Vacations are tricky beasts. You plan them with high hopes and the best intentions, but there are variable factors that affect how enjoyable an experience ends up being. Everything from where you stay and the weather, to how well you packed and the little unexpected moments--a secret hike that an insider tells you about, or a local seafood joint you discover by accident--can make a trip a lifetime highlight, or something you want to forget. Since I love learning about the best travel experiences others have had (so I can hopefully follow suit one day), I thought I'd reflect on my all-time favorite vacations, and what made them such wonderful memories.
The destination: Paso Robles, California
Location: Justin Vineyard
The year: 2010
Duration: 2 nights
The reason for the trip: Valentine’s Day
What made it so special/memorable: Geoffrey and I had been working a lot, so he planned a weekend getaway in Paso Robles at my favorite winery, Justin Vineyards. Most of the trips we’d taken at that point were somewhere warm - the desert or by the beach, so I was excited to go someplace chilly in the winter. We drove there on a gloomy Friday evening and about a mile from the property, it started to pour torrentially. It didn’t let up for nearly the entire duration of our trip, but that’s what made it so special. We stayed in a tiny cottage on the property with a fireplace and read books, played board games and drank plenty of wine.
Vacation in a word: Cozy
Best meal: The four-course tasting menu in the five table dining room, at the vineyard.
Go-to drink: Red wine
Best thing I packed: Hunter Boots
Best thing I brought back: Cases of wine
Scent associated with the trip: Firewood
The destination: New Orleans, Louisiana
Location: French Quarter
The year: 2011
Duration: 3 nights
The reason for the trip: Mardi Gras / Visiting a friend who'd just moved there
What made it so special/memorable: New Orleans is a special place. The energy of the city, the people and the overall vibe has a surreal, slightly magical feel to it, so it’s hard to pinpoint one special moment, but there were several that made it memorable. While Mardi Gras is easily something I’ll never forget, I enjoyed some of the more simple moments even more, like vintage shopping on Magazine Street, marching in a spontaneous second line, drinking my first Sazerac, and enjoying a leisurely Sunday at a Bagel/Bingo brunch party. It’s one of the best trips we’ve ever taken and I can’t wait to revisit this city when Sloan’s a little older.
Vacation in a word: Decadent
Best meal: Eating freshly boiled crawfish in our hotel room after getting caught in a deluge
Go-to drink: The aforementioned Sazerac
Best thing I packed: Jeweled head piece
Best thing I brought back: Set of vintage geode prints
Scent associated with the trip: Peychaud Bitters
The destination: Tuscany, Italy
Location: Borgo Santo Pietro
The year: 2012
Duration: 3 nights
The reason for the trip: Our honeymoon
What made it so special/memorable: This was the second stop on our trip and it was the perfect transition from the bustling streets of Rome. This remote villa is about 40 minutes from Siena, nestled in the wine country. The location and buildings were stunning, but what I remember most was drinking regional wines and playing with the house Shar Pei, Balthazar. He’d stroll around the grounds, with a stick jutting out of his jowls like a cigar, chase birds and squirrels and at night, he’d curl up next to the lobby fireplace, snoring loudly.
Vacation in a word: Transformative
Best meal: White truffle gnocchi
Go-to drink: Negroni
Best thing I packed: An extra suitcase to bring back souvenirs/clothing
Best thing I brought home: Olive oil
Scent associated with the trip: Lavender