Travel to New Zealand

I almost have to pinch myself that I’m able to write a blogpost about this destination, but after 60 hours of roundtrip travel, I earned it. New Zealand is a place that once you leave, is hard to imagine actually exists. The turquoise-blue water. The air that’s so fresh that spas are begging for it to be shipped in bottles just so people can inhale. The grassy mountains covered in fuzzy lambs. The scenic drives where you’ll go around a curve and be faced with a mountain swallowed in clouds. New Zealand’s really got it going on.

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Thanks to my little sister, Sydney, who prudently decided to au pair in this beautiful country. Thanks to her, and my mom and hours of researching this itinerary which I am now happy to share with you. Read below for 14 days of my life that were spent gallivanting around New Zealand’s North + South Islands.

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A few things you should know before you go:

  • If you’re from New Zealand, you are a kiwi. Yes, the fruit, but also the bird that hangs around the national parks.
  • You will need to rent a car if you want to see any of the country – get ready to drive on the other side of the road.
  • The best fashion accessory here is a good pair of walking shoes, comfortable running shorts or leggings and lots of sunscreen.
  • When entering customs, be prepared for strict regulations about what you can bring in. New Zealand maintains a wonderful ecosystem where there are no snakes, poisonous creatures, bees that sting, etc. They want to keep the yuck out and keep the amazing in. (Some hiking trails even require you to wash your sneakers before entering the trailhead.)
  • Don’t be surprised to find yourself in motels as you are driving around the country. These motels are surprisingly well-appointed, with kitchenettes, showers, and a clean place to lay your head. If you are traveling in peak season, be sure to book far in advance, as we saw many neon “No Vacancy” signs.

Day 1 – You’ve landed in Auckland!

Welcome, or kia ora. Spend the day exploring the cafes and treating your senses to the New Zealand flat white – a velvety smooth latte beverage. Walk down Queen Street and enjoy the shops before making your way to the Auckland Art Museum where there is a great mix of contemporary and indigenous Maori art. Have dinner at Amano and enjoy native dishes such as lamb, fresh crudo and local cheeses.

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Day 2 + 3 – Lake Taupo

Today you are driving 2+ hours from Auckland to New Zealand’s largest lake. For Lord of the Ring fans, you will be driving through Hobbiton, so be sure to add this as a stop if that’s your kind of thing. Be sure to pack your bathing suit as you will absolutely want to stop and swim in the geothermal pools. Enjoy a soak before finishing the drive to Taupo, where you will enjoy the sunset, preferably with a room overlooking the grand lake.

Stay: Millennium Resorts: Lake Taupo

The next day, take a short drive to Huka Falls – the #1 tourist attraction in New Zealand, known for their turquoise blue rapids that lead into a cascading waterfall. There are several hikes around Huka Falls to choose from.

Day 4 – Hawke’s Bay

Wine, anyone? How about a visit to New Zealand’s oldest winery? Head to Hawke’s Bay, one of New Zealand’s famous wine regions to enjoy Syrah paired with lunch at Mission Estate. Make a stop at one of the other vineyards around Hawke’s Bay – we suggest Craggy Range.

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Day 5 – Coromandel

This quaint beach town will have you feeling Beach Boy vibes in no time. If you aren’t already used to seeing Kiwi’s walk around in public without shoes, now is the time – in coffee shops, grocery stores, the works. The blue water here will leave your jaw on the ground. Be sure to try Coromandel mussels – they are huge and meaty with rainbow shells. Head to Cathedral Cove where you will hike 2 hours RT to discover a rock formation on the beach which can be carved in your memory for years to come. After the hike, take a short drive to Hot Water Beach, where you will see beachgoers hard at work digging holes in the sand to sit in homemade hot tubs. The heat rises from the geothermal activity underneath and people often dig pools to sit in, relax and enjoy the stars.

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Day 6 – Waiheke Island

One of my favorite days in New Zealand was spent on this island, just a 35-minute ferry from downtown Auckland. This island is full of vineyards, and even if that’s not your thing (which I’m not sure why it wouldn’t be), it’s worth a trip alone just to see the color of this water – noticing a theme? No, but seriously – words can not describe this water. It’s basically what Disney tries to emulate at their theme parks or what you would imagine in heaven, or the crayon you would grab when coloring the ideal ocean. It’s stunning and it blows the Caribbean away.

