honeymoon in jamaica

Happy 2017, friends! I can’t believe it’s in full swing already.

I’m beyond excited for more travels to come this year, but first things first. I want to finish recapping one of my 2016 favorites – the honeymoon in Jamaica!

If you haven’t read Part I, you can do so here. I rave about the ah-mazing resort we stayed at, Couples Swept Away (CSA) in Negril, Jamaica. I share details on the food, our accommodations, and the first of our activities, including snorkeling! I also share some killer snaps we took with our new favorite travel toy, the GoPro HERO5 Black.

honeymoon in jamaica

Maybe you’re new around here (Welcome!), and didn’t know this girl was a wife. You can catch up with E & I’s “story” here and my first post after the wedding here.

Ok, but back to JAMAICA. In addition to all the good stuff in Part I, sharing a bit more below.

{Water Sports}

A huge reason we loved CSA so much is because everyone on the staff was so incredible. From the talented chefs, to the water sports crew, to our scuba instructors, we honestly couldn’t have met kinder, life loving souls.

Another huge perk?? A whole bunch of water sports and lessons were included.

honeymoon in jamaica

I never thought I’d be able to windsurf. While we were by no means experts, we totally did it. Eric better than me I should mention.

We got a lesson in hobbie cat sailing, Eric kayaked, and we got to stand-up paddle board too. You know you’re in paradise when you’re paddle boarding and see giant starfish below.

honeymoon in jamaica

honeymoon in jamaica

{Glass Bottom Boat Tour}

This was such a fun way to learn more about the coral reefs and see more of the coast. One guide asked us to name a couple big starfish we saw side by side below and no one else piped up. So I gladly said Beyonce and Jay-Z. He dived in, gently grabbed Bey, and let me hold her before returning her home.

honeymoon in jamaica

{Nighttime Entertainment}

So many options! From live steel drums, dances into the night, to beach bonfires – they had so much to offer in the evening. Our favorite by far was the Aura Lounge, where famous piano player Ultimate Chocolate, and singer Miguel, had the whole crowd up in roars of laughter and sing-a-longs!

We chatted with so many awesome couples around this piano, and seeing Ulti and Miguel all up in their element was a pure honor.

honeymoon in jamaica

{Cliff Jumping at Rick’s Cafe}

Rick’s Cafe is apparently one of the top 10 most famous bars in the world, and is known to have the second most beautiful sunset! You can also cliff jump, get drinks, and listen to live music – how could we not go? CSA had a shuttle to take us.

honeymoon in jamaica

honeymoon in jamaica

honeymoon in jamaica

As soon as we arrived, we grabbed some rum cocktails and were glued to the people jumping off the 30 foot cliff.  E decided to give it a go and totally rocked it!*

honeymoon in jamaica

*Confession: I didn’t catch it on camera the first time, so he actually really did rock it because he went twice. And it’s unfortunately a low quality photo. Love you, E. 🙂

{Scuba Diving}

Probably our favorite – getting scuba certified! A beginner’s class and swimming around shore is free at CSA. You can then choose to go with the crew on a real dive for $50. It’s a perfect way to test it out.

E and I thankfully learned we were pretty natural underwater! We fell in love with it, choosing to count the first dive and cost towards our certification. It just took one additional hour of class and a dive the next morning…then we had unlimited dives for the rest of the trip!

honeymoon in jamaica

honeymoon in jamaica

People had mentioned not to do our certification while we were on our trip, but I disagree! Doing your training dives is waayyy better in the sea vs. a pool/lake, let me tell ya. It’s also tons of fun, especially when you’re working with a killer crew like CSA’s.

Need more of a reason? In Jamaica, the cost to get certified was about $450 cheaper than in Chicago. If a scuba certification is something you’re interested in, my advice would be to scope out options at home and your destination! My other advice is to go visit the incredible people of Jamaica and do it at CSA. 🙂

honeymoon in jamaica

honeymoon in jamaica

WHEW. Thanks for hanging in there with me, friends! We were able to check so many adventures off our bucket list, I hope this inspires you to take a tropical vacay in 2017, or just go tackle something you’ve been dying to do!

Days By Day

the honeymoon

It is quite chilly up here in Chicago! Did you know that on Monday Chicago was colder than Mars?? Not okay.

That being said, I’m daydreaming of the Honeymoon we went on back in November to Jamaica, where everything was sunny and warm and perfect. It’s going to take a couple posts to share all these adventures and photos!

