Portland

If I had to explain my Portland experience in 3 words, it would be food, coffee and beer.

I recently spent a weekend exploring Portland and had a really amazing time!  I did a ton of research beforehand and arrived with the intention of trying new food, drinking the local craft beers, visiting the popular sights and enjoying the things that make Portland unique. I had such a good experience that I decided to share my findings with you!

I ate and drank way too much… but it was worth every calorie.

Portland is beautiful

Portland is beautiful

If you are like me at all,  you will enjoy this helpful list of must-sees and must-eats.

Portland, Oregon is a beautiful place. It’s very green, all the people I came in contact with were really nice, there were so many unique restaurants and bars and the transportation around the city was super easy. Here are the places that I went to and loved:

Portland Saturday Market

Portland Saturday Market

Eat and Drink

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Best Places to Eat in Paris

Out of all the places in Europe we visited, Paris had the best food. Whether I ate a full meal at a cafe, got crepes at a to-go window, or bought groceries to make a meal back at my apartment, everything was fantastic! Below are a few of my favorite places to eat in Paris.

Best Restaurant

This restaurant was recommended to me by a coworker. We tried it and now I have to recommend it to you! If you ever visit Paris, you MUST go to Le Comptoir.

Le Comptoir in ParisThis was the only cafe on the street that had a line, so we knew it had to be good. While we waited to get a seat, a man came around playing a sweet song on the accordion, which made our experience extra magical. They do not have a menu in English, so make sure to have your translation tools handy. We used our trusty offline Google Translate app and figured out what was what. The French waitress seemed relieved that she didn’t have to explain the whole menu to another American couple!

appetizer at Le Comptoir in Paris

The restaurant is a little cramped as the tables were all very close. Our table was literally in the doorway. It works though, we didn’t mind and everyone eventually got to eat! We ordered the special of the day for our appetizer (having no idea what it would be) and this wonderful dish of mushrooms, pancetta and egg came out.
This was the best thing we ever had in our life. Ever.

Dinner at Le Comptoir in Paris

Lamb at Le Comptoir in Paris

The meals were equally as delicious (although I could have ate that appetizer all day). We finished our meals off with coffee and creme brulee. The prices weren’t too high, I think we spent about 80€ on wine, an appetizer, meals, coffee and dessert. After I returned home, I saw that Le Comptoir was featured on Saveur Magazine’s Culinary Travel Awards. I guess we made a good choice!

Best Dessert

If you’re craving sweets, We loved Patisserie Viennoise. We went here twice. I read about it in David Lebovitz’s book The Sweet Life in Paris before I left on vacation. I trusted his judgement and I am so glad I did.

Patisserie Viennois

This place has really good hot chocolate or I mean, le chocolat chaud. It’s not like your typical hot chocolate either. It’s dark, not super sweet and loaded with fresh, thick whipped cream. They give you sugar packets but we loved it as is. They also have a variety of cakes and cookies. I LOVED the macaroons.

hot chocolate at Patisserie Viennois

By the way, this place is closed on Mondays! We learned that the hard way…

Best hot chocolate in Paris

Eating Outside

Another cool part about Paris is that there are so many places to have a nice picnic. You see so many people with their baguette sandwiches, a bottle of wine and some cheese, just hanging out in the most beautiful places. A couple of my favorite places include:

Eating lunch by the lake in Le Jardin du Luxembourg:

Le Jardin du Luxembourg

Drinking a bottle of wine on the Sein River while watching the boats go by

Seine River

And of course, bringing a blanket and eating food on the grass in front of the Eiffel Tower:

IMG_5282

Have you been to any of these places? Where in Paris do you recommend to eat?

 

Three Weeks on a European Vacation

Hello America, we have returned! Three weeks was a long, but perfect amount of time for our first vacation through Europe. We were able to visit six total countries and get a good feel for each of them (technically, we drove through Austria- but it still counts), and by the end of it all, we were ready to come home.

After traveling so far for the first time, we came back home with a new perspective of the world! We were amazed at how nice people are, I was in awe at the way food is prepared, consumed and shared in each country, I experienced so many new things and let my eyes soak in so many old things…. it was absolutely amazing.

We took so many pictures! Check out some of the highlights of our trip below:

Germany

Germany is a beautiful country – full of so much greenery. The cities are clean and the transportation systems in each city are the most efficient thing I have ever seen in my life.  Driving is easy too. Not to mention every route seemed to be the “scenic route.” This was taken on the way to the Neuschwanstein Castle:

Driving in Germany

I have never been happier to drive in my life than on the Autobahn. The way people drive and the flow of traffic just WORKS so nicely. I loathe California drivers.

neuschwanstein castle, Germany

Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

They say the the Neuschwanstein Castle is what Walt Disney got his inspiration for the Cinderella Castle. Do you see it?

