I visited a good friend up in Maine this past weekend and couldn’t get enough of these shoes and of course her cheeks!
My family has been going to the Topsfield Fair together every year for 10+ years. We have grown from the original 6 to now 12 with boyfriends, husbands and two baby nephews. We always make it a point to get together for Columbus Day weekend just to do our yearly fair visit.
Nothing makes a fair trip more complete than practically rolling out absolutely stuffed with the most unhealthy foods you can think of. We’ve managed to try almost all of the vendors at the fair, even the sketchier ones (regretfully) and we now walk in knowing which places we are going to hit up first. I apologize in advanced for the lack of actual food photos, there are a few but in most cases I managed to catch a shot of the sign after we devoured whatever it was.
Here are my favorites:
1.) Right at the entrance is a perfect snack to start the trip… sizzling hot apple cider donuts! They also offer hot and cold cider. We’ve tried all of the ciders at the fair over time, and this is by far the best. The line goes quick!!
2.) I don’t even know what the name of the stand was where this greasy plate of delight came from, all I know is that it’s in the center of the busy food area and it says TEX MEX all over it. I can still taste the seasoned batter and spicy horseradish dip. SO GOOD. Better than the Outback (the only other place I have ever had a blooming onion):
Not to get side tracked from the main focus of food, but can you even handle this picture of my nephew? Although he was NOT impressed:
Also, this was my favorite pumpkin from the decorating contest in the Fruits & Vegetables hall:
3.) There are a million places to buy sausages at the fair but pass by them all and once you get close to the ferris wheel and crazy rides stop at this gem of a sausage place, Buchino’s – $5 (less than the rest) and definitely the best!
4.) We always finish of the night with a warm apple crisp topped with creamy vanilla ice cream. There is no place to go besides Learned’s, there is always a line but the staff knows how to move it along. We grab our apple crisp and head into the arena to see one of the horse shows.
I am ashamed to admit I also ate a few other things that are going to contribute to my food hangover tomorrow morning: fried oreos, caramel apples, and some kettle corn. But those just receive an honorable mention… moreso because I didn’t take any pictures and I have no idea where I got them!
The Topsfield Fair is definitely my favorite fair I have been to, and if you are ever in the are in the first 2 weeks of October I would recommend a visit. We usually go in the evening to avoid the major crowds, but either way it’s still a fun fall activity.
Every year my high school girlfriends and I plan a weekend getaway somewhere different. This year we decided to visit Saratoga Springs in New York, none of us had ever been! After such a great visit all I can say is I can’t wait to get back, especially during racing season.
Saratoga Springs is a surprisingly short drive from Boston at a little over 3 hours. We all left in the early afternoon on a Friday and managed to avoid any major traffic jams. The fall drive is absolutely gorgeous with plenty of orange and yellow leaves brightening up the trees.
We rented a great little house on AirBnB. It was in a great location walking distance to downtown, and the owners were really great. They kept in touch before and during our stay. The house slept all 8 of us extremely comfortably (with provided air mattresses) and it was very spacious and clean. I would definitely rent from them again.
We all arrived at different times so we walked around downtown and made dinner and drinks at home. The downtown is really really great, full of delicious restaurants, cafes, and shopping.
Unfortunately for us it was raining all day Saturday, so we weren’t able to do our planned hike. We still had a great day, we started the day at Uncommon Grounds. The coffee is great, the hipster staff is quick and attentive, and the bagels are DELICIOUS. Prime location right in the center of town.
We walked Broadway street from start to finish, popping in and out of some great places. I loved the hat shops displaying beautifully designed hats for the season at Saratoga Race Track.
We wandered down to the end of town and by the time it was more drizzly and less torrential downpour we wandered around Congress Park. It was so gorgeous with fountains, friendly ducks and bright orange and yellow leaves.
