London :: Day 2

After being awake for 36+ hours from traveling and exploring our first day in London, we were more than excited to snuggle in bed and get some sleep. We had a busy second day exploring ahead of us!

London :: Day 2

 

First up on the agenda was Westminster Abbey. We hopped on the tube bright and early with the other commuters. The tube was such a fast and convenient way to get around. A train came every 90 seconds. Although it would be packed with locals each morning and was a bit hot on there, we were never on a train for more than 10-15 minutes. It made getting around town so easy!

London :: Day 2

However, our day took a slight detour and we had the most unexpected and exciting event ever. When we got off our train and came up the stairs, we were immediately greeted with tons of metal gates and police blocking off the streets. As we walked across the street to get to Westminster Abbey, we didn’t think much of it. We thought that since Big Ben, Parliament and Westminster were all on the same street corner that this was a normal occurrence.

London :: Day 2

Soon after we saw a procession of black cars each with a different country’s flag on the front. After some google searching we found out that Parliament was opening that day. No big deal, right? Oh contrary my friend. As we were making our way over to Westminster, we asked a House of Parliament worker what exactly was going on and she told us the queen was going to be opening Parliament that day and she’d be coming down the street in about an hour. SAY WHAT!? On the few days we were in London, we might actually get to see the Queen!

London :: Day 2

 

London :: Day 2

 

London :: Day 2

The princess in me was pretty darn excited. Since there was still time before the Queen made her arrival, we quickly buzzed through Westminster Abbey. We literally ran through the entire cathedral in under 30 minutes because I was too darn excited to see the Queen. Westminster Abbey is stunning. I loved seeing it in person after getting up at the wee hours of the morning to watch William and Kate get married in it. Ever since we went to Italy, I’ve become infatuated with European Cathedrals. The intriquite woodwork, beautiful stain glass windows and history of those who have been there before just fascinates me.

London :: Day 2

After that we headed outside to try and spot the Queen. The police told us that they didn’t know which way she would be coming so we just kept a look in all directions. Pretty soon tons of horses and carriages started making their way down the street. It was such a sight to see! It really was a grand event! The Queen even was sporting her tiara which I about died after seeing on her head. We also spotted Princess Anne, her daughter which I never knew she had. Prince Charles and Camilla were apparently behind the Queen in a separate carriage but I was too carried away watching the Queen to even notice. We’re still pretty excited that we got to see the Queen in all her glory while we were there. A few local people told us they’ve been there for years and have never even seen her!

London :: Day 2

London :: Day 2

 

London :: Day 2

London :: Day 2

So after all of that morning excitement, we headed over to the Churchill War Museum. It’s an underground war bunker that Churchill used to use. While I’m not a huge history buff, it was neat to learn about what happened down there and see items from that time.

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To round out our day, and give our feet a rest (we walked 10+ miles everyday!), we went on a tour via mini cooper with Small Car, Big City. We had someone drive us around for 2 hours and she showed us some of the best sites around town.

London :: Day 2

 

London :: Day 2

 

London :: Day 2

 

London :: Day 2

 

London :: Day 2

And so that ends a busy day 2 in London. We had tired feet (again) at the end of the day and were looking forward to exploring more on day 3!

London :: Day 1

Hello and long time no talk! It’s been a busy few days since we just got back from vacation last week which means it’s time to recap all of the fun we had over in Europe! I’m going to break down our vacation day by day so here we go with Day 1 in London!

London :: Day 1

Our flight left on Memorial Day and we flew overnight to London. I tried really hard to get some sleep on the plane but no luck for me which meant I had to push through a few sleepy walls I hit throughout the day on Tuesday. We landed at 10:45 am which meant we still had all day to play and explore. I was mesmerized by the size of the city as we flew over London. It is absolutely HUGE which seemed a little daunting but we found it was super easy to get around via the Underground Tube.

London :: Day 1

London :: Day 1

We stayed at the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel which is connected to the international train station. It’s a really nice hotel and since it was also next to the Underground Tube station, it made getting around London super easy. After checking into our hotel and changing into some fresh clothes, we were off to explore the city. Tuesday May 26th was also our 2 year wedding anniversary so we went to a special afternoon tea at The Berkeley Hotel. One of my friends told me about their afternoon tea which is called Pret a Portea and is inspired by the latest fashion designers and their seasonal fashion collections.

