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Wednesday Wanderlust: The World of Mystery Vacationing

I recently learned about Magical Mystery Tours, and met the owner Denise.  MM Tours is a super cool concept; they give people surprise vacations that cater to their budgets and preferences.  Lots of them give Denise full control over where they will wind up, yikes!  Although I'm a huge planner and don't think I could sign up for a full-on surprise like that, I definitely don't love all the parts of travel that involve actually booking everything.  Finding an Instagram-worthy al fresco restaurant? Now that sounds fun, but figuring out best flights and affordable hotels does not.  While I'm not ready to fully give the reigns to let someone else decide which city I go to on vacation, I'm definitely coming around to the idea that letting MM Tours pick out my hotel for me (with my provided list of must haves) could be a really fun way to do it.  We could take out the logistical aspects of vacationing and just get to show up, maybe even with a surprise afternoon activity planned for us.  I'm currently (and always) longing for a random array of travel to New England, Palm Beach, Canada, or anywhere abroad.  

MM Tours was recently mentioned in Vogue and The Oprah Magazine, so I'm pretty confident they aren't going to surprise you with some rinky-dink shabby hotel.  For anyone who wants to really go all the way with surprise travel, Magical Mystery Tours will send you a red envelope like the ones seen below.  You aren't supposed to open it until you get to the airport!  They will send you a weather report and packing list a week before your trip so you won't have too many surprises you aren't prepared for.  As someone who always snooped for their presents from Santa, I don't think I could keep it a surprise from myself.  Would you ever try mystery travel?  Check out on Magical Mystery Tours on Instagram for some major Wanderlust!

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A weekend in Asheville

Fairview, NC | Echo Lake

Fairview, NC | Echo Lake

Asheville is such a great spot for those who love a little dose of city life and great scenery at the same time.  Downtown is always expanding, and there are plenty of interesting new areas popping up, such as the South Slope.  Amazing breweries are a dime a dozen in the 828 now, and the culinary scene is growing all the time.  If you want to see some sights other than downtown, quaint Biltmore Village and peaceful Fairview are great parts of the Asheville area you don't want to miss.

 

shop

My favorite place to shop and stroll in Asheville is Biltmore Village. Just a stone's throw from the Biltmore House, this is a quaint area to browse great clothing & gifts.   My friend Dema has just opened a fabulous store, Scout Boutique.  It's bright and sunny inside, & the best part is that it's part clothing boutique and part consignment shop!  There are plenty of other cute stores to check out within walking distance to Scout, such as Porter & Prince.  This is the perfect place to treat yourself or another lady in your life to luxe towels, soaps, and gifts.

 

eat

A great spot in Biltmore for a quick bite is the charming cafe, Well Bred. The outdoor tables are the perfect people watching spot.  They have great fresh salads and giant eclairs on the cheap so you can save your money for shopping.

Biltmore Village

Biltmore Village

drink

If you like a good glass of wine, head to the wine bar at Rezaz in Biltmore. The ambiance is clean, chic, & comfortable and the wine list is extensive.  You obviously also need to try a local brewery while in town, so Highland Brewing Company is your best bet. There are often events that bring in food trucks and live music, and the tasting room has really expanded over the years. Have a Highland Gaelic and you will be a happy camper!

explore

When I think of going back to my hometown, I think of curvy country roads and lots of wide open cow pastures.  This is what you'll find if you want to make an easy drive into Fairview, about 20-30 minutes outside of downtown Asheville.  A great way to get your dose of mountain air and relaxing scenery is to check out a local farm, such as Cloud 9.  The owner, Janet, is a fantastic beekeeper & gardener, and also happens to be my 4th grade teacher.  She let us feed chickens & cows, then the kids got to play on hay stacks and by the pond.  Getting to visit a farm with friends I used to play in barns with (and their children) was indeed a treat. Call for a private tour, go pick some blueberries there this summer, or rent a cabin if you want to live like a local for a few days. 

Y'all come back now, ya hear?!

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A weekend in Beaver Creek

Whether or not you like to ski, a weekend in Beaver Creek can be the perfect way to enjoy winter with family or friends.  "Apres" Skiing is more my Cup of tea, but there are still plenty of ways to enjoy stunning views and partake in other great winter activities in the area.  There is plenty to do to keep yourself occupied for a week, but you can pack in a lot into a visit to this quaint town even if you're just coming for a long weekend.

 

1. Day Trip to Vail- If you're faced with less than ideal conditions for the slopes one day, take the short trip into Vail.  We started the day enjoying Aria spa in Vail Cascades, which is just outside of the main hub.  Spas often offer specials via Groupon or Living Social, so it's great to search whatever zip code you're traveling to. It also doesn't hurt to just ask the spa directly. We were able to finagle a massage, mimosa, and yoga class for less than the price of a massage alone.  We then took the free shuttle into Vail to avoid parking, and ate a wonderful lunch at Sweet Basil.  The pork schnitzel was excellent, and so was the view of the Gore Creek from our window-side table.  You're likely to spot a moose as you walk across the covered bridge as you leave town!