Since we are all on a budget, we cooked most of our meals (perks of renting a house), but we did eat a big lunch together at Mingle on the Avenue and LOVED it. The service was really great, and the food was a unique korean american fusion with something for everyone. We only ate lunch there, but there was so much to choose from and everything was extremely high quality and made from scratch. I got the noodle bowl, it was full of flavor and big enough to share. The chicken salad sandwich and Korean shrimp and vegetable pancake were also huge hits at the table.
We rolled out of the restaurant with overfull stomachs but still managed to get ourselves to the Saratoga Winery. This was one of my favorite places. It’s about 4 miles outside of downtown and it should NOT be missed during your visit! It was absolutely gorgeous. The staff was AMAZING and of course the wine was phenomenal. A tasting is $5 and you get 5 generous samples of any of their wine, and for an extra $3 you can take home a glass. We shared a long wooden table and enjoyed the lively environment together. My favorite was the Saratoga white wine. I of course prefer sweeter wines. You can also choose to get a cheese or truffle pairing, if I wasn’t so full from lunch I would have been all over these. Saratoga Winery also has a room for private events, and a little covered/heated back deck with live acoustic music. We enjoyed this place for hours on this rainy day.
We had such a great time at the bar scene downtown, bars are open until 4 AM and we didn’t come across a single cover charge! Caroline street was the place to be and It was obvious RIGHT away we weren’t in Boston anymore. We loved Gaffney’s (all you can eat free popcorn all night? Sold), and Putnam Den for live music.
We woke up and were checked out by 10 AM to enjoy a perfect fall day. After our coffee fix our first stop was the a visit to the track (even though it was closed). We thought maybe we could get in to walk around, that didn’t happen but we WERE able to get in across the street where the horses are boarded. On weekends the public is allowed to visit from 9-11 am to watch them do their workout. I’m not sure if it’s every weekend or certain dates.
After a visit to the horses we accidentally stumbled upon the Yaddo Gardens. I’m so glad I did, we wandered around the two different gardens for quite a while and had a blast snapping pics.
Before we headed home, we visited Saratoga Spa State Park. This should definitely not be missed. It’s so easy to wander around for hours, there are hiking trails, natural springs, golf course, a beautiful spa, gorgeous hotel and of course the famous performing arts center. I could talk about it all day but really I will let the photos speak for me:
I can’t wait to get back to Saratoga Springs in the summer!
I just got back from an amazing weekend getaway with 8 of my friends in Saratoga Springs! Most only relate Saratoga to the racing season but it is MUCH more than that. I will be interrupting my Europe postings with more details about my great visit so stay tuned!
Starting with this image from Saratoga Spa State Park I am going to try to post one favorite photo of the week from now on:
After every trip I am so grateful I took the time to keep a journal. If I have any advice for you, please write down the details of what you are doing! The funny moments, people you meet, places you eat – it’s hard to find the time but even jotting down notes will help you remember the small stuff.
I just spent some time re-reading and reminiscing on my 3-night detour to Cinque Terre. I went after France and before Germany.
Imagine this – 5 coastal villages with piled pastel buildings holding seemingly ancient balconies drying clothes in the hot sun. The smell of fresh focaccia breezing out the open windows of shops, and tourists wandering the streets in a more leisurely pace then you’d find in a major European city. Picture hilly cobblestones and tiny fishing boats bobbing amongst the others in a crowded harbor. The Italian language filling your ears while summer smiles breeze by you on the streets. Even as a slightly overcrowded summer destination, Cinque Terre is still a feast for the eyes and of course taste palate.
I did some hostel research before my trip and found the Hostel 5 Terre in Manarola (one of the 5 towns). The rate was reasonable, reviews were good, and the pictures looked beautiful. I would imagine it’s difficult to find a bad place to stay in a coastal area like this. After an incredibly long train ride from Nice I stumbled into the Hostel 5 Terre at almost 11 pm. Right away I had a great feeling about the place, and I was right. It was in a great location, very safe, and the staff was amazing. The rooms were VERY clean and spacious and the room we stayed in had a glorious view. The only complaint I had at the time were the showers, I’m VERY serious about bathroom cleanliness and the sinks and toilets were fine but I thought the showers could be a little bit cleaner. One of the best parts of the hostel was the restaurant downstairs, they served breakfast and dinner at a very reasonable price compared to many of the places in the village and it was equally as good.
