the Pearl District just so happened to be the perfect spot for breakfast the day of my cousin’s wedding. Towards the end of the riverwalk where the river taxi turns back around is the Pearl District, one of my favorite parts of San Antonio. This is where the gorgeous and unparalleled Hotel Emma is located and likewise, Supper.

Supper at Emma Review - San Antonio.png

Supper at Emma is an “American Eatery” by Chef John Brand featuring a “straightforward and creative approach guided by flavor, what’s in season and what feels good in the center of a table shared by friends.” The restaurant offers an experience that is part farm-to-table, part bistro. The flavors of south Texas are at the forefront of the menu as well as local, seasonal ingredients. Quite honestly, it was one of my favorite San Antonio dining experiences and very unexpected as well. Supper is an American Eatery but the food is so unique and original, it doesn’t deserve to be in a classic American category. I would fly back to San Antonio for the chance to have breakfast at Supper one more time.

Supper at Emma 4.0.jpg

Breakfast was the meal of choice for us at Supper and what a great one it came to be! With an affordable menu and versatile options, it was difficult making a decision on what to eat. My Noni decided to go with the Ricotta Pancakes with Lemon and Blueberries (now listed with raspberries on their website). I decided to go outside of my usual comfort zone and ordered the Green Chorizo Scotch Egg with Cornbread, Creme Fraiche, and Salad. To finish, we split the famous Beignets that called to me while doing restaurant research. While neither of us had a traditional breakfast compared to our usual standards, we were both blown away by the experience.

Supper at Emma 1.0.jpg

The Ricotta Pancakes are made with chickpea flour making them much lighter than the typical heavy pancake. It was the first time I ever saw my Noni clean her plate for breakfast. The Scotch Egg was something I’ve never had before and an interesting, complex dish. For starters, I’d love to know how Scotch Eggs are made because they seem like witchcraft to me. The green chorizo was inside the scotch egg, acting sort of like a barrier between the actual egg and the crisp breading. It was so flavorful and satisfying. The combination of textures from the smooth egg and crunchy breading worked in sync with the spiciness of the chorizo, creaminess of the egg and savory notes from the crust. The cornbread could win an award too. Moist and sweet yet still savory...I can’t say one bad thing about this dish. Finally, the beignets were exactly as you’d want them. Crisp on the outside and melt-in-your-mouth fluffy on the inside. Dusted with powdered sugar and served with preserves, nothing will complete your morning better.

Supper at Emma 3.0.jpg

Supper is located within Hotel Emma in the Pearl District of San Antonio. The restaurant features both indoor seating and an outdoor patio. Reservations are available and encouraged. After dining at Supper, walk around the property for gorgeous views of the riverwalk. I also encourage you to take a personal tour through Hotel Emma. It’s like walking back in time. The decor is rustic and sophisticated and makes for fantastic photos. Most notably, the hotel has a 3,700-volume library any bookworm would drool over. Visit their gift shop, grocery store or club room for a cocktail and enjoy all the intricate details that make this hotel something truly special.

Supper at Emma 2.0.jpg

9 Spots To Grab Brunch Around Chicago

Brunch. America’s favorite weekend passtime. The perfect blend of breakfast and lunch. The gut-wrenching decision of sweet versus savory. It’s an excuse to drink before noon and a reason to sit and chat with friends for hours judgement free. During this time of year, it’s time to soak up the final rays of sunshine and warmth before the heat goes away and the cold creeps in. Are you a sweet or savory bruncher? Would you prefer to dig in to a giant stack of fluffy buttermilk pancakes or a cheesy 5-egg omelet? Maybe you prefer having a combination of the two? I’m definitely the latter. Give me sweet and savory and I’m a happy girl. While the warmer days may be limited, Chicago will stretch patio season out well into fall as long as it’s not snowing. So whether you prefer an outdoor or indoor brunch, we’ve got a list of nine restaurants to indulge the favorite weekend meal. Dig in, Chicago!

Chicago Brunch Spots.png

Atwood | 1 West Washington Street - Loop
Located inside the gorgeous Alise Hotel, Atwood serves up contemporary American cuisine with local ingredients. With a menu leaning more towards the savory side of breakfast dishes, grab classics like Steak & Eggs to interesting twists like the Grilled Cheese featuring tomato jam and smoked gouda. The Atwood Omelet available for brunch and breakfast (lucky you), is a unique combination of ingredients that is delish. Bacon, caramelized onions, and Brie melt together in a fluffy, delightful omelet. For something sweet, dig into the Monte Cristo French Toast. It’s hard to deny raspberry preserves!

Brunch is available at Atwood Saturdays & Sundays and Breakfast is served weekdays.

