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I fell in love with Florence at a ripe age of 20 years old, when I studied the Italian language and Dante’s Inferno in a summer study abroad program  – even though what I actually did was eat my weight in gelato and run around the city with spritz always in hand.

My obsession for this magical city never died, and I always had my eye on the prize (pizza prize, to be exact) of returning to this carb filled, art centric city. Returning back to a familiar spot was a blast, especially since I already hit all the popular hot spots, and focused on hitting all of my local favorites.

What I did

Explore the oltrarno

First things first, Florence is divided by the “arno” which is italian for river. I like to think of this as Florence’s undiscovered side. This side of the river feels a bit more authentic and less crowded. The next three spots listed are located in the oltrarno.

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Giardini Bardini

My newly discovered favorite place on earth, and that’s not an exaggeration. This tranquil place was a private garden which is an extension of Boboli gardens. Every part is breathtaking, but the best part was Wisteria Lane, a tunnel of honeysuckle flowers. This spot is a great place to relax and picnic.

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Have apertivo in Santo Spirito

Italians go crazy for aperitivo, and I can see why. The best way I could describe it is happy hour on steroids. It’s a light bite style buffet, accompanied with drinks. For a traditional style aperitivo, a light (usually dry or bitter drink) is consumed, including: Campari, Vermouth, Negroni, Aperol Spritz and Prosecco – but anything goes really. Apertivio is typically between 6-9PM, and offers one drink with light style buffet between 7-10 euros. As far as where to go, Santo Spirito is a square which has such a local feel, and always feels alive.

My favorites apertivo spots in Santo Spirito include: Volume, Popcafe and Tamero

Eat Gustapizza at Piazza Michelangelo

Gustapizza (yes, it’s one word) is arguably the best pizza in Italy, and IMO the world. After your pizza comes out of the brick oven, grab a bottle of wine and a taxi and head up to Piazza Michelangelo. It’s about a ten minute drive or a thirty minute walk up hill. The views from this square are one of the best in Florence. Amazing pizza + breathtaking views = the best combo. Go a bit before sunset to get a good seat.

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I present to you, Gustapizza chefs at their finest

What I get: margarita pizza (not typically a margarita pizza type of gal – but this one can’t be beat. Also – if you’re a pesto fan, order their pesto pizza even though it’s not on the menu.)

Eby’s

A man who could be mistaken for Einstein himself. He’s the bartender and owner of an eclectic bar steps from the Duomo. The bar is open at 11am, but he typically arrives around 9:30PM(or whenever he feels like it) to create his liquor art concoctions. His signature words are “Vai vai vai” as you down shots on fire. 

What I get: Request the house favorite, anything with nutella, or shots on fire if you’re feeling adventurous 

Make pizza from scratch

Airbnb Experiences is an experience or other activity designed and led by local hosts. Hosts give guests unique access into places and communities in their city. Airbnb Experiences is currently in beta and has rolled out Experiences in about 15 cities, and lucky enough – Florence was one of them!

We made pizza from start to finish at Ristorante Toto, which is a restaurant that’s been passed down for four generations. Piero, who is currently the owner of the restaurant, was a sweet Italian man who briefed us on the history of the restaurant, and exactly how to create the perfect pizza. This was an unforgettable night, and would recommend it to anyone.

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Climb Giottas Tower

414 steps up…you gotta burn off that pasta somehow, right? Turn that fitbit on because these views are more than worth it.

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Eat your weight in gelato

Need I say more? My favorite gelato spots: Santa Trinita, Grom, Gelato la Carriaia

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Massimo leather

I fell in love in Italy….with a man who creates and sells leather purses and jackets. Florence is known for leather, and there’s even a whole market dedicated to it (Santa Croce). But the question is – are those stands selling real leather….? Probably not. His leather shop a side street off of Santa Croce, La Borga Noce specifically. He was recommended to me four years ago, and his bags are still in perfect condition and still some of my favorites.

Indulge in truffle

Truffle pasta, truffle pizza, truffle cheese – eat it all! Truffle items are a lot more reasonably priced in Italy.

Please enjoy this video of four cheese truffle gnocchi at Osteria Santo Spirito – brb currently drooling

What I learned

There are no Ubers or Lyfts, so put your phone away and put your hand up to flag a taxi

Eat all the carbs you can see, Italy is not the place to keep up with your gluten free/keto/atkins/whole 30 diet

Florence is extremely walkable

What I didn’t do this time around but recommend

Visit the Gucci Museum and enjoy an espresso on their patio after. 