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Anyway, Waiheke is like Napa, but dare I say better. You will need a car, so if you planned this portion of the trip on a whim like my mom and I, you get on a hop-on hop-off bus, which is actually ideal – you have a designated driver, no need to worry about directions, and it comes every 30 minutes, leaving you time to enjoy your tasting and work your way around the island. The bus stops at all of the island’s wineries so plan accordingly! My mom and I opted to stop at the Goldie Estate and Stonyridge wineries. Before heading back to Auckland, we made a stop for oysters at the former Creative Director of Louis Vuitton’s Oyster Inn to taste one of oyster enthusiasts favorite types of oyster, the Te Matuka.

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Fun fact: New Zealand surprisingly only produces 1% of the world’s wine, and Waiheke produces 1% of that 1%.

Read more about the island from a native, my friend Amy’s article in Vogue here

Day 7 – South Island bound – Nelson

The easiest domestic flight you have ever been on awaits you this morning. Check in, and sit at your gate. No showing your id, no security, no nothing. I don’t remember if I even showed my ticket.

After a quick flight from the North to South Island you will find yourself in Nelson, a beach town known for their craft beer scene. Spend the day visiting craft breweries like Spring & Fern or McCashian’s and laying by the beach.

Day 8 – Abel Tasman National Park

Lucky you. Today is a feast for the eyes. There are many things to do at Abel Tasman – kayaking, wind surfing, parasailing, etc. My family opted to take a few hour’s sail and then hike back to where we parked our car. The hike was 12 km and takes 4 hours, or if you’re like me and every turn takes your breath away, more like 5 after all the photo-taking. This is one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve ever been on – and you will want to stop at the crystal clear beach access points to cool off every hour or so.

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Drive through Franz Joseph Glacier and stop for a quick hike if you’re able – unfortunately it was raining the day we made it to the glacier, but we stopped in the town that feels like Everest Base Camp for lunch. Many people were getting ready to take a helicopter to the top of the glacier, the best way to see it. After, we were on our way to Haast. They told us not to go to Haast – they said don’t waste your time, it’s in the boonies. We didn’t have a choice as we made our way toward Queenstown. We happened to be there on New Year’s Eve and had an amazing night at the local bar, dancing the night and year away with local Kiwi’s. Kiwi’s like to have fun – that’s for sure. Think people of all ages on table tops. Young men chugging champagne from the bottle and suddenly appearing naked to dance to their favorite song. New Year’s kisses from the locals. Give Haast a chance, it might surprise you – and it happens to be a naturally good stopping point on your way to Queenstown.

Day 10, 11, 12 – Queenstown

The scenery in Queenstown will take your breath away. The lakes are clean enough to drink from. The town is quite touristy, but you can find some great restaurants and shops which is a welcome change after you’ve been in small towns for the last few days.

Queenstown is home to adventure sport and it’s where bungee-jumping was invented, but offers something for everyone. My sweet sister treated me to a trail ride, which was absolutely lovely – riding through the mountains with fields of deer and bunnies hopping all around. There are also plenty of vineyards in this area, so if you haven’t had enough wine, you can fill your glass here.

Be sure to take the Skyline Gondola to dine, get cocktails, or partake in bungee jumping, lugeing or mountain biking all while taking in the sweeping views of the town.

One day will be completely devoted to driving to see the 8th Wonder of the World, Millford Sound. The drive is a scenic 4 hours from Queenstown (which is crazy because it looks like it would only be a 20-minute drive) Many people contemplate doing this day trip, but trust me, it’s worth it. Here you will take a ferry around the fjord and really let New Zealand seal the deal that it’s one of the most beautiful places you’ve ever been. Take a few extra deep breaths as you watch the seals lap up the water or watch the 450 ft. waterfall pour over the mountain top.

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Day 13 – Dunedin + Omaru

Dunedin is a town with heavy Scottish influence, and one of the largest in New Zealand. Stop here for lunch and to soak in college vibes in Oceania.

Make your way to Omaru before dusk – when you’re in for a treat. If you find yourself near the ocean, and look closely you will see blue breasted penguins making their way from the sea to the shore. Quietly watch them waddle into the forest. You can’t help but smile watching these little guys go.

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Day 14 – Say goodbye!

