Now that my best friend lives in Houston, be prepared for frequent Houston travels. Last weekend, I went to visit and I swear she tried to show me all of Houston in 72 hours. If you've never been to Houston, it is definitely a foodie city with a creole influence of oysters, gumbo and crawfish. We literally ate and drank the whole time. Here are a few places we went to:
Winnies, known for their sandwiches, cocktails and oysters. We got some raw oysters which were like 50 cents each for happy hour, chargrilled oysters and the old fashion treasure box. The treasure box comes with all of the ingredients you need to make a table side cocktail. Everything was really good.
Location: 3622 Main, HTX
The Pit Room apparently has the best crawfish in Houston. They were plump and had just the right amount of spice. We literally sat on the patio with a cider and crushed 3 pounds with no regrets.
Location: 1201 Richmond Ave, HTX
Savoir just opened a speakeasy called Patton's Steakhouse. You enter through Savoir and walk through their wine room into a dimly lit restaurant. The menu was somewhat limited which I was ok with since I wasn't really hungry. At this point I was full from all the other stuff we ate that day so I only had a cocktail and a wedge salad.
Location: 1344 Yale St, HTX
Hando, a cute little handroll sushi spot. The sushi was decent. I enjoyed the calamari. It was cooked perfectly. The drinks were good. I got the lychee martini. They also have a speakeasy on the other side which I thought was kind of dope.
Location: 518 W 11th St Suite 500, HTX
Bloom, a super cute bar/club. They have the trendy flower walls, cute decor and fun cocktails that makes it instagram worthy. On Friday nights, they have salsa lessons. We didn't participate but it was fun to watch.
Location: 2901 Fannin St, HTX
A'dor, bar/hookah lounge. This was actually pretty chill for a Saturday. We stopped by for drinks and hookah. They also have crawfish so you know we had to indulge.
Location: 403 W Gray St, HTX
Lucilles, a southern restaurant. We went for brunch and sat on the patio where they had a live band which was a cool little vibe. I got the chicken and waffles which were pretty good. The fried green tomatoes were to die for though. I just started eating tomatoes in like the past 2 years so if I say they were good, take my word for it.
Location: 5512 La Branch St, HTX
Diversion Cocktails, a craft cocktail bar. They are a farm to table bar where they grow all of their own products to make their syrups, tinctures and bitters or partner with farmers from local farmer markets. The immersive cocktails were a dope concept. The charcuterie board was really good and paired well with the drinks.
Location: 7202 Long Point Rd, HTX
As you can see, we definitely did the most. I can't wait to go back.
Be Live Punta Cana
Flights to Punta Cana were dirt cheap for March so I booked a trip and invited my friend Angie to come celebrate her birthday. I decided to stay at Be Live Adults Only. The photos and reviews were decent and it was affordable. It is an all-inclusive resort which is not my favorite. I love the resort grounds but I'm not a fan of cheap liquor and buffets. I also like to be engrossed in the culture of where ever I'm traveling to but since this was my first trip to DR, I decided to play it safe.
Be Live: The resort was decent for the price. A few days of frozen drinks on the beach/by the pool, I'm not complaining. The room and resort grounds were clean. The staff were super friendly. My only gripe was the dinner reservations process. They only opened half of their restaurants at a time so that means limited dinner reservations. You had to make them the morning before the day you wanted to dine. Since it was such a short trip, we missed the opportunity to make reservations so I didn't get to try any of the restaurants. The buffet was....a buffet. They did have a Michael Jackson show that was surprisingly good. The night club was empty but they played a decent mix of music.
Excursions: We went on the Taiguey Party Boat. We actually had fun. Its $50-60 pp (depending on where you book). Its unlimited alcohol and includes snorkeling and a stop at the sand bar. They do a show on board and really just encourage a good time. You can book directly here: https://www.puntacanatourstaiguey.com
We went off the resort one night to dinner at SBG which is a super cute restaurant near the mall. I read a few blogs and kept seeing this included in the top restaurants in Punta Cana so that's why I chose this restaurant. Other suggestions included: The Jellyfish, La Cava and La Yola. I think the cab driver over charged us to get there but he waited for us to eat and took us back to the resort so I'm not complaining.
