travel

FIVE DAYS AT AN ALL-INCLUSIVE IN PUNTA CANA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

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We recently spent five glorious days in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic and it was such a beautiful getaway, during these chilly January months in Upstate NY. We stayed at an all-inclusive resort right on Bavaro Beach. I've never stayed at an all-inclusive before, and it was such an interesting experience! I wanted to share some thoughts on Punta Cana, general thoughts on staying at an all-inclusive, and what we learned from our quick vacation.

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Punta Cana

Punta Cana is so gorgeous, and you will quickly find once you start researching your trip, that it is the land of all-inclusives. I think nearly all of the hotels we found, while we were searching for accommodations were all-inclusive. I can only surmise that this is for a reason, and that Punta Cana is one of the places where they want you to stay on the resort. It is typically okay to venture off for excursions through local companies or your hotel, but for the most part, wandering the streets is likely not a safe option. When we first arrived in Punta Cana, we headed straight for the pool to squeeze in 45 minutes of fun before pool/pool bar closing time. We met this lovely couple from Boston and became fast friends. One of the first things they mentioned to us, was that they frequently stay at all-inclusives, but love to venture out in whatever city they were visiting. They had friends from home that had recommended they stay on resort property. We took that advice as well.

 

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Staying at an all-inclusive

Paul is the type that loves to wander the streets, interact with locals and try local cuisine. I totally love these things too when traveling, and that was the biggest missing aspect of staying at an all-inclusive. Additionally, there are so many things to navigate when staying at an all-inclusive, at the least at the big resorts. Figuring out where to eat, which restaurants need reservations, which restaurants cost extra, which drinks are not too sugary sweet, which drinks are the most value for your money, and where the worthwhile activities are is an enormous job. The resort we stayed at was huge, and there were various hotels within the resort, all with their own restaurants, pools, and activities. Frankly, we found the process of navigating an all-inclusive for the first time, very overwhelming. By the end of our stay, we had started to get the hang of things and figure out what was what. It was definitely fun and a totally new experience. We LOVED being able to order multiple entrees per person at the restaurants and multiple appetizers just to try to everything. I've been on a few cruises in my life and I would equate an all-inclusive resort to a cruise ship on land. What do you guys think about them? Although there were various restaurants (Thai, French, Dominican, Greek, etc) I still love the variety and authenticity of being able to eat Dominican food in restaurants with actual Dominicans.

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What we did in punta cana

If you follow along on Instagram, I think you can see my love of swimming, beach time, and pool time. That is where we spent the majority of our time. Unfortunately, we had limited nice weather while we were there (it rained one entire day) so I wanted to maximize our sunlight hours. We finally decided on an excursion that involved snorkeling, swimming, a catamaran and a picnic lunch that sounded perfect, but the company was closed the days we were in Punta Cana due to unpredictable weather. This excursion also came highly recommended from our Boston friends. On the non-stop rainy day, our Boston friends left at 6am for a ziplining excursion that sounded like fun. We hemmed and hawed too long to commit in time to doing this, since I've been ziplining before, but if you never have been, it's definitely a worthwhile experience to try!

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We had a really great time in Punta Cana, and we both agreed we wish our stay was just a tad longer! Stay for a week if you can and really try to experience all the beauty, beaches, and activities that Punta Cana has to offer! Anyone been? Do you guys agree about the all-inclusive experience? or are you die-hard all-inclusive stayers? Tell me in the comments! I'd love to hear any new travel recommendations too!

 

Have you ever stayed at a punta cana all-inclusive? or anywhere?

PS- we got upgraded to first class on our long flight from NYC to Punta Cana!  It was the absolute best (and my first time ever in first class)! Paul gets upgraded frequently but since we booked under him, we both did! Definitely got the vacation off to a festive start.

Related: Check out some dreamy domestic travel destinations here and here!!

ASHEVILLE IN THE FALL

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I am so excited to share my extended weekend Guide to Asheville, North Carolina! We had so much fun spending a (chilly) November weekend in this stunning mountain town. We crammed a lot of activities into 2.5 days there. I have so many lovely things to say about this town. This city truly has something for everyone, whether you enjoy indoor vacation getaways spent restaurant and bar hopping, outdoorsy weekends doing sporty activities and hikes, shopping in eclectic boutiques or a mix of all! If you're lucky enough to visit this gem of a southern town, I hope these tips will help you make the most of your days there!

Where to stay:

Where to stay in Asheville North Carolina- via Camille's weekend guide to Asheville

Budget Airbnb (about 75 a night)--we chose this one!! and stayed in this GORGEOUS home with killer mountain views. It was about 10 minutes from downtown (we never had to drive, just ubered everywhere), hiked some trails with a lookout building right in the neighborhood, and had our own private space/entrance/bathroom. There were plenty of cute, affordable, highly rated options all around Asheville (and West Asheville, too!)

