Los Angeles

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James and I had such a good time visiting Andrew in Los Angeles with my parents a few weekends ago. It’s always such a treat to soak up the California coast with all of my five senses – taking in the rich hue of the ocean, inhaling the salty breeze, exploring new neighborhoods on foot, listening to street musicians, and, of course, tasting so many delicious treats. Andrew moved to Culver City in the spring and it was our first time visiting him in his new ‘hood. He works downtown L.A. and it was fun to have him give us a tour of his favorite spots around his office, especially since the downtown area of Los Angeles has been revitalized so much since I moved away from Santa Monica five years ago.

James and I arrived in Los Angeles super early on Friday morning, and Mom and Dad had come in the night before. We checked out our digs at The Culver Hotel and waited for Public School 310, the cute restaurant across the street, to open for lunch service. We enjoyed tons of good bites before heading to the beach to soak up the sunshine and watch the waves crash against the sand. It was a bit of a trek to make it out to the water, thanks to the notoriously bad L.A. traffic, but it was so, so worth it. The four of us just sat on a bench on the pier for a good long while, gazing out at the water and nearly nodding off as we relaxed in the sun.

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While waiting for Andrew to get off of work, we had cocktails and appetizers at the hotel. The menu at the hotel is fantastic and the quality of the food and beverages is so, so good. We loved the popcorn, the ahi tuna, the hummus, and every delicious drink on the bar menu. We met Andrew at his apartment for homemade happy hour (round two), and we walked down the street for dinner at a sushi restaurant that had a bustling outdoor patio. It was so good to all be together!

On Saturday, we slept in before heading out on an adventure to downtown L.A. Andrew took us to so many cool spots, like Grand Central Market, Guisado’s, his gorgeous office building, and Pershing Square. We peeped into the Ace Hotel, Aesop, and Bottega Louie along the way, taking photos and scoring treats at the French bakery for a mid-afternoon snack (think dreamy bites like macarons, lemon tarts, and chocolate chip cookies). Andrew then took us to Perch, a beautiful bar that overlooked the whole city. It was so cool to sit amongst the skyscrapers, relaxing under umbrellas with ice-cold drinks as a light breeze cooled us off.

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From there, we made a pit-stop in Koreatown at The Line Hotel and, well, you know how I feel about our time at The Commissary. Oh my, it was magical.

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The Commissary

Totally stuffed to the gills, we opted against a formal dinner. Instead, we invited my best friend Karli and her husband Nick, who are also Culver City residents, and Andrew’s best friends, Tanner and Taylor, to have snacks and sips with us at The Culver Hotel. It was so, so much fun to catch up with Tanner, Taylor, and Nick (who I hadn’t seen since our wedding!) and to cozy up with Kar to catch up on all of our recent adventures, including her amazing five-year anniversary trip to Europe.

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The next morning we brunched at Akasha and the food and atmosphere were both divine. As an aside, a word about pumpkin spice season: I know it is totally overrated and overdone, but if you find yourself breakfasting at Akasha this fall, please do yourself a favor and order the pumpkin spice latte. It is so dreamy. From there, we went to one of my favorite spots on the West Side: Abbot Kinney Boulevard. We browsed the perfectly curated shops and paused for photo ops, lingering over our last few hours together with refreshing lemonade and lots of laughs.

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There you have it! What a wonderful family weekend – our first with James as an official member of the crew! Until next time, sweet, sweet Los Angeles…

Ambergris Caye, Belize

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Before our wedding, I wrote about the plans that James and I made to spend our honeymoon in Ambergris Caye, Belize. We selected Belize based on the three criteria we had set up as we started dreaming about locations to visit – we knew that we wanted to use our passports, go to the beach, and travel somewhere that neither of us had ever been. After scouring TripAdvisor and reading travel blogs, we decided upon Belize – it met all of our criteria, it was affordable, it was close to Dallas (only a two and a half hour direct flight!), and it looked so dang beautiful. Sign us up!

Belize itself is a small country located just south of the eastern tip of Mexico. The mainland is known for its robust jungles and amazing Mayan ruins. The island communities off of the coast of Belize boast gorgeous beaches and amazing underwater adventures; after all, the second largest barrier reef in the world is located there. We decided to stay on Ambergris Caye, the largest of Belize’s islands. While perusing TripAdvisor one day, I stumbled upon Victoria House, a beautiful property that had a distinctly boutique feel. There were no more than 40 rooms, gorgeously manicured grounds, fabulous restaurants, excellent reviews about the staff and service, and a view that just couldn’t be beat. We were sold.

When we arrived, we knew we had picked the perfect place to celebrate the first few days of married life – Belize was breathtakingly beautiful. We took a 15-minute hopper plane from Belize to Ambergris Caye and we were completely enamored with the water, which was heavenly shades of turquoise and navy and teal and blue. Ambergris Caye itself is relatively small (just over 30 square miles, with a population of 25,000 people) and we loved that most residents and visitors traveled around via bicycle and golf cart. We spent our days soaking up the sun at the beach and the pool, eating delicious food, riding bikes into town, drinking plenty of tropical cocktails, reading great books, and relaxing. We splurged on a couple of amazing activities – a morning snorkeling adventure (where we got to swim with turtles, nurse sharks, and sting rays!), a half-day fishing trip (we caught over 30 fish that we got to keep and prepare to eat), massages overlooking the water, and a romantic dinner on one of the thatch roof-covered docks. It was heavenly.

If I had to choose a favorite memory from our honeymoon, I would say that it was our experience at Robin’s Kitchen. While drinking margaritas on the beach one afternoon, an older gentleman walked by with his dogs and stopped to talk. We learned that he was originally from Nashville and that he and has wife and had moved to Ambergris Caye a few months earlier. He told us that we needed to check out Robin’s Kitchen, a hole-in-the-wall owned and operated by a Jamaican transplant (named Robin, of course) where we would have one of our favorite meals on the island. Intrigued, we headed out for a walk in the sunshine and moseyed on over to Robin’s Kitchen. The aroma of chicken cooking on the grill was intoxicating, so we ordered some of the Jamaican jerk variety, accompanied by rice, beans, and plantains. We got cold beers at the restaurant next door and tucked into our food, which was incredible – so flavorful and tender and delicious (all for $6, mind you). Color us obsessed. The next day we went on our fishing excursion, and our guide suggested that we talk half of our catch back over to Robin’s so he could prepare it for us (after all, the chef had a poster on the exterior of his restaurant boasting that if “you hook, we cook”). Dutifully, we rode our bikes over to Robin’s with our fresh snapper and mackerel and he whipped up two dishes that blew our minds – a brown stew (that was cinnamon-y and earthy and rich) and a fish curry (that was spicy and decadent and peppery), both of which were served with rice and plantains. As we expected, the food was amazing, and he only charged us for our sides and sodas, saying that we had done all the hard work of catching the fish in the first place. Win!

The food itself at Robin’s Kitchen was incredible enough on its own but I think the reason that the experience was a favorite of mine from our honeymoon was because it was adventurous and spontaneous. It made me so excited to get to continue to travel and explore with James, knowing that he’ll be my comrade in adventure forever and always, willing to pop into holes-in-the-wall and venture down off-beaten paths. I’m already dreaming about where we should go next…

I wrote about our honeymoon experience in Ambergris Caye on Darling Magazine’s blog, so head over there to check out some additional recommendations I have if you’re hoping to travel there in the future. James and I definitely plan on going back some day – we absolutely loved our time there!

Now, for some photos…

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