All in all, I enjoyed this quick little get away. Next time, I would like to do a little more exploring of Punta Cana.
Myrtle Beach, SC
Every year my family rents a house and goes on vacation. This year I found a house in Myrtle Beach. The house was on the water about a block away from the beach and had the most amazing views. The house literally had everything we needed…jacuzzi, paddle boards, kayaks, fishing poles, golf carts, fuze ball, ping pong, bikes, air hockey, tiki bar, grills, fire pits, etc. We didn’t do a bunch of activities this year. I was so pressed for a break, it was nice to just be away with family for a few days. We always have such a good time together.
Here’s a link to the house: https://abnb.me/ADt0klMphjb
My neighbors planned a group trip to Montego Bay, Jamaica. They worked with a travel agency called Get Up and Go that made accommodations for the group at Grand Palladium Lady Hamilton. I don't usually do all inclusive resorts because I like to enjoy the local culture so I typically opt for an Airb&b but Jamaica is not one of those destinations...no offense. Ok, so here's the breakdown.
Jamaica requires a travel authorization document as well as a negative Covid test. I would recommend checking www.visitjamaica.com before you travel to understand all of their requirements. Leaving the US, the airline checked for these documents several times so make sure you have them!
The check-in process at the resort was a headache! The lines were long and they were extremely slow. They offered welcome drinks I guess to distract people from the wait time. We stayed in an ocean-view double queen suite. The room was decent. It was clean (which is most important to me) and had an amazing view of the ocean. My only complaint was that the beds were hard. The resort offered an app that allowed you to look up information, restaurant menus, maps, etc which was really helpful. The resort is more villa style so you had to walk to the main buildings for the pool, shops and restaurants. They offered shuttle service as well. The resort grounds were well kept and clean. They were constantly wiping down counter tops and offering hand sanitizer. Mask were required in common areas. The infinity pool was beautiful and probably my favorite feature however, it closed at 6pm. They also had a smaller adults only pool that stayed open until 10pm. I was not a fan of the buffets which were open for breakfast. For lunch, the only options were the Jerk Huts which only served jerk chicken and rice and peas. I actually enjoyed it, so I wasn't upset but I could imagine how after a few days, you would want something else for lunch. The restaurants were open for dinner. The restaurants were nicely decorated with modern furniture. They offered about 15 different restaurants, however a few of them were still closed due to Covid. The food was decent but service was really slow.
The resort offered a 2 for 1 special on massages so my bff and I enjoyed a spa day. The spa was calm and relaxing. The masseuse wore gloves to decrease infection risk. Their spa facilities were outside which was a little different but I actually like it. They had a lazy river pool, hot tub, cold immersion pool, sauna and steam room. The spa also had a juice bar and light snacks.
The resort provided Covid testing for free. A negative Covid test is required to fly back to the US. Their system was smooth and seamless. They provided print out results within 30 mins and also emailed the results.
I really just wanted to relax this trip so I only did one excursion. We chartered a Catamaran in Negril that took us out on the water and stopped at Rick's Cafe. Our tour guide smuggled some chicken and beef patties on the boat for us. Probably the best patty I've ever had! I just feel like Rick's Cafe is one of the things you have to do when you go to Jamaica. It was a cool vibe. It was fun to watch people jump off the cliffs. The jerk chicken and rice and peas were really good.
All in all, Jamaica was a good trip.
Lake Norman, NC
The girls and I recently went to Lake Norman, NC for an extended weekend getaway. This trip was so fun and relaxing! Lake Norman is about 20 minutes outside of Charlotte. We were supposed to drive down, but because of my crazy work schedule, we found cheap round trip flights to Charlotte. From DCA to Charlotte, tickets were about $130.
