Food, Travel

Islamorada – A day trip from Miami

I recently visited Miami with my friends in April and took a day trip to Islamorada and fell in love with it at first glance. Known for its towering palm trees, sandy beaches, pristine and clear water, laid-back vibe, and breathtaking sunsets, Islamorada is a complete paradise. Did you know? – Islamorada is one of the Florida Keys and is on the way to Key West.

Only a 90 mins drive from Miami, Islamorada is a great place to go for a day trip. Islamorada is known as the sport fishing capital of the world with beautiful local restaurants and quaint shops with a small town island vibe which I absolutely love. Even if fishing is not your thing it is equally appealing for divers, snorkelers and kayaking.

Fun Fact – The name Islamorada came from the early Spanish explorers in the area which means Purple Isle.

Things to do

While there are a lot of things to do in Islamorada our goal was to just enjoy the beaches, relax and sip in some cocktails with delicious food.

  1. Anne’s beach – This is one of the most popular beaches in Islamorada and for good reason. It has very clear blue waters making it picturesque. It has picnic spots to enjoy the stunning views and is a small beach with shallow waters. It does not have much of sandy areas so if you are in a large group like us you may not find enough space to enjoy the sandy areas and just relax. However, it has a great boardwalk and is one of the beaches in Islamorada where you can bring your pets.
  2. Sombrero Beach, Marathon – This beach is approximately 25 miles ahead of Anne’s beach but absolutely amazing if you are looking for a white sandy beach to just relax and soak in the sun this is great. If you enjoy swimming I would recommend heading to this one and a bonus its a great place to catch the sunset!! Also this beach has a great volleyball court and a park area for kids.

Where to Eat

  1. Morada Bay Beach Cafe– A cute cafe with waterfront dining overlooking the Florida Bay. A great place to get drinks and food with stunning views. We went here during Covid times and what I appreciated the most was that the tables were spread out making it very easy to maintain social distancing.
  2. Lorelai’s Restaurant and Cabana Bar – What can I say!! I absolutely loved the place. It has so many amazing food options to pick from even for vegetarians and everything was so fresh. A great place to grab delicious food, tasty drinks, waterfront views overlooking the Florida bay(beautiful sunsets), and live entertainment from local bands. Very well spaced table to maintain social distancing and have some privacy. Highly Recommend!!

Hope you enjoy reading this post. Check out the complete travel guide to Miami here. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions!

Food, Travel

Getaway : A Cabin Experience and Escape from Boston

I know this post has been long due and I apologize for the long break without posts. 2020 had been a difficult year to say the least and my husband and I decided to end the year detaching ourselves from technology and soaking ourselves in nature. I started university back in Fall 2020 to pursue my MBA and at the end of my semester I was exhausted and ready to spend sometime off from the computer and I could not be happier. Personally, we did not want to take a flight and travel unless absolutely necessary due to the pandemic and also wanted to maintain social distancing while enjoying sometime off. We travelled to the Getaway house towards the end of December for three days two nights and picked the Escape from Boston which is located in New Hampshire. This New Hampshire Getaway House fulfilled it all for us!

The Getaway house is located at various locations throughout the country such as NYC, Atlanta, Washington D.C, Dallas, Houston, LA, Portland, etc. Use this link to receive $25 off your stay.

If you are someone who has always wanted to try camping and enjoys the outdoors but cannot go without a hot shower or a bathroom like me then the getaway experience is a perfect balance that offers the best of both worlds. It provides a comfy escape with the most relaxing views.

What is a Getaway House ?

For anyone who does not know what a getaway house is, let me explain it simply. A Getaway house is a container converted into cabin to provide a simplified glamping experience even for people with no camping experience. There are number of such cabins at each getaway location. The various cabins are spread in wooded areas approximately 150 feet apart from each other such that there is privacy and no one can see inside your cabin but also not too scary leaving you completely alone in the many acres of the wooded area.

One thing I really liked was all the cabins are named after the grandparents of the staff to honor their services and care they put in to ensure we enjoy a seamless experience. Our cabin name was Rose as it was beautiful.

What the Getaway is equipped with?

