Sneaking away to St. Martin

During the week of Labor Day, we hopped on a plane to St. Martin for a relaxing getaway. The trip started off on a good note when we were bumped to first class on our US Airways flight and had the most wonderful flight attendant (Judy) waiting on us on our 3.5 hour flight to SXM.

10644825_10100986670182153_3510679576787878857_n

Since the planes land on the Dutch side of the island (St. Maarten), we got a tour of island in our taxi ride to our resort – The Grand Case Beach Club. It was nestled between picturesque mountains and turquoise water right there on the beach (or two beaches: Le Petit Plage and Grand Case Beach).

10628310_10100989252222723_6946174334193408760_n

We had a stunning view of Creole Rock, and even spent one afternoon snorkeling there with some amazing rainbow parrot fish, eels, and about a gazillion more caribbean fish species. It was some of the best snorkeling we’ve ever done.

10685441_10100995248810513_8964567222867857052_n

10612759_10100997674938533_2491332931209970222_n

10646765_10100997680138113_4001953493671917571_n

10447848_10100997678865663_2868182939649531464_n

Our resort offered kayaking, sailing, stand up paddle boarding (SUP) and snorkeling right off the beach, too. We spent an entire morning exploring the gorgeous water in front of the hotel and just for the record, I only fell off my board ONCE. (Fact: SUP requires some serious balance and core strength, and your feet will hurt afterwards from holding on).

10492449_10100995392148263_164797643900897557_n

Each morning we went to the restaurant on site for our continental breakfast. My favorite was of course the chocolate croissant. I actually took my Shakeology with me on this trip so that I could remain somewhat healthy (and I embarked on my attempt to be vegetarian for a month on 9/1). Listening to the waves was so tranquil and such a relaxing way to start our mornings.

10383502_10100997406736013_1457443841470369580_n

We ventured into Grand Case (the best culinary experiences on the island) for dinner most nights. Our favorite spots were Le Cottage and La Villa, although we also had a lovely creole experience where the chef was also the owner and took plenty  of time to come out and just chat with us. The food was nothing short of spectacular on this trip.

10349217_10100995268436183_6472384219377451936_n

11315_10100995268590873_7922337620439867855_n

10460959_10100995268630793_2633254994706439989_n10624937_10100995268755543_4171237762614914623_n

We ventured out to Orient Bay Beach one day, which is the famous nude beach on the island. However, since we were there in September, it was the “off season” and all the nudists stayed home. We pretty much had the run of the place while we were there and dined at an excellent beach restaurant before setting up in some chairs just steps away from a bar for the rest of the afternoon.

10930_10100997414959533_6255842464466868690_n

11315_10100995262378323_6758311029683940757_n

1972491_10100995260033023_2673072505738677902_n

Our resort was totally gated and had security guards walking around at all times which made it feel very safe. We were upgraded upon arrival there to a suite style condo with bed/bath upstairs, and living room, kitchen and another bathroom downstairs. Our patio led right out to an overlook over the beach (the stairs were no more than 5 feet away). We also had an upstairs balcony which provided amazing views of the island. The pool at the resort was one of the prettiest set ups I’ve seen, just dreamy!

10426221_10100997414335783_2236338928658775131_n

10622901_10100997406980523_7247906109655785997_n

10347181_10100997405997493_5912215202982415711_n

While we’re talking safety, nothing happened to us while we were there but upon asking advice on a couple trips we were thinking of taking on our own, I was told, “Just don’t take anything with you.” There was also a “theft insurance” charge for renting cars on the island and parts of it were not very well lit. That being said, the locals left us alone. Only once (on Orient Bay Beach) were we asked if we wanted to purchase something. Philipsburg was more touristy and probably the least safe place we went for that reason.

10678639_10100995262987103_8074674133738122934_n

10670180_10100995263610853_4857926137254929817_n

1912312_10100995263111853_5180883392587543137_n

In Philipsburg, we had lunch before walking around. It was gorgeous on the water. The shopping area was your typical Caribbean shopping area which owners out front asking you to come in and a few peddlers on the beach asking you to purchase their items. We didn’t spend TOO much time there before we headed off to Maho Bay beach to see the planes land. Since Maho Bay is also on the Dutch side where the casinos are, we popped into one while we were there. My (risk adverse) husband won while playing poker and immediately quit playing, so we weren’t there for more than 45 minutes before we headed back to Grand Case.

10171012_10100997405353783_3071831093397776476_n

1966842_10100997405448593_7285309960254833336_n

Their signature drink on the island is the Guavaberry Colada since they have a guava berry rum factory on the island. Each restaurant offered their own specialty after-dinner (or lunch) rum. Some of the flavors we tried were caramel, banana, coconut and a delicious mixture of coconut rum, grenadine and pineapple juice.

