Hello, Harbour Island

It’s January in North Carolina as I’m posting this. It’s cold, dark, and I’m jealous of all the animals that hibernate. So, I thought I’d share one of my favorite warm and sunny spots I visited last summer. Lets imagine it together.

Picture this: A tiny island in the Bahamas. It’s filled with pastel-painted colonial homes, picket fences draped in bright fuchsia bougainvillea, and views of the azure Caribbean around every corner. There’s always a breeze in the hot, salty air—especially if you’re lucky enough to find yourself on one of its coral pink sandy beaches.

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It’s a favorite for celebrities—most notably, Prince Charles’ goddaughter, India Hicks, calls the island home (and owns a shop there called The Sugar Mill). And while it has its share of glamour, it still feels old-fashioned and authentic in a way that’s not always easy to find in the Bahamas.

Everyone seems to know everyone on the island that’s called Briland by the locals. And touches like the colorful handpainted signs directing you to the Dilly Dally shop (“Dilly Dally Dis Way” and “Dilly Dally Dat Way”) all over the small streets the wind around the island give it a playful charm.

Travelers come here to rest and relax in style. While you’ll find one nightclub (Daddy D’s where there is an actual Daddy D) and a few upscale resorts and restaurants, this island feels more… is there a word for “Old Money Bohemian?”

STAY

Sure, you could stay at one of the island’s gorgeous beachside resorts like The Dunmore, which is known for its pink sand beach and retro restaurant filled with old black and white beach photos. But the most photogenic spot on the island has to be the Coral House.

This historic cottage overlooking the harbor is easily the best Airbnb experience I’ve ever had and seriously could not have been more gorgeous. Do yourself a favor and click through the photos of it here. (And follow it on Instagram here.) It’s cozy and bright, and has beautiful spaces for outdoor dinners, poolside cocktails (it even has its own cute little bar!), and cooling off with a good book on the couch.

It’s easy walking distance to plenty of spots, but you’ll want to rent a golf cart to explore anyway.

DO 

You’re going to want to spend most of your time here near or on the water. This is in part because that color blue is irresistible. And in part because there’s no better way to cool off in the hot Caribbean sun.

Spend an afternoon on the pink sands beach (there are plenty of public access points where you can park your golf cart). Or reserve a boat for the day from Da Salty Pig Adventures where the friendly Capt. Bruce will take you to pristine white sandbars and to the local version of Pig Island to swim with pigs.

If you’re in the mood to shop—or just need a break from the sun—you’ll also find some charming boutiques on the island. Stop by Dake’s Shoppe or Blue Rooster in Dunmore town for fun finds.

However, the best souvenirs may be in one of the small open-air huts along the road, A and A Hidden Treasures, which sells customized straw bags and hats. The trick is to go early in your trip so they have plenty of time to customize the exact bag you want to take home.

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EAT + DRINK

There aren’t many restaurants on the island, which actually makes it a great way to see who your fellow vacationers are during your trip. While we were there (for one of my friend’s weddings*) this other wedding was also happening. It’s such a small island that we ran into that group at every single restaurant we visited. So, fun people watching.

Start your day at Cocoa Coffee House, a cute little cafe on the second story of a bright yellow home just down the street from the Coral House. With fresh pressed juices, acai bowls, and avocado toast, it’s a good spot to start a day spent in a bathing suit.

Across the street is The Boat House restaurant at Valentine’s Marina, which is a breezy dockside restaurant with tasty fish tacos and potent cocktails that make an ideal midday meal on vacation.

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But the best lunch destination on the island may be Sip Sip, whose name is local slang for gossip. Sit on the umbrella-covered deck, order the lobster quesadillas and spicy margaritas, and settle in for people watching with a backdrop of pink sands beach and the turquoise Atlantic Ocean beyond.

If you’re looking for an elegant spot to indulge in the local seafood, make reservations at Rock House. The restaurant is part of a 10-room luxury hotel housed in an old colonial home overlooking the harbor (just steps away from Coral House). And its spectacular sunsets make this the perfect place to end your day.

Getting there: You’ll probably have to fly through Miami to get to Eleuthera—it’s a pretty tiny airport. From there, you’ll take a taxi to a speedboat water taxi, which will take you to the island.

*I feel I should also share that my friend Erin’s wedding was AMAZING. She had this beachside bonfire one night and her ceremony was on this incredible white beach. And seriously every single detail (down to these place settings at her rehearsal dinner) was just like a ridiculously gorgeous dream.

San Francisco + Napa Valley

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In honor of wrapping up 2019, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite travel spots from the year. (Honestly, I’ve been meaning to do this for forever, but doing things in 2019 got in the way of blogging about them.) Anyway, let’s kick this off with San Francisco.