The getaway is equipped with all the essentials we needed for your stay and nothing that we didn’t making it a minimalist but amazing experience. Do not be fooled by the small size of the cabin. It is packed with literally everything you will need to make your stay so much more enjoyable. It is equipped with AC, heat, AM/FM radio, wireless speakers, toilet, hot shower, a private fire pit, grilling area with a picnic table and chairs, stove top, a mini refrigerator, salt, pepper, olive oil, utensils, a comfortable bed, etc. Check out the complete list of what is included in the house here. We also thought that the staff was extremely helpful and only a text or call away.

There is no WIFI at the getaway house and limited cell phone service depending on your provider which forces you to embrace the nature, enjoy the simple things in life and take a real break. They also provide a box to lock your phones away and enjoy yourselves without any devices. We actually thought this was a blessing after the crazy Zoom overdose we had. The Zoom fatigue was real and we could not think of a better way to completely switch off. We even put our phones in the box and locked them away for the weekend to enjoy a quiet time without any distractions. Trust me you will love it even if no WIFI and limited cell phone service sounds daunting at first. They provide some books and games at the cabin and we took our own books to read as well. It is was great way to shrug off the stress of work and detaching ourselves from the internet.

Safety and Security

Every Getaway house has a digital lock on the front door and a unique code which was texted to us on the day of check in with the name of your Cabin. This allowed us to securely lock our cabin while we explore around without worrying about your belongings.

Stay Options

The Getaway house offers two different kinds of cabins. One for two people (where we stayed) and one which can accommodate a maximum of four people(bunk beds) which is a great option for anyone traveling with kids. All the cabins have the bed located right next to the big glass window so we had the perfect view to wake up to. This is a great experience for anyone who wants to unplug and get away from the hustle of the everyday life. I thought it was a great place for even a solo traveler who loves to get inspired by nature and write a book, music, or any fun creative project on their mind.

Waking up in the morning with the perfect backdrop of nature was such a surreal experience. We absolutely loved the seating area created right next to the window and enjoyed sipping hot chocolate and reading a book in the cold. Could not think of a better way to start the day looking at the snow covered trees and enjoying the nature. Cannot wait to go back and try the other Getaway Houses at the other locations!

What to Pack/Bring ?

  1. Carry your favorite games, books or a creative project you would like to work on.
  2. Carry a bug spray if you are visiting during the summer months.
  3. A grill pan is optional not necessary.
  4. Grilling Food – Corn, strawberries, pineapple, ingredients to make kebabs, paneer/tofu, potatoes, bell peppers, onions, marshmallows, marinades, burgers, Maggi, etc.
  5. Snacking or any other Food items.
  6. Wine, champagne or anything you like to drink.
  7. Hot chocolate.
  8. Comfy clothes.

There are grocery stores nearby but I highly recommend planning and carrying what you need to save yourself a trip to the grocery store. The cabin also offers a survival kit if you like which includes food options.

Things to do Nearby

  1. Blasty Bough Brewing Company – If you want to check out some local brewery and try some local beers with beautiful views and live music check out the Blasty Bough Brewing Company. Check the link here for all the details.
  2. Pawtuckaway State Park – Located around 30 minutes from the cabin this state park offers hiking trails and boulders to climb. We did not do this during our stay but would love to check it out another time.

Things to do at the Getaway

  1. Movie/Game Night – We also did a movie and game night with popcorn and wine which we enjoyed a lot. We took some of the DVD’s of movies we wanted to watch and games we enjoyed. This was so much fun and I dont remember the last time I used a DVD before this experience. This was a great way to leave behind the reliance on Netflix and other streaming services.
  2. Grilling outside the cabin – Grilling under the stars, with a firepit was a perfect way for us to enjoy our nights with some music, wine and amazing food. They gave us a kit for grilling marshmallows, making s’mores too which was perfect to enjoy the fire pit outside during the cold month of December. They also provide fire wood, fire starting materials, a lighter and instructions on how to light a fire. They charge you at the end of your stay for the fire wood and the fire starting materials you used. It was our very first time to start a fire and the instructions were easy to follow. We enjoyed grilling kebabs, pineapple, strawberries and marshmallows, corn, paneer (an Indian version of tofu), and toasting s’mores and relished them. We loved it so much that we barely used the stovetop for any cooking even when it was freezing outside.
  3. Walk in the woods – If you are not in the mood to get out, the backyard of the Getaway House has nearby hiking/walking trails you can explore. We enjoyed walking around the trails nearby and collecting pinecones on the trails for the house.