London :: Day 1

London :: Day 1

London :: Day 1

We started out with a variety of finger sandwiches and other small snacks. The sandwiches included a chicken salad, salmon, cucumber and a beef option. Since my body was still on Central Time Zone time, my little tummy was grumbling and I happily ate everything in front of me…well almost. There was some relished tuna that I just did not care for along with some chilled beet soup which was not my cup of tea.

London :: Day 1

Then it was time to dig into the deserts! All of them were so adorable that I didn’t want to eat them because they were so pretty! There were cookies made to look like shoes, cakes that were mini purses and parfaits that had the colors of the summer trends. My favorite thing was a mint parfait as well as the sparkly, shoe cookies! I thought this was a really fun way to celebrate our anniversary in proper London fashion. It was also a nice, relaxing way to spend the afternoon after traveling 5,000+ miles.

London :: Day 1

London :: Day 1

After that we headed over to the London Eye. The Eye is really neat to see and photograph from far away, but sadly we weren’t impressed once we got on it. The view from above isn’t much to write home about. And I also freaked out a little bit as we went up and up into the sky because I’m terrified of heights.

London :: Day 1

London :: Day 1

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London :: Day 1

London :: Day 1

London :: Day 1

London :: Day 1

London :: Day 1

London :: Day 1

London :: Day 1

Since the sun didn’t set in London until after 9pm, we had plenty of time to keep exploring. We just started to walk around and see where the night led us. one placed we stopped was at Fortnum and Mason because I heard they had really good macarons there. My husband and I fell in love with macarons a few years ago while in St. Maarten and we are always on the hunt for the best one to eat. We got a few different macarons to take with us including a blood orange, red velvet (SO GOOD!), brownie, watermelon, mixed berries, white champagne and salted caramel (always our favorite flavor).

London :: Day 1

We ended the night by walking around the Piccadilly Circus area and we ended the night at a pub near our hotel where we dined in true London fashion on fish and chips and Shepherd’s Pie. I love me some fried fish but this Wisconsin girl prefers a good ole Friday Fish Fry to the kind in London.

London :: Day 1

Travel Emergency Essentials Kit

Since I’m always the girl that likes to be prepared, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I’m the same way when it comes to traveling. I have a small, clear cosmetic bag that I keep packed with essentials at all times. This way it’s easy for me to grab and go when we’re traveling.

I like to keep this bag in my carry-on underneath the seat in front of me for easy access to small necessities such as mints, hair ties and lip balm. Then, when we reach our destination, I pick out my absolute essentials and put them into my purse or tote. Here’s a peek into my travel essentials kit!

 

Tips On How To Plan A Vacation

One of mine and my husband’s favorite things to do is travel to new places. Right now I’m in the midst of planning our next vacation to London and Paris in May. It coincides with our 2 year wedding anniversary and I can’t wait to explore more of Europe with B!

When it comes to planning a vacation, it can seem like a big task especially if you aren’t using the help of a travel agent or tour company. I wanted to share my process of planning a vacation to hopefully make your next vacation easier for you.

How to plan a Vacation

  1. Plan out the dates or the destination you want to go

There are 2 ways to approach how you decide on a vacation. You can either plan around dates for a special occasion like an anniversary or birthday. Otherwise you can pick what time of the year you want to visit a particular place in the world. If winter is your least favorite season, then plan a trip to the Caribbean to escape the cold and snow. Side note, make sure that you also have available time off from work and your vacation won’t coincide with any big deadlines or projects.

  1. Book your flights

I find that booking your flight is the easiest task to conquer first. Take to sites like Expedia or Orbitz to compare airfares.

  1. Use Tripadvisor to look at things to do and restaurants to eat at

Tripadvisor is my favorite to use when it comes to vacation planning. We’ve always had good luck with getting top restaurant recommendations, hotels and activities to do while we’re on vacation. You can choose to search the region you’re in and can also look at what is close by your hotel. Just remember to pay it forward and leave reviews and feedback after your trip so that others can use your experiences to help plan their vacation. I’ve also found it helpful to purchase some books about your travel destination. I used a book while in Italy that had maps for us to follow and some self-guided walking tours which helped us to see the sites.

  1. Book your hotel

Again, using the same tips as above. Look to Tripadvisor for best hotels in the area and compare prices on travel websites.

  1. Make a spreadsheet to track and plan

I love making spreadsheets for travel to track everything that we are doing. Once I book a restaurant or activity, I put the time, address and any other important information into a spreadsheet itinerary. This makes it easier for me to see our vacation at a glance and know what we’ll be up to.