10698395_10100995270566913_7925994004660409345_n

10672214_10100995262068943_8953555178169187098_n

We very much enjoyed our trip to St. Martin and would recommend the French side to anyone going to visit. However, if you’re still deciding where to visit, our vote is Aruba. Aruba is still our favorite island. The friendliness of the people is unmatched (and they’re all so incredibly intelligent). Not for one second on the island did we feel unsafe, even when we walked or biked the .75 miles back from the high rise area at night. While Aruba has a desert climate and St. Martin has a tropical climate, we didn’t mind the heat and no humidity in Aruba. It never rains in Aruba (it only rained on us once in St. Martin). Aruba had happy hour which we loved, St. Martin did not. The food was amazing in both places but Aruba holds a special place in our hearts. If we had a free trip back to either of these islands, we would undoubtedly choose Aruba.

Advertisements

Two tickets to paradise!

Life has been busy, what’s new? We have so many wonderful things that I’m dying to share (nope, not pregnant!), but can’t just yet. We have to let a few more things fall into place and then all news can be shared. For the time being, I’ll share that we are headed to St. Martin (French side, although we’ll definitely explore the Dutch side) to sepnd 5 heavenly days frolicking on white sand beaches, dining on 5-star French cuisine and celebrating a year of marriage. Hard to believe it’s been a whole year (in less than 2 weeks). St. Martin is our big trip for this year and we’re back on for our European getaway next year. We’re thinking Ireland – London – France will be a nice combo. For this year? #TheWhitesDoStMartin

DSC00488

My husband has already been checking out restaurants for our trip. I’m leaving the planning to him on that, he always chooses so well. Our honeymoon in Aruba was full of delicious food!

DSC00566

First year anniversary gifts are supposed to be paper, so we’ll consider those airline tickets our gifts to each other. We’re much more into experiencing things together rather than purchasing physical items.

Baby Shower (7/13)
Baby Shower (7/13)

And before we head off to this spectacular Dutch/French island, we’ll be meeting our new neice, Andi, who is due to arrive on August 10th! Follow along on Instagram with hashtag #comeonAndi!

If you have suggestions of things to do/see or places to eat in St. Martin/Maarten, let me know! I always appreciate recommendations!

Wanderlust!

Last week, I mentioned how much my husband and I love to travel together. In our first three weeks of dating, we took a trip to the beach and the quaint town of Swansboro on North Carolina’s coast, and we visited Cleveland for a wedding (but took the opportunity to explore while there!). When we got married, we discussed our future travel plans and agreed on one BIG domestic U.S. trip a year and one BIG international trip a year. Coming up with “where” to go was the hard part.

map

I created a board on Pinterest to capture all the places that I would like to visit. Italy, Colorado, Galapagos Islands, Maldives? Yes, please! While flying home from Aruba, we each made a list of 10 international and 10 domestic travel destinations and compared. Ireland was at the top of both of our lists. (Of course, travel has to be done within reason, and within your means. This pin is helpful for budgeting appropriately for travel). So, our plans for this year were AUSTIN, TX (domestic) and IRELAND/LONDON (international – and while we’re paying to fly that far, why not kill two birds with one stone?).

jamaica
Jamaica/2010

We’ve had Ireland on our bucket list for a while now and we thought this would be the year; however, with the rest of our friends getting married and buying a new house, it looks like it will be going on the back burner until 2015 (or until we win the lottery – whichever happens first). Austin was also on our list for this year and coincidentally enough, we were invited to a wedding in Austin. However, my husband is in a different wedding and will be at the bachelor party that weekend. I am majorly bummed over this one but I know we can’t do everything.

San Diego/2011
San Diego/2011

So here’s what we are doing this year: Boston, Indianapolis, Weston & Woburn (Mass), Ponte Vedra Beach (Florida), Maryland, Blacksburg, Ocean Isle Beach, Wilmington (NC), Richmond, and I’m sure a handful of other places. International probably isn’t going to happen this year between the new house and my husband’s job requiring weekly travel. I’m okay with that since we bought the cutest house ever and I’ll spend that traveling money for decorating.

Aruba/2014
Aruba/2014

However, travel is one of our “things.” It really is a big part of our life and we love those trips, whether long or short. So while we’re hunkering down and doing house things, we still need to make room in our schedule for those mini beach vacations, or spontaneous trips (ie: Alabama Shakes in Charleston), and do the things that make us happy while we work on making our new house our home.