Mid Range Hotel (a few hundred dollars)--Several previous visitors recommended Aloft Hotel in downtown Asheville. It's stylish and modern. We wanted something more authentic and rustic, but this hotel is a great option for those wanting to be right in the heart of downtown Asheville! The only experience we had here was meeting outside for our Pubcycle tour, and waiting inside the warm lobby when temperatures dropped later on in the evening. it definitely seemed like a funky, fun place to stay.

High Roller Hotel (several hundred dollars/depends when you go)--stay at The Omni Grove Park Inn--just google it. It looks out of this world rustic, cozy and dreamy. We contemplated staying here for a one night splurge and enjoying the spa, but we ultimately decided it just wasn't in our budget and we would rather spend the money on activities.

How to Entertain Yourself:

What to do in Asheville, Weekend Guide by Camille Marsh

Pubcycle Tour

We chose this at the very last minute (we booked it the same day as the tour) and just lucked out that there were seats! I've done a pedal tour before in Nashville, and it was one of my favorite activities there, so I figured it would be fun in Asheville too. The Pubcycle tour did not disappoint. We were greeted by a tour guide (in a costume?) he was hearing a fun, funky outfit topped off with a very furry trapper hat. He kept us entertained and laughing from start to finish. The city tour option that we chose was 90 minutes and stopped at two breweries/ bars. The stops are quick so order quick shots or small easy to drink beers/mixed drinks. You get about 15 minutes at each stop (unless you're late to your return time like our entire group, and your tour guide has to come in and drag you out...in that case, you get longer). It's a fun, relaxing way to see the town, listen to some music and experience a few of their famous breweries.

Hike

Hike in Asheville, North Carolina, weekend guides

Drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway and get out at the various stops to hike, see waterfalls, and admire mountain views. Instead of the Blue Ridge Parkway, we opted for a neighborhood hike with mountain views because of the cold weather. We also wanted to avoid driving. Next visit, will definitely try to see some of the famous waterfalls and make the picturesque drive along the Blue Ridge.

Weekend guide to asheville north carolina
hiking in asheville north carolina, weekend guides, travel

Biltmore Estate

Biltmore estate in Asheville North carolina

Sooooo, I have a lot to say about this place. Treat it like Disneyworld, I read. Expect to have a long day on your feet and be tired by the end. Theres a lot of walking and the place is HUGE. They shuttle you from the parking lot to the Estate, but there still is a good bit of walking. The house is gorgeous, reminds me of Versaille outside of Paris. Pay extra for the self guided audio tour (we did not and I totally regretted it). I know it's tempting, after paying the 70 bucks (yep) just to enter the grounds, but without the audio tour, you're just looking at pretty rooms. We kept hearing tidbits from other tour groups and those were the few fun facts I learned about the Vanderbilts. The gardens were my favorite part of the house. Very pretty. However, my absolute favorite part of the entire Biltmore Estate was the Winery. Our sommelier? said "we recommend ordering 5-6 samples, they all begin to blend together after that." yeah, right. It is essentially an unlimited wine tasting, and after spending the 70 dollars to enter, we felt that unlimited was earned. We spent over an hour at the wine tasting, and had about 8-9 samples each. The wines were very good, especially enjoyed the "Christmas at Biltmore" Red wine. After wine tasting, we headed to the pub on the grounds. Enjoyed the food and service here very much. The area around the winery looks similar to Biltmore Village, very European inspired and whimsical. There's a creamery and little gift shops and such, too.

Biltmore estate in asheville in weekend travel guides
The Biltmore estate in Asheville NC
weekend guide to asheville north carolina, travel guides

Shop

Downtown Asheville is where we did most of our shopping. We stopped at cute boutiques and whatever caught our eye as we explored the streets. My favorite boutique where I originally picked up about 7 items to buy, was called Duncan & York. I wanted everything. Pretty cards, cute gifts, Anthropologie-esque vibes...you will love it. Also, stop at Asheville Bee Charmer and sample the honey! and then buy the honey because it's delicious and you will want to. I bought a spicy Ginger Honey (I'm obsessed with ginger AND honey for DIY cold and flu remedies), so this was perfect for me.

Shopping in downtown Asheville, weekend travel guides

Afternoon Tea

Dobra Tea, Asheville, Weekend travel guides
Tea in Asheville, What to do in Asheville

One cold afternoon, we grew tired of being out in the cold. We wanted a space to warm up and chat. As we were passing Dobra Tea, I suggested we check it out. Again, so glad we did. It feels very exotic and peaceful in there. You sit down and are given a tea book with (hundreds) of options. The tea experts are also very helpful and can guide you in the right direction. It was a truly lovely way to spend a few hours, and the tea was a perfect blend of lemongrass and Ginger (they offer Matcha cakes and interesting snacks, too)!

The Salt Cave

The Salt cave is a MUST STOP you guys. Truly. It is SO relaxing, peaceful and unique! I've never done anything like it. You basically go into this cave-like room with Salt surrounding you on all sides. There are comfy chairs and floor setups. We were the only two in the 4pm session so we had the cave to ourselves. I fell asleep almost immediately after she offered us a guided meditation to get the relaxation started. They warn you that you may experience increased coughing after the session (it is supposed to totally heal your respiratory system- she told us an anecdote about TB in Europe and how workers in the Salt Mines were miraculously spared from widespread disease). We did not experience any increased coughing. It was such a fun experience, and if I lived in or near Asheville, I would return at least once a month! Sessions are 45 minutes, and my only complaint is that I wish they were three hours long.