We rented a dope 4 bedroom, 2 1/2 bathroom lake house on Airb&b that was perfect for our group. There are some beautiful homes on Airb&b but we picked this one because it was affordable and had a lot of amenities. Because of Covid, we knew we would spend more time in the house than usual, so we were looking for something that was comfy but also had things to do. The pictures do it no justice. The house was beautifully decorated and had everything we could have needed. The hot tub, fire pit and view were my favorite features, but they also offered paddle boards, kayaks and grills. Brenell and Milo were awesome hosts. The provided a guide for the house as well as things to do, places to shop and eat in Lake Norman. You can check out the lake house here: abnb.me/XYOf33rwRfb
Things to do:
Rent a chartered boat. A family friend is a member of the yacht club but you can find options on www.getmyboat.com
Hang out in downtown Davidson - cute little shops and restaurants
Day trip to Charlotte
Hike Grandfather Mountain
Visit a winery (Raylen, Childress or Shadowline)
Places to eat:
Eddies on the Lake - American seafood - good food and drinks
131 Main - American- delicious food
Havana 33 - Cuban - amazing food and mojitos
Davidson Wine Co. - Urban Winery - decent brunch
My favorite part of the entire trip was making a list of things to leave at the lake. We wrote down things we wanted to give up and threw them in the fire pit. Drop in comments what you would write on your list.
Tulum was a hidden gem until recently. My friend, an ICU nurse and I decided that once the Covid rates dropped, we were going on vacation. We worked hard and deserved it. Mexico was reopening with no travel restrictions so Tulum seemed like the perfect choice. This was my 2nd trip to Tulum. My one rule for going to a destination again is to not do the same things I did the first time. My goal for this trip was to find all the insta-worthy backgrounds I could find and I think I did a good job.
Ok so here's the Tea. Tulum is about 2 hours from Cancun. Catch a cheap flight into Cancun and pre-arrange for airport transportation to Tulum. It should cost you less than $100 roundtrip.
The condo zone is called Aldea Zama. If you are renting an Airb&b, I would recommend staying here. It's a short cab ride to the hotel zone and downtown. If you are staying in a hotel, you are in the midst of restaurants, shops and beach clubs, you don't really need to venture far unless you want to experience downtown. Both times I traveled to Tulum, I stayed in an Airb&b so I can't really recommend a hotel.
Also, I've been asked about our Airb&b. It was cute condo over looking the jungle of Tulum, within walking distance of downtown. You can book directly www.nocturnatulum.com or follow them on IG @nocturnatulum. Our host was great! She arranged for airport transportation, bike rentals, taxi services and a private chef @richy.zapata.
Ocean Isles, NC
Every year, my family tries to go on a vacation together. Last year, we were looking for something domestic because of Covid. I could only imagine trying to travel internationally with 16 people and the nightmare it would be. I found this beach house in Ocean Isles on Airb&b and instantly fell in love. We spent a few nights there last August and it was the perfect house for a large group.
The house is humongous, beautifully decorated and clean. It's also beach front which made for amazing sunrises and sunsets on the deck. The house has 9 rooms and 9.5 bathrooms, an elevator, 3 stoves, 3 refrigerators, 3 dishwashers, a pool, outdoor bar and gas grills. The house literally had everything we needed, so we barely left. We went to the grocery store and liquor store to stock up and cooked most of our meals in the house which was perfect because going out with such a large group would have been a hassle.
Ocean Isles is about 30 minutes from Myrtle Beach so we ventured out to the outlets. We also went to the go kart track one day and rented jet skis another. We literally had a ball and I can't wait for our next trip. I found a house in Myrtle Beach for this summer that I'm pretty excited about.
So many people have asked me about this house. You can book on Airb&b https://www.airbnb.com or book directly and possibly avoid some fees by calling Farag Hospitality Group @ 843-408-1073.
Chantel is a healthcare professional, restaurant owner and Independent Travel Agent. She enjoys taking advantage of all that life has to offer.
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