{Getting There}

Eric and I took off for our honeymoon bright and early the next morning after the wedding. Well, actually it was still dark it was so early, so nix the bright. We rocked these awesome (and original) Married AF shirts and koozies by The Daily Tay, and got lots of compliments.

the honeymoon

We had booked our trip through Southwest Vacations. Loveee Southwest Vacations, you guys! They make it so easy to have everything taken care all in one place.

{The Resort}

On the plane we could hardly contain ourselves. We knew we wanted to find an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean, one where we could relax and soak up the sun, but one where we could still be adventurous! After lots of research, we landed on Couples Swept Away (CSA) for seven days in Negril, Jamaica.

the honeymoon

the honeymoon

Let me say this place is a real life dream, in case my pure joy above does not convey that enough.

Not only are the facilities gorgeous, but the entire staff is beyond kind. I can definitely say that we left with new friends. CSA is not too big, not too small, and it’s impossible to not feel the romantic vacation vibes.

This resort is located along a gorgeous strip of Seven Mile Beach and has two big pools, six restaurants, bars throughout, and a variety of nighttime entertainment. In addition to food and drink being included, your stay also includes a whole bunch of other water recreation and island activities – glass-bottom boat tours, snorkeling, windsurfing, catamaran cruises, etc.

the honeymoon

I said it was a real life dream, right??

{The Room}

So beautiful and literally located steps away from the beach. At night you could hear the waves gently crash. There was also a balcony that had us feeling so adult and fancy when we’d sit out there.

the honeymoon

the honeymoon

{The Eats}

Oh my goodness, so yummy! I know people hate on resort food sometimes, that is not the case at CSA. Eric’s favorite was probably the jerk chicken, while I fell in love with a fresh fish sandwich on the softest bread ever.

A light breakfast could be delivered to our room, or we could go to a couple restaurants for a sit down menu or buffet. Everyone knows breakfast is my fave, I was not disappointed.

the honeymoon

the honeymoon

At one spot for dinner, there’s a pasta bar that served as an appetizer for a three course menu. Basically, like four dinners in one. It’s a miracle we didn’t come back twice our sizes.

We particularly liked one cafe for the afternoon munchies, Seagrapes. It was technically the vegetarian restaurant, but I guarantee a majority of the clientele was not just vegetarian. There was all sort of healthy eats to enjoy.

{Catamaran Cruise}

This was the first big activity we signed up for. The crew had Jamaican music going and Red Stripe flowing, the Jamaican beer everyone drank. They took us along the island for sightseeing and even stopped at a giant cave for us to go swimming.

the honeymoon

the honeymoon

the honeymoon

We caught all these pictures with the GoPro we bought just before our wedding weekend! Eric and I had talked about getting one, and then knew we couldn’t leave for all these water adventures without it. Highly recommend –  we were able to get some awesome shots and were totally carefree about any concerns of it getting wet!

the honeymoon

{Snorkeling}

I had never been before! This was one of the biggest things on my to-do list. We signed up for a daytime snorkel and loved it. We got to see a giant barracuda, feed fish, hold starfish, see a sunken cannon and anchor…it was all so beautiful. I kept telling E it was like opening my old science text books and seeing the coral reefs from the pages come to life.

the honeymoon

the honeymoon

GoPro was clearly also a star for this outing.

We had such a fun time, we signed up to go again at night. Jumping off the boat that time around was definitely a little freakier, but very awesome. The reefs seem totally different, and we saw more creatures, like an octopus and sea turtle.

the honeymoon

the honeymoon

We loved snorkeling so much, we thought we’d take it one step further and get scuba certified. More on that in Part II, along with other adventures!

That’s all for today, friends! I hope no matter where you are – beach, mountains, or in between – you’re having a great Thursday, with holiday spirit in full swing!

Days By Day

favorite travel apps

It’s no secret that traveling is one of my favorite hobbies – and to that point, I have a slew of  my favorite travel apps that actually can make planning trips a whole lot easier!

From visits home to Texas, to backpacking western Europe, these five apps have proven to be incredibly helpful. Sharing in hopes that they can make things a little more convenient for any travel plans you have in the works!

Airbnb // Eric and I love using Airbnb when we travel. It’s an instant way to dive into the culture and local spaces of the place we’re visiting.

If you’re not familiar, Airbnb let’s people across the world put their homes, apartment, or even one of their rooms up for rent as a place for travelers to stay. The accommodations range in uniqueness, interaction with host, and amount of guests that can be accommodated.