Where to Eat & Drink

Sunny Point Cafe

A staple in the West Asheville scene, Sunny Point Cafe felt like a must-try spot. The local love for this place can be felt as soon as you spot this charming, brightly decorated, beloved spot. The wait for brunch was well over an hour, and the garden adjacent to the restaurant was PACKED of bundled up, West Ashevillians waiting to dine there. We knew it would be good. It was. We shared the Brunch Burger and the Huevos Rancheros and also sipped on some brunch cocktails.

Curate/ Rhubarb

Curate in downtown Asheville North Carolina

In order to maximize our stomachs, time, and experiences, we ordered small plates at each of these and sampled lots of different things. We tackled both of these in one night because they are almost right next to each other. The wait for a table at Curate was just enough time to grab an appetizer (AMAZING meatballs) and yummy fancy cocktails at Rhubarb. Very convenient. At Curate, we split the lamb skewers, chicken fritters, and the octopus. They were all very interesting, but the meatballs at Rhubarb were my favorite appetizer of the night.

Battery Park Book Exchange

battery park book exchange and champagne bar, asheville

An old timey bookstore with Champagne, Cheese, and rows and rows of interesting books. It's very parisian. They have a wide range of champagne cocktails, the cheese plate was very enjoyable. Come here for a date night, friend dates, happy hour, and pretty much any other occasion too!

Tupelo Honey

Tupelo Honey Cafe in Asheville NC

This was the shortest we waited for any restaurant the whole time. We were seated immediately and had my favorite brunch in Asheville here. Our meals were lunch based. The sandwiches are really good, tried both the Fried Chicken BLT and the Cheesy Grill. Phenom. The Spicy Margarita was perfect, too. 

Corner Kitchen

Obama loves this place. Enough said. Lunch here was perfect, and close to the Biltmore. The Reuben is award winning, and obviously we had to try that. We also split the black bean burger.  Both were winners in my book. They had a spiked coffee drink with whipped cream, baileys and a sea salt rim. I finished it within minutes.

Limones

Limones was not on the original itinerary but after a Salt Cave session, it was too convenient (right across the street) to pass up. Ordered various appetizers like the Ceviche platter and Lobster Nachos, and (strong) cocktails. Enjoyed everything. Definitely a necessary stop.

Sovereign Remedies

A cool, speakeasy type cocktail bar. Cocktails are strong and tasty. We also had the Crispy Brussel Sprouts which were BOMB. We tried dessert there too, it was not a traditional cupcake like we were expecting but still tasty.

 

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I hope you find this weekend guide to Asheville, North Carolina helpful!! It really is a unique, eclectic, funky, interesting city that should be a must on anyone's travel bucket list! I cannot wait to return, hopefully in warmer weather someday. 

Anyone else visit Asheville and fall in love with it??

 

 

THE CUTEST COFFEE SPOTS IN SAVANNAH

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My weekend in Savannah was one of my favorite weekends I've had since moving to the South. I've been in absolute, head over heels, love with Charleston for a few years now, and Savannah fell by the wayside in my mind. Boy, did I have it wrong. Savannah is gorgeous, perfectly preserved, full of gorgeous tree-lined streets and fun, cutting edge restaurants. Three days in Savannah was all it took for the historical city to become an instant favorite. We only had three days to spend in the dream city, albeit activity PACKED days. With so much on the itinerary, we obviously needed to start each day supercharged, via caffeine. You cannot go wrong with any of these coffee spots, whether you're a caffeine addict like Paul, or, like me, you just love the activity, cozy atmosphere and company of coffee runs.

1. The Coffee Fox

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This place had a line out the door all the way to sidewalk. We almost gave up upon walking up and seeing that but we persevered. I'm so pleased we did. The Mexican Mocha that I ordered was spicy, deliciousness in a cup. Their drink menu is creative, extensive and original. Not to mention the vibes inside the shop are super eclectic cool. We also split the Czech pastry that they make fresh daily, made in their sister bakery nearby. So good.

2. The Paris Market-

I think I stopped by this boutique at least once each day. I could not get enough of the chic Parisien atmosphere and bought various candles, matches, scarves and postcards each time we stopped there. On our final morning, I ordered a special White Chocolate and Rasberry Cafe Latte that was out of this world good. Paul ordered an even fancier drink than mine that came with an actual French Press. 

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3. The Collins quarter-

While waiting for our table, we walked past the walk up coffee window at The Collins Quarter. As a total last minute decision, we could not resist the cute window and ordered coffees. This was actually my favorite coffee drink that I had in Savannah, I ordered their signature Lavendar Cafe Latte. It did not disappoint.

What are your thoughts? Has anyone been to Savannah and loved it? What coffee shops did you try? My full guide to Savannah is coming soon, as well! Stay tuned :)