Never easy to leave vacation – but New Zealand is especially hard to let go of. Don’t worry – it won’t leave you. Your mind will thank you for years to come that it has this euphoric place to escape to.

Souvenir recommendations:

  • Photos! You can’t put your camera down here.
  • A sheepskin rug. If only I didn’t pack in a carry on.
  • Possum-wool scarf/gloves. They sell this everywhere – not sure but maybe I’m missing something. The new merino wool?
  • Manuka honey. Manuka is the flower that grows on tea tree plants, and the bees go crazy for this stuff. It’s also the only known cure for stomach ulcers.
  • Wine Bags. Enough said. Use these handy bags to transport it safely back. Thanks for introducing me to these, Mrs. E!

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Is New Zealand on your 2018 bucket list?



City Guide: Jackson Hole

A Sunday morning coffee thought. I’ve met so many people through my travels and the motivators behind planning travel interest me: do you go back to the same place every year? do you pick a different destination to explore each trip? do you use a travel planner, or pour hours into researching a destination, or just book the trip and figure it out when you get there? I’m the kind of person that spends hours planning the trip – from setting flight alerts to areas on my travel bucket list, to picking restaurants, accommodations and mapping out a day-by-day itinerary. I put my heart and soul into my travels because I don’t think it’s guaranteed that I’ll be back and I want to get the most out of every destination. I do see the allure of arriving and figuring everything out, but to me that’s too risky. What kind of traveler are you?

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I recently went back to a destination that has a very special place in my heart. Little did I know when I planned this trip that my heart would be hurting due to a tragic death in my family – my Gramps passing away in his sleep. There is something incredibly soothing about visiting a place that means so much to you, it feels familiar, yet like it wants to challenge your senses. My Gramps accomplished in many areas, but one of his favorite things was nature photography, so being immersed in all the nature immediately after his passing felt like I was with him. He was on my mind the entire time.

Jackson Hole is the intersection of the wild west and Americana old school class and here are some of the highlights:


Mountain Modern Motel – I helped open Mountain Modern Motel, a contemporary motel right off the main square in Jackson Hole. The accommodations are functional and minimalistic, with every modern convenience you could hope for. The rooms are equipped for your favorite Jackson activities, i.e. there is an area in your room to store your skis, hooks on the wall for your backpacks and a large sink to clean off your hiking boots. This is the perfect base-camp for your time in Jackson Hole.


Jackson Hole Shopping – Walk around the square and peek into the shops selling western novelties. I snagged a turquoise ring, plaid pajama shorts and some blackberry salt water taffy.

Via Ferrata – With Italian origins, this sport is exhilarating and an exciting change after days of hiking. You are harnessed via steel cords to the mountain and literally climb and scale the rock formations.


Grand Teton & Yellowstone National Park – Take a day and enjoy the beauty of my favorite national park. There is nothing like seeing the Grand Tetons on a clear day. I recommend taking a hike around Jenny Lake and then boating back to continue to your car and driving through Yellowstone National Park. You’re guaranteed to see wildlife – I got lucky and saw a moose!


Cream + Sugar Ice CreamWe met the owner behind Cream + Sugar ice cream sandwiches. My favorite flavors were huckleberry and mint chocolate chip.

Snake River BreweryCan’t come out west without stopping at a place like this. Sit outside and enjoy the view of the mountains, with people sitting around fire pits and playing corn hole.

Lotus Organic CaféStop here for your fix of grain bowls, salads and noodle dishes. Get your perfect lunch Instagram here.

Persephone Bakery I couldn’t believe a place like this exists in Jackson! Enjoy your croissants, cappuccinos, and granola by the outdoor fire pit and snuggle up with the blankets they drape over chairs.


Are there any places you can’t stay away from? xC

Nashville City Guide

In life, we don’t take enough spontaneous trips. I’m not talking getting in your car, or in my case subway, and going to a new neighborhood and eating brunch; I’m talking buying a last minute ticket and flying somewhere. I’ve been guilty of this too, until last weekend when I surprised my mom and flew to meet her in Nashville, where she was putting on a conference.


Pinewood Social if WeWork were a restaurant it would be Pinewood Social. Coffee served alongside cocktails, a community table covered in MacBooks alongside booths filled with people eating sandwiches and salads. In the back find a swanky bowling alley, and in the summer you can find an airstream serving cocktails next to the swimming pool and bocci ball courts.