We used Airbnb throughout Europe last summer, even twice during our week in Paris! Our first spot had the most beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower, and the second was in the cute little neighborhood of Montmartre. Our host in this second space treated us to some much needed Mexican food at the taco shop he owned. His grandmother’s salsa recipe from Guadalajara served as the main inspiration behind it all.

favorite travel apps

favorite travel apps

Find Friends // Now this one is more just for fun. On iPhones you can share your location with family, friends, and vice versa. Find Friends pulls in the locations of those who have shared their location with you and drops it on a big map.

Last summer, when friends were traveling across the globe, it was so cool to see where everyone was. It’s also just a good way to make sure people you’re with get home safe once you split up.

Skyscanner // This app gauges prices for flights to a certain destination, in a specific time frame. You can enter in airports and dates, and it will list prices for flights available in order from cheapest to most expensive. There are filters for flight times, airlines, cost, etc. to help narrow your search.

I never solely go off Skyscanner, because it doesn’t incorporate any deals or sales on the market for the airlines shown. Instead, it serves as a great starting point to feel things out and decide what the next bit of research should be.

Hopper // I love Hopper. It’s like a friend that checks on flight prices every day so you don’t have to.

Hopper shows you a calendar with color coded days, letting you know when flights are the most expensive. You can then select dates you’re interested in flying on, the respective destinations, and Hopper will set up an alert.

favorite travel apps

These alerts pop up every couple days letting you know the lowest flight prices currently available for your trip, and the direction to purchase now or hang tight since lower prices are predicted. Eric and I have definitely been able to snag some great deals thanks to Hopper’s notifications!

Viber // Viber is a must for any traveler wanting to keep in touch with loved ones back home. Eric and I had our phones in airplane mode for the whole month we were in Europe. This app lets you call, video call, and text for free when connected to wifi abroad.

We used Viber to video call our families from Dublin on the first night in Europe and the night we got engaged in Paris. We texted them daily. Viber has come in handy with friends being abroad too. Basically, this app can help bring peace of mind and means no one has to stop talking just because they’re across the globe!

favorite travel apps

Man, all this travel talk has me wanting to dash off to plan a couple getaways for next year. Any favorite travel apps of your own I’m missing on this list?? Share ’em in the comments, friends!

Days By Day

madison wisconsin

Last weekend, Eric and I decided to take advantage of the long holiday weekend by planning a road trip to Madison, Wisconsin to do what we do best – adventure, travel, and be ridiculous together.

All week we asked friends and co-workers who went to the University of Wisconsin for their must-dos and favorite spots. I always check out other blogs and Trip Advisor for recommendations too.

We had such a fun time and felt like we covered an awesome spread of stuff, so I wanted to put together a quick travel guide of spots I recommend if you ever find yourself in Madison or are nearby in need of a mini-vacay!

What To Eat

Dane County Farmers’ Market // This huge market is amazing! Tables are set up all along the perimeter of Wisconsin’s capital square, with foot traffic heading all in one direction. Eric and I stuffed our faces with more cheese samples than I thought possible.

Everyone said this was a must-do, and I 100% see why. Fun Fact: This is the largest producers-only farmer’s market in the country – meaning those who made created the product are standing behind the table.

madison wisconsin

madison wisconsin

madison wisconsin

Stella’s Hot & Spicy Cheesy Bread // OMG. This stuff is outta this world. A huge loaf of the softest, most flavorful and delicious smelling cheese bread…that Eric and I may or may not have eaten as our meal for the entire day just between us too. You cannot go to Madison and not try this treat.

madison wisconsin

madison wisconsin

Old Fashioned’s Cheese Curds // Like I said, we ate a lot of bread and cheese – but don’t worry, we semi-redeem ourselves with a hike (more below). This restaurant was listed as a top place to grab some of these famous bites. The other food was probably just okay, but totally worth the visit for the curds.

Marigold Kitchen // Such a killer brunch spot, friends.  Loved the order at the counter, then pick your spot, oh-so-relaxed vibes. You could most definitely taste fresh ingredients and there were wild flowers on every table. The limitless coffee from Colectivo was sooooo good!

madison wisconsin

Colectivo // Same coffee mentioned above, we went to their two beautiful locations around town over the course of our stay! Great teas, coffee, bakery, and café type foods. We picked up breakfast here on our way out.

