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Disney Recap: Finding the Magic as an Adult

When you’re an adult, I think that Disney World is the place to go for revival. To inhale all possibilities and exhale your doubts. The magic that surrounds you at every turn is enough to break down the barriers you continually build in your every day life, reasoning with yourself about why you can’t do something.

I went to Disney a couple weekends ago as part of an extended trip for my cousin’s wedding and came back feeling inspired. The magic of the mouse resurrected the dreams that somehow fizzled out in the midst of real life expectations. I began building plans and breathing back to life ideas that had gone so long without air. I can’t wait to share those with you in the near future, but today, I’m sharing a bit more about Disney and the different kind of magic you find at 35!

EPCOT

Somehow Epcot felt smaller than when I was 8 years old, but not in a way that was disappointing. Being able to capture a glimpse of different cultures in one night shows possibility if you are willing to take the leap. We look at a map and want to experience greatness, beauty and adventure on the other side of the world not realizing that all three surround us much closer than we think. The mountains and glistening waters of Canada, the eye of London, wineries of Napa or deserts of the west only a half day’s drive or flight away. Epcot for me was the place that reaffirmed my love of travel and how much there is to see in this world.

HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS

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Film production has always been fascinating to me. I think it’s amazing how a set transforms on the big screen and how actors develop characters from an idea on a page. I’ve always wanted to create my own film, maybe bring one of my books to life or something completely new, not sure what, but it’s on my bucket list, so of course Hollywood Studios renewed my creative mind for that.

We met Woody and Jesse from Toy Story. The line was about an hour long, but we didn’t mind. As a huge Toy Story fan, Sam wanted a picture and I could see the happiness in his eyes when we were next in line. I love the joyful spirit moments like this bring. I think he was automatically swept back in time to the age of innocence when nothing else mattered but saving the toy world with Woody and Buzz.

MAGIC KINGDOM

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Ah, Magic Kingdom… it truly never loses it’s magic. I was dancing with 3 year olds as the parade came through Main Street. We walked through the Swiss Family Robinson tree house twice and Pirates of Caribbean was as fascinating as I remember. I definitely wasn’t leaving without hopping on the buggy through the Haunted Mansion either. I’m thankful to fast pass for both of those. My recommendation for Magic Kingdom would be to get the fast pass. It’s my personal opinion of course, but I felt as if it would be worth the money. Waits in the regular lines that were about an hour took us 10-15 minutes in the fast pass line. I don’t do well in traffic, so I know I wouldn’t have done well in those lines.

There wasn’t anything food wise I was looking forward to more than chocolate covered rise crispy treats. It’s been more than 2 decades since I was able to walk the Kingdom with one in my hand. I ate half of it before dinner thinking I would save the rest for a midnight snack, but all the dinner fun distracted me and I left the other half at the table (I’m still kinda bitter about that). Speaking of dinner,  I’ve always wanted to do a character breakfast, but an evening buffet with Pooh and friends was just as fun. It will cost you a pretty penny, but when else will you get hugs from Tigger, Pooh and Piglet?

After Magic Kingdom we took the monorail to the Grand Floridian because no matter how old I am, it’s the one place I step in and become Cinderella. It’s also where my favorite bath and body shop is, so of course I didn’t leave empty handed.

Needless to say, Disney was everything I needed to remind me that we get one life, one that is far too short to not believe we are capable of building our own kind of empire.

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Weekend in Asheville

Just a quick drive on I-40 east and we were in Asheville in less than 5 hours! We wanted a little relaxation retreat while we were there, so we ended up booking a cottage in Black Mountain, a small town just outside. It was seriously the most adorable cottage I’ve ever seen. So much room for the 4 of us plus, for our high energy pup, the basement and fenced in yard were just what he needed. I definitely prefer airbnb to a hotel when our four-legged child tags along. It’s way less stressful.

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Oh and I can’t forget, they welcomed us with cupcakes and even a cute valentine dog cookie for Rhett. How sweet is that?!?

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With just a couple days in Asheville, I think we did pretty good making the most of what we went there for. First up was a self-guided tour of the Biltmore. It rained all day, so it was nice to be able to hear all about it’s history as we wandered through the house. The architecture was stunning and I was tempted to sit in front of the many fireplaces with my notebook for a little writing session, so much inspiration.

We braved the downpour once the tour was over for a wine tasting at Antler Hill Village to try some Biltmore Wines. Best part… the wine tasting is free and they have a lot to choose from, including some limited reserved wines.