The Atwood Omelet with Breakfast Potatoes and an English Muffin

The Atwood Omelet with Breakfast Potatoes and an English Muffin

Beatrix | 519 North Clark Street - River North
Beatrix has several locations around the city, one of them being in River North not too far from the Magnificent Mile. Known for having a great breakfast and brunch, Beatrix serves up healthier dishes that are still tasty. Each location also has a coffee bar with pastries so you can grab a latte on your way out! The Quinoa Cakes with Poached Eggs are an interesting change from more classic options. The tomato-basil sauce is a showstopper and you'll wish you had more of it to slather the egg and quinoa cakes with. It looks like a heavy meal but it’s much lighter than it seems. It’s equally fit for a hot day or cold winter day.

The Beatrix River North location offers Brunch Saturdays & Sundays from 8AM - 3PM and Breakfast is served weekdays from 7AM - 11AM.

The Quinoa Cakes with Poached Eggs

The Quinoa Cakes with Poached Eggs

FourteenSixteen | 14 West Calendar Avenue - LaGrange, IL
If you’re already in the suburbs or willing to make the trek outside of city limits, FourteenSixteen in LaGrange has got a bomb brunch. My closest friend from pre-high school days met me here one very hot summer Saturday for a brunch that had both of us clearing our plates. Disclaimer, you will have a terrible time choosing from the menu. Everything looks so good, especially if you see dish after dish come out of the kitchen. It’s practically impossible to make a decision and most likely accounted for half of our visit. The Pork Belly Hash is particularly fantastic. The pork melts in your mouth and everything from the avocado to queso fresco complement the dish beautifully. I have it on good authority that the Chicken Waffles and Beignets are worth a try too.

Weekend Brunch at FourteenSixteen is available Saturdays & Sundays from 10AM - 2PM.

Flo | 1434 West Chicago Avenue - West Town
Flo is a favorite brunch spot for locals. The first time I visited this New Mexican restaurant, I discovered the wonderful world of Fruity Pebbles French Toast. If you haven’t tried it yet, do so quickly. It’s the most amazing, unexpectedly delightful breakfast dish you’ll have. It was this dish that had me returning to Flo time and time again. I have branched out of Fruity Pebbles heaven though. The Bacon-Chocolate Pancakes are simply to-die-for, the Chorizo Scramble is my dream egg dish, and the Huevos Rancheros are also amazing. You’ll find classic brunch dishes here and a few way out of the ordinary. Regardless of your choice, the food is always outstanding and the experience casual. It’s more than likely those two reasons why locals keep going back for more.

Brunch is available at Flo Saturdays from 9AM - 3PM and Sundays from 9AM - 2PM. Breakfast is served weekdays starting at 8:30AM.

Photo c/o Flo

Photo c/o Flo

Jam n’ Honey | 958 West Webster Avenue - Lincoln Park - DePaul Campus
It’s time for a throwback. You know that one place you find in college that becomes the go-to for your close group of friends? Jam n’ Honey is basically that for anyone living on the DePaul University Lincoln Park campus. Don’t let the potential to run into crowds of college students deter you from trying Jam n’ Honey because it’s well worth it. From fluffy pancakes to a variety of eggs benedict, this corner restaurant on a college campus is offering comfort food, hangover food, and plain good-for-the-soul food. They’re also known for having an abundance of Nutella, one on each table to be specific. Have I sold you yet? I’ll meet you there!

Jam n’ Honey opens at 8AM every day.

Little Goat Diner | 820 West Randolph - West Loop
Stephanie Izard created a diner that Chicago didn’t realized it needed with Little Goat. I have been to one too many events during dinner time where the food has been scarce or non-existent. The first place that comes to mind every single time this happens is Little Goat. And while that may be dinner time, Little Goat offers a breakfast menu all day long so if you want an early breakfast, brunch or breakfast for dinner, you can have it! Little Goat Diner is SO good because you won’t find anything traditional on the menu. Instead of pancakes, you get Dark Chocolate Chip Crunch Pancakes. Instead of a generic egg hash, you get Smoked Corned Beef Hash with Eggs. Instead of French Toast, you get Bull’s Eye French Toast featuring crispy chicken and bbq maple syrup. Need I go on? It is brunch so if you’re feeling something a little more lunchy, dig in to one of the juicy, flavor-packed burgers. The Patty Melt is particularly mind-blowing. If that wasn’t enough, get a shake, get a cappuccino, get a pastry…and if you get there early enough, get one of their famous Cinnabuns.

Little Goat Diner opens at 7AM every day.

