Day Trips from Jordan by Gracie Barrie, RebeccaWanderlusting

Jordan Day Trips to Petra and Wadi Rum

The following guide to Jordan Day Trips is brought to you by
Ms. Gracie Barrie, check her out on Instagram: @standbyflygirl

We had one more big event planned for our time in Jordan and that was a visit to the Southern part of the country, to Petra and Wadi Rum. Petra is an ancient city built into the red rock faces of the desert. It is hailed as one of the wonders of archaeology and had been hidden to the outside world until 1812. The drive to Petra from Amman took about 3.5 hours. We didn’t have as much time as the visit deserves so we took a donkey carriage from the entrance to the treasury, the first major site of the city. I would love to one day walk the trail (instead of ride a carriage) as one of the most beautiful elements of the site is the cavernous walls that border the path to the city. It feels like you’re approaching something out of an Indiana Jones movie, suddenly you round a corner and the treasury peeks through the rocks. The city is huge. If you’re adventurous you’ll want to take the hike up to the monastery (and allow extra time, the way up takes about 40 minutes), but others will get just as much of a kick from walking through ancient tombs and amongst old houses. The Bedouin people used to control Petra but were moved by the government in the 80s. They still live nearby and control pretty much all tourist amenities inside the site including camel rides, coffee stands, and tours. Since it was the off season and we were with Zara they often stopped asking if we wanted a “Bedouin Taxi” or camel ride after one or two tries and then just hung out with us while we explored. One man, Eagle of the Desert, as he introduced himself to us, showed us how Bedouin women used to wear makeup from the walls of the rocks and waxed poetic on the beauties of the desert and Bedouin tea. He was an exceptional part of our visit to Petra.
Day Trips from Amman by Gracie Barrie, RebeccaWanderlusting
When the sun started to go down we got back to our car and made our way to Wadi Rum, the expansive desert in the southern part of the country. Wadi Rum has long been the subject of literature and artists, most recently it was featured as the landscape for Mars in the movie The Martian. The drive to our camp from Petra was about 2 hours long so we arrived well past dark. It was like driving through outer space, every once in a while being able to make out the outline of a massive rock formation in the moonlight. Bedouins live throughout Wadi Rum and run camps for tourists to stay in. These range from luxurious, queen-sized bed and indoor plumbing, to rugged, sleeping on the floor and outdoor toilets. Upon arrival we ate an absurd amount of food once again and retired to bed early after some incredible star-gazing as we had planned a sunrise adventure into the desert.
Day Trips from Amman by Gracie Barrie, RebeccaWanderlusting

At 5am we met our tour guide, a local Bedouin man with kind eyes and a calm demeanor. We hopped in the back of his pick-up truck and he drove us to the perfect place to watch the sunrise over the alien landscape. It was like nothing I had ever seen in my life. That morning was one of my favorite moments of the trip. It was peaceful and endless. The eye never had the chance to rest, always taking in more and more different spectacles. Our guide drove us from secret site to site, from friend’s camps to the place where the famed Lawrence of Arabia had once sat. Also if you’re looking to ride a camel, Wadi Rum is the place to do it. The Bedouins are expert camel owners so you can rest easy knowing these animals probably have a pretty good life out there. It’s about 5 dinar for a 2 minute ride which may seem steep but to be honest that is probably the maximum amount of time you want to spend on a camel. They are not the most comfortable beast. We had tea at two different Bedouin camps, the most delicious, sweet tea made even better the fact that it was positively freezing in the back of that truck.
Day Trips from Amman by Gracie Barrie, RebeccaWanderlusting
If you go anytime that isn’t the middle of July, be sure to bring warm, warm clothes to wear. Bring more than you think. Desert cold is bone rattling. And be sure to bring some sort of lotion and sunscreen, by the end our wind-chapped faces where pink and dry, but very smiley. It was one of the most incredible mornings of my life full of exploration, wonder, and humility. Meeting the Bedouins who call the desert home reminds you of what is most beautiful about this life and this earth. They hold the utmost respect for their home, our guide spoke often about how much love he held in his heart for the desert. He knew how to read the sand and the sky and understood what the land was telling him. He was so considerate he seemed almost otherworldly. He wanted to help us see what was most beautiful about his home and why we needed to protect it. Every Bedouin I met was kind and engaging regardless of a language barrier. The tour of the desert took half the day, we arrived back at the camp at noon, had some lunch and returned to Amman, a 4 hour drive.

Day Trips from Amman by Gracie Barrie, RebeccaWanderlusting

To read more about Gracie’s travels in Jordan, click here and here.