Highly Recommend trying the Getaway House for a unique experience and coming home rejuvenated from the day to day stress of life. If you have any questions please feel free to reach out and leave a comment! Use this link to receive $25 off your stay

Food, Lifestyle

How we Brewed our Own Beer – Homebrewing

After our trip to Amsterdam and actually visiting some breweries my husband and I were intrigued about someday brewing our own beer however always pushed it back. During the quarantine we finally decided to give it a try and become beer brewers from beer drinkers.

Since we are not experts at it we googled and looked for options and finally decided to order the Craft A Brew Kit from Amazon which had great reviews. We personally like Hefeweizen so got that kit but they definitely offer more options such as Pale Ale, Irish Scout, Brown Ale, IPA, Oktoberfest Ale, Ciders and many more options to pick from depending on your liking.

The kit includes a 1 gallon carboy, thermometer, sanitizer, yeast, hops, dry malt extract, speciality grains, grain steeping bag, airlock, rubber stopper, funnel, transfer tubing, racking cane, a tube clamp and a guide to craft brewing. A good thing about this kit is that all the equipments are reusable if you plan to brew beer again and all you need to get is the ingredients i.e Dry Malt Extract, yeast, speciality grains, hops, yeast, sanitizer and a grain steeping bag.

Additionally you need a large brew pot (link to the brew pot we used), around 10 Lbs of Ice, 10 to 12 Swing top bottles (or 4 big swing top bottles) and a fine mesh strainer (optional but recommended).

The guide to craft brewing included with the kit lists down all the steps in a clear and precise manner making it so easy to brew the beer even for beginners. It was our first time too but the instructions and very explicit and also they have many You Tube videos in case you need more clarity or don’t understand a particular step. Also, if you run into some questions which cannot be answered by viewing the videos you can always reach out to the brewmaster and they respond back with answers.

The Process consists of 6 steps :

Step 1: Brewing – This is the first step and one of the steps where you will spend most of your time. We took around 4 hours to complete this step but had a great time brewing our own beer. The guide has detailed instructions about this step and below are some of the pictures for this step.

Step 3 : Sanitization – This is one of the most important step to brewing and will determine if you get great tasting beer or terrible tasting beer. So be sure to follow this step exactly as stated in the guide.

Step 3 : Fermentation – Once we completed brewing our beer, we filled it in the sanitized carboy and plugged it with a rubber stopper and made a blow off assembly inserting one end of the tube in the rubber stopper and the other end into a half full glass of water. It is essential to store in a dark cool place for the fermentation process to commence. After a few days once the fermentation calms you can use the airlock. This whole process takes around 2 weeks.

Step 4 : Carbonation and Bottling – After 2 weeks of the fermentation process we were looking forward to the bottling process. We used the swing top bottles for this process and yet again sanitization is key to this process. In this process we reactivated the remaining yeast using sugar as fuel to carbonate the beer once bottled. Once that step is done we siphoned the beer from the carboy to a pot using the racking cane, clamp and a tube and then yet again to the bottles from the large pot as per the instructions mentioned in the guide. This process took us about 1.5 hours to complete. I am not going to lie we did get a little curious as to how the beer was tasting and tried a sip before the process of carbonation.We kept the bottled beer back in a warm dark place for another 2 weeks to allow the beer to carbonate and condition.

Step 5: Enjoy – After 2 weeks we got our home-brewed beer ready to drink. We were really happy to see the carbonation process work and the beer tasted absolutely amazing. We went all out and even designed our own Beer Labels and came up with a name for our Beer too. Clearly, we were over excited that the beer turned out so good and all the hard work paid off. We are left with our last Beer bottle now and already planning to brew our next batch by adding a twist to it.

This can be a great date night idea or even a fun activity for a family or friends to do together to spend time bonding with each other while also enjoying the rewards at the end of the brewing process. After all what’s better than a cold beer on a hot summer night ?

I would love to hear about your beer brewing experiences. Feel free to share them with me. Happy Brewing!

Food, Travel

My Sunflower and Blueberry Picking Experience – A fun Summer Day

This weekend my husband and I decided to do something different, something that screams summer while exploring the outdoors and maintaining social distancing. We decided to explore the Sunflower Picking and Blueberry Picking at Tangerini’s Farm.

