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5 Places I Want to Visit in 2016

I see a visit to The City of Light in my not-so-distant future. A few girlfriends and I are planning a trip in June full of wine, cheese and pâtisserie. I’ve been to Paris once before, but I was young, the weather was bad and we only stayed for three days. I can’t wait to explore all Paris has to offer in the spring—suggestions on where to stay and what to see are very welcome!

parisparis2paris4paris32. ICELAND
My little brother Billy will be shipping off to grad school in Reykjavík this summer, and I’m so proud of him! I also can’t wait to visit. Colorful photo ops abound, as do beautiful hikes and natural hot springs, but most of all, I’d love to cross one major thing off my bucket list: see the Northern Lights.

Reykjavik1Reykjavik2Reykjavik3Reykjavik43. AUSTIN, TX
I grew up less than an hour south of Austin in the great city of San Antonio (go Spurs!), but I’ve spent surprisingly little time in the capital city, especially as an adult. Since I’m currently campaigning Max to consider Austin as a future home post-Iowa, I’d love to take a quick weekend trip up from SA to explore the delicious food, abundance of live music and, of course, world-class vintage shopping.
austin1austin4austin5THIS WILL BE THE COVER IMAGE (pls don't use inside) People wait in line for 4 to 5 hours to taste the food from Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas. Matthew Odam's Top 10 barbecue restaurants in Austin. 05.06 2014 LAURA SKELDING/AMERICAN-STATESMAN 052314 xl cover
Admittedly this one is a stretch, with at least one major international trip already on the books for 2016, but a girl can dream, right? I’ve long been enchanted by the rich history and classic literature of Russia and I’d love the chance to tour the country I find so fascinating. First on my wish list? A trip (or three) to see the Bolshoi, shopping for caviar and vodka at one of the resplendent food halls and touring the relatively new Fabergé Museum in Saint Petersburg.
Max and I will be attending the Miami wedding of one of his best friends this summer, and we’re hoping to make the quick jaunt down to Cuba after the nuptials. I’m dying to see the colorful colonial buildings, vintage American hot rods and storied cabarets. It’s unclear whether we’ll be able to get tourist visas by the time fall rolls around, so we may have to settle for mojitos and Cubanos in Little Havana instead.


Paris images via 1, 2, 3, 4 // Iceland images via 1, 2, 3, 4 // Austin images via 1, 2, 3, 4 // Russia images via 1, 2, 3, 4 // Cuba images via 1, 2, 3, 4


Alexandria, Egypt

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 Top: Target // Skirt: Forever 21 // Scarf: old // Shoes: Aldo, old // Earrings: BaubleBar // Sunglasses: Prada // Bag: Rebecca Minkoff // Watch: Michael Kors (similar) // Bracelet: Julie Vos

Since we had plenty of time to take in the Cairo sights, we decided to spend one of our days on a mini-road trip to the city of Alexandria, which sits on the coast of the Mediterranean. Alexandria was founded by Alexander the Great in 331 BC and over its illustrious years was home to the ancient lighthouse, famed library and, of course, Cleopatra.

Today, you can tour the new library, which is a beautiful sight if you’re a bibliophile like me, stroll along turquoise waters and gorge on delicious, freshly caught seafood. After spending some time in the urban (read: supremely polluted) air of Cairo, it was nice to breathe in some brisk sea air and experience the decidedly more Mediterranean feel of the coastal city.

For our one meal in Alexandria, we knew that we had to get seafood, so after some online sleuthing, we walked up to what looked like a seafood market to see about getting lunch. After a little initial confusion, and lots of help from my Arabic-speaking sister and brother-in-law, we learned that the way to go about ordering was to point to the fresh seafood we wanted and simply say whether we wanted it grilled or fried. Then, we were whisked through the kitchen, past many bubbling pots filled with fish and aromatics to a hidden dining room in the back.

After almost filling up on a seemingly never-ending supply of Egyptian banchan in the form of hummus, spicy cheese dip, bread, baba ganoush, requisite potato chips (they’re everywhere in Egypt), pickled beets and more, we proceeded to devour a couple of delicious whole-grilled fish and some of the best, sweetest, plumpest shrimp I’ve ever had.

We left Alexandria full and happy, driving down the Cairo–Alexandria desert road as the sun set over the Nile Delta.