I’m a real sucker for rooftop bars, and the department store, la Rinascente, has an amazing rooftop bar with views of the city and close up to the duomo. 

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Art museums galore – Ufittizi Gallery and Galleria dell’ Accademia are my favorite.

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I can’t wait to return again, if you have any questions or any of your favorite spots – comment below!

It’s been a while since I’ve given my blog some love – it’s been four crazy months as an official D.C. resident. Within four months I’ve survived my first winter (barely, but turns out a v warm jacket makes life easier), lived through the chaos of Inauguration Weekend (picture an end of the world themed movie with Will Smith standing amidst explosions) and been D.C’s newest tour guide to 12 friends who visited various weekends (and yes, a different itinerary for each one)…Phew, I’m exhausted just thinking about all of it.

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I’ve loved every second of working for Marriott International on the Digital Services team – navigating my way through the world’s largest hotel company HQ being a #girlboss every second possible. Safe to say I’ve already taken full advantage of the hotel discounts, from stay-cations to weekend trips.

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I’ve become infamous (and an expert, if I do say so myself) for planning friends’ weekends with itineraries down to the hour. Not exaggerating, full review on hilarious lifestyle blog and Instagram Extraordinaire, You Chlo Girl.

During my time living here, I’ve uncovered some of my favorite local spots – which should be on the top of your list when visiting D.C.

  1. Lemon Bowl

Picture every DIYers dream – a work space where the city’s creative gather to teach workshops. From hand lettering classes, to indigo dye classes – creatives have dyed and gone to heaven. Check out their monthly schedule.

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  1. Dolcezza

Gelato + coffee shop – need I say more?

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  1. Bethesda Bagels

Four score and seven schemers ago -“Chloe Duke

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What I order: Everything bagel with sausage, egg and cheese – or if I’m not in the egg sammy mood, rainbow bagel with strawberry cream cheese is an absolute go to. BUT rainbow bagels are only available on the weekends.

Tip: There are two Bethesda Bagels locations, one in Bethesda and one in D.C.; Dupont specifically. Bethesda Bagels is a small space (think fish swimming upstream at all times) with practically no seating…So I’ll sit in Dolcezza and sip on some chai while eating my bethesda bagel heaven sent bagel.

  1. Le Diplomate

But first, french onion soup. A D.C staple, and in my opinion, one of the best restaurants in D.C.

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What I order: A million times over, the cheese plate. No matter what meal you’re there for, it’s an essential. There are no set cheeses listed on the menu, but tell the server what you like and they’ll whip out the most delicious cheese you’ve ever had. It’s one of those spots where every dish is to die for.

Tip: Reservations open up a month in advance, so book as close to that date.

  1. National Mall

Such a locals only spot right?? Kidding, but I never get tired of this view.

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Tip: When the weather is right, rent a bike and ride around the Mall, to the Washington Monument, then the Lincoln Memorial. Bring some picnic supplies and lay out your set up on the grass surrounding the Monument. Some of the best views of the Monument are from Lincoln Memorial. 

  1. Barmini

Jose Andres’ “cocktail lab” is exactly that, and nothing like you’ve ever experienced before. It’s topped many best cocktail lists, with a mix of eclectic and innovative cocktails and small snacks.

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16939031_10155035452382442_6667225793819113187_n(Let’s roll!)

Tip: Make reservations 6 weeks in advance (I’m not kidding, but it’s so worth it)

  1. Mockingbird Hill, Southern Efficiency, Eat the Rich

These trio of bars are lined up next to each other with most of the time having different pop up themes based on the season. Starting in November, there was a Christmas and Channakuh theme, with a little bit of Stranger Things sprinkled in. In the Stranger Things bar, there was a light show as well as a Demogorgan spotting, and a spot to pay your respects to Barb.

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In March, #cherryblossomPUB is coming, a pop-up which is a mix of cherry blossoms and Super Mario World.

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Tip: There can be a line, especially on weekends, so make sure you’re prepared.

     8. Butter Cream Bakeshop 

A mighty little bakery with sugary goodness overload

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What I get: unicorn bar, and yes – that is glitter

  1. Blagden Alley

A hidden city block that has history which dates before the Civil War. Additionally, I’d say it’s one of D.C’s most Instagrammable spots.

