Otavalo Market, Ecuador

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(All photos by Daniel Nevares – @danieljtravels)

I’m not a huge shopper but I was in shopping heaven when we strolled into the Otavalo Market in Ecuador.  It’s about an hour and a half drive from Quito and it is well worth it.  Apparently, they have been promoting this market a ton so there were a bit of tourist in the area but that didn’t matter.  There was so much culture and so many beautiful things, it didn’t disappoint.  I had been brushing up on my Spanish before this trip so it was also a great opportunity to practice the language.  I ended up with many, many things from this market and I would go back in a heartbeat.

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The colors were stunning.  I love bright colors so I was drawn to all the fabrics.

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I had to stop at every vendor.

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My first purchase was the hat you’ve seen in many posts now.  I love it so much and got it from this stand.

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I had to try on a lot to find “the one” and this woman was great with my broken Spanish and indecisive nature.

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There were so many options!  Honestly, if they were easier to transport I probably would have bought so many.

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And then I found the one I loved the most that has now graced many of our blog posts :).  I was so pleased I looked to Dan in excitement only to see he had been taking photos of us the whole time.  His Spanish is great so whenever I would get stuck on what to say, I would look to him with this exact expression like “come help me with a word!”

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With my new hat, we carried on.  There were many other things I was interested in like the food and some colorful ponchos.

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It seemed I needed one to match my hat and this is where we found this adorable woman who insisted on helping me try them all on.  Of course hoping I would buy them but I’m a sucker for cute locals with beautiful merchandise :).

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After settling on this poncho and a blue one (oh and multiple others for family members), we felt pretty good about supporting the locals.  Things were not expensive and the quality is great.

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Here I am with a backpack full and multiple other bags but don’t worry, you will see how much I wear all the things in previous and future posts.  I hate to be wasteful or own things I don’t wear and sometimes I struggle with buying things wondering when I will ever wear them.  My Ecuador finds though have become my staples and I just love them!

Vinales, Cuba – 3 must do’s!

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What can I say, by now it’s probably a bit obvious that I’m a sucker for farm towns.  I’ve just returned from spending a week in Cuba (mainly in Vinales) and after all of the research I did before the trip, I wanted to share my learnings and some of my favorite spots/stops from the trip.  Throughout the week, I hope to help debunk some of the rumors and also help in the planning of your trip or inspire you to visit Cuba!

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  1. Horseback ride through Vinales Valley!  There are so many places to link up with a horseback riding guide.  We were lucky enough that there was a spot right next to our Casa Particulares in which I would highly recommend.  For $25 CUC, we spent hours riding horses through the valley where we took a tour of a tobacco farm, a coffee farm, a cave, and a restaurant with a look out over the entire valley.  You pay for food and drinks along the way but that was to be expected.

    IMG_13982. Eat the local fruit!  You will likely get a taste of this from your host if you stay in the Casa Particulares and have breakfast with them but we also stopped and bought a massive bowl of mangos for $1 CUC.  They were delicious and the fruit is just so tasty on the island.

    IMG_12953. Eat at Finca Agroecologica.  This is not somewhere you will see locals eating so it is quite well known by tourists but it’s truly an amazing experience.  You can walk the farm and see them growing everything you will eat.  It’s a beautiful farm to table experience in one of the most epic sceneries.  We loved it so much, we went twice!  You will get more food than you can ever finish.  My favorite thing was actually a special smoothie type drink they made with peppermint, local honey, pineapple, coconut, and more.

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    Miguel, the grounds keeper showing us the animals and around the farm.

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    If you can speak and/or understand Spanish, Miguel will tell you a lot about the property.

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    Just looking at these photos makes me want to go back!

    I would have also added climbing to this list but I know not everyone would be up for that.  I will dedicate a separate post for any climbers out there :).  Cuba was incredible but since it is starting to become easier for Americans to travel there, there are many things changing about travel to the country.  I read so many myths before our trip that I didn’t realize until we got there but also so many solid travel tips that I’m glad I was prepared for.  I will post those later this week.  For now, enjoy!

Air Attire.

DSC_0002Traveling can be stressful enough as it is without the added element of airport security. Nick and I recently honeymooned in Iceland and I decided to wear something that would be comfortable on a plane and easy to move through security in. The first thing that I wanted to wear were boots that zipped down the side, making it easy to take on and off quickly. Boyfriend jeans are great to wear on a plane because they are loose around the waist and aren’t constrictive. A light blazer keeps you cool but covered as you are dragging all of your luggage around- plus it is light to carry in the event that you get too warm.

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DSC_0008(Backpack- Kenneth Cole)

DSC_0009(My favorite brand of rainboots- Sorel)

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National Park Summer.

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This past weekend I made my first trip to Yosemite/Tuolumne Meadows and was in complete awe of the beauty.  I can’t believe it’s taken so long to get there and I can’t wait to get back.  Here are a few photo reasons to go.  Above is a more eastern view of half dome.

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Tenaya Lake.

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The stunning vista from afar.

More photos to come.  What’s your favorite national park?

Biking in Napa.

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 Rob and I spent last weekend in Napa hanging out after I won a free night’s stay at the Carneros Inn.  I know!  I used to be one of those people that said “I never win anything” until I won this great stay :).  The resort is beautiful and posh so if you’re looking for a fancy weekend away in Napa, this is definitely the spot.  We took the property bikes out for the day when we got there and spent some time pedaling around the back roads.  It was beautiful and it felt great to be cruising around the orange and red vineyards.

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Making sure we were following the back roads map 🙂

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Snapping pics along the way.

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24 Hour Fall City Guide.

Eventbrite had this fun idea to create a guide of all of the best spots in your area to go during the Fall months. Since we both love to get out and explore the Bay Area we thought this would be a lot of fun for us to share with you all! I live in San Rafael and Brittany lives in San Francisco and there are SO MANY things to do in our areas. One of the best things is to go out and explore Pt. Reyes because you can get out of the city and into nature. There are a lot of great restaurants to visit too. Here is our 24 hour guide to Pt. Reyes, California.

deb_sign.143135819_std (1)Breakfast: Station House Cafe. House made granola, enough said! This is a very popular spot so get here and grab your coffee early!

308Afternoon Hike: Abbott’s Lagoon. A very easy 2 mile hike with quite the reward. You’ll work up a small appetite, which you will need for what we have planned next!

normalized_stacks_cheese_pt_reyesLate Afternoon Snack: Cowgirl Creamery. World famous cheese, yes please! Grab the cheese plate and a juice to hold you over until dinner. If you are really hungry, grab a small sandwich. Mt Tam is the best tasting cheese so make sure you get a bite.

p462867440-3Sunset: Catch the early sunset at Pt. Reyes Lighthouse. An unbelievable area to park your car, take in the coast and watch the sunset from one of the most beautiful spots in the Bay Area.

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Dinner: Saltwater. Ok, so this is in Tomales Bay but the extra 5 minute drive is totally worth it. Even if you don’t like oysters there is something here for you. When my fiancee and I went to Pt Reyes a few months ago we went to Saltwater two nights in a row! Check out my review here. It is one of my favorite restaurants ever. The ambiance is INCREDIBLE, the food is STUPENDOUS, and the restaurant is fairly small so make reservations. 🙂

There you have it, the PERFECT day in Pt. Reyes. Soak up the last bits of sunshine because the rain is going to be here before you know it. Thanks to Evenbrite for this awesome concept! If you are ever planning an event in the future their event management software will help save you from all of those planning headaches! Maybe you could even plan a 24 hour tour of your own 😉