After a long day of traveling, we slept in a little and got up at 9:30. Just being in Italy alone slowed down my pace and made me much more relaxed as a traveler. It’s so socially… correct in a place like this! The first thing we did was wander around Manarola to (of course) begin our eating escapades :X. We sat in a cafe on the water and enjoyed the view while sipping on espresso and enjoying a pastry. I noticed right away the difference between a French croissant and an Italian one! The French make theirs much buttery and flaky, whereas the Italians make theirs much sweeter and doughier. Both are delicious and executed in totally different ways.
After exploring numerous viewpoints around Manarola, we visited the tourism office for some help. We got maps, directions and learned how easy the train system was to use. We decided to purchase a Cinque Terre Card Train this included access to all trekking paths, free wifi and unlimited train access on the Levanto – Cinque Terre – La Spezia line. This is good for 24 hours and costs 12 Euro.
We soon discovered no matter which town you choose to stay in, you can’t go wrong. We first ventured to Monterosso, the largest of the five villages. It was drizzling rain for most of the day, so we scoped out the “Beach of the Giant” which was beautiful even in the rain. We ate lunch at a little cafe right on the water, I highly recommend anything seafood (I really don’t eat fish, just shrimp) and anything with lemon. They grow a lot of lemons in this area so it’s fresh and delicious.
After some drizzle the sun came out and we headed to Vernazza. There were some great little shops here, my favorite was a leather shop with beautiful sterling silver jewelry, we spent over an hour in there chatting with the owner and picking out bracelets. Needless to say this made us hungry so we headed for our first gelato and devoured it while admiring this view:
Afterwards, we hiked up some steep stairs to a little view tower, and got some AMAZING view of the town:
The tower was tiny and full of people, but it was worth the spectacular views. The water is so blue it looks fake! It’s funny how quickly each tiny town creates it’s own personality in your head while visiting.
After our view tower we were ready to do a basic hike from Vernazza to Corniglia, we weren’t equipped for a full on hike, but this was about an hour and a half (leisurely) and flat enough to do it in my TOM’s. We stopped in a foccacia shop and “packed” a few heavily topped slices… aka stuffed our faces as we marched up to the starting point.
In my next post, I’ll go into detail about our hike and our romantic dinner in Corniglia!
Now that things are settled and fall is in full swing I am back on a consistent schedule (no big trips for another month or two… sadly) but I can finally finish blogging about my Euro trip! What better way to deny the winter’s approach?
I didn’t really spend enough time in Nice to really talk about my favorite hidden gems, so I thought I would include some of my favorite photos from my half day of wandering around:
I hope you enjoyed my post series on Paris and the Riviera!
I was lucky enough to have just spent the better part of a week in Austin, Texas. I had never been to Texas before so I was really excited for this! 8 of us rented a great apartment through Air B&B right in the city, and were able to take our time exploring the ins and outs of the live music capital of the country. I ate some amazing food, drank great beer, and had an absolute blast exploring the night life of the city. I have listed out 8 things that really stuck out to me as what not to miss if you get a chance to visit.
1.) Wait in line for a large plate of BBQ from La Barbecue.
I know ALL the rave in Austin is Franklin’s BBQ, and I’m sure it’s great but honestly I don’t have 2-3 hours to wait in line for food that’s “all the hype”. We somehow stumbled upon this gem in a small park of food trucks off the highway. It was Sunday, so don’t get me wrong we definitely waited in line, but the FREE beer and amazing live music definitely helped the time go by fast.
I am a serious food critic and I can honestly say this was the best barbecue I have ever eaten in my life. I may be a normal sized 24 year old woman, but I can admit that I ate like a man. I accidentally ordered one of almost everything on the menu and finished just about all of it. I would highly recommend the ribs (any) and the brisket for meat, and you can’t go wrong with any of the sides… my personal favorite was the bacon buttermilk potato salad (I’m literally drooling thinking about it).