An Amman Travel Guide, RebeccaWanderlusting

An Amman Travel Guide

The following brilliant travel guide is brought to you by
Ms. Gracie Barrie, check her out on Instagram: @standbyflygirl

My memories of Jordan are steeped in pale sunlight and the smell of fresh mint, in salt crystals and shisha smoke escaping through windows. I was lucky enough to wake up one January morning and find myself in a sprawling city of sandy colored houses and minarets marking the seven hills that make up Amman, the capital city of Jordan. The stories you hear of Arab hospitality are not myth. Everywhere I went I was welcomed with open arms and a desire to share an ancient culture. I left with that same desire instilled in me, to share the culture of a people so often misunderstood in the west. These people are grouped together under one brusque stereotype, when in reality there are millions of nuanced beauties of Jordanian and Arab culture. I found myself in Jordan because it is the home of one of my good friends and former college roommate. Zara and I met when we were both bright-faced freshman in our dorm at Boston University. Ever since then, Zara has been urging me to come and visit her in Jordan. As an early graduation gift, another good friend, Caroline, and I took the 5,000 mile journey across the ocean to finally open our minds and hearts to the culture that we had heard so much about for the past 4 years.

For those who are surprised that I took a vacation to the Middle East, let me just say that I never felt unsafe in all my time in Jordan. Jordan is a country surrounded by conflict. Its neighbors to the west, Palestine and Israel, have been fighting for more than 60 years in a war that has no end in sight, a war that causes sorrow on both sides and for thousands around the world. To the east lies Iraq, another land that has not known the definition of peace for many years. Jordan’s northern neighbor is the most well-known in today’s news, Syria. Hundreds of Syrians stream across the border every day to seek the protection of Jordan’s sturdy bones, escaping a number of tragedies including relentless bombings by a corrupt government, impassioned recruitment from militant groups, and misguided foreign intervention. One would think the stability of Jordan would be rocked by its tumultuous neighbors, but there is a strength in the land and the people that impresses upon any visitor. I encourage everyone who has a passion for experiencing foreign cultures and exploring a new land to visit.

My non-stop flight from Chicago O’Hare on Royal Jordanian landed around 5 pm in Amman after 16 hours in the air. Upon our arrival, we set out with Zara to do what we would spend approximately 70% of our time in Jordan doing: eating. Amman is bursting with beautiful restaurants and delicious meals to be had. One of my favorites was on our first morning. We visited a falafel shop in the heart of downtown Amman, Falafel Hashem. It was filled with families with young children, teenagers probably playing hooky from school, and everyone in between. The falafel was unreal, the hummus and mint tea soothing to a weary traveler. It is a must-stop in Amman, a real local spot with extremely reasonable prices, a laid back atmosphere and outdoor seating. For dessert we went around the corner and got knafeh from Habiba sweets. Also located in the heart of downtown through a side alley, Habiba always has a line of hungry Jordanians snaking around the door, waiting to get their hands on the sugar-soaked cheese pastry. I fell madly in love with knafeh. I would eat it every day for the rest of my life if possible, but I know it will never taste as good as that first bite in an alley in Amman.
An Amman Travel Guide
There is no shortage of things to do in Amman. The easiest way to get around is by car. Taxis are cheap and there is even a branch of Uber in the city, but it’s best to get a local to take you around or hire a car. The streets are narrow and winding up and over the hills but relatively easy to navigate on foot. One of the main tourist areas is Rainbow Street, which is also a favorite of locals.  It’s filled with shops for anything from souvenirs to household goods. I popped into a random hardware store to find some Arabic coffee makers for a cheaper price than I would get at a tourist store. There’s a beautiful glassware shop that has some pretty good sales on small tea glasses, great souvenirs if you’re confident in your wrapping and packing ability. If the shopping tires you out stop in to Turtlegreen for some free WiFi and wide variety of tea blends (and some cute pet turtles!). Just off of Rainbow Street is one of my favorite places in Amman, Books@cafe. The downstairs area of this space is a bookstore selling both Arab and English books, new and used. Climb the stairs and you’re transported to a trendy cafe with tons of enticing menu choices that include Arab and Western specialties. Sit down with a book and enjoy shisha, coffee, tea, beer (Carakale is Jordan’s first micro brew) or wine. Plenty of young Jordanians are scattered around every corner of the lounge. In the summer there’s a great terrace with a sneaky view of the city.