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Tip: In the alley and close by, check out La Columbe (coffee shop), The Dabney (Mid-Atlantic cuisine cooked over a wood fire), The Columbia Room (cocktail bar) and JRINK (cold press juices).

  1. Union Market

Warehouse-esque food market filled with some of the best local vendors. There are also a couple of outdoor murals on the side of the building. My favorite is the vibrant heart wall, created by Mr. Brainwash, an LA-based graffiti artist who painted it for International Women’s Day in 2015.    

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Well, that’s a wrap folks! Do you agree with my favorite finds, or do you have any different? Comment below!                                                                                                                                                

Rush Creek Lodge is the first new resort in the Yosemite National Park’s area in 25 years. There are 143 rooms; including a mix of suites and hillside villas. Glamping enthusiasts from around the world will have plenty of accommodation choices that don’t involve sleeping on the ground.

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Situated on 20 acres, this resort is a destination within a destination. Some of the unique features include: main lobby, general store, separate lodge with game room and living room lounge type set up, a tavern and restaurant, hot tub and pool, event and meeting space, and various recreation activities for all ages.

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Location

I can confidently give this a 10/10 rating. This is the ideal home base, being situated just half a mile from the park’s entrance. Once you’re in the park, the most popular sites and hikes are within 30 minutes to two hours driving from the entrance – keep in mind the park is 761,000 acres, so there’s a lot of land to cover!

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Rooms

Clean rooms with contemporary decor. My favorite feature – the fire place!

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Balconies

Sunset view decks come with every room

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Activities

There are fun things to do for all ages; from a star gazing party, to nature crafts, to trivia night. Every day is full with different activities. The resort also offers different guided tours throughout the park (for a fee).

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S’mores please!

Who doesn’t love gooey marshmallows inbetween graham crackers and chocolate. With their outdoor firepit, there’s s’more making every night from 7-9pm.

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General store

A mix of local products for souvenirs and food for your time in the park

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Pool + hot tub

Love at first dive

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Dining

The dining options on site are a tavern and restaurant. The restaurant side can be a bit noisy and more family orientated. I preferred the tavern, which has a bar and a mix of picnic tables, tables and booths. The food was nothing to write home about, and found it was best to stick to basic items. When visiting in Mid-October of 2016, we were told a new chef had started, so fingers crossed the food improves in the future.

PRICE: Rooms starting at $200 – depending on the season

LOCATION: 34001 CA-120, Groveland, CA 95321

WEBSITE: http://www.rushcreeklodge.com

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First of all, let me introduce myself. My name is Lauren and I am the face behind LaurenJaclyn.com! I have always had a passion for all things beautiful, including fashion, beauty, and design. After graduating college and briefly pursuing event planning, I finally fulfilled my lifelong dream of starting a fashion and lifestyle blog about everything from on-trend accessories to my favorite hairspray to fool-proof recipes. It has been so much fun and I hope some of you join me on my blogging journey.

I have had the privilege to travel quite a bit throughout my life, with a lot of my extended family scattered across the world in Italy and South Africa. Traveling abroad is such a blessing, but it can be stressful at the same time! For a fashion lover like myself, the stress always sets in when it’s time to pack, especially when it all has to fit in a carry-on bag. My shoe closet and beauty product collection can get a bit out of control, so I certainly can’t bring it all along when I travel.  Today, I am going to share some tips and tricks to make the most of your carry-on luggage, and make sure you’re looking fab while you travel the globe!

Multi-Purpose Pieces

This is essential when you’re trying to get the most out of your carry-on! Focus on packing things that you’re going to be able to wear a lot of different ways. The best way to do this is to bring great basics, such as a pair of skinny jeans, plain t-shirts, and tanks for layering. Doing this allows you to establish the base of a look without having to pack too many items. Pants or bottoms are another really great way to implement this technique because they’re really easy to wear multiple times between washes (let’s be honest – who washes their jeans with every wear anyways?) and they serve as a great starting point for an outfit. Next time you go on a trip, try to just pack one pair of jeans and see how many looks you can come up with! I recently did a series on my blog where I styled one jumpsuit in three totally different ways (here, here, and here) just by changing up the accessories. Revolving all of my looks around that one staple jumpsuit eliminated the need for a bunch of different pieces that I would have only been able to wear once.