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle

Disneyland Castle

Disneyland Castle

We were lucky enough to plan our trip around the real Oktoberfest in Munich! We attended the first day and got the see the opening parade where all of the breweries take their kegs down to the tents. The parade was complete with many “Prosts!” and beer chugging. This was 9:00 a.m. by the way…

Oktoberfest Parade, Munich

Oktoberfest Parade, Munich

We waited about two hours to get into the first tent but once inside, the energy was unbelievable! These people sure love their beer! I bought a Dirndl to go along with our huge pints of Hofbrau!

Oktoberfest in Munich

Just look at how excited we are!

By mid-day, the grass hills started to fill up with people who decided to take a nap!

Oktoberfest, Munich

Oktoberfest, Munich

Italy

Our next stop was Italy. There’s an entire part of my family in Trieste that we were able to meet for the first time! They were so kind and welcoming and gave us a whole new perspective on the word “familia.” Trieste is located in North Italy, right next to Slovenia.  It is a BEAUTIFUL city, situated on the coast and filled with so much history and spectacular views. This is the main Piazza at night:

Trieste, Italy

Trieste, Italy

We toured the Castello di Miramare that was located right on the crystal clear sea.

castello di Miramare

Castello di Miramare

The views are stunning:

Trieste, Italy

Three happy travelers

We took a day trip to Venice – the city of beautiful canals and tons of stairs. Every place we looked was so beautiful, it was very hard to pick just a few favorite pictures.

Venice, Italy

Venice, Italy

The canals in Venice

The canals in Venice

We even went on a Gondola Ride! It was sooooo amazing. This was one of the happiest moments of my life- just being on the Gondola in Venice with my family. It was the moment when I thought, “After all this planning and anticipation, I did it.” It felt good.

Gondola Ride

Gondola Ride

After Trieste, we spent one day in Milan. If you ignore the mass amount of panhandlers, the city was beautiful. Especially the amazing Duomo. We climbed all the way to the top – spectacular!

Duomo, Milan

Just LOOK at this thing!

Paris

I’m not going to lie – Paris is hands down the best place ever. Everywhere we looked was beautiful and everything we ate was so delicious. For someone who had never been to Paris, I expected the city tp have endless amount of Creperies, wine and cheese shops around and be full of people smoking cigarettes and eating baguettes… well it’s true!

We stayed in an apartment in the Latin Quarter which was a great area to be in. Our street had so many shops and cafes and the nightlife scene was pretty cool. We weren’t too far from Notre Dam, which is where this amazing photo was taken:

A view of Paris from Notre Dam

A view of Paris from Notre Dam

We began our Paris adventure on a private Vespa tour. This was an awesome way to see the whole city up close!

Vespa Tour in Paris

Vespa Tour in Paris

We visited the Louvre, we climbed the Arc De  Triomphe, we relaxed by the river and had a dinner picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower (where we just happened to get ENGAGED! weee!!).  We even left a love lock on the bridge ❤

Love Locks in Paris

LOVE!!

I can go on about Paris for days, but I won’t (I’ll save that for another post).

Amsterdam

Amsterdam was nice. Maybe we were burnt out at the end of our trip, maybe the bus system stressed us out, or maybe we just missed Paris, but it didn’t live up to the other countries we visited. Either way, the city was very pretty and there were a bunch of unusual experiences to be had.

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

We walked around the canals, visited the Anne Frank House, ate lunch in Dam Square and even saw some interesting people and places in the Red Light District.

Check out these leaning buildings!

Amsterdam

 

This trip was the best thing we’ve ever done. It only took us about a week to get back into the groove of things and back on a decent sleep schedule… more time to plan the next trip!

Stay tuned for more posts that go into detail about each city I visited, along with things I learned and insider tips on the best places to go.

Print Those Confirmations!

Now that my Europe trip is getting closer (like DAYS closer), I am spending more time printing screenshots of maps, email confirmations and my itinerary spreadsheets. I may be over preparing – I may not ever need to look at all these confirmation emails… but what if my phone and laptop batteries die, the hotel Wi-Fi takes a crap and the GPS that came with the rental car only speaks in German? I’ll be happy to have those prints then.

I did find this really spiffy notebook/folder thing at Target:

Perfect folder for travelling

THE Perfect Folder for Traveling

I can print all the things I may need to ease my mind and fit them into slots according to country. It has a place to write notes if I want and it’s small enough to fit in my purse. There couldn’t be anything more perfect!

Fits right in my purse!

Fits right in my purse!