One of the best neighborhoods to wander through is Weibdeh. If you’re traveling alone, it is safe to walk through without much precaution and has a burgeoning scene of cool shops and restaurants. It is the so-called Brooklyn of Amman. Start at Rakwet Arab cafe for a delicious breakfast of manakish, an Arab version of pizza often topped with fresh cheese or za’atar (or both!), and Arab coffee. The inside of this cafe is cozy and nostalgic with old photos from Lebanon and Jordan hanging on the walls and a number of crumpled magazines on shelves. After lazing through a meal, wander the streets and find yourself at Darat al-Funun Gallery. This inspiring gallery is located in an old, spacious house and hosts exhibits of numerous Arab artists. When we arrived, the gallery was mostly closed in preparation for an upcoming show, but we ran into a groundskeeper who proudly showed us around every nook and cranny of the space. He spoke only Arabic, but we were lucky enough to have Zara with us to translate. It is my sincere belief that even if it was just Caroline and I, two white Americans, the man would have shown us around and given us the same tour. His pride in the work done at Darat al Funun was evident even through a language barrier. He hailed from Nablus, Palestine and showed us the beautiful work he had done in decorating one of the rooms in traditional Nablus style. There is a ruined Byzantine church on the grounds and seemingly endless flow of beautiful gardens draping down the hill. A cafe located on one of the terraces overlooks the city, stop here for some freshly squeezed orange juice or a cup of rose water tea and wait for the call to prayer to echo through the hills from every mosque in the city. It is not hard to find peace in this place.
An Amman Travel Guide, RebeccaWanderlusting

After a mindful respite from the bustle of the city, head back out for some shopping. Jobedu has a shop in Weibdeh selling shirts and knickknacks with references to Arab pop culture. Pick up an Um Kalthoum “Habibi” sweatshirt for your collection and support local artists in doing so. Hop in a cab and continue your shopping on the neighboring hill at Wild Jordan, the home of the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature. The newly renovated building has a cafe, an information center for planning nature excursions all over the country, and a shop promoting local artisans. It also has a great view of the city and the Citadel. The Amman Citadel is a collection of ruins on top of the central hill of Amman from numerous cultures that held power over the city throughout the years. There is also a great, yet tiny, museum on the top that holds archaeological relics from our oldest prehistoric ancestors all the way to the Umayyad’s. The Roman Amphitheater is also worth a visit, although if you are planning to make your way to Jerash (which you should) then you might be able to skip it. A few other places in Amman that are worth a visit include:

Dar al-Anda – almost next door to Darat al Funun, this gallery also specializes in contemporary Arab artists.

Nabad art gallery – another gallery space down the street from Wild Jordan. It’s peaceful courtyard provides a place to breathe away from the city, if only for a second.

Shams el Balad – a beautiful cafe with amazing Turkish coffee and unique takes on traditional Arab food. Try the knafeh cheesecake cup!

The Soap House – If you’re looking for high-quality, uniquely scented, Dead Sea products to bring home, this hidden spot is just the place. Down a hill off of Rainbow Street this special spot might be a bit of a hunt but it’s worth it. The salt scrubs make your skin softer than you’ve ever felt it before, and it’s not sky-high pricing.

Bazar Alibaba Cave – if, like me, your favorite souvenirs are old antiques, then this minuscule shop is for you. The owner speaks a bit of English and is willing to bargain. His shop is a wonderland of old patches, stone and ceramic trinkets, and remnants from wars and Jordan’s history. This spot is located right downtown and if you’re not looking you’ll miss it. Look them up on Facebook for a rough address.

An Amman Travel Guide, RebeccaWanderlusting
Any words I write here truly cannot do this place justice. My trip was blessed with good luck, a local friend, and beautiful people. But regardless of if you know someone in Jordan or not I believe that if you’re open and adventurous some of the people you meet there could become your last-minute guide and lifelong friends. It is a culture that longs to be shared with others, especially those who are unfamiliar with it. I left Jordan with an inspired mind and a full heart. I’m hoping that my stories have lit a fire that won’t be satisfied until you feel the Jordanian sun on your face. Yalla, let’s go.

Travel Inspiration Tuesday

I’ve been having a hard time getting inspired lately.  Maybe it’s this travel lull I’m in or perhaps it’s this rainy, cold weather.  Either way, I’ve been fighting to claw my way out of this funk.  And what do I do when I’m in need of inspiration?  Go for a walk, read a book, check out my favorite blogs, and so on.  In my recent search for inspiration, I’ve stumbled upon a few gems that I couldn’t help but share:

  1. I have been reading this amazing book, “Hold Still” by Sally Mann, that radiates with inspiration through the author’s passion for photography and love for her Virginia home.
  2. Recently, I’ve been looking into booking hotels for my Europe trip in September, and found this amazingly artful boutique hotel in Reykjavik, Hotel Holt,  and booked it immediately.
  3. I’ve just purchased a Nikon D3300, which was a pretty big investment for me.  I took it home to my parents’ house and snapped a few shots of their garden.  This is one of my favorites:
    Travel Inspiration Tuesday
  4. Geraldine of The Everywhereist has been making me actively stifle laughter at work as I read her hilarious attempts to thwart email spammers, which can be found here.
  5. This landed in my inbox via Lonely Planet and it spoke directly to my tendency to over-romanticize train rides.  All of these routes have been immediately added to my bucket list.
  6. I am absolutely dying to try this scrumptious looking recipe for Strawberry Cookies and Cream Cake from Joy the Baker.
  7. Scanning the Every Girl the other day, I came upon an article mentioning the Bus and Us and have been hooked on their road tripping adventures ever since.
  8. I went for a stroll beside Lake Michigan earlier this month, Beyonce’s Lemonade inspiring me as I walked.  Along the way, I snapped a photo for Instagram that I think is pretty striking:
    Travel Inspiration Tuesday
  9. I am trying to find a free weekend to plan a trip to the beautiful Matthiessen State Park, which is only an hour and a half drive from Chicago.
  10. And, finally: I thought this was really beautiful and everything I needed to hear at this exact moment.