Approximately 30 minutes from Boston located in Millis, Massachussets this beautiful 60+ acres of farm land currently has the option to pick your own Sunflowers, Blueberries and Wild Flowers. We opted to pick our own Sunflowers which are often associated with the carefree days of summer and the plump, juicy and sweet blueberries straight from the farm.

We made our reservations for UPick a day prior and selected our time slot of 3.00 pm for Sunflower Picking and 4.30 pm for Blueberry Picking. Due to the pandemic it is essential to make an online reservation ahead of time. They usually open up bookings one to two days at a time and all the bookings are live. There is free parking available at the farms. Here is a link to the farms where you can check the schedule and make a reservation.

As we walked towards the fields they had placed disposable masks and sanitizers for anyone who needs it just outside the farm stand. As soon as we entered the fields we checked ourselves in with a staff member sitting under a tent at the bottom of the hill. when you are checked in you will be asked to wash your hands with soap and sanitize them too just before you enter the farms. Since we were doing sunflower picking first we were also handed sanitized clippers to select and cut the sunflowers of our choice.

You have the option to pick from one, three and seven stems each while making a reservation. We had selected picking three sunflower stems each.

We headed into the fields to explore the beautiful happy sunflowers – A feast to the eyes! After all how can you not smile when you see something like this. It is indeed a bountiful display of bright cheery yellow something I love. We handpicked our own sunflowers using the clippers provided to take back home to make our own flower arrangement. Remember to carry a bucket of water with you to keep the flowers fresh till you reach home.

There is also an option to do a professional photo shoot at the sunflower fields. Also, there next sunflower fields will be ready on August 1, 2020 in time for the next weekend.

Once we were done with picking our own sunflowers we checked ourselves in again to return the clippers and to pick our own blueberries. They gave us a pint each to collect our blueberries. Currently as the fields were not having UPicks at capacity they are happy to accommodate you a little earlier too if you have a reservation for multiple picks and get done earlier from one a little before time for your next reservation.

We walked in to our assigned rows and started foraging for ripe and plump blueberries. Packed with Vitamin C, antioxidants and potassium blueberries are one of the most popular fruits here as they are also native to North America. The best thing about blueberries is they can be enjoyed in multiple ways such as pancakes, jams, jellies, pies, muffins, salads, cobblers, smoothies, ice creams, tarts, on their own and so much more. The options are unlimited.

We started filling our respective pints by handpicking our own blueberries and we picked up some really big blueberries. A tip to pick the best sweet blueberries is to check that the blueberry is deep blue even near the stem and not red or green near the stem.

Once we were done picking our own blueberries we headed to the Ice Cream Shop and got the Purple Cow (Blackberries, White chocolate and Dark Chocolate) and Watermelon Sherbet icecreams. After all what beats the summer heat better than an Ice cream.

Before we left to go home, we visited the farm stand and also got some amazing farm produce like sweetcorn, lettuce, spring onions (the biggest I have ever seen till date), blackberries, mini carrots, and a few unique soda drinks. All the produce was so fresh.

We were wearing masks the entire time but got extremely lucky as we were alone in the fields for sometime and just for a split second removed the mask and got a couple pictures.

All in all a great way to enjoy the outdoors and a fun experience! And the best thing is it is something that can be enjoyed with the whole family, friends or even by yourself.

Food

Easy to Make Chocolate Chia Pudding Recipe

As we spend more time at home I thought of sharing this easy to make recipe which needs minimal ingredients. The best thing about it is it is super quick, easy and tasty. It can be enjoyed for breakfast or for your mid day bingeing.

Ingredients (Serves 2)

1/4th Cup Chia Seeds

1 Cup of Milk

1 Tbsp Honey

1.5 Tbsp Cocoa Powder

Directions:

  1. Mix all the ingredients together well and keep it aside for 15 minutes.

2. After 15 minutes remix the mixture again and refrigerate overnight.

3. In the morning remove the pudding from the refrigerator and top it with your favorite fruits and enjoy.

Some Substitution Options

You can use any milk you have at home – Whole milk or Almond milk.

You can also substitute the Honey for Maple Syrup.

If you do not have Cocoa powder but have Hot chocolate you can use that as well. Just remember to reduce the quantity of the sweetener then as Hot chocolate powder contains sugar.

The best thing about this pudding is that is a healthy recipe as Chia seeds are a good source of calcium, omega 3, fiber and iron. A guilt free option to satisfy your hunger.