  1. Make a packing list

Even if it’s 2 months before a trip, I make a packing list to jot down things that come to my mind. For instance, I recently realized  that we didn’t have a travel umbrella so I’ve made a note in my planner and on my packing list to pick one up before we go out of town. It’s easier to write these things down ahead of time as you remember them instead of having to run around at the last minute to get things done.

  1. Print out all confirmations of everything you’ve booked.

Flight, hotel, restaurant reservations and any activities you’ve booked – print them all out! I liked to arrange mine in the order that we’re doing each of the things to make it easier to find.

And last but not least, enjoy your vacation! I know it can seem daunting and a little bit stressful to plan a big vacation on your own. But remember that soon enough you’ll be on vacation relaxing and enjoying yourself!

 

QUESTION // What’s your favorite place that you’ve ever traveled to?

 

 

 

 

Palm Springs Photo Diary

ast weekend my husband I headed out of town to escape the brutal cold winter we’ve been having in the Midwest. We decided to head out to Palm Desert for some golf and fun in the sun.
We left late Thursday night as the husband had to make a quick pit stop for work in Orange County. While he was off doing work in the morning, I enjoyed a little quite time soaking in the sun while eating breakfast and catching up on blog reading.
Palm Springs
Children of the 90’s, does this look familiar to any of you? We stayed at the same hotel where the Saved by the Bell episode where Jesse’s dad gets married was filmed at.
After that we were on our way to Palm Desert! It was a quick car ride out there and after we grabbed lunch we headed to our resort, the JW Marriott, where we proceeded to lay by the pool the rest of the afternoon. Although I felt like Caspar the friendly ghost when I put my swimsuit on, I could have cared less once I was laying in the sun taking a nap and relaxing.
Palm Springs
That night we headed to El Paseo for dinner which is a long street filled with an outdoor mall and tons of stores, art galleries and restaurants. We grabbed some pizza for dinner and then really had an exciting night as we proceeded to fall asleep at 8:30pm. The night before we didn’t get to our hotel till after 1:30 am which meant it felt like 3:30 am to us. Needless to say, we were a little exhausted.
Palm Springs
Saturday morning we woke up and headed to breakfast at Wilma and Freida’s. It’s an adorable breakfast/lunch restaurant in El Paseo that has this trendy/shabby chic/industrial farm look. After stuffing our faces with our favorite meal of the day, we found a local  French bakery that sold macaroons. Both my husband and I LOVE LOVE LOVE macaroons so we couldn’t pass these up. Sad story though, we didn’t like most of the flavors we chose as some of them had jelly filled middles which neither of us are fans of. Caramel was a hit with both of us which is always our favorite flavor.
Palm Springs
Palm Springs
We spent the late morning/early afternoon at the pool. Don’t let these photos fool you, it looks beautiful out but it was only about 65-70 degrees out. When that sun went behind the clouds it was chilly! Add to that the wind advisory that was in effect. There weren’t many people at our resort pool that morning but those who were (including us) we were warriors with the wind and chill. We all had multiple towels covering us until that sun came out, then everyone immediately tore them off! Although we only got about and hour and a half of fun, somehow both my husband and I managed to get sunburned.
Palm Springs
That afternoon we headed to the gold course for 18 holes. My husband taught me how to golf last fall….OK scratch that, I’m still learning. Right before we left for vacation he got me a set of good golf clubs so I was looking forward to putting them to use. Although I lost 6 balls in the water that day, I did have some good hits and husband said I did good job at least :)
Palm Springs
For dinner on Saturday, we headed to Arnold Palmer’s. I drink an Arnold Palmer (half ice tea/half lemonade) everyday so it was only fitting we made a stop here. We had a nice, leisurely dinner and afterwards enjoyed the fire pit as we finished our wine.
Palm Springs
Palm Springs
Sunday was probably the worst vacation day I have ever had. It rained all. day. long. What do you do in Palm Desert when it rains? Let me tell you, there’s NOTHING to do. Our Sunday went like this. Get donuts for breakfast. Back to the hotel. Complain about being bored. Watch TV. Go out for brunch. Back to hotel. Try to find a course to golf in the rain. All courses closed. Drive to Palm Springs. Walk around downtown in the pouring rain. Get the best milkshake ever. Get bored with the stores there. Back to hotel. Watch TV. Out to dinner. Bed.
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Palm Springs
Palm Springs
Although it was a pretty miserable day, at least we weren’t at home with snow around us.
Palm Springs
To make up for a crummy Sunday, we got up early on Monday and played 9 holes of golf before hoping on a flight back home. I must really be starting to become a golfer because I was sad when we were done and I wanted to play more! Luckily spring is almost here and I’m looking forward to bringing back Sunday funday with my husband where we golf in the morning and then head to brunch!