Egypt: The Pyramids

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Cardigan: Target // Scarf: old // Top: Forever 21 // Pants: Forever 21 // Shoes: Target // Bag: Rebecca Minkoff // Necklace: Julie Vos // Bracelet: Julie Vos // Watch: Michael Kors

When you visit Cairo, you have to visit the pyramids. And although the tour seems almost routine from the start, the minute you drive up the hill and approach the massive necropoli, the atmosphere shifts. Yes, the pyramids are missing most of their outer layers, not to mention the maze of lush rivers, walkways and temples that once linked them, but the massive structures retain their pleasantly imposing air. It’s dizzying and wildly entertaining to imaging oneself smack dab in the middle of ancient Egypt, when the pyramids were in their element.

Now, they’re surrounded by hordes of ambitious camel and horse riders, who jockey loudly for the attention and money of tourists from all over the world. Having never ridden a camel, I decided to cross that very jarring activity off my bucket list and took a turn around the area on an old specimen name Michael Jordan. Post camel ride we did a little bit of illicit climbing (the temptation to ascend all the way to the top is strong), ate some fool and tameya sandwiches and then ambled down the hill to rest at the feet of the Great Sphinx of Giza.

The columns pictured above belong to the ancient temple that sits on a sunken terrace about eight feet below the base of the sphinx. Although the crumbling limestone stones of the temple lay in partial ruin now, they were once covered in pink granite with a floor paved entirely in pale, precious alabaster. What a sight that would have been.

Lifestyle, Travel

My 3-Day Guide to Nashville

Let me start off by saying that I am in no way an expert on Nashville. I am, however, an expert at exploring a new city by eating my way from one destination to another. So when Max’s mom suggested a fun, quick jaunt to Nashville after Christmas, we set to work gathering recommendations from friends and family who call Nashville home.

We wanted to pack as much goodness into one night and two full days as possible, and I think we did a pretty great job planning our itinerary. Of course, there were a couple of things on the schedule that we didn’t end up having time for, but that just means that we have another trip to Music City in our future.

Without further ado, here’s my three-day (food-centered) guide to Nashville!

Day One:
Let’s say you drove to Nashville from your family’s house in Texas, and let’s say that you arrive in Nashville around 7PM at night, ready to get out of the car and very ready to eat something delicious. If you’re staying in East Nashville**—like we were—you can hop back in that car and drive a mercifully quick five minutes around the block to The Pharmacy. Known for the best burger in Nashville, The Pharmacy also boasts old-fashioned soda fountain drinks like a scratch-made strawberry ginger ale or a classic chocolate phosphate. Equal parts burger parlour and beer garden, The Pharmacy’s menu also features a full selection of house-made sausages. I especially loved the jagerwurst with horseradish mustard.


Day Two:
We were planning on checking out Marché for breakfast, but it was closed for the day, so we moved on to our back-up brunch option and headed over to Monelle’s at the Manor. The meals are all served family style around big dining tables in what look to be the dining and living rooms of a grand old manor. Think heaping dishes of mashed potatoes, biscuits, chicken and dumplings, green beans and most importantly, fried chicken. There’s also classic pecan pie for dessert and enough (delicious) sweet tea to wash it all down.


After such a filling lunch, we decided we needed to walk it off, so we headed down to Broadway. Admittedly, this area is pretty touristy, but it’s the kind of place you have to see once. Lower Broadway is lined with neon signs and towering honky tonks leaking muted licks of country classics.

Pinewood Social was next on our list, so as the sun set we headed over to get our bowl on. This establishment bills itself as “a place to meet,” and totally delivers on that promise. It’s probably best described as a complex that boasts reclaimed bowling lanes, a coffee bar, an outdoor pool (for the summer), karaoke and delicious dining. The wait time for a bowling lane ended up being about two hours (!) since we didn’t have a reservation, but we managed to keep ourselves occupied with the food and drink menu in the meantime. Like any good hipster-leaning purveyor of food, Pinewood Social offers a wide selection of artisan toasts. We tried them all, obviously, and they were first-rate. Also super delicious: the fried broccoli with an almond garlic dipping sauce that I plan on recreating as soon as humanly possible. The drink menu was equally as imaginative and impressive, with a range of tasty cocktails like the Mourning Glory (mezcal, Ancho Reyes, guava and lime).