Hope you enjoy it !!

Food

Easy Pesto Risotto Recipe

I am sharing with you my moms Pesto Risotto Recipe which is quick, easy and absolutely lip smacking. I have been having this since I was a teenager and love the freshness of homemade pesto. And the best thing, it takes less than 30 minutes to make so you can be in and out of the kitchen in no time.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

Arborio Rice – 1 1/2 cups

Vegetable Stock – 32 Oz

Vegetables – Bell Peppers, Cherry Tomatoes, Broccoli

Pine Nuts – 1/2 cup

Fresh Basil leaves – 2 1/2 cups (Roughly chopped)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil – 3/4 cup

2 garlic cloves peeled

Parmesan Cheese – 1 cup finely grated

Salt to taste

Directions

How to Make Pesto Sauce

Step 1: In a pan lightly toss pine nuts and set aside. Toss it for just around 1 minute.

Step 2: In a food processor, add the pine nuts and crush them till they are broken down. Add the garlic cloves and olive oil now and pulse the food processor till the garlic is chopped. Add the basil leaves to the food processor and pulse till you get an even consistency. Do not over pulse the mixture otherwise the basil will turn brown.

Step 3 : Remove the pesto base in any container and add parmesan cheese and salt as per taste in the container and mix well. The pesto sauce is now ready.

How to make Risotto Rice

Step 1 : In a pan, add the vegetable broth and let it boil. Once the vegetable broth is close to boiling, in another pan add the arborio rice and toss it for around a min and start adding the vegetable broth. Add only 1 cup at a time and let it cook. Once most of the broth is soaked by the rice add another cup to cook further. Continue adding the broth a little at a time till the rice is cooked.

Note – When adding the vegetable broth it should be boiling hot to get the perfect risotto rice consistency. Remember that the broth should be kept at a rolling boil.

Step 2 : While the Arborio rice is cooking wash and cut the vegetables you wish to use. I used Bell peppers (diced – not very small), cherry tomatoes (halved) and broccoli. I then sauted the vegetables in little extra virgin olive oil and set it aside.

Step 3: The Arborio rice would have cooked by now and there should be no broth left in the pan. Add the pesto sauce created above to the Risotto rice along with the stir fried veggies and mix well.

You can also use the pesto sauce to make pasta, add it on a bruschetta, as a pizza sauce or simply as a drizzle to finish off your salads. If you have leftovers you can store the pesto sauce in an airtight container for upto 2 – 3 days.

You can enjoy it with a side of your choice or just alone. I paired it with Garlic bread.

Bon Appétit!

Food, Travel

Fun Facts and Must Do Things in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is the capital of Netherlands. It is home to various world famous museums and is known for its artistic heritage, elaborate canal system, narrow houses with gabled facades, hazy coffee shops and Red Light District. I traveled to Amsterdam in April and cannot wait to share my experience with you as well as some interesting facts about the lively city. It has so much to offer and is one of my favorite cities.

Did you know?
1) Amsterdam derived its name from the Amstel River.
2) There are 165 Amsterdam canals that combine for a length of over 100 kilometers. The Canal Ring became part of the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2010.
3) Amsterdam has more bridges than Venice. How difficult is that to believe? But there are only, in fact, 409 bridges connecting Venice’s canals. Amsterdam actually has 1,281 bridges, three times as many as Venice!
4) There are approximately 2,500 houseboats in Amsterdam.
5) The tilted houses are called dancing houses. The soil was so swampy that they had to build on stilts and that caused them to wobble and sink into the river.
6) The number of bicycles in Amsterdam is more than the number of people living in the city.
7) Amsterdam has approximately 20 times more tourists throughout the year than the locals.
8) Amsterdam is one of the top 25 safest cities in the world and also one of the top 15 cities known for its high standard of living. Who would have thought, with all the marijuana and prostitution?
9) A study reveals that Dutch men are the tallest people in the world.
10) Amsterdam lies below the sea level and is among the top five coffee consuming cities in the world.
11) Amsterdam Stock Exchange is the oldest stock exchange in the world.
12) Same-sex marriage is legal in Amsterdam. The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.