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Hattie B’s Famous Nashville Hot Chicken. We waited 45 minutes at 2pm for it. Hangry? Yes. Worth it? Yes.

Red Bicycle – Crepes and coffee. Next time, I would plan to start my morning here before heading to get a manicure/pedicure at the adorable nearby salon, Poppy & Monroe.

Fin & Pearl – Had a reservation here though I didn’t end up making it. Go here for an elevated seafood dinner.

Biscuit Love – Another one I didn’t make it to. Upon pulling up in our uber, we realized many other people had the same idea. It was raining so we opted not to wait, but the line supposedly moves quickly and the biscuits are apparently worth it.

Acme Feed & Seed – Come here for frozen moonshine lemonade, rooftop views and people watching. On the bottom level check out the on air radio station.

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12 South – This seems to be the trendy spot in Nashville – home to Reese Witherspoon’s Draper James, curated graffiti on every corner and a celebrity jean favorite, imogene + willie. Ideal spot for brunching followed by shopping.

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Broadway – The touristy must-see spot in Nashville. A street where every shop is either a cowboy boot store or bar with live music. The musicians rotate every four hours, so at that time you can expect the masses to flock to the streets looking for a new place to order a PBR and do the two step. If you’re lucky enough you might see the Nashville Clogger – you are in for a treat. Though not a country fan, we went to the Country Music Hall of Fame (loved the Bob Dylan exhibition). Make sure to stop by the GooGoo Factory – home to the famous Nashville sweet treat.


It was a great spontaneous weekend, and my lesson? Book the ticket.

Lessons in Food: Gleanings from living with my Grandparents

For those of you that don’t know, I lived with my grandparents for the last three months. I get mixed reactions when I tell people this, everything from “bet you’re excited to get out of there” to “enjoy the time with them.” The truth is: I loved every minute of it. Even when my grandparents bickered over the daily trials of living together for over 50 years, I found solace in being surrounded by two people who have seen so much and care so much about me.

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Though I lived with them, we didn’t see too much of each other as I work during the days. The two definitive times we spent together were breakfast and dinner.

Breakfast normally went something like this: I would sneak down the stairs to hear my grandmother sweetly say, “Do I hear a mouse?” I would then pop an espresso pod into the machine and decide between the breakfast options I knew my grandmother had spent hours carefully choosing at the grocery. My grandma always stocks fresh fruit, varieties of bread and endless options of cereal, so the decision, while not easy, made breakfast feel like a treat. We even made up a few recipes as the summer passed, our favorite being fruit salad on top of waffles with no syrup, just sweetened by the natural taste of the fruit. This was especially enjoyable for my diabetic grandmother who didn’t have to miss out on yet another tasty bite of Canadian maple syrup. At some point in my meal, she would go out to grab the paper and assess the weather, and return, inquisitive as to what I had made. The look of pleasure of her grocery shopping success was enough to make my day.

Dinner was my grandpa’s domain. The third thing he decided when he woke up was what was for dinner–after what to wear and if he should bike or swim. I kid you not. So, off to work I went fully anticipating my grandpa’s dinner when I was to return home that evening. My grandpa, or rather, Chef Arthuro, is an amazing cook. I imagine some of his culinary excellence has been acquired by his extensive travels and is in his blood, and therefore in mine. He grew up in Brooklyn, rode his bike through Europe and went on several medical missions to Pakistan and India. He took things away from each that translate to his cooking. Not to mention, his career as a surgeon gives him the cutting credentials in the kitchen.

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Dinner was served promptly when I got home, the meal ready to go at the exact moment I entered the door, with a table beautifully set by my grandma. Favorite meals? Salmon Arthuro and Eggplant Arthuro. Sorry, I am not permitted to share the recipe.

Dinner was followed by a variety of cheese that my grandpa and I washed down with wine and after a clap and the posed the question of “how many coffees?”, my Gramps would quickly run to the bathroom to brush his teeth, or “cleanse his palette” for dessert. Watermelon, Klondike bars, and Bosch pears covered in Grand Marnier were our favorites.

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Eating with my grandparents taught me to slow down and enjoy conversation. No phones allowed, no rushing through a meal to watch a TV show. You sit, you have conversation and you digest.

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The stories that were shared, the love that went into making each meal, and sitting between my two healthy grandparents…reflecting on it, these meals were the best part of my summer.