Photo Credit: Galdones Photography c/o Little Goat Diner

Photo Credit: Galdones Photography c/o Little Goat Diner

Lula Cafe | 2537 North Kedzie Avenue - Logan Square
Lula Cafe is at the heart of Logan Square’s culinary scene. One of the pioneers of the farm-to-table movement in Chicago, Chef Jason Hammel established a neighborhood restaurant that Chicagoans come from all over the city to visit. If you’re not a local, that means a lot because getting to the west neighborhoods is not easy if you’re not already in the western area. Their menu rotates seasonally using locally sourced ingredients and it’s rare you’ll hear someone say they didn’t enjoy a meal at Lula Cafe. Warning: this is a very popular spot and can get crowded fast. Reservations are only accepted after 5:30PM. If you plan to visit on the weekend, get there early or prepare to wait. It will be well worth it if you do.

Lula Cafe opens daily at 9AM, except Tuesdays when they are closed.

Marisol at the MCA | 205 East Pearson Street - Gold Coast
Another restaurant by Chef Jason Hammel, Marisol at the Museum of Contemporary Art is worth a visit for the experience as much as the food. The best part of Marisol might just be the daily housemade doughnut. Flavors vary each day so it’s always a surprise what you’ll get but they are always delicious. Marisol also features a seasonal menu to embrace local ingredients and the best flavors of the season. While dining, make sure to take in the art around you. The restaurant was designed to be an immersive experience created by artist Chris Ofili.

Brunch is available at Marisol Saturdays & Sundays from 10AM - 2:30PM.

Photo Credit: Neil Burger c/o Marisol

Photo Credit: Neil Burger c/o Marisol

The Allis at Soho House | 113-125 North Green Street - West Loop
My home away from home. The Allis at Soho House is one of the hardest places for me to describe. The decor is a mix of vintage and elegance, rustic and modern, sophisticated and casual. The service is always friendly. The food is always spectacular. I genuinely mean it when I say that I’ve enjoyed every single bite at this restaurant and there have been many. From the French Toast to the Baked Eggs, every taste bud is tantalized. The espresso is spot on and their bread is worth a visit all on its own. Confession: I normally like to order egg dishes just so I can have the bread with jam.

The Allis opens Monday - Saturday at 7AM and Sunday at 8AM

Allis 1.jpg
Allis 2.jpg

8 Chicago Patios to Send Off Summer

Summertime in Chicago is fleeting which is why locals make the most of it. Now that it’s August, it’s time to soak in the remaining weeks of patio season. While most patios will stay open through September and maybe even October, this is more than likely the last full month of summer weather. Chicagoans will gather their tribe and head to their favorite spots to enjoy the hot sunny rays while sipping a cold cocktail or glass of wine. They’ll talk about any late summer trips they’ve planned and reminisce on all the shenanigans that have happened the last few months from festival memories to bad blind dates. As much as I really don’t enjoy the heat, it’s my favorite part of summer because you have this renewed energy to take advantage of things like patios and outdoor concerts. You want to wear all those cute summer dresses you’ve been accumulating before it’s time to break out the chunky, oversized sweaters. The entire city of Chicago has an energized spirit that is hard to ignore. Whether you’re a local looking for a new spot or a visitor in town for a few days, I’ve put together a list of 8 restaurants with patios to take advantage of in these final days of summer.

8 Chicago Patios To Send Off Summer.png

Bar Siena/Bombobar | 832 West Randolph Street - West Loop
For great Italian, head to Bar Siena. Chef Fabio Viviani created a dynamic space inside and out with this restaurant. Located on Randolph Street along Restaurant Row, the menu is inspired by Italian street food like pizzas and shared plates. It’s strongly recommended (by yours truly) to share because you get to try a little bit of everything and believe me, you’ll want to. Bar Siena is open for brunch, lunch, and dinner but most important, they serve dessert from Bombobar. Bombobar is a walk-up window on the side of the restaurant serving delightful bombolini, my kryptonite. Bombolini are Italian doughnuts, or more simply put, fried dough dredged in sugar. Stuff them with Nutella, seasonal jams, s’more flavors and more.

As far as dinner is concerned, try the Burrata to start or the Taleggio Focaccia followed by a pizza and a pasta. The Sausage and Brussels Sprout Pizza is a nice change from tradition but the Fireball Pepperoni is like a grown-up version of your childhood favorite. The Short Rib Lasagna is out of this world and the Sweet Corn Ravioli is summer on a plate. You see why it’s important that you share plates now? The staff is very familiar with the drink menu and is able to provide great pairings for your dinner, even if your dinner is all over the place with flavor profiles.