Where to stay in Amsterdam

I travelled to Amsterdam with my husband and we rented an AirBnb in Amsterdam and enjoyed our stay at the beautiful bright, colorful bohemian apartment with a rooftop terrace. Everything about this apartment was absolutely inspiring. The host Anna enjoys traveling around the globe and it is evident from the decor of the house. The apartment is located on the 3rd and 4th floor. The 3rd floor has a spacious and beautiful living space with a fireplace to keep you warm when it gets cold, a fully stocked kitchen, a dining area and a balcony. Also the hosts have an entire wardrobe of amazing board games on the 3rd floor to unwind at the end of the day. The 4th floor has a huge bathroom which also has a walk in shower and a modern bath, a bedroom, a bookshelf with a reading nook with books about travel and food from all around the world and a rooftop terrace. The location of the apartment is great ; it is a 2 min walk to the tram and a 10 min bike ride to the city center. Anna, the host is extremely knowledgeable about the area and has some great recommendations and very quick with communication. Attaching the link to the apartment here

Another unique offering of Amsterdam is living on the floating house boats by the canals. There are also some great luxury floating house boats options available which looked amazing. I discovered these while exploring the city and would definitely consider staying there on my next visit for a different experience.

How to travel around Amsterdam

The best way to explore the city is either on a bike or on foot. Even if you only pedal around for a few hours, riding a bike is an essential Amsterdam experience. There are over 800,000 bicycles in Amsterdam. That’s more bikes than people! The city also has a flat landscape, which makes cycling so much more fun and enjoyable, and is also one the world’s most cycle-friendly cities with separate cycling paths throughout the entire city. You can also use public transport such as buses, trams, and metros, which are very well connected in the entire city. The public transportation covers all the places of interest. The main hub of the trams is Amsterdam Central station.

Best time to go to Amsterdam

The city is always buzzing with tourists year round, particularly being busier from April to September because it is warmer in those months. I traveled in April and it was extremely busy, but I had a great time. It would be ideal to book your stay ahead of time if you are going to travel in the peak tourist season as almost everything gets booked.

Must do things in Amsterdam:

1)Keukenhof — Keukenhof, known as the Garden of Europe is the world’s largest bulb flower park, and if you are traveling to Amsterdam between March to May then a visit to the gardens is a must. The magnificent gardens at Keukenhof are true visual ecstasy. These gardens are redesigned each year so even after many visits it will always look fresh and new with colorful flowers dancing before your eyes! If you love flowers like me, then this place will guarantee you a great experience, showcasing millions of tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, orchids, and other spring-flowering bulbs. Here, you can buy bulbs straight from the cultivators and they also have specialists to guide you how bulbs can be grown more successfully at home. To get to Keukenhof Gardens we took bus from Amsterdam City Center to the Schiphol Airport and transferred to Keukenhof Bus 858.

2) Canal cruise — Besides providing a stunning backdrop to the city’s historical center, floating down Amsterdam’s canals is one of the most memorable ways to discover the city’s sights and attractions. Whether you’re a first-time or frequent visitor, everything in Amsterdam seems a bit more magical when viewed from a boat. Most canal cruises take around an hour, which gives you an opportunity to explore Amsterdam’s UNESCO protected Canal Ring. There are various tours operating on the water and you could pick up one quite easily as per your location and requirements. I highly recommend taking the canal cruise in the evening or around sunset as the canals are more peaceful because they are less crowded.

3) Explore museums — Amsterdam is home to over 50 museums, exploring the diversity of history, art, culture, and educational fun. There are museums to suit everyone’s interest. Some of the most famous museums are Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, and Anne Frank House. I visited the Rikjsmuseum since it was one of the museums that appealed to my interests and I wanted to do only 1 museum. The museum is huge and I spent around 4.5 to 5 hours to explore the museum. If you are short on time I would recommend to google the top 25 list to do at the museum which can be covered in around 2 hours. I highly recommend getting the I am Amsterdam card if you plan to visit many museums as it helps you save money.

4) Go beer tasting — Amsterdam is the home of the Heineken headquarters. The Heineken experience is a must see for all visitors. I had a great experience where they showed the brewing process, innovations, ingredients used, etc., and at the end of the tour also gave two free beers. During the Heineken tour too you have a few beer samplings besides the two free beers at the end. You can also personalize the Heineken beer bottle to carry as a souvenir back home with you. Some other interesting breweries that I would also recommend are Brouwerij de Prael, Brouwerij ‘t IJ (award winning brewery – located in a windmill), and Butcher’s Tears.