2. Snowshoe to Discovery Overlook- Snowshoeing is probably the easiest winter activity to master. The main requirement is that you or your buddy are good with a map.  Otherwise, you just need to be physically able to hike for a good couple of hours.  This is also a less expensive sport than skiing; $75 covered the lift ticket & boots, poles, and snowshoe rentals at the Nordic Center.  We experienced some awesome scenery along the way to Discovery Overlook, including tons of birch trees, an igloo, and even a yurt! You'll want to bring along a bottle of water and a meal replacement bar, due to lack of food options other than the "Candy Cabin".  I had a blast with my snowshoe buddy, Aunt Kathy!  She was a trooper as I led her through some questionable paths.  I think she would agree the views were worth it in the end!

3. Spruce Saddle Lodge- Since we had a shorter second day of snowshoeing, I decided to take full advantage of my lift ticket and ride to the top of Chair 6.  You are permitted to go up without equipment, and all you really need are good snow boots. It was a long way up, and watching the Beaver Creek's village get farther and farther away was amazing from the gondola I was in.  Watch out for skiers coming from every direction, but there are plenty of spots off to the side to get some amazing views and photos. My husband was finishing up his skiing for the day as I arrived at the top, so we met up to enjoy an apres ski refreshment and some fabulous views from the outdoor adirondacks.

4.  Apres Ski at Park Hyatt- as opposed to a more serene break at Spruce Saddle, Park Hyatt is the happening place to enjoy a lively evening of apres skiing.  You can check out the champagne tent from 12-4, and enjoy s'mores happy hour from 4-5 by the fire pit.  If you're over the outdoors after a blustery day, head into Antler Hall for libations and live music instead.  You don't have to be a hotel guest to take advantage of the people watching and entertainment.

5. Coyote Cafe- A short walk away from the Park Hyatt is this cozy dinner spot. They easily accommodated a large group and had an extensive list of interesting margaritas.  It's also right across from the ice skating rink, which often has special music and great people watching. 

For someone who loathes the cold weather and expected to hibernate in our condo the whole time, I was surprisingly blown away by the scenery and other activities offered in this lovely town.  Beaver Creek actually made a snow lover out of this beach bum!

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Hello, 2016!

Who else is pumped for 2016?!  Oprah Winfrey said it best, "Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right."  It's always refreshing to have a reason to have a brand new start.  Here are some of my year long resolutions/life goals that I am pretty excited about:

1.  WRITE MORE DOWN-  One of my favorite books in 2015 (that I almost actually read all of) was "Moonwalking With Einstein"... all about an average Joe who came to be a memory champion.  For a long time I have heard that writing down details of your day can improve your memory. I know myself too well to think I will try to journal everyday, but apparently the more memories you make (and write down) from trips, celebrations, or date nights, the longer your life will seem! 

2.  TRY SOMETHING NEW WHENEVER POSSIBLE-  I think my goal of being a "regular" at a restaurant was finally realized after living next door to the Park Cafe.  It got a little out of hand, i.e. sometimes twice in one day.  We recently moved so I'm hoping to now have a reason to tackle my Charleston Bucket List: Fast & French, Trattoria Luca, Martha Lou's, lunch at Wickliffe House, and even Upper Deck for Sunday karaoke.  I was so glad when I recently branched out to try Apartment A, the Taco Spot's sister restaurant (killer tamales!).  Other than restaurants, I want to try more scary things out of my comfort zone.  I taught my first felted soap making class in December and loved it! As much as I know I'm not an expert, it definitely gave me confidence through the process of branching out. 

3. TAKE MORE WALKS- Visiting NYC last summer was a great reminder to change my mentality about hopping in the car so much.  When I lived in DC, I would usually walk anywhere within a mile because it wasn't otherwise worth the time it took to take the metro.  Getting my steps from walking to get my morning coffee or walking a mile to the post office is way more enjoyable than getting those steps at the gym!  I'll probably be in tennis shoes 24/7 but sorry not sorry.

4. ONLY SURROUND MYSELF WITH THINGS THAT "SPARK JOY"-  After reading "The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up", I have a whole new mentality about what I need and don't need.  I used to have a very long inner dialogue about why I should or should not keep something when it came to organizing my closet, papers, books, etc.  This book teaches you to ask yourself if something brings you joy, and if not, out it goes! It's also a good reminder re: when is the last time you actually used one of those billion buttons or camera manuals you saved?  That stuff certainly wasn't sparking any joy until I tossed it into the trash.  It is my hope that I can offer some home & travel accessories that will spark joy in YOUR life this year. If you are able to find a little happiness in your day from using some pretty soap or lighting a great candle from a fun jar of matches, that's pretty dang fantastic!

 

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