Bar Siena - Bombobar ed .jpg

Caffe Streets | 1750 West Division Street - Wicker Park
This Wicker Park coffee shop has one of the largest patios I’ve seen for a coffee shop. Caffe Streets is a great spot to enjoy a patio while you need to get work done. The coffee shop offers free wi-fi, bomb espresso and a welcoming environment. It’s an independently run business serving brews from Metric Coffee Co., another local Chicago business. The patio is out front along Division Street and bordered by rustic wood railings with planters for a touch of homeyness. Even though Division is a busy street for the area, it’s not as loud and distracting as you’d think. I will say, this is a popular spot among locals so if you want to grab a seat, make sure to get there early. They don’t have a huge menu but they do have a variety of sweet and savory bakery items.

Caffe Streets 2.0.jpg

Cindy’s Rooftop | 12 South Michigan Avenue - Loop
Since opening not too long ago, Cindy’s Rooftop has established itself as a staple for Chicago bucket lists. Locals love it and out of towners have to visit if only to see the amazing views. Located in the Chicago Athletic Hotel, Cindy’s has a rooftop terrace with some of the best views of the city. Overlooking Millennium Park, get sweeping views of Lake Michigan, Michigan Avenue and more. It’s a spot that I take family from out of town and also meet friends for a drink. The outdoor terrace has fire pits to keep warm when the nights are cool and as fall creeps in. The doors to the terrace open wide to bring the outside in on a beautiful, sunny day.

Cindy’s is known for having an innovative craft cocktail menu and iconic brunch. Part of the reason you visit Cindy’s is to take a picture of your gorgeous cocktail with the view of the city in the background. If you head to Cindy’s for brunch, the Spiced Cinnamon Roll is worth getting sticky fingers for and the Avocado Toast is an elevated version of the popular dish. I’d get into the cocktails and drinks but there are so many options for every palate that we’d be here for days. If you’re like me and read a wine list better than a cocktail list, don’t be afraid to ask your server or the bartender for a recommendation. The whole point of craft cocktails is to provide a unique experience that you enjoy. Tell them what you like, what you don’t like and they’ll point you in the right direction.

Photo Credit: Chicago Athletic Association Hotel

Photo Credit: Chicago Athletic Association Hotel

City Winery on the Riverwalk | 11 West Riverwalk South - Chicago Riverwalk
For an ultimate patio experience, walk down the riverwalk and there is no shortage of spots to grab a seat. The riverwalk location is an extension of the larger City Winery on Randolph Street in the West Loop. The riverwalk is a newer development in the downtown area of Chicago. It used to be a place to avoid but now has a beautiful path on the south side of the river featuring restaurants, vendors, and activities like boat cruises and kayaking. City Winery offers wine on tap and by the bottle. The menu features shared plates, tours, charcuterie and cheese boards, paninis and more. On a hot day, I love to share the Schmear Plate with a friend or the Artisanal Cheese “Tour.” The Grilled Cheese is a stand-out sandwich for something more hearty featuring house-made apple butter and sun-dried tomato. Just trust me on this one.


Ema | 74 West Illinois Street - River North
Walking into Ema, it feels like you’ve entered Los Angeles. I’ve never been to the California mecca but I imagine that Ema is what LA restaurants feel like. It makes sense considering Chef CJ Jacobson is an Orange County native. He’s brought a taste of home to Chicago with Mediterranean-style cuisine using a California twist. Open for brunch, lunch and dinner, Ema serves food that tastes great and makes you feel even better. Even though Ema is in a busier part of River North, the patio offers a little seclusion and separation from the rush of traffic. It’s the perfect way to enjoy a late summer day and escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Plates are meant to be shared but that’s always ok with me as long as I get to try a number of dishes. Start off with one of their many spreads served with house made bread. The Garlic Hummus is a dream and the Avocado & Sweet Pea is a treat using the best ingredients of the season. A few other recommendations are the Sweet Corn Risotto, Grilled Pork Belly and Green Falafel. Enjoy plates both cold and warm, vegetarian and meaty. There’s seafood, kebabs, grains, and their famous Rotisserie Chicken that’s also available at the quick counter to-go.

Photo Credit: Anjali Pinto - c/o Ema

Photo Credit: Anjali Pinto - c/o Ema

Summer House Santa Monica | 1954 North Halsted Street - Lincoln Park
Another California-inspired restaurant, Summer House Santa Monica, won me over as soon as I experienced the clear ceiling that opens on dry days and lets all the sunshine in. This is another California-inspired menu with a focus on local, seasonal ingredients...my favorite! It’s an Instagram dream with all the natural lighting and bright, neutral colors. The food is amazing as well. From sushi to pasta to grilled proteins, even the pickiest of eaters will find something to eat at SHSM. The Ahi Tuna and Watermelon Tostada is fresh and flavorful while the Beyond Bolognese is a “meaty,” plant-based version of my favorite pasta. The restaurant is also known for a fantastic brunch which I have yet to experience but it remains on my bucket list! Don’t leave without dessert! Summer House Santa Monica shares a bakery with neighbor restaurant Stella Barra featuring fresh-baked cookies, pastries and more. Finish the night with something sweet and a little espresso. It sounds like heaven to me.