I got lucky enough to visit the City by the Bay twice this year. So, I’m sharing a few spots from each visit—but mostly from the Memorial Day weekend trip I took with five friends to SF and Napa that was all around eating amazing food, drinking incredible wine, and spending an afternoon in the sun at BottleRock Music Festival.

SF Eat + Do

There are about eight billion amazing places to eat and things to do in San Francisco. These are just a few of my latest favorites. 

Bar Agricole: It’s known (and awarded many times over) for its contemporary design and its bar program. As a sucker for beautiful spaces and great cocktails, I loved it. (Tip: It’s hard to see from the street, so look carefully for its discreet entry.)

Hog Island Oysters: It may be a bit touristy, but this waterside seafood restaurant continues to be one of my top picks. My favorite time to go is for Saturday brunch after wandering around the always-amazing Ferry Building Farmer’s Market. (Tip: They don’t take reservations, so get in line early.)

Noosh: Eater.com named this Mediterranean restaurant in Pacific Heights one of the most anticipated restaurants in the country before its opening last spring—and it lived up to the hype. It’s bright and modern and made for Instagram. The kebabs are amazing, the hummus is ridiculously creamy, and the pork flatbread with egg and roasted garlic will blow your mind.

Liholiho Yacht Club: If someone had told me that a Hawaiian/Indian/Chinese restaurant that plays rap music and is known for its spam fried rice would be one of my favorite meals of the year, I would not have believed them. But this place is incredible. Reservations are notoriously hard to get, but you can snag last-minute seats at the bar. This is the kind of place where you should come hungry and open-minded—and definitely order that spam fried rice (pictured above).

The Presidio: This military-post-turned-park offers a look at local history and panoramic views of the bay. Have lunch (and a margarita) on the patio of Arguello behind the historic Officer’s Club and then take a walk along the water all the way up to the entrance of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Mission Dolores Park: Start with a shopping trip on the nearby Valencia Street—there are tons of great shops including one of the country’s only Everlane stores. Then, on a sunny afternoon, buy a bottle of cold wine and go stretch out on the warm grass to people watch in this bustling park known for its sweeping views of the city skyline.

Napa Eat + Drink + Do

I cannot pretend to be a wine connoisseur and I didn’t make reservations early enough to get into French Laundry. But these were a few of my favorites from my latest trip to wine country.

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Bouchon Bakery: There are plenty of ways to taste renowned chef Thomas Keller’s food around Napa, but this charming order-at-the-counter bakery in Yountville is probably the easiest and least expensive. Get there early—the secret is out and the line is always long—and pick up pastries to enjoy before a day of vineyard visits.

Ad Hoc: Sure, it felt strange for a Southerner to travel all the way to Napa for buttermilk fried chicken, brisket, and mac and cheese. But this family-style restaurant (another by Thomas Keller) was the perfect kind of cozy and offered much-needed hearty fare to soak up a day of wine drinking.

Gott’s Roadside: I know this is technically a chain. And it’s definitely not Thomas Keller. But I really love this casual burger and milkshake joint. Gott’s is North California’s answer to fast food with a menu that includes organic produce, sushi-grade fish, Impossible Burgers, and local Napa wines all with a 1950’s diner vibe. After days of spending way too much money on fancy meals and drinks, this felt just right.

Cakebread Cellars, Scribe Winery, and Caymus Vineyards: These were my three favorite wineries/vineyards from this trip. Each of them were gorgeous and had incredible wines. You’ll want to do the tour at Cakebread, lunch at Scribe, and a tasting on the patio at Caymus. Scribe was by far our favorite (because we’re very basic and it was an Instagram dream). It was an almost-too-picturesque place for a light lunch on the breezy terrace eating vegetables straight from their garden and an afternoon drinking too much of their crisp rosé.

BottleRock: As soon as our day at this music festival ended, we were talking about returning again. It was so good. In addition to great music (we were there primarily for Mumford & Sons, which put on an incredible show), the food and drink offerings are next level—it is, after all, smack in the middle of wine country. So, instead of your typical festival fare, there are booths and demos from Michelin-starred chefs and wine from some of the best vineyards on earth and over-the-top cocktail bars. It felt like Disney World for adults, and was one of my favorite days of the entire year.

 

Charlotte: My Favorites

Recently, a friend pointed out that while I often post about where to go in other cities, I’ve never written on here about where to go and what to do in my home town of Charlotte. This is, of course, because if you’re interested in that kind of thing, you should be purchasing 100 Things to Do in Charlotte Before You Die.

While you’re waiting for it to arrive (via Amazon Prime!) though, here’s a list of my favorite spots around town right now. Because Charlotte is growing insanely fast, this list is subject to change (possibly tomorrow), but for now, here are the most fun, tasty, cool, and, yes, Instagrammable spots around the city.