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Accessorize, Accessorize, Accessorize

Accessories are the best way to spice up different looks without taking a ton of different pieces with you. They generally take up the least amount of space and can totally change up the overall look. Bringing things like scarves, beanies, and a variety of jewelry will barely add any weight to your luggage, but will add a ton of versatility to your travel wardrobe. Don’t forget about using hair and makeup as accessories, as well! This is one of my favorite ways to change the vibe of a look! A tousled ponytail as opposed to sleek straight hair look gives two totally different styles without you having to pack anything extra!

Wear the Bulky Items

I am the first one who likes to look chic at the airport – but sometimes you have to adjust the plans to make sure you’re able to fit everything you need in your bag. Packing a big bulky jacket in a carry-on is not always feasible, but if you’re going somewhere freezing, it’s necessary. To avoid taking up the entirety of your suitcase with one jacket, omit it from the luggage and simply wear it to the airport. I cannot tell you how many times I have been that girl at the Miami airport in a wool coat, but hey, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. Another thing I usually always end up wearing while I travel is a hat. I do this for two reasons! First of all, I am obsessed with hats and wear them every chance I get. Second of all, hats can be extremely hard to pack because they take up a lot of room and can often get misshapen during your travels if you place them in your luggage.

Size Matters

Try to downsize anything you possibly can to save room. For example, I am a vitamin junkie and I like to make sure I stay regimented especially when I am on vacation to avoid getting sick. If I brought all of my vitamin bottles that I needed with me, it would take up the majority of my suitcase and add unnecessary weight that could be used for something more practical and stylish. To avoid this, I count out just the amount of vitamins I will need for the time I am gone (plus an extra day’s supply for unexpected emergencies) and put them in a Ziploc bag or travel pill box, like this oneto save space.

The same principle applies for your toiletries! Your toiletries are a necessity but they end up taking more space than you realize. We all know about travel size goodies they have at the grocery store (I mean, how cute are they?) but it’s always a bummer when they don’t have the specific brand you’re used to. As someone with unpredictable hair, I cannot just use any shampoo or conditioner and expect my hair to be manageable so to avoid bringing along my entire bottle, I buy travel size bottles, like theseand fill them up with whatever I want to bring along. This makes for a much smoother transition for my hair and a lighter carry-on for me – win, win!

What are your favorite packing tips for when you travel?

Be sure to check these items off your list before you board your plane abroad.

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1. Apply for your Passport
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2. Make a copy of your Passport and any other important documents.

3. Bring a folder: Store your important documents in here, this is also a handy way to collect any paper items memories you get along the way (tickets, postcards, etc.)

4. Ensure you don’t need a visa to get into the country your visiting. Getting stuck in the airport until your expedited visa comes in does not sound like an item on my bucket-list. Also, be aware if you have to pay a entrance/exit fee when visiting the country.

5. Check in with your doctor for any medications or shots you may need to ensure of your health when visiting a foreign country.

6. Fill any regular prescriptions.

7. Double check all of your carry on liquids and gels are under 3.4oz.

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(Gotoob – one of my favorite carry on items to condense shampoos, soaps and conditioners in) 

8. Call your credit + debit card company and let them know what countries you’ll be visiting.

9. Secure all credit + debit cards – surprisingly, a lot of places throughout the world don’t accept credit cards, so it’s always a good idea to have cash on you at all times. Make sure to have a minimum of 2 debit cards, from different banks, just in case on debit card gets lost or puts a hold on your account (this happens more times than you can imagine).

10. Make sure your credit + debit card doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees. If they do, look into getting a card that doesn’t.

11. Get the local currency (if you’re able) before you go, you can request it in advance from your bank.

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12. Bring about $100 worth of cash with you in US dollars.

13. Book your first few days (or weeks) of accommodation depending on length and spontaneity of your trip.

14. Make sure you know the address and exactly how to get to your accommodation from the city’s airport. To be safe, print out a Google Map of directions to show to your taxi/uber driver upon arrival. ESPECIALLY if you’re staying in a hostel, which are often on residential or not well known streets.

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15. Break in your shoes and make sure they’re comfortable and don’t give blisters.

16. If you are a student, or have your old student ID – BRING IT! There are student discounts at museums and sites all around the world. It can often make a dramatic difference in entry fees.