The Dawson | 730 West Grand Avenue - West Town
The Dawson has been a particular favorite of mine since it opened back in 2013. I’ve come here on many occasions for everything from dinner with friends to dinner for business. It’s a sophisticated dining experience with an elevated menu and gorgeous space. One of the best parts of The Dawson is the enclosed outdoor patio. It feels exactly how a backyard should but more grown-up. Pergolas, light landscaping, and string lights provide an ambiance that’s suitable for dinner with friends or an intimate dinner for two.

The Dawson’s menu doesn’t have to be shared but I always welcome any opportunity to try more than one dish. The Chorizo Fondue brings two of my favorite things together: cheese and chorizo. I’m not one to order fish but the Halibut with Zucchini and Harissa-Roasted Carrots is a dynamic summer dish. The House-Made Cavatelli with Pork Ragu is also sensational. One of The Dawson’s unique offerings is a selection of meals prepared over a wood-fired grill. It’s a traditional method of cooking and uses seasonal ingredients. The flavors are out of this world and the proteins cooked perfect. Final note for a side dish...order the Brussels Sprouts. You’ll never have them this good anywhere else.

Photo Credit: Gage Hospitality Group

Photo Credit: Gage Hospitality Group

Three Embers | 10 Marriott Drive - Lincolnshire, IL
If you’re willing to make a trip out to the suburbs, plan a visit to Three Embers at the Chicago Marriott Lincolnshire Resort. I recently shared a full review of the restaurant but it deserves a place on this list as well. Serving up Midwest cuisine with locally grown and sourced, farm-fresh ingredients...the main reason Three Embers belongs on this list is the stunning Lakeside Plaza. More than a patio, this plaza has gorgeous views of the resort’s grounds including a small lake and fountain. With plenty of outdoor seating, gorgeous views, and live acoustic music, it’s one of the best patio experiences. I’d love to revisit in the fall because something tells me the changing colors in the trees will be even more breathtaking than they are now. If you have a chance to visit while they’re still serving the summer menu, I recommend going for the Honey Badger Glazed Pork Belly alone. The Blueberry Coconut Lemonade isn’t so bad either 😉.

Three Embers - Lincolnshire 22.0.jpg

Chicago Marriott Lincolnshire Resort - Checking In

Nothing beats a mid-week staycation, especially during a busy few weeks. It’s a reprieve from the craziness of life whether you need a break from the office or the kids. Earlier this week, I shared a part of a recent mid-week staycation that I had the pleasure of enjoying. The Chicago Lincolnshire Marriott Resort invited me to dine at the newly redesigned and reconcepted Three Embers restaurant which was a treat in itself. They also invited me to stay the night which was a no brainer. I invited my cousin to come along and it served as a mini celebration of sorts for her earning a Masters degree. The resort recently went under a $25 million transformation from completely redesigned restaurants to a gorgeous outdoor patio. It’s an oasis in the Chicago suburbs and an ideal landscape for anyone looking to escape the fast-pace of city life and take a moment to breathe.

**I was invited to stay at the Chicago Lincolnshire Marriott Resort and enjoy a dinner at Three Embers complimentary. All opinions expressed belong to Lattes, Life & Luggage.***

Lincolnshire Marriott Hotel Review.png

Checking In
The Chicago Marriott Lincolnshire Resort is tucked away on a large campus that is home to the resort, the Marriott theater, an on-site farm, greenhouse, and apiary, and more. The secluded location guises the fact that you’re in suburban Chicago. The entire property is surrounded by forest area and the grounds are expertly landscaped. My cousin and I were running late for the Three Embers dinner so we had to take it in rather quick. We entered the lobby which has plenty of space and comfortable seating for lounging, and checked in seamlessly. The front desk staff was welcoming and very helpful in providing information about our room and stay. We passed the full-service Starbucks Cafe, new to the resort, and doors to the outdoor pool before going up one floor to our room.

Chicago Marriott Lincolnshire Resort 14.0.jpg
Chicago Marriott Lincolnshire Resort 10.0.jpg
Chicago Marriott Lincolnshire Resort 22.0.jpg

The Room
We stayed in a double room with full-sized beds and were greeted with a little note and a few chocolatey treats upon arrival. There was plenty of space for two of us with a desk and small seating area. The bathroom was clean with a modern design and plenty of counter space. A large window overlooked the resort grounds. I’m so used to city views whenever staying in a hotel. It was refreshing to have trees and all kinds of green on the other side of the window. The beds were unbelievably comfortable. In fact, when we were checking out, I asked if we could take the bed with us. It was like a pillowy cloud but still firm enough so that your back didn’t ache in the morning. Simply put, everything exceeded our expectations.