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Asheville is also quickly becoming a hit for beer lovers, aka my boyfriend. We spent a good amount of both the nights we were there hitting up the breweries while he taste tested. We of course had to check out Wicked Weed, where he gave 2 thumbs up for his flight. Others breweries with Sam’s stamp of approval:

Hillman Beer

Catawba Brewing

Lookout Brewing (Black Mountain)

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All good things must come to an end, so we woke up the morning of our last day to grab a donut from Vortex Donuts and do a little shopping in Biltmore Village. Of course that’s when the sun decided to come out, but it made for a nice drive back to Nashville.

I know there is still so much more to explore, so we will surely be back again!

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Weekend Getaways Close to Nashville

We all need a nice long weekend getaway to relax and unwind. That’s why I put together 5 places just a few hours from Nashville that would make the perfect road trip!

ASHEVILLE

Driving time: 4.5 hours

Things to do: Tour the Biltmore -Walk the River Arts District – Check out the many breweries – go for a hike and admire the waterfalls

Where to Stay: Rent a cabin – Omni Grove Park Inn – Grand Bohemian Hotel – The Foundry


 PIGEON FORGE

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Driving time: 4 hours

Things to do: Spend a day at Dollywood – Hiking for amazing views of the Smokies – Titanic Museum – Dinner Shows – Explore Gatlinburg – Rocky Top Wine Trail – Gatlinburg Sky Lift

Where to Stay: Rent a cabin – Dollywood’s Dreammore Resort


CHATTANOOGA - I have not been here yet, so below is basically my list of things I want to do when I finally get there!

Driving time: 2 hours

Things to do: Tour Ruby Falls – Visit the Tennessee Aquarium – Take in the sights of Lookout Mountain – Explore Raccoon Caverns

Where to Stay: Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel – The Chattanoogan


MEMPHIS (Check out my previous blog recap of our trip)

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Driving time: Just over 3 hours

Things to do: Take a tour of Graceland – Hang out on Beale Street – Listen to Live Jazz – Stand where the legends did at Sun Studios

Where to Stay: Guest House at Graceland - Hotel Napoleon


 LOUISVILLE

Driving time – About 3 hours

Things to do: Fourth Street Live! for a night out – Tasting at Jim Beam Stillhouse – Louisville Slugger Museum – Stroll along the waterfront – Make a reservation at Jack Fry’s (you won’t regret it) – Check out Steel City Pops

Where to Stay: 21C Hotel – Marriott Downtown

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I left my heart in Venice

I’ve waited more than 3 decades to visit Italy. I knew that I would love it once I was given the chance, but I never imagined loving a place as much as I love Venice.

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I’m not sure if it was the Gondolas, the fact that everyone got around by boat or the amazing historical architecture. Maybe it was a little of all of them, but when our cruise ship sailed away down the Adriatic Sea, I found myself counting the days until I could return again.

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We sipped coffee in San Marco, dipped our toes in the sea in Lido and tried our first Italian pizza in Murano. I thought that San Marco was exquisite. The Basilica was stunning and standing over the water watching the gondolas ride through was a dream come true.

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Of each island in the Venetian Lagoon, Lido was my favorite. It was a bit quieter with a small town Main Street feel and had its own beach area off the beaten path.

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Everywhere I turned, my heart grew fonder. Venice must have been the place Belinda Carlisle had in mind when she released “Heaven is a Place on Earth.”

Someday Venice, we will meet again. Someday…

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Unlocking the Magic of France

If you truly believe in what lies on the other side

Do not give up because it’s locked

Sometimes the greatest opportunities are missed

Because one couldn’t find the courage to knock


Travel Destination: French Riviera 


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So many cities, just a train ride away. There were so many photo opportunities at the Villa France port alone, but thanks to public transportation, we were able to discover so much more of the French Riviera’s exquisite architecture, ocean views and history. I tried hard to use my French education and although there were a few things I did understand, I’m so grateful for the kind locals who pointed us in the right direction and helped us make the most out of our time here.

Read more by Courtney here!

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Painted Skies of Montenegro

 I am a dreamer, both in darkness and in light

With eyes wide open, my own story I write

To live vivid and bold like the skies above me

Soar as profoundly as the mountains that surround me

And immerse in the beauty of nature’s endless treasures

Every day without measure


Travel Destination: Kotor, Montenegro


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IMG_6984I don’t think I’ve truthfully encountered scenery like that of Kotor, Montenegro. It was like an over sized canvas stretched across the sky and someone hand-painted every detail. We spent the entire day just exploring the city limits. Each and every inch was breathtaking and if you’re up for a climb, you’ll get quite the view from the top of Kotor’s Castle.

