Minneapolis For A Minute

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Often, the mentality with work trips is “Sure, this may be a cool city I’m in, but I’m just in the airport, the bland hotel nearby, and some windowless conference room.”

It happens. In general, traveling for work is not glamorous. But I try really hard, even when I’m on a tight schedule and pretty fully booked, to squeeze in a taste of wherever I am. Such was the case on a 24-hour trip I took to Minneapolis this week to give group presentations (in one of those windowless conference rooms about six minutes from the airport).

I did a little research beforehand (mostly playing around on Instagram) and headed to an area of town that seemed fun. Here are some cool places I checked out (there were tons more in the neighborhood) in case you ever have a few extra minutes in Minneapolis:

I’m probably not cool enough for Spyhouse Coffee. Everyone inside this hip coffee shop had that laidback Midwestern vibe meets Brooklyn hipster thing going on. But the Spygirl Latte, which is made with lavender and honey, was creamy and perfect and I’d travel back to Minnesota just for one more warm mug of that.

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Glam Doll Donuts seriously feels like you’re in a grown-up, pink-soaked dollhouse where donuts are served. It’s a fun spot and the made-from-scratch donuts are mindblowing. This “Night Moves” donut was made with blackberry hennessy icing and blackberry jam. Next time I’m trying the one with the dark chocolate bourbon filling.

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Greater Goods gift shop was adorable. It’s a bright and cozy shop where they give back a portion of all their proceeds to a different local charitable organization each year. I loved their stationery and candles.

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My favorite stop (predictably) was GYST Fermentation Bar. I want to pick up this restaurant and move it about one thousand miles to the southeast. Dedicated entirely to fermented foods, the modern and cheerful restaurant (pictured at top) features cured meats, artisanal cheeses, wines, pickled veggies, chocolates, breads… basically all of the world’s greatest foods. My dream meal would be ordering their “Motherboard” and a bottle of wine to split with friends.

Lake Martin Love

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My grandfather grew up in a tiny mill town in Alabama near Lake Martin. When the 44,000-acre lake was created in the 1920s, it was the largest man-made body of water in the world—just up the road from his home. And so his family built a small cabin on the quiet lake that they’d visit on weekends long before that was something people did.

The lake—and the cabin—have come a long way. Today, my grandmother (my grandfather passed away a few years ago) has created what I think of as one of the most relaxing places on earth out on their point. Boats with thousands of summer visitors buzz around the popular lake all summer, but her little slice of it feels perfectly secluded.

I’ve visited every summer since I was a kid—I was there last weekend—and it’s one of my favorite places to spend a few days by the water. If you’re considering a trip (which you should), here are some spots I’d recommend on your visit.

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The Landing at Parker Creek: This is a newer addition to the lake, but the laid back restaurant has become a fast favorite. It’s easiest accessed by boat and features a swimming area, live music, games, and a variety of spots for dining and drinking. Play a game of corn hole or ring toss before pulling up a stool at the outdoor bar and cooling down with one of the creamy famed Bushwacker cocktails.

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Chimney Rock: If you’re looking for the party on a summer Saturday afternoon, this is the place. Hundreds of boats line up, often tying themselves together and turning up the music, near this spray paint covered rock where (slightly crazy) people launch themselves from various heights. It’s not remotely safe, but it’s a ton of fun.

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Peanut Point: This place has been around for decades, but I only discovered it a few years ago (it’s a big lake). On a sandy pine-shaded point a local couple boils and sells thousands of peanuts all summer long. Snag one of the cajun-flavored bags if you can.

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Catherine’s: I’m a sucker for an artisanal market and this one is pretty charming. In addition to rows of gourmet groceries, the European-style market features an airy cafe, bakery, wine tastings, and mouth-watering cheese selection.

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The AMP: I got lucky because this gorgeous open-air amphitheater with panoramic views of the lake is within walking distance of my grandmother’s home. But regardless of where on the lake you’re coming from, this grassy hillside is a great destination for its summer concerts and events.

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Church In The Pines: I don’t usually include churches as part of travel destinations, but I really love this church. Tucked into the woods and facing the lake, the huge open-air space is at once simple and stunningly beautiful. They have guest preachers and musicians all summer long, and its a great spot to spend a peaceful Sunday morning.