What about you?  What inspires you? Where do you find you inspiration?

A Note on Over-Planning

A Note on Over-Planning

There is a delicate balance to planning a trip: under-plan and you might miss out on things you really wanted to do, over-plan and you’re apt to drive yourself crazy trying to accomplish everything.  While there certainly is a benefit to creating a plan for your vacation activities, scheduling too many things to do and see is a sure-fire way to turn your relaxing trip into a stress-fueled nightmare.  I’ll admit, I have a tendency to be a bit overzealous when it comes to making my vacation to-do lists, which can lead to a lot of running around and not a lot of enjoying the city I’m visiting.  I learned the hard way what over-planning does to a trip once I arrive.  Case in point: Washington, D.C.  I booked my plane ticket two months before I was due to leave, so I had plenty of time to read D.C. travel blogs and compiled a two page, unedited, intimidating list of things to do and see while I was there.
Washington Harbor, Washington DC, US Travel
Perhaps if I had more than three days to work with, this wouldn’t be a problem, but as it stood, I was working with a pretty limited time frame.  As a result, I spent most of my time in D.C. running from museum to monument to restaurant and back again.  So much so that when I finally retired to my hotel room each night, I passed out early from pure exhaustion.  I put so much pressure on myself to do everything, see everything and eat everything, that I was more exasperated than excited, which isn’t really the desired emotion during vacations.  I don’t mean to say that I didn’t enjoy my time in D.C., I really did!  I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to explore this new city, and there were plenty of great moments during the trip.  However, on the flight back home, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed in myself for not enjoying it at a more leisurely pace.  I missed out on a couple of things that I was really hoping to do simply because there were so many other things.  That’s crazy, right?  Travel should be freeing and exciting, not make you feel like you’re still at work.  It was a hard/expensive lesson to learn but I’m glad I can move forward from it.  The silver lining is, now I can work on not doing that again.  For future trips, I will make my to-do lists more curated to my interests.

Over-Planning, Trip Planning, Travel Tips

How do you plan your trips?  Do you make to-do lists or just go with the flow? 

7 Bookstores Worth Traveling To

7 Bookstores Worth Traveling To

If you travel often, there are certain things you look for in each city you visit.  For some it might be themed bars or local cuisine or perhaps museums.  For me, it’s bookstores.  It’s no secret that I’m an avid reader, so of course I always try to seek out a unique bookstore everywhere I go.  I love searching through each set of shelves and stacks to discover books that I’ve been wanting to read for ages, or books I never knew I needed.  Whether they’re new or used, fiction or non-fiction, I’m happy as long as there are plenty to sift through.  Though all these bookstores contain book selections for all types of bibliophiles, each shop has its own distinct style and flavor.  Here are my favorite bookstores I’ve visited so far that are worth an entire vacation planned around them:

  1. Atticus Coffee, Books & Teahouse, Park City, Utah: I was lucky enough to happen upon this delightful bookshop/café when I was visiting my best friend in Salt Lake City. We drove up to Park City one afternoon to explore and wandered into Atticus.  The small-ish store was chock full of charm, with half the space dedicated to books and gifts and the other half café seating.  I didn’t get to purchase any books because of limited luggage space, but I wanted everything.
    Atticus Bookstore, Park City, Bookstores Worth Traveling To
  2. The Strand Bookstore, New York, NY: The Strand is a bibliophile’s dream, boasting 18 miles of books in its selection. You could spend hours getting lost in the multiple floors of new and used books, gifts and assorted paper goods.  I bought more books there than I probably should have and had to beg Mike to let me put half of them in his suitcase to transport them home.  It was worth it.  The Strand is located in the East Village with a bonus kiosk in Central Park.
    The Strand Bookstore, New York, 7 Bookstores worth traveling to
  3. Battery Park Book Exchange, Asheville, NC: What is better than leisurely browsing through books? Browsing through books with a glass of champagne in hand!  Battery Park is the Café/Bar/Bookstore of your dreams, where you are free to sit and read and sip or wander the store with your beverage of choice.  I had two glasses of champagne while I browsed and came away with a beautiful copy of “The Sun Also Rises”.  The two-story store is located in the Grove Arcade mall in Downtown Asheville.
    Battery Park Book Exchange, 7 Bookstores Worth Traveling To
  4. City Lights Booksellers & Publishers, San Francisco, CA: This Beat Generation bookshop is full of history and good vibes. It is a 3-level mecca of books of all kinds, from the top floor, which is full of poetry and beat generation classics, down to the basement, where the science fiction books are housed.  The staff at City Lights are super friendly and happy to offer suggestions if needed.  We bought a couple of books (“Indian Journals” by Allen Ginsburg for me) and headed next door to Vesuvio Café to start reading.
    City Lights Bookstore, 7 Bookstores Worth Traveling To
  5. Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe, Washington, D.C.: Nestled into Dupont Circle, Kramerbooks red neon sign beckons to book lovers passing by. The bookstore/restaurant has an amazing selection of books catering to all tastes and genres.  I particularly enjoyed their large travel book section.  The restaurant has a beautiful patio to sit and read at.  That is where I enjoyed my newly purchased book (“Medium Raw” by Anthony Bourdain) with a delicious slice of their Apple Crumble Pie.
    Kramerbooks & Afterwords, 7 Bookstores Worth Traveling To
  6. Capitol Hill Books, Washington, D.C.: This gem is located in the Capitol Hill neighborhood (obviously), right next to The Eastern Market. This used bookstore presents itself as a treasure hunt through its haphazard shelves and stacks.  Its multiple rooms on two floors are a wonderful maze of every kind of book you could want.  If you can spare the time, it’s worth it to get lost in Capitol Hill Books for a few hours.
    Capitol Hill Bookstore, 7 Bookstores Worth Traveling To
  7. Myopic Books, Chicago, IL: I may not have to travel far to get to Myopic books, but it is absolutely worth a visit for bibliophiles visiting Chicago. It’s located in Wicker Park, right across from Furious Spoon (ramen – yum!).  Myopic has four floors of floor-to-ceiling shelves stocked with used books.  I personally love the basement level, which is where they keep the Stephen King novels.  I have spent many rainy days searching through the frequently updated selection here, and I can confidently say that is one of my favorite bookstores.
    Myopic Books, 7 Bookstores Worth Traveling To

Where is your favorite bookstore?  Have you been to any on this list?

Kalapaki Beach, Kauai, Hawaii, Wanderlust Wednesday

Wanderlust Wednesday: Kauai, Hawaii

When I was ten years old, my family took a week-long trip to Maui.  This trip stands out as one of my all-time favorites for a multitude of reasons.  As a small-town Midwesterner, everything was so exotic and new to me on this gorgeous, vibrant island.  The things that stick in my memory most are staying in a vacation rental on the ocean and hunting for geckos on the path to the beach, jumping off the top of a waterfall and hitting the water square on my ass (making sitting painful for days), doing the hula at a luau in a small, grass skirt, and taking a sailing cruise, spotting dolphins leaping through the clear blue waves.  Of course I want to go back, this time to Kauai.  I’m confident that the experience will be just as magical as the first time.  The trip is not yet booked, but if it was, here’s how it would all shake out:

North Shore Off-Roading, Kauai, Hawaii, Wanderlust Wednesday
Photo Courtesy of

What I would see and do:

  • First of all, rent a car to explore the island as much as possible
  • HIKE! Kauai is rich with state parks like Na Pali Coast and Waimea Canyon
  • Sail out into the open sea
  • Attempt to surf at one of the many gorgeous beaches
  • Seek out all of the waterfalls, like Hanakapiai Falls and Wailua Falls

What and where I would eat:

  • Loco Moco – a local delicacy consisting of rice, a meat patty, egg and gravy
  • Tide Pools at the Grand Hyatt – a romantic, fine dining establishment
  • Gaylords which is located in an old mansion, and offers an amazing selection of seafood

Where I would stay:

Boat Tours, Kauai, Hawaii, Wanderlust Wednesday
Photo Courtesy of

When I would go:

  • Late Spring/Early Summer when airfare is cheaper and the weather is prime.

How I would get there:

  • Alaskan Air is actually the best option financially from Chicago, with the catch that there is a stopover in Seattle.

Helpful Kauai Blogs:

Have you ever been to Kauai, or any of the Hawaiian Islands? What did you think?