How Do You Measure A Year? 2014 End of the Year Recap!

In the blink of an eye, another year has passed. It’s been another great year for #richpartyof2 and here are some of the highlights of 2014.

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January

We kicked off 2014 in style as we sat courtside at the Creighton vs Marquette game. I was so excited to see my alma mater play ever since Creighton joined the Big East. Although we lost the game, I was the loudest cheering MU fan right behind the Creighton bench. We also traveled back to Milwaukee this month to see one of my longest childhood friends get married. We actually met at my very first pageant and have stayed friends since 1997! Miles traveled :: 1,198

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January

February

We headed back to the upper Midwest to Chicago for my college besties’ wedding shower. Husband and I also did our first Trek up the Tower race where we ran up 40 flights of stairs. Miles traveled :: 948

Trek up the Tower

 

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March

I headed down to Kansas City for the weekend for one of my pageant bestie’s bachelorette and wedding shower. The hubs and I also needed a getaway so we packed our bags and headed to our favorite tropical location, St. Maarten, for a long weekend. It was so nice to just lay in the sun and have nothing to worry about for a few days. Miles traveled :: 6,818

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April

I traveled back to Milwaukee to judge the Miss St. Francis pageant. It was an honor to judge because it was the 50th anniversary for this local pageant. For those of you who don’t know, I competed in pageants for nearly 20 years and that’s how I met my husband too. Pageants will always have a special place in my heart. Miles traveled :: 1,112

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May

May was a busy month for us! I ran my 6th half marathon, celebrated my 28th birthday and also our first wedding anniversary. To commemorate our one year as newlyweds, we headed down to Scottsdale, Arizona for a long weekend of relaxing. We laid in the sun, golfed, went shopping and ate and drank to our hearts content. I think heading somewhere for our anniversary may become a yearly tradition since we love to travel so much. We ended the month in Chicago as I was a bridesmaid in my college bestie’s wedding. Miles traveled :: 3,544

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June

Another wedding we headed to for one of my pageant besties. She had the most shabby chic barn wedding up in Fargo, North Dakota. I also became an auntie for the second time to my adorable niece, Isabella Marguerite. This month I also joined the Junior League in my town and have loved having the opportunity to do more volunteer work and also meet some new besties. I did 2 races this month : one was a 10k and the other was a 5k with the husbandMiles traveled :: 848

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July

We headed to the east coast together for a trip to NYC. Husband had a few days of meetings there so I tagged along and we went a couple of days early to take in some of the sights around the city that never sleeps. Miles traveled :: 5,215

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Photo Jul 07, 7 49 55 AM

August

I headed back to Milwaukee for a weekend of fun and play with my niece and nephew. At the end of the month, we headed down to Kansas City as I was a bridesmaid in my pageant bestie’s wedding. Interesting fact, just 8 years prior to this on the same weekend we were at Lake of the Ozarks together with our then boyfriends who are both now are our husbands. My how time flies! Miles traveled :: 1,402

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September

We traveled for 11 days over to Europe on our whirlwind Italian vacation. We hit up Rome, Florence and Venice in what was one of the most amazing vacations ever. Miles traveled :: 12,125

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October

A low key month, we headed back to Milwaukee for baby Isabella’s Baptism as I’m her godmother. I can’t get enough of this little cutie’s face! Miles traveled :: 1,198

November

A big birthday month in our house as the Mr. turned 30 this month. We didn’t do anything special other than dinner and I gave him 30 different presents throughout the day! We also traveled back to Milwaukee to celebrate Thanksgiving and we also ran in a Drumstick Dash 5k.. Miles traveled :: 1,198

November

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December

A busy work month for both the husband and I, we traveled back to Milwaukee to celebrate Christmas with my family and a much needed few days off from work. Miles traveled :: 1,198

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In total that’s 36,804 miles traveled as #richpartyof2 this year. We’ve had a fabulous year together with lots of memories made around the world. I can’t wait to see what adventures 2015 brings us!

QUESTION // What’s your favorite memory from 2014?

