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travel blog

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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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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!

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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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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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Hanging with Dolly at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort!

I got to spend some time at Dolly’s DreamMore Resort in Pigeon Forge, TN and I absolutely loved it! How cute are those bunk beds in the hotel room? I couldn’t resist. From the moment I pulled in, the customer service was amazing.

The concierge took my bags from the car and had them to my room in maybe 10 minutes. After that I took a little self-guided tour around the resort. It has its own spa, an indoor and outdoor pool, game room, fitness center and dining that offers both a breakfast and dinner buffet.

My favorite part was the grab and go cafe that served up Starbucks!

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If you have little ones in tow, this is such as awesome place to be. With nightly bedtime stories and s’mores making by the fire pit, they will have a blast!

The resort also has free trolley rides to Dollywood and Splash Country which is right next door!

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If you prefer to do a little more adulting, the resort is only a few miles away from the Rocky Top Wine Trail. There are 5 wineries within 12 miles of each other with about 70, yes you read that right, 70 wines to try!

From the resort, it only took me about 10 minutes to get to Gatlinburg. Walking their downtown area is one of my favorite things to do when I visit.

If you make it there you have to try out Anakeesta! I wasn’t able to this trip, but it looks so cool with a sky lift over the mountains, zip lines, canopy walks and a mountain village.

How cool is it that we have our own vacation destination tucked right in the mountains of east Tennessee?

This week’s motivation quotes come from Dolly herself.  These were on the wall in the hallway on the way to my room and I just loved them!

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Walking in Memphis

Sometimes all it takes to get a little inspiration is walking the same paths as “The King.” I’ve always wanted to go to Memphis. It took me awhile, but I finally got there! We stopped on our way to Little Rock and then decided to stay the night in Memphis on the way home.

We stayed at Hotel Napolean, which I highly recommend. The room was so nice and walking distance from Beale Street. Valet made it easy to get in and out and they even had free coffee and cappuccinos in the lobby!

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We stopped by Graceland on the way to Little Rock. We didn’t have enough time to tour, but they have so much there to see. If you’re an Elvis fan, definitely check it out. Sadly, Sam and I found out they closed the Heartbreak Hotel. They built a brand new one across the street called, The Guest House.

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I can’t really explain how amazing it was to finally get to Sun Records. To hear the stories of Elvis, Johnny Cash and more was kind of what I needed. It was a simple reminder what happens when ordinary people with dreams don’t give up.

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Of course during our night stay we hit up Beale Street! All Sam wanted after his weekend of running was barbeque and blues. O’Sullivans had this super cool outdoor area that I would love to go back to in the summer time. They also have Wet Willies in Memphis, which of course made me nostalgic for Charlotte so Sam and I couldn’t leave without stopping there for a frozen drink.

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Good music, good food, good drinks and even better company. It was a great trip and I definitely can’t wait to go back!

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Exploring Little Rock + Area Travel Tips

There is just something about road trips that brings excitement. The open road. The adventure. The discovery of something new, I love it all!

Recently I took a trip to Little Rock to watch my boyfriend run his 15th marathon. On the way there I had a crazy question that I seriously never thought of before. Why is Arkansas not pronounced the same as Kansas? I may be way late in the game, but has anyone else ever asked themselves this? If so, I did a little research and here’s what I found.

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Okay, now back to our trip!

We took advantage of the amazing weather the day before his 26.2 mile run to explore a city we’d never been in before. The downtown area was very clean and had tons of restaurants within walking distance of each other. The River Market on the waterfront reminded me of Charlotte’s 7th Street Market. We had dinner the first night at Bruno’s Little Italy and the second at Copper Grill. There was even a pitstop for a beer tasting at Blue Canoe Brewing. Outside of the quaint downtown area though, there was so much else to see and do.


 These are the steps of Central High School, a place that played a prominent role in the desegragation of public schools in the 1950’s


I’m not a very fashion conscious person (as you can tell by my outfit here), but if you’re into it, Little Rock is home of the Esse Purse Museum. This was right around the corner from our lunch spot which you’ll find below.

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The Root Cafe was a great lunch spot. They have a great outdoor area and focuses on one of my favorite things… local food!! I ordered a drink there, the sparkling lavender lemonade, which I’m planning on trying to recreate for a future blog post, so stay tuned!

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Gone with the Wind lovers… here is the Old Mill you see in the opening scene of the classic film. It’s believed to be the only remaining building from the movie. IMG_3515

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Just because we were there for a marathon doesn’t mean we couldn’t enjoy a special treat. We picked up some milkshakes from the Purple Cow.
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Post marathon lattes at Nexus Coffee were the perfect way to end our trip before we headed off for a night in Memphis (that blog coming soon)! I ordered a matcha latte of course, sweetened with honey. IMG_3510


 

5:30am wakeup calls had nothing on this guy. He finished his run with a smile and I couldn’t have been more proud. He inspires me every day to push myself. Snapseed (17)

A few tips

  • North Little Rock is just a few miles over the river. Hotels are a little cheaper and it took us less than 10 minutes to get into downtown.
  • There seemed to be plenty of sidestreet parking downtown and it was free after 6
  • Most of the sightseeing we did was pretty close in proximitiy so if you are making a quick trip like us, map it out and you can do a lot in a day.
  • Check schedules before you go. With it being the south, there were quite a few things closed on Sundays
  • Little Rock has 2 trolley routes you can take to get around the area. The blue line crosses the river into North Little Rock. The Green Line stays downtown. The green line doesn’t run on Sundays.
  • There are plenty of FREE activities in the area including Old Mill, Central High Visitor Center and MacArthur Museum of Military History that we visited.

Stay tuned for my next trip recap…. Memphis!

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Through a Writer’s Eyes

2017, you came in like a lion and went out like one too. You were rough. You challenged my spirit and made me question my life’s path. At times you knocked me down, but at the same time, you reignited my passion. You brought out my strength and made me believe that I can be whoever it is I choose to be.

In 2017, I put writing on the back burner. For whatever reason, I just didn’t have it in me. Days and weeks would pass when I didn’t write a word. I kept using time as the problem by saying that I didn’t have enough of it. The truth though was that I did have time. I just had more excuses. I didn’t want it bad enough. I needed a break.

This week, as I sit down to reflect on my goals, I can feel it. I can feel the fire slowly burning inside of me. I want to write again. I want to finish the story I started two years ago and then… I want to write more. I want to create more stories for people to escape to. I want to write about life, adventure, love and truth.

Along with those words, I want to show the world through the eyes of a writer. How I interpret what I see around me. Where my inspiration comes from. The way words heal my soul and how I escape when it becomes too much.

So, if you’d like to tag along, you’re in the right place. I’ll be writing all about the journey here and you can subscribe below!

2018, I can see it now. You’re going to be the best year yet!

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