Grand Rapids Revisited, RebeccaWanderlusting

Grand Rapids, MI – Day 2

Our second day in Grand Rapids started a little later than planned; we hit the breweries a little harder than expected the night before.  As soon as we could drag ourselves out of bed, we packed up and checked out.  Our first stop of the day was Cherie Inn for breakfast.
Cherie Inn, Grand Rapids, MichiganNew Design Floral, Grand Rapids, Michigan This adorable European Style restaurant is located right near Brewery Vivant in the East Hills Neighborhood.  There was a bit of a wait for a table which we spent exploring the flower shop next door (New Design Floral) and scheming for the rest of the day.  Once we were seated, we quickly ordered coffees to shake us out of our hangover fog.  Mike ordered the chicken and chorizo omelet for breakfast and I got the biscuits and gravy which was hearty and delicious.
Cherie Inn, Grand Rapids, MichiganThe Cherie Inn seemed to be an institution in Grand Rapids, and the crowd was a testament to its long standing status as the cozy breakfast nook of choice.  From there we moved to the Eastown Neighborhood, parking down the street from Eastown Antiques.  I don’t know if we were doing it wrong or what, but we never had to pay for street parking in Grand Rapids.  It’s a good thing, but as a Chicagoan, I’m always a little bit suspicious of free parking.  Eastown Antiques was amazing.  It was a perfect mix of the messy treasure hunting and curated knickknacks from the day before.
Eastown Antiques, Grand Rapids, MichiganI probably could have bought out the store if I had the resources too, but got a small globe and vintage bracelet instead.  The employees were wonderful and it was an overall fantastic antiquing experience.   We walked around the block a bit, stopping in The Mitten State (Michigan themed T’s and such) and Flashlight Alley (an interesting store of oddities).  We wanted to try one of the famous Yesterdog’s, but were both still pretty full from breakfast, so we split the namesake dog.  I have to say…. It was just alright.  Maybe we’re just partial to the mustard slathered, topping covered hot dogs from home.  Our last stop in Eastown was Argo’s Bookstore, a used book shop with a solid comic book collection and an endearing haphazard organizational system.
Argo's Bookstore, Grand Rapids, Michigan After we browsed through the books, we hit the road again and headed towards the Downtown Market.  The market is housed in a huge, two story building.  The first floor contained vendors, shops and restaurants and the second floor had a beautiful greenhouse, classrooms and a cooking demonstration room.
Downtown Market Grand Rapids, MichiganGrand Rapids Downtown Market, MichiganWe wandered between the rows of vendors, admiring the beautiful baked goods, smelling the handmade candles and flower stands and trying to stop our mouths from watering over all the amazing-looking food.  Being more thirsty than hungry, we stopped into Grand Traverse Distillery to take a peek at their small batch vodka and whiskey.
Grand Traverse Distillery, Grand Rapids, Downtown Market
The cheerful bartender/shopkeeper explained the company and offered to make us a summery cocktail of cherry vodka and lemonade, which of course we couldn’t refuse (especially at only $5 a pop).  The cocktail was so good and we had fun chatting with its creator, comparing rents in Chicago and Grand Rapids and discussing all of the breweries in the area.  Once we had our fill of the Downtown Market, we headed to Vertigo Music to celebrate Record Store Day.
Vertigo Music, Grand Rapids, MichiganThey had an excellent selection of new and used albums, as well as CD’s and DVDs.  I appreciated the fact they decorated their store to celebrate the occasion.  Soon we made our way to the intriguing shop next door: Woosah.  I loved it immediately.  It is a print shop that makes various clothing items, accessories and some paper goods.
Woosah, Grand Rapids, MichiganI got a Woosah patch and a notebook and ensured that they had an online store (they do, it’s here) before we left.  We made one last stop before heading home: Madcap Coffee; a hipster’s paradise with a minimalist menu and fantastic coffee.  I had the Café Miel, which was an amazing blend of espresso, milk, honey and cinnamon.
MadCap Coffee, Grand Rapids, MichiganWe also got a bag of coffee to take home and enjoy.  We made our way home from there, sipping our coffee and enjoying the afterglow of a great trip.  Once we got there, we caught each other looking up apartments for rent in Grand Rapids.  I don’t anticipate moving there any time soon, but it sure is a sweet dream.

Thanks for a beautiful weekend, Grand Rapids.

Grand Rapids, Michigan, Road TripHave you ever been to Grand Rapids?  What did you think?  Where was your favorite spot?

Wanderlust, Travel Inspiring Books, Top Five Friday

Top Five Friday #11

5 More Travel Inspiring Books

I’ve touched on this subject once before, but books and travel are two things that I happen to be very passionate about.  I like to read about travel and read while I travel.  I read for travel inspiration and sometimes for travel validation (as in, YES! That’s it! That’s why all my money goes towards plane tickets and hotels!).  Whether the books are fiction or non-fiction, informative or not so informative, I’m happy if it is wanderlust-inducing.  Here are five more travel inspiring books to inspire your next adventure:

  1. “The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost” by Rachel Friedman: I read this book on the way to and during my Washington, D.C. trip. I loved it so much.  Rachel Friedman writes in a way that makes you feel like she is sitting next to you, regaling her travel stories over wine.  The book tells of her travels to Ireland, Australia, and South America.  I loved the honesty she uses in her writing, it makes the whole story that much more relatable.
    The Good Girls Guide to Getting Lost, Rachel Friedman, Wanderlust, Travel Books
  2. “Footloose American” by Brian Kevin: This book details the adventures of the author as he follows the same path Hunter S. Thompson traveled through South America. In traversing through Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil, Mr. Kevin hopes to gain clarity and a new perspective on life in America.  Though it seems a little too factual at times, the adventures and mishaps he comes upon make it a fun read.
    The Footloose American, Brian Kevin, Wanderlust, Travel Books
  3. “American Gods” by Neil Gaiman: “Why is a theological science fiction book on this list?” you might ask. But, if you’ve read it you know that this book dances around the continental United States, detailing roadside attractions and doling out suspense.  It also deserves a place on this list because the author, a British man, traveled all over the U.S. by train and car to write this book with the knowledge he gained.
    American Gods, Neil Gaiman, Wanderlust, Travel Books
  4. “On The Road” by Jack Kerouac: Is it cliché that “On The Road” is on this list? Maybe, but it would also be weird if it wasn’t.  I read this book in San Francisco, which was pretty perfect considering that is where a lot of it takes place.  While at times Mr. Kerouac’s writing can lean towards pretension, the story is well-written and entertaining.  This book is a classic inspiration for travelers striking out on their own.
    On The Road, Jack Kerouac, Wanderlust, Travel Books
  5. “The Paris Wife” by Paula McLain: I read this historical fiction novel on the beaches of Miami.  It kept me so interested that I was sunburned by the time I was finished with it.  “The Paris Wife” is the story of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley, and their time together in Paris, France.  The book is equal parts 1920s Paris glitz and wistful love story.  It’s an intimate and interesting look, fiction or not, into Mr. Hemingway’s private life.
    The Paris Wife, Paula McLain, Wanderlust, Travel Books

What are your favorite travel inspiring books?  Where have they inspired you to travel?

Road Trip, Trip Planning: Grand Rapids, Michigan

Trip Planning: Grand Rapids

This weekend, Mike and I will be making the three hour journey from Chicago, IL to Grand Rapids, MI for a little weekend getaway.  It’s been a few weeks in the making with a couple of missteps but we are finally going!  This budget trip is a much needed vacation, as you can tell, these past few weeks have been interesting to say the least.  It will be a wonderful distraction to be able to explore a new city for a couple of days and relax in a different setting.  We have both never been there, so I’m excited to see what Grand Rapids has in store for us.  I am trying very hard not to over-plan, something that I am guilty of doing for a lot of trips, so we can explore the city at our leisure.  Right now, our only plans are to sample beers at some local breweries (specifically Founders Brewery and Brewery Vivant), explore the Eastown neighborhood, take in the Frederik Meijer Gardens, and check out the many antique stores in the area.  I love antique stores, so for me, the best part about driving there and back is that I can buy all of the antiques that our car can carry!  I’ve read that Grand Rapids has a great culinary scene, so I’m sure we will have some delicious meals while we’re there.  I am particularly looking forward to Electric Cheetah and Cherie Inn, both of which have rave reviews.  We’re going to be staying at the City Flats Hotel, which is a very cute Boutique Hotel that happens to be close to a lot of things we want to check out.  The weather will be a touch warmer than it is here in Chicago, so I can finally break out some of my warmer weather clothes!  Here is what I’m packing for the 30-odd hours we will be there:

  • (1) pair of black pants
  • (1) t-shirt
  • (1) tank top
  • (1) skirt
  • (1) cardigan
  • (1) pair of pajamas
  • (2) pairs of socks
  • (2) pairs of undies
  • (1) bra
  • (1) scarf
  • (1) hat
  • Make-Up bag with the usual suspects
  • Toothbrush and Toothpaste
  • Hair brush
  • Paul Mitchell Salt SprayWeekender Bag, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Because we are driving, we’ll also have a bag for the car with snacks and water and my current crotchet project.  And let’s not forget the road trip playlist, here are the jams:

  • “Smooth Sailin'” by Leon Bridges
  • “Alive” by Sia
  • “Have Mercy” by Erin Allen Kane
  • “Walk Through Hell” by Say Anything
  • “Uptight (Everything is Alright)” by Stevie Wonder
  • “True Love Way” by Kings of Leon
  • “Hands to Myself” by Selena Gomez
  • “Latch” by Disclosure & Sam Smith
  • “Let it Go” by James Bay
  • “Cheated Hears” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  • “Tracks of My Tears” by Aretha Franklin
  • “French Navy” by Camera Obscura
  • “Animal” by Neon Trees
  • “Lemon Eyes” by Meg Myers
  • “Cry to Me” by Solomon Burke
  • “***Flawless” by Beyoncé
  • “Here Comes Your Man” by Pixies
  • “Dancing on My Own” by Robyn
  • “Cupid” by Sam Cooke
  • “Now, Now” by St. Vincent
  • “A Decade Under the Influence” by Taking Back Sunday
  • “Blister in the Sun” by Violent Femmes
  • “Closer” by Tegan and Sarah
  • “Roll Up Your Sleeves” by Meg Mac
  • “Starlight” by Muse

Road Trip Playlist, Grand Rapids, Michigan

It’s approximately an hour and half of music, which is precisely my allotted time before Mike will take control of the radio for the rest of the trip.