 

Island Time

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I spent the weekend at Pawleys Island—my favorite place on earth. I’ve been lucky enough to grow up spending summers and weekends there. And I get a lot of questions from people considering a visit. My answer is always: Yes, go there. Now. Now that that’s settled, here are some answers to other questions:

Where to eat: Chive Blossom is my favorite spot. It’s cozy and intimate, but beachy and lively. The She Crab Soup is the best I’ve ever had anywhere (and I’ve tried more than a few). If the weather is nice, sit outside under the string lights. And if you like fried oysters, order these and thank me later. Frank’s Outback is a similar spot both price and cuisine wise. I love sharing a bunch of small plates at this restaurant (get the ahi tuna nachos) and it’s hidden garden is especially nice on a cooler night. For a casual lunch, grab a bite a BisQit. The little burger joint tucked back in the historic Hammock Shops has become one of our favorite spots for a midday venture off the beach.

What to do: Honestly, I spend about 60 percent of my time in the hammock on our back porch with a book, 10 percent walking on the beach, 10 percent swimming, 10 percent sitting in the sun, and 5 percent crabbing. That’s the kind of laid back stuff Pawleys is made for. But a few other fun things to do include renting bikes to ride around the island and mainland, riding said bikes over to the the All Saints cemetery to see the old graves including the famed Alice, buying fudge and walking around the Hammock Shops, going early in the morning to Georgetown’s harbor for shrimp fresh off the boat, and taking kayaks out in the marsh. I’ve done other stuff—golf, plantation tours, Brookgreen Gardens, Atalaya castle—but for the most part those just get in the way of hammock time.

ATX Weekend

If someone said, “Hey, Sarah, create your dream weekend,” I think it’d look a lot like this past weekend in Austin, Texas. I spent three days with four of my favorite people. We stayed in a gorgeous house (Airbnb is the best) and explored a seriously cool city. The weather had that perfect 75-and-breezy thing going, and we dined on patios and sat in the sun all weekend long.

For anyone interested, I’m putting my little “Guide to an Austin Weekend” below. We chose these spots based in large part on excellent recs from friends of my friend Laura (who was master planner for this trip), as well as a few other friend recommendations and the occasional suggestion from articles in the New York Times and Travel + Leisure. Consider this a tested, tried, and true list of some awesome Austin spots if you’re in the mood for a relaxed, food-filled weekend in a fun city.
Restaurants:
Launderette: Stylish, amazing small plates, order the pimento cheese, do NOT skip dessert
Jo’s Coffee (on South Congress): Get there early for breakfast tacos, order iced coffee, and sit on the deck
Perla’s: Perfect tree-shaded patio. Incredible seafood. Best people watching.
Geraldine’s: Great spot for cocktails, shared plates, and an elevated view of downtown
Justine’s: Seriously cool French restaurant. Go—and stay—late. Order steak tartare, french fries, and sazeracs.
Irene’s: Brunch includes patio seating, rose on draft, and multiple versions of toasts (I think the kids call this basic, but whatever, it was great)
June’s: Delightfully colorful street side cafe that feels more Paris than Texas
Guero’s Taco Bar: Casual TexMex in a historical restaurant with live music next door
Nightlife:
Garage: Cozy, candlelit bar with creative cocktails—inside a parking garage
Midnight Cowboy: Reservations required at this massage parlor-turned-speakeasy where you ring an innocuous buzzer to get in. Drinks are made table side—and strong.
Stay Gold: Sophisticated drinks, lounge-y vibe, great jazz music.
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Recreation:
Lady Bird Lake Loop Trail: Waterside trail with great city and river views.
Barton Spring’s Pool: This bright blue spring-fed pool in the middle of town was full of swimmers—even in January.
South Congress Vintage Shopping: Feathers and Uncommon Objects seemed to be the favorites, but there’s plenty here to keep any shopper happy.

I like to look back at years by remembering my favorite travel moments. Mostly because this inspires me to start planning the next year’s destinations. 2016 took me to some of the most interesting and beautiful places I’ve ever been. From right to left and top to bottom, here’s where:

Palmetto Bluff, South Carolina. This was my second trip to this gorgeous property and it’s only become more beautiful. This time, I went with my friend Katie and we had the best time exploring its trails and rivers—and eating for three days straight.

Puerto Rico. The first time I went to Puerto Rico, my experience was a little more bohemian. There were festivals, drinking, exploring—and a pretty violent shooting. This trip to Puerto Rico was all poolside lounging, luxe spas, champagne—and the fear of a high-risk virus. This country is never boring.

Portsmouth, NH. When I was in grad school I interned in DC as a political correspondent for a newspaper in New Hampshire. But until this summer, I’d never set foot in the state. This charming waterside town with its historic buildings and winding streets was a perfect spot to spend a warm summer day.