2.) Explore the live music scene… everywhere.
I’m not sure if this was stereotypical of me, but I expected a lot of country music. Nashville is one of my favorite cities in the US and it is mostly country musicians all along the main strip. I was TOTALLY wrong about Austin, I heard absolutely everything. I heard rock, alternative, instrumental, and the street performers probably blew my mind the most. The best street performers I found were in South Congress, at night we saw a few great bands in bars on 6th street as well as Raney Street. Really any part of town you go, you won’t be disappointed no matter how commercial.
3.) Visit the Bat Bridge
Mostly everybody who visits Austin knows about the bat bridge and will visit if they aren’t afraid of the amazing little creatures. I know it’s not exactly a hidden gem, but this was seriously amazing. We arrived on a grassy park right next to the bridge at about 7:30 PM and hung out until the bats came out a little before 8:00. Their feeding time constantly changes so we were early just in case. Right on queue, over 1.5 MILLION bats come out to feed. Watching them fly out one after another is seriously breathtaking.
4.) Go out on Sixth street
If you are interested in the bar scene, you will be frequently told that you HAVE to go out on sixth street. It is most definitely the most commercial/main stream area of Austin and probably looked down upon by the hipster locals, but we had an absolute blast. Each bar was so different. Our favorites included:
-Friends Bar (especially for live music)
-The Trophy Room (just for the mechanical bull… and yes I rode a mechanical bull)
- The Jackakope Bar – great food and drinks!
5.) Visit South Congress
South Congress is the funky part of Austin, it features consignment shops, antique shops, markets, and great restaurants. We had a really great time wandering around, watching live performers and trying on costumes. Some of the favorite places we stopped were:
-Allen Boots – VERY out of my price range, but so fun to admire the pricey boots and leather.
-Uncommon Objects – I had a blast wandering around this antique shop. Also had fun with my camera in there!
- Casey’s New Orleans Snowballs - We stumbled upon this shaved ice truck on our walk back to the main town. All I can say is WOW. Amazing quality, we chatted it up with the owner for quite a while and he threw some amazing flavor combo ideas at us. Perfect treat on a hot, hot Texas day.
6.) Visit the Texas State Capitol
Stunning inside and out, a perfect place to cool off and take some really great photos!
7.) Visit Hops and Grain Brewery
This small craft brewery that shouldn’t be missed! The staff is great, beer tastes AMAZING, and it’s on a much smaller scale but you can tell these guys are extremely passionate about what they do and care about sustainability.
8.) Rent a car to drive out and tube down the Guadalupe River.
We did this on a Monday so from what I’ve heard it’s a TOTALLY different experience without the crowds, but we rented a cozy little mini van on Relay Rides for most of the day and headed for the river. We had a tube for our cooler, and each had our own as we sloooowwwlllyyy mosied down the Guadalupe. We used Tube Haus to rent our tubes, and the staff was great, shutting us to and from the place we would start and end. It took us about 5 hours to do the “medium” distance, and we really had so much fun cooling off. I don’t have any pictures because I didn’t want to lose my phone!
I hope you enjoy some of these tips. We really had an amazing time and I can’t wait to get back to Austin!
Early this summer my sister and brother-in-law impulsively bought a pop up trailer. With a one year old son and another baby on the way, I thought they were a LITTLE crazy. I now realize how perfect camping is for kids and families. Mid July we booked our first “big” camping trip for Labor Day weekend. After a little research we decided on Sweetwater Forest Campground in Brewster, MA. We hadn’t visited Cape Cod at all this summer, so we thought it would be a nice change since we usually go North.
I cannot say enough amazing things about this campground, I wouldn’t consider myself an EXTREMELY experienced camper but from where I have stayed this was by far the best. The first thing you see as you pull into the campground are Appaloosa horses neighing and galloping around the property at Sweetwater Farms. This farm breeds top quality Appaloosas. They are beautiful to look at and the farm is a great touch.