Read more by Courtney here!

Monaco

Exploring the French Riviera

It’s amazing what you can discover over a glass of iced coffee while sitting in a cafe in the French Riviera.

For those of you who don’t know, I grew up spending my summer in the 1000 Islands. Every year I remember French Festival weekend. My parents would get up early and sneak out while my brother and I were still sleeping to bring home fresh pastries for breakfast. I had always hoped to make it to France someday for an authentic experience.

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Villefranche-sur-Mer

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Villefranche-sur-Mer

 

The first stop on our Mediterranean cruise was France! We anchored in Villefranche-sur-Mer which is a day of gorgeous adventure in itself. Jessica and I climbed way too many stairs while huffing and puffing our way to a Pâtisserie where I ordered my favorite French pastry, a napoleon. Then we snuck into a cute little coffee shop where I sat sipping an iced coffee while chatting with the locals. This is where we learned the inside scoop of making the most of our day.

It turns out the train station is just a 5 minute walk from where we anchored. Our coffee shop tour guide told us there were 3 must see places only a train ride away: Monaco, Nice and Antibes. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time for all 3, but we were able to hop on the train to Monaco and then Nice for about 10 Euro.

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Everything about the French Riviera was breathtaking. The architecture was beyond gorgeous and so were the views. The Villefranche-sur-Mer town itself was incredibly charming and well worth the leg workout the 9 miles of stairs and hills gave us.

For this stop in particular I recommend doing your own thing instead of an excursion only because you can do so much more for relatively cheap. I believe the excursion we were looking at was $70 for a bus to take us to Nice and Cannes. The train route was pretty easy to understand and allows you to do more for less.

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Surviving Long Nights and Red Eye Flights

The countdown has begun. Jessica and I booked our annual girls trip months in advance and it’s crazy to think there’s less than one week left until we’re sailing the Mediterranean! She’s way more worldly than I am, so although I’m a tad bit anxious to travel into the unfamiliar, I’m beyond excited for the experience.

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My checklist is slowly shrinking, but my carry on is filling up. With an 8 hour overnight flight to Barcelona, I want to make sure I have everything I need to make it through. My longest direct flight was about 6 hours from New York to California and even though it wasn’t too bad watching the in flight movies, I certainly could’ve prepared a little better. So, this time I did my research and I’ve detailed all the goodies in my carry on.

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Refillable Water Bottle

It’s important to stay hydrated during travel and I think having a water bottle on hand may help remind me to drink up. I’m going to fill it up at the airport before I board and top it off during in flight beverage service.

Kindle and Notebook

I’m bringing one for a little inspiration and the other to hopefully spill more of my novel out between the covers of my journal. I figured the plane is really the perfect place to write. There really isn’t room for many distractions.

Netflix

My last flight to Myrtle Beach, I was on a Heartland addiction and I figured out that you can actually download some shows from Netflix to watch offline. You will have to download them prior to takeoff though as you do need internet access to do so.

Portable Charger

Another really important tool I have on hand is a portable phone charger. Not all airlines have outlets, so I want to be prepared. Watching Netflix may help pass the time, but it will also drains my battery.

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Pashmina

I read somewhere online to make sure I pack a Pashmina. This wasn’t even on my radar, but I think it’s genius. Not only can the pashmina be used as a blanket if I get chilly, but I can also twist it and place around my neck for a pillow. On top of that, I also watched some YouTube videos of ways to wear them while on the ship. I bought 2 of them off Amazon and am ready to put them to use.

Snacks

I pretty much eat every 2 hours, so 8 hours on a plane with no food would make this girl hangry. That’s why I plan on packing some granola bars, a banana, crackers and nut packets for when my stomach starts growling.

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Beauty Products

Lots of travel bloggers have talked about how important it is to stick with your nighttime routine while on an overnight flight. I don’t want my skin to freak out, so I packed a few of my nighttime items. Along with my toothpaste and toothbrush, I have my face wash, face mask and lavender face mist for when it’s time to sleep.

I also have eye mask on my list, but haven’t actually bought one yet. What do you guys think? Should I or shouldn’t I?

Have you ever flown on a red eye? What are your favorite carry on must haves? 

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more travel tips and recaps!

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