Hood Canal, WA. Basically everything in Washington State is gorgeous. But the most beautiful scenery I’ve found is when you catch a ferry west from Seattle. Alderbrook Resort, with its cozy interior, gorgeous views, and seemingly endless outdoor options was one of my favorite places I’ve ever been.

Charleston, SC. I never get tired of Charleston—I mean, it’s a beach side town with some of the best food in the country. Hello, dream world. And this summer I stayed at the new hotel, The Restoration, which was amazing. In fact, the word amazing doesn’t do it justice. From its rooftop pool to its chic coffee shop, I wanted to permanently move in.

Caneel Bay, St. John’s. This Caribbean spot had been on my bucket list for years and it didn’t disappoint. I loved its many beaches, crystal clear waters, incredible food, and relaxing vibe. I also went on my best hike of the year there, to the top of a mountain where the view included 360 degrees of other islands and azure blue water as far as you could see.

Los Angeles, CA. I traveled to LA twice this year—once for fun and once for work. Realistically, I’m too innately Southern to be cut out for the West Coast. But man, Southern California. I never get tired of visiting this part of the country.

Palm Springs, CA. Speaking of Southern California, I’m super glad that Palm Springs got popular enough recently to convince myself and two friends to spend a weekend there. We spent three days riding our bikes around, looking at cool architecture, and eating avocado toast. I think we did it right.

Oregon Coast. I spent a weekend last February on the beach in Lincoln City, Oregon. It was one of those places that about every half hour I’d be like “Wow, I’ve seriously never seen anything like this.” Massive waves and stunning beaches. But the drive down from Seattle to the beach was actually the coolest part. Just unreal views.

 

 

 

 

Giving Thanks and Eating Cannolis

It’s been one week since Thanksgiving. And it’s taken me this long to have six extra seconds to post about it. Holiday season business is no joke, you guys.

Anyway, Thanksgiving was awesome. Michiel and I went to visit my brother and his wife—who is eight months pregnant!—at their cozy home in the Massachusetts countryside.  The holiday was about 50% sleeping, 40% eating more food than is socially acceptable, and 10% other fun things like hikes in the woods, exploring Concord, Mass. walking around Harvard’s campus, and checking out the Christmas lights in Quincy Market. In my fantasy life, this is how my time would always be split.

 

Weekend in Palmetto Bluff/Heaven

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I traveled to Palmetto Bluff this weekend. And it was glorious. This was my second time at this charming resort, which is set on 20,000 acres in the South Carolina Lowcountry, and I’m a little in love with it. Every part of the setting is perfect—from the hundreds of live oaks dripping with Spanish moss to the bright white egrets that perch along the shores of its waterways.

And the resort only enhances the setting. White cottages, tin roofs, and gas-lit paths make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time—but into an incredibly luxurious version of history, complete with endless recreational options, inventive cocktails, and high thread count sheets. Oh, and in case this didn’t already sound like heaven, there are extra-extravagant touches like puppies running around as “canine ambassadors” and a “S’mores Cart” that pulls in so you can roast your own variation of the gooey treat in the riverside firepit every evening (you can’t make this stuff up).

I went with my friend Katie and we had the best time. Highlights included an afternoon kayaking trip, a long morning bike ride, a PB&J cocktail made with peanut-infused bourbon, a fireside pizza-and-wine dinner, and those aforementioned s’mores. Returning to the real world wasn’t easy. Here’s a peek from our trip:

 

 

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I’ve had Rosie for almost 11 years. That’s 77 in dog years. The average human life expectancy in the U.S. is 78. So, basically I’ve had Rosie for a lifetime. (This is how I do math.)

When I’m away from home—as I am this week—I don’t miss much. I freaking love to travel. But I really miss this chubby little dachshund. I have another dog, Pawley, who I adore. But Pawley is a dog’s dog. (Some days it feels like she’s basically a feral coyote that I’ve tried to domesticate.) Rosie is a different story. She prefers her sleep to be in fresh sheets, her dinners to be spaghetti, and her baths to be lavender scented.

So when I leave I always miss her. But I’ve long thought that the best part about travel is coming home to a place you love. And Rosie always makes me extra happy to come home.

California Dreaming

This week for work I’m in Calabasas, California. If you’ve heard of it, it’s likely that you keep up with the Kardashians—because every single person I’ve told I was going here has said, “Oh, where the Kardashians live.” Or, my personal favorite, “That’s Kardashian Kountry.”

The work I’m doing here couldn’t have less to do with Kim and her crew (krew?). But for the next few days I’ll be part of Design Thinking sessions that include interviewing random people on the street. The population of Calabasas is less than 25k. I think my odds of my “man on the street” having the last name Kardashian are pretty high, right? Here’s hoping.