The staff is great, very accommodating and are extremely knowledgable about the campground and surrounding areas throughout Cape Cod. The prices are affordable – about average for a campground in New England. We had a pop up trailer so we required hook ups and we paid a little extra for a tent on the same site. You can see your surrounding neighbors but because it is in a forest I felt like it was more private than most places I have seen. Behind us was all woods and the space we had was very large. Some extra perks included: extremely clean bathrooms, a pond for fishing, constant activities each day at the campground and there a bike trail leading right into the Cape Cod Rail Trail.
SO now onto the weekend! We relaxed at the camp quite a bit at night, but we are way too antsy to not go out for the duration of the day. Even when the weather was less than ideal.
I apologize in advanced how frequently I talk about food. I mean I’m not ACTUALLY sorry, but really I realize my love for food tends to overrun my posts :).
I broke down all of our stops that are worth checking out:
we checked in around noon and got all set up, we were borderline hangry so first we stopped for lunch at
- Guapo’s Tortilla Shack right down the street in Brewster. Guapo’s was PACKED. It’s a tiny place where you order at the counter and sit down. The place was overall good, the food was really fresh and delicious. It was definitely on the pricier side for some casual Mexican, but it is in Cape Cod so most places are on the more expensive side. It’s worth a stop if you are staying nearby.
- After lunch we headed over to Chatham center, this is one of the towns in Cape Cod that has a nice downtown with shops and restaurants. We also quickly learned they have REALLY delicious ice cream… to satisfy our sweet tooth we went to Buffy’s, it was probably the most expensive ice cream I have ever purchased, but I must say it was really delicious. I would also recommend their homemade lemonade. The pictures look average, but I’m serious… it’s worth it:
After Chatham we did our food shopping at the local Stop & Shop for meat and snacks for the weekend. We headed back to the campsite early to get our big fire going and fire up the grill!
We probably would have beached it for the entire day but unfortunately it was a little overcast. So we had a very leisurely morning to start and headed out for the day. It may have been overcast but it was great for a bike ride!
- We picked up the trail from the campground and biked from Brewster to Orleans. Once we got to Orleans we got off the trail and biked a couple of miles to Nauset Beach, en route we passed through Orleans center which was packed with cute restaurants and coffee shops. We sprawled in the sand and even though it was overcast it was still amazing.
- We stopped at Ferretti’s Market on the way home in Brewster to pick up our meat to grill, we were SO happy with the delicious marinades and high quality meat, we went back 3 times for grilling necessities.
Sunday was my favorite day because we visited my FAVORITE place in Cape Cod – Provincetown!!!
We were up super early and headed in that direction beating all the traffic. We saved our appetite (obviously) and here are the gems we came across:
- I can’t say enough about Ptown Cafe. The service was seriously top notch. Usually at a coffee shop you get good service but since it’s quick it’s hard to get the real hospitality deal. But this was not the case, we were a disruptive group – 4 adults and a one year old baby in a stroller. They were super attentive and met all of our needs. I got the chai banana smoothie and it was actually out of this world, even after I paid they were asking how it was and if they could do anything else. Their homemade treats (especially their pop tarts) looked delish.
- After our coffee/smoothie break we wandered around P-town and the sun started to show it’s face. We walked along the water and in and out of the shops. The streets alone are days worth of entertainment. There are funky gift shops, art galleries, lively bars and some serious characters that wander the streets. The culinary scene is top notch and it’s hard to go wrong with your dining choices.
- For lunch we settled on The Canteen. We wanted to head out to kayak soon after so we didn’t want a full dining experience. This way we could order and sit down. The menu was loaded with a plethora of drool worthy options. It’s mainly seafood focused but there are also options for vegetarians, etc. all of us got something totally different and were REALLY happy with our meal. The service was great and pretty quick. They have a great outdoor seating area tucked behind the restaurant with ocean views. You really can’t go wrong! I got the shrimp sliders (see below) and my sister got the pulled pork sandwich and Joe got the Cod sandwich.