STAY

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Breakfast in bed at Kimpton Tryon Park

Kimpton Tryon Park: Kimpton hotels are always great (dog-friendly and stylish!), and this one is no exception. Request a room with views of Romare Bearden Park and plan on at least one sunset cocktail at its see-and-be-seen rooftop bar, Merchant and Trade.

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Bathtub views at The Ivey’s Hotel

The Ivey’s Hotel: Housed in a historic department store building smack in the middle of Uptown, this hotel has equal parts character and style (think exposed brick walls and luxe linens). Pro tip: Its cocktail bar, Sophia’s Lounge, shares a kitchen and a chef with next door’s 5Church restaurant, which means top quality fare alongside your drink.

EAT

Soul Gastrolounge (All Time Favorite): This edgy small plates restaurant opened up one month before I moved just down the street from it ten years ago. And for ten years, it’s remained my favorite Charlotte restaurant. There’s seriously nothing on the menu I don’t love, but—like everyone else who has ever tasted them—I’m obsessed with the watermelon pork belly tacos.

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Haberdish

Haberdish (Best Brunch): There’s not a bad time of day to venture to this bright and airy NoDa restaurant, but Southern brunch on their popular patio is just the best. Leave the diet at home and order the deviled eggs, fried chicken biscuit, and a classic Bloody Mary.

The Stanley (New Favorite): It’s hard to get reservations, but the marble bar is the best seat in the house anyway. This got a well-deserved James Beard nominee nod this year for the country’s best new restaurant.  Order the surf and turf (a magical dish featuring layers of beef tartar and fried oysters).

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Kindred’s amazing fried oysters

Kindred (Worth the Drive): Sure, it’s in Davidson (30 minutes north of town). But this little college town is adorable. Take a stroll down its charming Main Street before dinner. And then prepare yourself for what will undoubtedly be one of your best meals ever. The Milk Bread lives up to its national rep in this unbelievably innovative and chef-driven restaurant.

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The coffee bar at Lincoln’s Haberdashery

Lincoln’s Haberdashery (Casual lunch): Part gift shop, part wine store, part bakery, part coffeeshop, and all amazing, this trendy spot is known for its sandwiches on freshly baked bread. The grilled cheese with gruyere and shallots will change your life.

DRINK

Bardo (Cocktails): I know there are a ton of bars in town focused entirely on cocktails, but I seriously think that Amanda Britton, the mixologist at this tiny, eclectic South End spot, is doing it better than anyone else. Her drinks are inventive and seasonally-focused, and it’s hard not to order every one on the menu just to taste.

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The patio garden at Dilworth Tasting Room

Dilworth Tasting Room (Wine): I’ll be honest. I know almost nothing about wine. But I do know some things about charming white-string-lit gardens and heaping plates of cheese and charcuterie. And this cozy wine bar tucked into the Dilworth neighborhood offers both those things.

Craft (Beer): I recently heard we have more than fifty breweries built or in the works right now around Charlotte. That’s insane. I could obviously do an entire additional list for breweries, but if I want a great beer in a chill atmosphere, I always opt for this cool little bar in South End.

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Matcha and avocado toast at Undercurrent

Undercurrent (Coffeeshop): Charlotte has hopped on the coffeeshop craze with the rest of the country/world and while there are so many excellent options (Basal, Not Just Coffee, Hex), I just really love this one. The matcha latte with oat milk and avocado toast is my favorite (very green) order.

NoDa Company Store (Vibe): I didn’t really know where to put this on this list, but as it’s my absolutely favorite place to go have a cold glass of prosecco on a warm afternoon, I felt I should mention it. If you can, snag one of the porch swings on the side or a picnic table out back. This is the kind of place you’ll end up spending a few lazy hours.

SHOP

Moxie Mercantile: This cute little gift shop (next door to Undercurrent Coffee) is the best place for fun barware and super stylish locally-made jewelry.

Paper Skyscraper: More gifts! This Dilworth institution has been Charlotte’s favorite gift shop for forever, but it’s so on-trend it feels like it could have opened yesterday. Its books, cards, and candles are my favorites.

Mint Museum Gift Shop: Museum gift shops are the best part, right? Housed on the ground floor of the Uptown museum, this gift shop has the coolest finds like fashion books, chic stationery, NC pottery, and jewelry. And they have the best kids’ gifts in town—hands down.

Sleepy Poet Antique Mall: If you’ve got a rainy afternoon in Charlotte, there’s no better place to wander around than this massive antique mall filled with booths that range from records to vintage clothing to mid-century modern decor. On Saturdays there’s usually a food truck or two in its parking lot.