Chicago Marriott Lincolnshire Resort 7.0.jpg
Chicago Marriott Lincolnshire Resort 4.0.jpg
Chicago Marriott Lincolnshire Resort 5.0.jpg

The Resort
What do you think $25 million could get you? Other than not having to work for the rest of your life. For the Marriott Lincolnshire, it got them a completely transformed resort. They added two new restaurants: Three Embers and Wrights Brew & Bistro, a full-service Starbucks Cafe, a new day spa - The Spa at Lincolnshire, completely renovated guest rooms, an upgraded “Great Room” lobby, and the Lakeside Plaza. It seems like a lot and it is. You can tell a lot of care and consideration went into each of the changes and the money was well spent. The Great Room serves as the lobby and so much more. With the Starbucks Cafe right off the Great Room, it’s the perfect location to take your computer, grab a latte and scroll through your emails in the morning. There’s enough foot traffic to make it feel alive but not in an overwhelming way so that you can’t hear yourself think. It gives a grand first impression to anyone arriving for the first time as well.

Chicago Marriott Lincolnshire Resort 19.0.jpg
Chicago Marriott Lincolnshire Resort 18.0.jpg

I did not experience Wrights Brew & Bistro but we had a lovely dinner at Three Embers which started on the Lakeside Plaza. The plaza is a 2,500 square foot patio featuring breathtaking views of the resort lake, fire pits, outdoor seating and more. It’s the ideal spot to start the night with a cocktail in hand. Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the summer, Lakeside Plaza features live acoustic music performances to add to the ambiance. We were able to enjoy one of those performances and it was nothing short of fantastic. The menu at Three Embers features Midwest cuisine with simple, locally grown and sourced, farm-fresh ingredients, while integrating influential flavors from various regions throughout southern Europe. Get a more in depth review and look at Three Embers by visiting our post from earlier in the week.

Chicago Marriott Lincolnshire Resort 16.0.jpg
Chicago Marriott Lincolnshire Resort 13.0.jpg
Chicago Marriott Lincolnshire Resort 8.0.jpg

The Verdict
We only stayed at the Chicago Marriott Lincolnshire Resort for one night but it was long enough to give us a taste of what the hotel has to offer. Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, I have experienced many of the suburban hotel options and none of them live up to what the Marriott Lincolnshire provides. Because of its secluded location, even in the heart of a suburb, it actually feels like you’ve escaped into nature to get away for awhile. It’s ideal for anyone looking to take a staycation within the area but it’s also a great spot for those visiting from out of town. Lincolnshire is less than an hour from Chicago by car or a quick drive from the nearest Metra stop to take the train into the city. It’s also a quick 20 min drive to O’Hare International Airport, which, if you’re familiar with O’Hare - there are few places that can be considered quick drives. Overall, the Marriott Lincolnshire has plenty to offer including live theater performances. If you’re traveling to the area, I would recommend to at least consider allowing the resort to host you during your visit.

Chicago Marriott Lincolnshire Resort 17.0.jpg

Summer Nights at Three Embers at the Chicago Marriott Lincolnshire Resort

There are some meals that are so good they stick with you for a long time. Every single dish is memorable and your mouth salivates thinking about it. Unfortunately for me, the meal on my mind lately is almost a two hour drive away but worth every minute there and back. It’s the new summer menu from Three Embers at the Chicago Marriott Lincolnshire Resort and if it’s not on your summer bucket list, it should be. Located in Chicago’s North Shore area, Three Embers, the resort’s signature restaurant, celebrates Midwest cuisine with simple, locally grown and sourced, farm-fresh ingredients, while integrating influential flavors from various regions throughout southern Europe. My cousin and I had the pleasure to dine with other influencers at a special event to preview the new summer menu at Three Embers. It was a gorgeous night that was miraculously not suffocating given our current summer record and the company was fantastic.

**I was invited out to Three Embers for a special event with all food and drink provided complimentary. All opinions expressed belong to Lattes, Life & Luggage.***

Three Embers Restaurant Review.png

We started with cocktails and appetizers on the brand new Lakeside Plaza at Three Embers overlooking the resort lake. The Chicago Marriott Lincolnshire Resort recently went through a $25 million transformation which includes the Lakeside Plaza featuring a dramatic wood-burning grill, plenty of outdoor seating and gorgeous views all around. The fountain in the center of the lake provides a peaceful ambiance and a great backdrop for photos! We were greeted with a Blueberry Coconut Lemonade (malibu, blueberry-coconut lemoncello, fresh squeezed lemonade), a drink that was made for me. It went down way too easy and I’m a picky cocktail sipper so that says a lot. Passed appetizers included the Lamb Croquettes with mint pesto, black mission figs and a goat cheese mousse and the Burrata with heirloom tomato, balsamic, basil and EVOO. Everything was tasty which should have prepared us for the five-course meal that came later but believe me when I say we were all blown away.