Not only am I printing out hotel and transportation confirmations, but I’m also printing directions to places I want to see. Like this cafe in Paris that was recommended to me by a coworker and David Lebovitz in his book.

This place Pâtisserie Viennoise, apparently has the best hot chocolate (or le chocolat chaud)  you will ever eat in your life. Duh, I have to try this. Luckily it’s not too far from our apartment!

Things to Print

Okay, so maybe you’re the type that just likes to see where the train takes you and you have no need to print directions to that one specific place that serves that one specific thing… Even so in the case of a disaster, here is a list of things that I have found to be important to print out and take with you on an international trip, no matter what:

  • Your boarding pass (get through the airport lines faster)
  • Hotel confirmation emails 
  • A copy of your passport to keep in your suitcase (what if you lost the original or it was stolen? Having a copy might help expedite the process of getting back home)
  • Any important prescription labels/paperwork (in case you need more)
  • Any other reservation confirmations
  • If you’re bringing your computer, it’s a good idea to print out instructions on how to change your DNS  settings. Who’da thought you open your computer in Germany and see the internet in German! Here’s  good resource from Google.

Well I’m off to Europe in a few days! I hope I will get a chance to write here and post pictures. Or you can just follow me on Instagram: @Kranbox

Ciao!

Trains in Europe

Transportation has been the bane of my existence these past couple of months. Why the heck is it so difficult to get this figured out?

Figure out the European Train system

There are so many options: Eurail passes, one-way tickets, global passes, 2 country passes, 3 country passes, 5-day passes, 3-day passes…. *bangs head against the wall*  We are on a budget and we need to save as much money as possible so my job is to figure out if a multi-county pass is really worth it or if it is cheaper to book single rides.

I feel like one of those crazy people on that TV show “Extreme Couponing” who spends hours of their day researching every single option, making lists and comparisons, just to save some money. I wish there was a travel agency that just booked transportation for me (oh I looked).

After all this research and frustration, I think I may have it figured out. Keep reading to see how I finally regained my sanity and see the resources that helped me. If you’re roaming around multiple countries in Europe  like I am, maybe this can help you too.

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Camping in Zion National Park, Utah

My boyfriend and I recently took a trip to Zion National Park. It was a lightly planned, extended-weekend vacation in honor of his birthday. We were saving for another, larger vacation so our goal was to spend as little as possible. We had an absolute amazing time. 

Overview

Zion National Park is about a 7-hour drive from Southern California and about 3 hours coming from Las Vegas (nice half-way point, am I right?).  I have to say this was my favorite hiking trip ever everrr. The canyons are so BIG and colorful and they get BIGGER as you drive closer to the park. We passed through many small towns on the way and everyone was so nice. The trails are spectacular and range from “easy” to “holy-cow-we’re climbing-straight-up-a-cliff”.

The transportation around the whole park is free (after you pay the 7-day, $25 entrance  fee, of course) and the busses come by every 5-10 minutes. The many trails lead you to amazing views, stream, waterfalls, rivers, caves and cliffs. We saw a few deer walking around and their faces were just like “WUT?” Oh, and if you wonder why anyone on a nature vacation would ever want a giant movie theater way out here, you will know when you’re on your second day of the heat. Zion is so cool. Just look at it, these pictures don’t even do it justice:

Zion National Park

Emerald Pool Trail

Camping tips

If you planning to visit Zion, make your camping/lodging reservations early! We planned this kind of late and everything was sold out a few weeks in advance. Luckily, they have a “first come first serve” campsite – South Campground. The way this campsite operates is extremely silly and very confusing if you don’t know what to do.
Here is what you do: Continue reading

First Time Planning a European Vacation

We’re going to Europe! I have always wanted to visit Italy, that’s where my family is from, after all. So we (my boyfriend and I) decided to make it a full on 3-week vacation and visit Germany, France and the Netherlands too. My mother and brother are joining us for half of the trip as well! What fun!

saving for paradise falls

This is how we save for our trip

This is the first of a series of posts about planning our trip to Europe. Since I am “the planner” in the family, I have taken it upon myself to plan out our itinerary. I decided that I wanted to plan the trip my way, rather than take a tour. Most people recommend taking a guided tour and having a guide make all the reservations for you (that is starting to sound nice, right about now). But I thought, I can do it! I want to be on MY schedule and do what I want to do.

Oh but there is so much to do! Plane tickets, train tickets, hotels/apartments, reservations and car rentals, oh my! I have been planning this trip little by little for the past couple months. I thought planning out food for a 4-day camping trip was hard… this vacation reaches is a whole other level. It is a challenge but I LOVE it and I know it will be worth it in the end.

Through trial and error of planning this vacation, I am happy to share some things that have worked for me so far: Continue reading