Jekyll Island, GA/2012
Jekyll Island, GA/2012

I’d love to hear what’s on your travel bucket list – or places we should add to ours!

International Cuisine

I think I’ve mentioned a time or two before that I like to eat. I like appetizers, entrees and dessert with most meals. So months before our honeymoon in Aruba, my groom was researching the best-of-the-best places to eat and taking recommendations from dear friends. And boy, did he deliver! The food was TO DIE FOR.

DSC00704

My favorite appetizer was the ceviche at Bugaloe bar (at the De Palm Pier). Okay, so this wasn’t somewhere that we researched as much as stumbled upon, but it was fabulously placed on a pier over turquoise water and with stunning sunset views. What more could you ask for?
DSC00906The Hot Shrimp Diablo was my favorite dinner entree. Amadeus is a must when visiting Aruba – especially if you’re looking for a cozy, romantic spot with delicious food. I would forego the appetizer and add dessert to the bill.
DSC00865Another favorite entree was the lobster/grouper/shrimp combo at The Blue Lobster. Serious heaven in your mouth. The outside is a little deceiving but once you’re in, you can tell it’s going to be good. The menu appears a tad pricey, but they offer a surprising special menu for $36.99 per person for a wide selection of appetizers, entrees and desserts and a bottle of wine for the table.
DSC00531Dinner at Passions was also completely wonderful. Dining on the beach? Who doesn’t enjoy that experience?

DSC00782We had lots of sunset dinners. The picture above is from The Pelican’s Nest in the high rise district. Food and service were good but it didn’t make our “best” list.

DSC00610

Barefoot was another darling restaurant on the beach. They had beach front seating or a deck (with sand) if you didn’t actually want to walk through sand to your table (or be out in the sun). My favorite part of our meal at Barefoot was the mousse duo – white chocolate + milk chocolate. (Hi, my name is Ashleigh and I’m a chocolate addict).
DSC00631Passions surprised us with a sweet dessert to celebrate our honeymoon (below).
DSC00542And our FAVORITE dessert came from Madame Janette, which is another MUST GO if you’re visiting Aruba. The atmosphere was wonderful and they had live music. The food was perfection. And the souffle was heavenly.
DSC00771We also enjoyed quite a few Balashi beers while on the island. Balashi is Aruba’s own beer and competes with Heineken and Amstel. The Balashi Chill was similar to a Corona Light and was served with a lime.

DSC00700

DSC00553

DSC00490

Pina Coladas just seem like the perfect island drink, so I consumed those more than anything else. Mojitos were also a favorite (they put 15-20 mint leaves in each one and hand muddled!!). Plus, happy hour was 2 for 1, so it was easy to get a mojita + a pina colada for each of us to enjoy!
DSC00604DSC00605DSC00623

I cannot say enough about the delicious delicacies that we consumed on this trip. We loved just about everything. I’m disappointed that I didn’t take a picture of the meal I had almost daily for lunch. A spicy thai chili shrimp quesadilla served with sour cream and fries. I loved it!! My husband likes to try new things each time he eats somewhere so he had various things from the Passions Beach Bar menu.

DSC00491

We will definitely revisit some of these place upon our return to Aruba but we also look forward to trying some new ones as well. What’s your favorite island food? Any MUST GO restaurant recommendations for other island travelers (doesn’t have to be Aruba!)? I would love to hear them!

Ariba Aruba!

Sorry for the hiatus, we returned from our extended honeymoon late Thursday and have been busy with unpacking, decluttering (anyone moving and need boxes???) and of course, college football (Go Hokies!). We loved every second of our trip to Aruba, in fact, we loved it so much that I am going to have to break it up into multiple blogs to give you all the best details. I’ll start with our adventures in Aruba – and don’t worry, I will also have a recap of the day before the wedding and the rehearsal and our actual wedding (perfection!). So stay tuned, and thanks for reading for the past 10 months! Below are a few of my favorite pictures (out of 1000!!) from the best trip of our lives!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our first adventure in Aruba was obviously to the beach. Eagle Beach is where our hotel (Amsterdam Manor) was located. We had a suite – which was perfect for us with a kitchen (we made breakfast and lunch a few times), a living room (great retreat from the Aruban sun!), and the most adorable patio where we savored many moments, including a champagne breakfast and afternoon drinks. We had a view of Eagle Beach from our room and let me tell you, this was the most beautiful beach.
DSC00632Yes, there were TREES on the beach. But they were so stunning. There were also palapas available at any time of day. We went out one morning at 8 am (early birds!) and claimed our chairs underneath the very last palapa on the row and another day at 2 PM we were able to find an available one. It was NOT crowded and not full of children. The sand doesn’t get hot despite the 90 degree weather, so you can walk on it without fear of burning your feet. And the water was so clear, that we were able to walk out to our shoulders and still see our feet. IN-CRED-IBLE!
DSC00484 DSC00605