- We were focused and heading the car I SWEAR when we accidentally stumbled upon a gem that we wished we didn’t notice… ScottCakes. It’s an amazing concept, only offering one type of cupcake. But ScottCakes did it and ScottCakes killed it (in a good way). If you like vanilla cupcakes with the best buttercream frosting you have ever tasted… it’s worth a visit. We accidentally bought 6 for our drive.
- After P-town we drove back towards Brewster and to Nickerson State Park. We really wanted to rent some kind of boat so we headed to Flax Pond. I was psyched to see stand up paddle boards, but I was not psyched to see the prices. But we were there so we ended up just splurging on a half hour of paddle boarding. I LOVED it. I was shocked at how easy it was and really enjoyed it! I’m a little upset I discovered the SUP paddle boarding at the end of the season.
We had such an early day that we still had plenty of time to relax and grill at the campsite afterwards. It was such a perfect weekend. We did a little more eating and a little less beaching than a normal trip to the cape, but it was still great. Let me know if you are planning on visiting Cape Cod, I have stayed in most places around the peninsula.
Between Monaco and Nice lies a tiny medieval village that managed to steal my heart for the few hours I spent there. I knew we were headed to Fragonard Parfumeur but I didn’t think we’d have time for much else. As we were stepping off the bus to begin our tour of the perfume factory our tour director briefly mentioned a short 20 minute hike up a trail that leads to a beautiful hotel. I kept it in my mind as my nostrils filled with amazing smells and my head was taking in the importance and history of making perfume.
The tour guide at Fragonard did an amazing job, she was visibly passionate about perfume and the industry in general. We were able to see them packaging tiny ducks made of soap with hand painted beaks, and we watched the machines bottle one of their body spray offerings. The tour wasn’t too long and as it came to an end the words coming out were pulsing “buy perfume now” in my head. I knew I had to get out of there fast or else I would be lured in by the floral notes wafting all around me.
I ventured out to the parking lot and looked around for a short but steep hiking trail and found it in the back corner of the lot. I didn’t have much longer than an hour so I treaded up quickly. What I saw at the top hit me like a slap in the face, my mouth practically fell open. I first noticed cascading gardens with a clear view of the ocean, next I saw that these gardens were attached to a beautiful hotel: Chateau de la chevre d’or. I finally reached the top and before the hotel property entrance were three tables, one selling spices, one selling candy and one selling soap. I’m not sure if I was brainwashed by the view or what, but I all of a sudden had a burning desire to fill an adorable glass jar with spices and find a way to squish it into my backpack only 8 days into my trip (I did manage to refrain). But I couldn’t resist the photo opportunity that’s for sure!
I continued walking and found myself on hilly cobblestone footpaths with wooden doors belonging to hotel guests that look like something out of the Lord of the Rings. Scattered amongst the rooms were tiny gift shops with only handcrafted masterpieces made by local artists. Eventually we came to the top where a tiny church stands with the door open leading to yet another unique european house of God. I admired the view from the top and moseyed my way down the main road passing more modern but still adorable shops and restaurants until I reached Fragonard.
I have truly never experienced something like Èze and I’m so glad I accidentally stumbled upon it. It is honeymoon worthy and a place I hope to come back to when I want some relaxation and a breathtaking view.
Everything you have heard about Monaco is true. It is stunningly beautiful and astonishingly tiny in size. The traffic lights are lined with vehicles worth more than your life, and the harbor is loaded with fully staffed yachts with their immaculate shine bobbing in the hot sun.
I didn’t spend much time in Monaco, but I felt like it was enough. As long as you have time to browse the collection of boats and watch the changing of the guards at the palace you can get an accurate vibe of what Monaco is all about. Unless of course you have a spare dollar or two to afford to party with the rich and famous, then of course I would maybe stay a night. I have included some of my favorite pictures I took in Monaco that I felt really captured the unparalleled country.