The Daily Scoop // Another must – directly linked to The Terrace below! The University of Wisconsin agriculture students actually make this ice cream and it is SO YUM. Like some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had without a doubt. I got strawberry and mint chocolate chip, even the scoops looked beautiful.

madison wisconsin

What To Do

Tour the Capital // Easy to do right after the  market! Anyone can walk in and look around. You can even go to the very top observation deck. The state mammal and university mascot, the badger, is sculpted above the Supreme Court door, and that made me really happy. Then, you can stroll down State Street and hop shops all the way to the University at the other end of downtown.

madison wisconsin

madison wisconsin

University of Wisconsin // We didn’t do much on campus, but we did walk around and snap a few photos! It seemed to have so much history and there were some beautiful buildings. I stomped around pretending to be alumni J.J. Watt, my NFL crush/our favorite Houston Texan’s player.

madison wisconsin

THE TERRACE // This was our favorite spot in town. A big terrace filled with friends and families enjoying beers, brats, and scoops in the sun. There’s the prettiest view of the lake! Saturday afternoon there was a DJ, and Sunday when State Street seemed like a ghost town, the Terrace was poppin’. Make sure to try the famous brew only sold in Wisconsin – Spotted Cow. Bonus: you can rent boardgames to play!

madison wisconsin

madison wisconsin

Where to Venture Outside of Town

Wollersheim Winery & Distillery // I was really hoping to tour a winery over the holiday since there are so many throughout the Midwest! Wollersheim is family-owned and has received several awards. The winery tour, including a tasting, is just $5! Additional tastings also just $5. Can’t beat that. (3o min. away)

madison wisconsin

madison wisconsin

madison wisconsin

Devil’s Lake & State Park // Eric really wanted to get in some nature time, so this was perfect and just a half hour from the winery. There were lots of people out on the huge web of trails, grilling along the water, and playing in the lake. We hiked about 2.5 miles – burning some cheese calories I hope! (1 hour away)

madison wisconsin

IMG_9516

Whew, that was a pretty packed list, folks! Hope this inspires you to visit to this sweet little college town, and eat your weight in all their delicious treats.

Did I miss something? Fill me in with a comment!

Days By Day

birthday

It’s always the worst when blogging has to take a back seat, but these last few weeks have just been one busy pow wow and I’ve wanted to be 100% present in all of it. From work picking up with new opportunities, to best friends visiting, to planning wedding festivities – right up to birthday celebrations around town for my favorite human – it’s been crazy and wonderful.

That being said, I want to get back in the swing of things, and figured what better day than today – when I get to celebrate this handsome future husband of mine being born. Happy Birthday, love! This photo is one Feather & Twine took during our engagement session and it nearly kills me. Those looks and that smile – I’m a lucky lady!

birthday

We declared this weekend one of birthday shenanigans and romped around Chi for new adventures, starting with brunch of course. Saturday morning Eric and I ventured to Pomp & Circumstance. I’d been wanting to check this place out forever and had heard their Bloody Mary was on point.

This trendy Old Town spot did not disappoint. Eric and I shared the chilaquiles and Pomp croissant breakfast sandwich. Oh, and the drinks were indeed delicious! We left perfectly happy and ventured into the streets right outside to check out the Old Town Art Fair.

birthday

birthday

birthday

Post-brunch and fair, we dropped by Macy’s to get Eric a much needed new pair of everyday shoes and then made our way to the Chicago Blues Fest. Fun fact – it’s the largest free blues festival in the world! It takes place in Grant park, so the city gets to serve as the most perfect backdrop.

Only challenge to navigate? It was somehow 93 degrees so we were making bee lines for a spot in the shade. That didn’t hold us back though, this fest was a ton of fun.

birthday

birthday

birthday

Sunday brought another cool opportunity. Friends were going sailing on Lake Michigan to watch The America’s Cup, which was being held on fresh water for the first time right here in ChiTown! This weekend long event consisted of different sailing races among countries to determine qualifiers for the final event in Bermuda one year from now.

birthday

birthday

birthday

IMG_8808

It was so awesome to see the city from a whole new perspective – the beautiful blue waters we’re usually looking out to! The cup was really cool. I’m still not sure of all the technology  behind it, but those big racing sailboats for each country get enough wind underneath that it actually looks like they are flying just above the water.

Needless to say, we had a great weekend checking new things off our list and celebrating Eric! He is truly the best, kindest, most loving, brilliant, funny, and wonderful human, and deserves every bit of it and more.

E, I love you a whole bunch! I have loved celebrating the last four birthdays with you, and I hope this next year is the best yet. Cheers to you, love.

birthday

Well, friends, hope it’s a fantastic week! Tonight we’re off to eat tapas and sangria with our Chicago pals to spoil this guy some more, and in a few days I make my way back to the Lonestar State. Wahoo!

Days By Day