We also had a beach bar with the most delicious pina coladas which made beach days even better. Our next adventure was a trip to the Butterfly Farm. We LOVED this experience. There were dozens of colorful creatures fluttering around inside the farm and we got a tour from a knowledgeable young man and even got to hold a giant (baby!) moth! We highly recommend this to any nature lovers or someone looking for some great photos!
DSC_0075

With our honeymoon package from Amsterdam Manor, we got a sunset cruise (open bar!) on a catamaran. We sat with another couple who was enjoying their honeymoon (until we got splashed!) and watched the sunset over the water. It was beautiful and peaceful and while we thoroughly enjoyed the trip, we said we probably wouldn’t have ventured out to do it on our own if it had not been included in our package.
DSC00569DSC00565

Didn't see that wave coming!
Didn’t see that wave coming!

DSC00567

We spent more time on a boat the following day thanks to our friends Matt & Amanda (I claim Matt as my favorite co-worker). They have traveled to Aruba several times and had a fabulous list prepared for us when we announced our honeymoon destination. Matt and Amanda got us a snorkeling trip for our wedding present, which included TWO sites. One was the Antilles Shipwreck and the other at Catalina. I enjoyed Catalina more due to the calmer waters, but obviously, the shipwreck provides the opportunity to see more sealife. The tour was through De Palm tours and was also open bar!
DSC00694

One of our most favorite tours was a Jeep tour (in a Land Rover) through ABC Jeep Safari with Ivo as our tour guide. We really loved that ABC was a family owned company and that we could support small business! Our tour took us on steep, narrow roads bordering cliffs with the most amazing views of our lives. We saw the first chapel in Aruba, the Ruins of a gold mill, the Natural Bridge which collapsed the year following Hurricane Ivan but still makes for great photos (we saw a sea turtle in the water below!), and lastly, swimming in the Natural Pool created by the ocean. It was a little overwhelming/scary getting in but once you were in you could snorkle or just relax while others dove from cliffs and the waves crashed around you.
DSC_0283 DSC00713 DSC00739 DSC00752CSC_0294Excuse my hair in the last photo, that was after the natural pool adventure and after I slipped while trying to get out and went under (Clumsy is my middle name). Our favorite adventure was actually the most strenuous but totally worth it. We kayaked from the Spanish Lagoon to De Palm Island where we got to spend time doing whatever we wanted! We chose to snorkel while there (cannot wait for our underwater pictures to be developed) but they also had options for massages, ping pong, SNUBA, water slides (great if you have kids), lounging on beach chairs by more gorgeous water and two restaurants for eating. We were amazed with the color of the water that we were kayaking through – however, the trip TO the island exhausted this girl and we chose to take the ferry home versus kayaking back.
DSC00808DSC00814DSC00825

Between biking on the island (it’s only 6 miles wide and 19 miles long), we ran almost every morning while we were there. I got in over 25 miles while there! Not all of our activities were active, but all were fun. Parasailing was the last thing we did while we were there. It’s a tad expensive for the short amount of time you get (13 minutes – felt like 5), but the views were worth it. We could see all of Aruba, and straight to the bottom of the ocean. I enjoyed the experience, my new husband only felt it was so-so and wouldn’t do it again.
DSC00888DSC00884 DSC00887On one of our last days in Aruba, we explored downtown Oranjestad. Water was a must on this trip! We took the bus into town (it’s only $2.30 per person versus a $9 cab ride). Being in the city, you don’t feel the trade winds like you do on the beach, so it was extremely hot. We saw the Parliament office, a gathering of Iguanas, and explored the mall (high-end stores). We attempted to go to lunch at Pinchos while there; however, they are only open for dinner, so we ended up at what we called our worst lunch. Not the food – just the service. Do your research before you eat in-town. Many of the restaurants that are visible from the road are touristy. While we were disgustingly sweaty by the time we returned home, we really enjoyed our trip into the city.
DSC00913 DSC00915DSC00929 DSC00930 DSC00939 DSC00947We spent a couple nights trying our luck at the casinos (slots for me, computer poker for him). It was fun, had free drinks but I hate being around smoke. Hate is actually not a strong enough word for how I feel about smoke. We didn’t go to any clubs, and we didn’t make it to the Sopranos Piano Bar but we had planned to. Lots of restaurants have live music in the evenings which is nice and our hotel had some events such as happy hour (daily), movie night, Mexican night, etc.
DSC00712While this blog highlights some of the fun to be had on Aruba, it doesn’t do it justice. It was truly a remarkable place with incredible locals, atmosphere and views. We enjoyed literally every second of our trip and cannot wait to go back. Oh – and if you’re already packing your bags and planning your escape, take extra hair ties (it’s windy!) and lots of sunscreen (we used SPF 50 for most of the trip – and nothing less than 30).
DSC00775Oh – and I’d be remiss if I didn’t recap our last night of the trip. We took a bottle of champagne out on the beach and watched the sunset (swoon). It was romantic, wonderful and everything I could have asked for. I am so in love with my darling husband.
DSC_0300DSC00980DSC00974DSC_0314 DSC00979