The Lamb Croquettes

The Lamb Croquettes

The Blueberry Coconut Lemonade

The Blueberry Coconut Lemonade

The pre-fixe menu began with the Honey Badger Glazed Pork Belly with miso sabayon, pickled blueberries, and bitter greens. It’s probably not a great idea to lead with the best dish but since we’re going in order of courses, that’s how it works today! The glazed pork belly was by far my favorite dish of the night. And that is not to say I hated the others. I loved everything but if I picked favorites, and I am, the pork belly wins. The meat was so tender it melted in your mouth. The flavors were out of this world. Sweet met savory in the best possible way. The meat had this beautiful caramelized crust that I will forever be trying to replicate at home. I should also take this time to mention the bread and butter. Three Embers has a pastry chef that makes all of their baked goods and pastries in house. The bread was so good, I should write a paragraph dedicated to it but I'll control myself. The butter was also a delight because it had honey and a little salt. Two things I will never complain about.

Three Embers - Lincolnshire 2.0.jpg
Three Embers - Lincolnshire 5.0.jpg

The pork belly was followed by the light and delicate Grilled Farm Vegetables with tomato jus, shrimp, and basil. The presentation was stunning - summer on a plate! This a perfect dish for dining on the patio during a warm summer night. Next we dug our forks into the Alaskan Halibut with risotto, charred leek, and preserved lemon. Risotto is a fickle friend and if you think about it, so is fish. If you cook it too little, you’re in trouble. If you cook it too much, you’re in more trouble. Both the halibut and the risotto were cooked to perfection. The halibut was flaky and light, not a morsel was dried out. The risotto was creamy and comforting, just how I like it. The charred leek and preserved lemon add a nice balance of flavors to an otherwise light dish. Don’t let risotto fool you. Even though it’s comforting doesn’t mean it will overwhelm the stomach in the heat of summer. Cooked well and with the right flavors, it’s an all-season side dish.

Three Embers - Lincolnshire 8.0.jpg
Three Embers - Lincolnshire 9.0.jpg

The last main course was the Veal Tenderloin with milk poached, ricotta dumpling and mushroom. This might have been the most tender piece of meat (other than the pork belly) that I’ve ever had the pleasure to enjoy. I’m trying to think of words to describe this dish but all I can think about is my stomach growling even though I just had a very satisfying smoothie. Where do I even begin?! The veal tenderloin was cooked perfect. It had a crisp, caramelized crust and tender, juicy inside. The dumplings were gummy and delightful but 10x more irresistible dipped in the jus that covered the veal which was so flavorful every single taste bud was tantalized. This is about as hearty as you should get for a summer dish and Three Embers did not disappoint for a second.

Three Embers - Lincolnshire 12.0.jpg

Finally, we were treated to the Dessert Duo of Chocolate Pave with raspberry sorbet, rhubarb, and chocolate crumble and a Honey Creme Brulee with blood orange, pistachios, and white chocolate. It was interesting to go around the table and see which was everyone’s favorite. Not having a crazy sweet tooth myself, I was satisfied within a few bites but I still had the opportunity to appreciate the delicate quality of each dish. The Chocolate Pave was my personal favorite. The rich chocolate balanced beautiful with the tart raspberry sorbet. The Honey Creme Brulee was the kind of dessert that got better with each bite. It was very sweet but the blood orange and pistachios helped with the balance.

Three Embers - Lincolnshire 14.0.jpg
Three Embers - Lincolnshire 15.0.jpg

It was an incredible night with great company and outstanding service and food. The staff at Three Embers and the Chicago Marriott Lincolnshire Resort were very welcoming and it was a treat to be able to get away mid-week. Another reason I love Three Embers is because of their passion for locally sourced and farm-fresh ingredients. The resort has an on-site farm, greenhouse and apiary where they source much of their fresh fruits and vegetables as well as their very own honey! They’re making a wonderful contribution to the environment and anything they cannot source themselves, they try to source local from produce, livestock and dairy farms. It’s one thing to enjoy a great meal but another altogether to enjoy a great meal from a restaurant doing its part to impact the environment and support local businesses.

5 Places To Travel & Escape The Heat

Normally when people think about taking a vacation, there’s a beach involved, a few margaritas and plenty of sunshine. Me? I hibernate until fall comes around and then get my jetsetter on. Walking around and exploring all day long isn’t the same when you’re sweating through your clothes and unbearably warm. Beach destinations are fantastic if your main plans include laying in the sand all day but when you have an itinerary, it’s much more enjoyable if you can walk around for more than ten minutes without wanting to strip down on the sidewalk. I seem to be of the rare breed that prefers cooler temperatures for comfort. If you want to do some traveling over these next few warmer months but prefer not to be sweltering (like me), these destinations are just the ticket.