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Eye candy at Capitol

Capitol: To be clear, I can’t afford anything in this store. Not one single thing. I spend all my money on the aforementioned food and drink. But man, if you love designer clothes and shoes—or, like me, just love looking at them—this gorgeous SouthPark store is worth a visit as a fashion tourist destination if nothing else.

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Ritz-Carlton Spa (Best Indoor): Book a $45+(on weekdays) or $100+(on weekends) treatment at the luxe spa housed inside this modern Uptown hotel and you get access to the spa’s gorgeous penthouse pool and facilities. (I don’t understand the Himalayan Salt Room, but I love it.)

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Friday night yoga at the Whitewater Center

US National Whitewater Center (Best Outdoor): I wish I could rename this place because visitors and newbies see this name and think “I don’t want to go whitewater rafting,” but oh my gosh it is so much more (and better) than that. I like going for kayaking on the river, walks on the trails, beers next to the water, dinners on the decks, yoga in the woods, and live music in the grass. It’s my favorite place in Charlotte and literally never disappoints any visitor.

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Carrigan Farms

Seasonal Spots: In the summer, go for one of the open swim days at Carrigan Farms Rock Quarry. It’s the perfect family-friendly day outside. In the spring, spend an evening at a Knights game in BB&T Ballpark. I don’t care about baseball even a little bit, but I love games in this city center park. In the fall, plan on at least one hike through colorful leaves on a sunny day at the nearby Crowders Mountain (Kings Pinnacle trail is tough towards the end, but so worth it for the view). And in the winter, don’t miss Olde Mecklenburg Brewery‘s German Christmas Market. It’s cheery for even the Grinchiest of us.

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The book you need to order

Looking for more? I believe I may have mentioned purchasing 100 Things to Do in Charlotte Before You Die. I’d also recommend checking out Charlotte Agenda and perusing the #exploreCLT hashtag on Instagram. Enjoy Charlotte!

After watching this TED talk, I’m ready to for Stacey Abrams to give up on the Georgia Governor role and just go for President. But maybe wait until 2024 when like 47 other Democrats haven’t already announced their candidacy.

Sunny Seattle

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Earlier this month I spent a long weekend in Seattle—a place generally known for its rainy, grey days and (directly related) good coffee. However, North Carolina has been hogging that weather this winter and so when I went it was all sunshine and blue skies, which made for a beautiful weekend in one of my favorite cities.

I’ve visited Seattle quite a bit in the past. You can find my recommendations for favorite spots here and here. But I went to a few new places on this trip, so I thought I’d share.

Eat & Drink

I’d been wanting to go to Il Corvo ever since Aziz Ansari mentioned it in his Modern Romance book. He described it as having amazing housemade pasta and a long line. Both proved to be true. It’s only open for lunch on week days and you’ll want to be in line by 10:45 for when it opens at 11. Go hungry—it’s worth the wait.

We just happened to drive past this Starbucks Reserve Roastery on our way to Melrose Market (another fun destination for food and drink in Capitol Hill) when I was in some IMG_1864serious need of caffeine. I could not have been happier that we stopped in. Apparently, there are only a few of these in the world and they are AMAZING. I’m not even that into coffee, but I am into cool places that serve tasty things and are full of passionate people. This checked all those boxes. You can do coffee flights and exclusive tastings. Or, if you’re a coffee novice like me, you can just order the Undertow—an espresso, half and half, and vanilla bean syrup mixture that was like melted coffee ice cream.

Just as I began making dinner reservations for the trip, James Beard announced their semi-finalists and Sawyer made the list for best new restaurant. The fact that it was in one of my favorite Seattle neighborhoods—Ballard—IMG_1893was just icing on the cake. It lived up to its nomination with a bright and cheery atmosphere, creative (but remarkably low priced) dishes, and a steamed buns appetizer that is making my mouth water at the memory.

I feel like Taylor Shellfish doesn’t need any more publicity from me, but I’m going to recommend it as a snack time spot. There are several locations around town and it’s the perfect place to pop in during an afternoon of sightseeing for a briny, plump oyster and a chilled glass of wine.

Finally, everyone who goes to Seattle goes to Pike Market. It’s a must. I’ve been to Seattle nine times in five years. I’ve been to Pike Market nine times in five years. Personally, I think the best way to do it is to get there just before it opens. First, go to Le Panier, a cozy and fragrant French bakery, grab a warm Almondine and a creamy latte and snag a seat at the window-side bar to watch the market wake up before you go explore.

Do

This trip was my first visit to the San Juan Islands and now I see what all the fuss is about. We did it in a fun way—taking a ferry to Whidbey Island, driving all the way up the island to see Deception Pass, and then taking another ferry to Orcas Island. It was the most charming place with a little waterside town full of classic Americana shops and restaurants, a fun brewery, and gorgeous scenery. This was a full-day trip (and could easily be overnight), but totally worth it.

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