Day Three:
The Tour de Food continued with a long-awaited lunch at Husk. Max and I had been wanting to try Chef Sean Brock’s farm-to-table Southern food since watching him on Mind of a Chef, and Husk did not disappoint. The fancified shrimp and grits with earthy mushroom broth was the stuff Dixie dreams are made of, and the fried chicken was some of the best I’ve ever had. I can’t wait to visit Charleston so I can try Brock’s other outposts.


A post-lunch pick-me-up seemed in order, so we headed right down the hill to Crema for a Cuban coffee with sweetened condensed milk. They are clearly very passionate about coffee and roast their beans to perfection in-house.


Since we were already downtown, we headed over the the Ryman Auditorium to check out The Mother Church of Country Music. I spent some time reading about the history of the Grand Ole Opry and perusing displays of old performers’ clothing. So much embroidery. So much sparkle! As the sun started to set beyond the stained glass windows and the Ryman prepared to close to the public for the day, the band that had been casually milling around the stage started doing a sound check. Before we knew it, we were watching Old Crow Medicine Show do a full-on rehearsal for their evening show. Even though we had to leave after one song, we got to experience a secret one-song serenade in the most legendary country music venue there is.


Riding high on a cloud of free country music, we floated over to the legendary Hatch Show Print studio. This renowned letterpress shop has been printing handbills and gig posters for preachers, musicians and more since the late 1800s and is know for its distinctive Americana style. For a design nerd like me, it was a treat to look around the working shop, and it reminded me of my years-long desire to take a printmaking class.


Next comes the amazing experience that was Prince’s Hot Chicken. I was new to the whole concept of hot chicken (fried chicken plus a whole lot of hot sauce and cayenne pepper), but I am now completely addicted. In fact, my mouth waters every time I even think about it. We got to Prince’s around 6:30PM on a Tuesday night, not really thinking that there would be much of a wait. A little over an hour and a half later, we finally left, clutching our bags of hot chicken to our chests while other patrons congratulated us with more than a little envy in their eyes. Having ordered pieces of medium, hot and extra hot chicken (which we were warned against), we armed ourselves with glasses of milk and proceeded to devour all the chicken in about 20 minutes. I tried the medium and hot versions and found them both to be amazingly moist, deliciously crispy and painfully, perfectly hot. I don’t say this lightly: it was worth the hour and a half wait.

IMG_6513(Note: we scarfed the chicken down so fast that all I got was a picture of the perfectly worn tablecloth.)

After we recovered from our hot chicken binge enough to think about dessert, we walked down the street to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams—my all. time. favorite. ice cream. My roommates and I used to hunt down pints of Jeni’s at specialty stores in San Francisco, so it’s always a treat to go to a proper Jeni’s parlour for a scoop of brambleberry crisp ice cream or lemon buttermilk tart frozen yogurt. It was a sweet ending to a truly fun trip to Nashville.


**We stayed at this awesome artists’ bungalow Airbnb in East Nashville, which I highly recommend! It’s across the river from downtown, but smack dab in the middle of a bunch of great restaurants, bars and coffee shops. And if you’re looking for a few more recommendations from the locals, check out this list of the 30 best things to do in Nashville as told by local Airbnb hosts.


Germany + Austria

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What do you call it when six girlfriends, a pair of parents, and a younger brother spend nine days touring Germany and Austria together? #Hofftoberfest!

Just in case you didn’t follow along with our hashtag, here’s a photo recap of our amazing trip. We started with a multi-day tour of the tents in Munich for the first weekend of Oktoberfest, and then hopped on a train to the picturesque Prien am Chiemsee. After a  two-Michelin-star meal and some sailing around the Bavarian lake, it was back on the train for our trip across the border to Austria.

Salzburg was, without a doubt, my favorite part of the trip. It served as the setting for The Sound of Music and is just bursting with Austrian charm—think winding cobblestone streets with pastel row houses teetering above you on either side; the scent of myriad sausages wafting across town squares as the Alps playing hide-and-go-seek with the clouds in the background; Mozart’s face festooned from almost every shop window you pass. I loved it.

From there it was just another short train ride to Stuttgart, also known as the cheese spaetzle capital of my heart. Clearly calories were of no concern on this trip, and of all the hearty offerings I sampled, kaesespaetzle was my very favorite (it’s basically German mac and cheese with caramelized onions on top). Be still my heart.

We ended our trip the way we began it—in a beer tent—and then headed home ten pounds heavier (due to all the pretzels) and happier (due to all the beer). Salzburg, I hope to see you soon.