Gift Guide For The Traveler

If you know someone who is always on the go, then this gift guide has some great present-options for you to shop for. If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, then you’ll know that I love to travel and go to new places with my husband. For the past 8 years, I’ve been in a plane, train or automobile at least one weekend a month. With so much traveling under my belt, I’ve learned a few things along the way about how to stay organized and what things are essentials to making traveling a lot less stressful. Watch my latest video as I share some of my travel favorites that would be great gift ideas!

 

What are your must have items when you travel?

Venice Photo Diary

Our final days of vacation we spent in Venice. Just like the other cities we visited, I can’t put into words how beautiful this city was. I’m a huge fan of being by the water so seeing canals with boats and yachts everywhere we went made me so happy. Here’s what the last few days of our vacation looked like through photos…

 

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Being Venetian in Venice!

Our final stop in Italy included a few nights stay in Venice. I was most looking forward to visiting here because I absolutely love being on the water. When we came out from the train station, the Grand Canal was right there and was it gorgeous to look at! Once we got into a water taxi and cruised the canal, we ended up at our hotel which actually was a centuries old castle converted into travel accommodations. This was one of the most unique places we have ever stayed in, but I’ll be honest and say we’ll just stick to staying at chain hotels from now on.

Our first day in Venice we just wandered the streets and saw what was around the island. To be honest, once we started to explore the island I was a bit disappointed because there’s not a whole lot to do. Don’t get me wrong, there is TONS of history here and many, many churches to tour, but at this point in the trip we were a little bit history-ed out. Nonetheless, although we didn’t discover anything absolutely amazing this first day, it was nice to just walk around and relax for awhile with no plans of anywhere to be.

Hiking in Cinque Terre

If you search Italy on Pinterest, you’re bound to find many pins on there that show gorgeous views of a seaside town with adorable homes built into the cliffs. I never knew the name of this place, but always was fascinated by the beauty of it. We made it a point to travel to the seaside town of Cinque Terre while we were in Italy, and we were were in awe of these towns the entire time we were there.

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Cinque Terre was about 2 hours via bus from Florence, so we got up early and hoped our tour bus to the Italian coast. Once we got there, the bus went up some tall, winding roads and we ended up at the second town of Manarola. From here, we hiked to Corniglia. Yes, hiked..we HIKED between the towns. Now, I’m not sure what I was thinking but I thought a “hike” was a casual walk. Um, no Ashley. It was almost 90 degrees that day, with no wind and I had walking shoes on with some jean shorts and a tank top. I was clearly not prepared for the situation that lay ahead of me.

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When I say hike, I mean we HIKED! We were on the side of the hills, with no railings, so one wrong step and you were rolling down the rocky hills into the water. There was lots of dirt and rocks to navigate our way between. Since I clearly didn’t understand what “hiking” meant, I got a bit cranky with my husband while we were on our trek. Bless his heart for putting up with me that day, because let me tell you, I was not pleasant to be around!

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Our first hike was about 4 miles and we finished in a little over an hour. While I was not the happiest person while I was drenched in sweat, I will say that as we walked along and would catch glimpses of the water and towns below, it was quite unlike any other view I’ve seen before. Numerous times I caught myself standing in awe of what lay below me.

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Our first stop was in Corniglia where we had (surprise) pesto pasta for lunch. Did you know that pesto originated in Cinque Terre? Once our bellies were full and I stopped being hungry (doesn’t everybody get cranky/angry when they’re hungry?)  we started our second hike over to Vernazza. Since this was in the middle of the afternoon, this part of the hike was a bit harder than the first one. After 90 minutes of some more incredible views, we arrived at Vernazza. All of the towns in Cinque Terre are small and colorful. They’re said to each be a different color so that fisherman could identify them when they came back home.

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After having some gelato to cool down and exploring the town, we hoped a train (thank goodness no more hiking!) over to the next town of Monterosso. Here we walked around town, relaxed with a local glass of wine and then indulged in this amazing fried dough ball of cheese and mozzarella goodness. I had no idea what it was called since it was a local dish but it was the most delicious thing I’ve ever had! We ended the day with a boat ride on the coast all the way back to the first town of Riomaggiore.

 

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I cannot say it enough or explain to you the beauty of all of these towns. While I was a hot, cranky mess most of the day and started to regret doing this tour, now that I’m in an air conditioned house, I really enjoyed this day on our trip..in fact it was one of the most amazing tours we’ve ever done!