5 Places To Escape The Heat.png

When in doubt, go north. Summer in Alaska is much more tolerable than summer in any part of the continental states. Alaska offers a lot of different options too. From big city experiences to getting in touch with nature, Alaska has it all and with great weather too. Get an urban experience with plenty of culture and activities in Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, or Juneau, the capital. Venture to Glacier Bay National Park for a rare glimpse at nature in all its wonder with humpback whales, sea lions, bald eagles and more. Get a taste of the Gold Rush with small historic towns like Sitka, also known for its moment of fame in The Proposal. Experience early settlements left behind from Native American and Russian cultures or venture to parts of Alaska that are still home to natives. Bethel in Southwest Alaska, is home to dozens of Native Alaskan villages making it an incredible experience for those who appreciate a cultural immersion.

Photo by   Steve Halama   on   Unsplash

On the opposite end of the planet for us living in the northern hemisphere, Argentina is experiencing winter during our summertime but don’t let that stop you from visiting! Winter in Argentina, unless you head up into the Andes, tends to average from the mid-50s to mid-60s. It’s beautiful weather for exploring and drinking in as much of the country as you can. An obvious destination to visit is Buenos Aires, also known as the “Paris of South America.” This city has everything you can think of from sidewalk cafes to historical and architectural sites. All you wine lovers, add Mendoza to your summer travel list. Boasting temperatures in the 60s, this city is known for its vineyards and wineries but more specifically, its Malbec. Think of it as the Sonoma of Argentina. Enough to keep busy but casual beyond belief.

New Zealand
Oh, New Zealand. The country I almost fled to after the last election with real life hobbit holes and gorgeous panoramas. While many of us are experiencing scorching summer heat, New Zealand is in the thick of their winter which has temperature highs ranging from the 50s to 60s. And if you haven’t caught on yet, this is perfect travel weather in my opinion. For all you nature lovers, New Zealand is a prime location to travel to being one of the best hiking destinations in the world. Wander along one of their beaches or tackle one of the many “Great Walks.” They have an option for every skill level, even the amateurs like me! Foodies can rejoice in the burgeoning culinary boom in Auckland, Wellington and Napier plus, the coffee scene is darn good as well. And let’s not forget the #1 reason to travel to New Zealand...the hobbit holes. For any of you Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogy nerds (fellow fans of mine), you may be familiar with New Zealand as the filming location for these epic films. Visit The Shire, take a tour, or even stay in a Hobbit Hole! It’s the most amazing thing ever and 100% on my bucket list.

Photo by   Lucas Gruwez   on   Unsplash

San Francisco
Known for having the best weather year-round, San Francisco is one of those places that’s good to visit any time of year. While it’s not particularly cool, average temperatures throughout the summertime range from the mid 60s to low 70s and you know it’s always breezy! San Francisco is actually the warmest in the late summer/early fall, perfect if you want to enter the warmth of sunny Napa Valley or Sonoma for a weekend wine tasting during harvest season. Don’t miss these favorite sights to see, grab a little soul food or great cappuccino, and prepare yourself for the insane hills. Not quite sure where to start? Check out our Quick Guide to San Francisco.

golden gate bridge 1.0.jpg

You don't have to worry about sweltering during the summertime in Scotland! With temperatures averaging in the 60s, Scotland has beautiful summer days with elongated sunsets. Scotland may be of the smaller countries in the United Kingdom but it is jam packed with natural habitats, historical sites, castles that are hundreds of years old, and tons of culture. It’s a place that will adopt you as a local rather fast because you’re immersed from the second you arrive to the second you leave. Visit a distillery for some of the best whiskey you’ll ever sip and don’t miss the chance for a real pub meal. Not only will it save you money, but you’ll get a feel for what the locals prefer to chow down on. Finally, if you’re not planning on staying in one place, consider taking a train ride as they’re known for exceptional rail routes and scenery. The West Highland Railway Line might be the most popular but there are others as well.

Photo by   Adam Wilson   on   Unsplash

Photo by Adam Wilson on Unsplash

There are quite a few fantastic places to visit in the summer if you’re looking to avoid the heat. Heading to the southern hemisphere is a great option as long as you’re not close to the equator and heading north is also a pretty good bet. Scandinavian and Nordic countries are a pretty good option with average high temperatures for Finland, Greenland and Iceland ranging from the 50s to 70s.

So tell me in the comments below, do you prefer to cool off in the summer or embrace the heat?