I am so excited to go on this weekend getaway, and I am extra happy to be able to travel with my favorite travel buddy again.  See you soon, Grand Rapids!

Have you ever been to Grand Rapids?  Any recommendations? 

Movie Night In, Travel Blog, Adventure Movies

Movie Night In

We can’t all travel all the time, unfortunately.  However, luckily for us, movies provide an escape substitute in a pinch.  Sometimes it’s nice to sit back, cuddle up on the couch and watch someone else’s travels (and maybe let them inspire your own adventures).  If you couldn’t guess, my favorite kinds of movies are always adventure movies with a touch of romantic comedy thrown in for good measure.  For our movie night in, we always require boozy beverages and popcorn, a big blanket and a exciting film.  See below for our movie night popcorn recipe:

Movie Night, Popcorn Recipe, Date Night In

  • ½ cup popcorn kernels
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper


  1. Pour oil and popcorn into a saucepan, set heat on high and cover
  2. Have a paper grocery store bag ready for when it starts to pop
  3. Once the kernels starts popping, pour the popcorn into the bag and return to heat, repeating the process until all of the kernels are popped
  4. Melt the tbsp of butter in the same pot and drizzle melted butter over popcorn in bag
  5. Add in seasonings and shake
  6. Enjoy!

Movie Night Popcorn Recipe, Adventure Movies, Date Night In

While I usually enjoy a glass or two of wine (Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc, yum!), Mike tends to gravitate towards whiskey drinks.  Here is one of his favorites: Whiskey Ginger:

  • 1 oz Whiskey
  • 3 oz Ginger Beer
  • Twist of LimeWhiskey Ginger Recipe, Date Night In, Movie night
    Whiskey Ginger Recipe, Date Night In, Movie Night

As I said, we usually like to watch travel adventure movies.  While there are a lot of really great ones, and maybe some that fit the genre better, here are some of my favorites:

  1. Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark – This has been one of my favorite movies since I was a kid. Who can resist a young Harrison ford racing around the globe, fighting Nazis, getting the girl, and looking handsome?  I certainly can’t.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that this is THE BEST action/adventure movie out there.
    Favorite Scene: Any one where Marion is a badass, especially when she joins the fight in her own bar after drinking some dude under the table.
  2. Romancing the Stone – I just recently saw this movie for the first time and I instantly loved it. It’s a classic 80’s rom-com meets adventure movie.  Set in Columbia, this movie features a young Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas, who star as an unlikely couple that need to fight their way through the jungle together.  It’s a little bit cheesy but very fun.
    Favorite Scene: When the two main characters meet amongst the bus crash that lands our leading lady in the middle of the Columbian jungle.
  3. Only You – This is one of my all-time favorite movies. Marissa Tomei jets off to Italy to meet her so-called soul mate and winds up in a full tour of the country trying to find him.  Bonnie Hunt joins her and adds to the female-driven adventure.  The 1990’s kitsch + Robert Downey Jr. + all that beautiful Italian scenery makes for a winning combination.
    Favorite Scene: When Bonnie and Marissa get lost and run out of gas, leaving them to split a bottle of wine and some honest conversation in Tuscany.
  4. James Bond: Spectre – All of the James Bond movies involve travel and plenty of adventure, but Spectre has such an abundance of beautiful scenery that I couldn’t NOT include it here. It’s filmed in Morocco, Mexico, Rome, Austria and of course England; what’s not to like?  It doesn’t hurt that Daniel Craig is such a fox.
    Favorite Scene:  The opening scene during Day of the Dead in Mexico, so beautiful!
  5. The Darjeeling Limited: I love most of Wes Anderson movies for their whimsical story lines and gorgeous color palates. I especially love this one because it speaks to my wanderlust and shows India for the beautiful country that it is.  I love the idea of traveling by train, but have yet to try it out.  For now I’ll have to watch Darjeeling Limited and dream about bar cars and train beds.
    Favorite Scene: The one where everything was colorful and beautiful and I loved the main characters…oh wait, that’s the whole movie.

What are your favorite movie night refreshments?  What’s your go-to adventure movie?