Honeymoonin’

I am getting so EXCITED to hop on a plane with my HUSBAND and head to Aruba! I’ve already started planning outfits (and eyeing some others that I’d like to see in my suitcase). I went on a pinning spree last night and added a whole new board for Honeymoon Style. Hopefully this will help me when it comes time to actually pack!

First of all, I’m taking my “How does she do it” bag from Stella & Dot. I have loved this bag from the minute it was released and finally snagged my own. bagOver-packing is a bad habit of mine, but I’m a girl who loves to have options. However, since we’re going for 11 days and I am not interested in carrying multiple suitcases, we’re going to have a serious effort to cut down on what I take. Necessities include: sundresses, shorts, tanks, lots of bathing suits, shoes for our nice dinners and comfy shoes for excursions and sightseeing. So here are some of the styles I am LOVING:

1. My new RayBan Wayfarers

Rayban2. Maxi Dresses … even better if they are Lilly Pulitzer!Lilly3. White Bikinis!
bikini
4. A bundle of J Crew shorts and several pair of Jack Rogers will be accompanying me on this trip!

shorts5. A monogrammed beach hat with my NEW initials (I have one with my OLD initials from Marley Lilly) hat6. A cute beach cover up (also J Crew)tunic 7. Cute dresses for going out to dinner like this eyelet Lilly Pulitzer dress

Wilma
I’m also currently loving stripes and my chambray shirts. Not sure how the long-sleeve clothing will do in Aruba but I can guarantee I’ll take one just in case I get the opportunity to wear it.

And it goes without saying that we’re taking lots of sunscreen! We’re prepared to use SPF 70 when we get there, these honeymooners aren’t taking any chances on ruining our 11 days in paradise!

Happy, happy, happy!

We had a splendid 4th of July yesterday – despite the rain (and by rain, I mean torrential downpours, thunderstorms and clouds all day). We celebrated my cousin’s 10th birthday – and America’s at the same time! We have been doing a lot of celebrating lately – and I apologize that this isn’t really a “wedding post” but I had to share. My ever-so-studious fiance just finished 2 more classes through Northeastern University for his Master’s and earned A’s in both (brag!). And last week, I was offered a BIG promotion with my company, while staying in the Communications arena.

I had to wait to make the announcement – which was tough – especially since I wanted to shout it from the rooftop! I applied for the job on a whim, thinking I really had no shot, it was grades above where I was, I had just earned my Master’s which they wanted but I didn’t have a lot of post-Master’s experience to apply, and I had just been promoted back in December so another jump so soon was not realistic. But alas, I had all of the qualifications and apparently didn’t sound too much like Miss South Carolina in my interviews.

I am so excited for this opportunity and all of the doors that it opens for me, and for my future family. Overwhelmingly, people have been happy for me (lots of screaming, jumping hugs in the elevators at work and tons of text messages), but I did have one person tell me “Don’t expect to be Top 10 again.” We are fortunate at my company to still get bonuses and those are based on your rating for the year. Last year, I was a Top 10 performer for the company and man, it felt good. Disappointing to be told that when I just got a “dream job” and am over-the-moon happy. However, since I’ve been reading Lean In by Sheryl Sandburg, I feel empowered. I feel excited. I feel like I can do anything.

First and foremost, I am going to marry the love of my life and spend 11 spectacular days in Aruba with him. But then, we can focus on our careers and figure out where we want to be before we start a family. I’m not the girl who wants to be a stay-at-home mom (nothing wrong with it!). I enjoy working, and I especially enjoy new challenges and opportunities. My fiance is the same way and while he is knee-deep in his Master’s studies right now, he is well on his way to his next opportunity. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us.

The next 43 days hold lots of last minute details, DIY crafts and collecting of RSVPs. Counting down!

Happy weekend!