5) Visit coffee shops — A trip to Amsterdam wouldn’t be complete without visiting the coffee shops there. Purchase and consumption of cannabis is legal in Amsterdam which remains a huge tourist attraction making it quite easily the weed capital of Europe. Some of the coffee shops I recommend are The Bulldog The First, Mellow Yellow, Original Dampkrings, Braney’s Coffeeshop and Grey Area.

6) Parks — Parks are at the heart of Amsterdam culture. Every time the sun is out you will see the locals packing up the disposable barbecue and heading down to their nearest garden.If you like visiting parks do not miss to check out Vondelpark, the most famous park in Amsterdam with an open air theater and concerts in the summer. Some other interesting parks are Erasmuspark and Rembrandtpark.

7) Visit a market in Amsterdam — Whether you’re looking to buy or try some local delicacies or just soak up the atmosphere, visiting one of the many markets in Amsterdam is a unique and unforgettable experience. Markets selling everything from antiques to books to artisan food to vintage clothes are held all over the city every day. Some of the most popular Amsterdam markets include the Albert Cuypmarkt in De Pijp (Mon.-Sat.) Lindengrachtmarkt in the Jordaan (Saturdays), Bloemenmarkt (worlds only floating market)and the Waterlooplein Market – Flea Market (Mon.-Sat.).

8) Red Light District – From brothels  to sex museums, the Amsterdam Red Light District has it all. Amsterdam prides itself on its wholly liberal and tolerant attitude, embracing the fact that people may be into prostitution, soft drugs and pornography. And that it is only human. So instead of criminalizing everything, they enjoy the honesty of it all. Needless to say, that come to the district at night when it really comes to life however here are women forever tapping on the windows.

Day Trips from Amsterdam

If you have time then it would be exciting to venture out and take day trips to Volendam, Marken, Zaanse Schans (working windmills), countryside, Delft, The Hague, and Rotterdam. Each of these places is unique and has something to offer you. I personally took a day trip to Volendam, Marken and Zaanse Schans and enjoyed my time on the Dutch countryside.

Zaanse Schans at one point had over 600 windmills however right now they have around 5 to 6 working windmills each with a different purpose and name. The windmills all have separate admission tickets and prices so come prepared with small bills. I found the windmill attendants happy to share details about the intricate workings of their respective windmills. I visited 2 windmills – one which grinds peanuts for oil, and the other is a sawmill for lumber. You can easily spend 2 – 3 hours exploring the windmills.

After Zaanse Schans, we headed to Volendam which is a nearby fishing village and is known for their colorful wooden houses. We headed to the Volendam Museum and saw a glimpse of fishing vessels, antique uniforms, and lifestyle of the Dutch people. The town’s promenade is lined with souvenir shops and indoor/outdoor eateries where you can grab a bite. I ate lunch and tried the Dutch pancakes from a local vendor here and enjoyed it. We then headed to the Cheese Factory in Volendam where we saw a live demonstration of how cheese is made and also sampled a variety of cheese. We also saw a live demonstration of how they make fresh warm stroopwaffles and tried the same.

The last stop of our day trip was to Marken and we visited the Shoe Factory. We saw the whole process of how the famous Holland shoe is made. They showed us various different types of shoes they make and you can also buy souvenirs or the famous shoes to take back home with you. We then explored the houses and the area by ourselves and then headed back to Amsterdam.

Must Try Dutch Food

Amsterdam is well-known around the world as a city of indulgences. Here is a list of famous Dutch food you have to try:

1)Stroopwafel — It consists of a syrup filling sandwiched between two thin waffles and tastes best when it is hot. Try the one at Banketbakkerij Lanskroon or Albert Cuyp Market.

2) Dutch Cheese — They are absolutely amazing and cannot be missed. Try them at the Cheese Factory or Henri Willig Cheese shops for a guided experience, or at Reypenaer Proeflokaal or the Cheese Museum. You can also buy cheese to take back home and enjoy.

3)Patat or Frites (Dutch Fries) — These are a must-have with the lip-smacking sauces. One of my absolute favorite places for this food is Vleminckx Sausmeesters.

4)Poffertjes — You can buy these little fluffy pancakes from any street market or vendor. Many vendors even have the options to add toppings to these yummy fluffy pancakes. Though my favorite places were the one I tried when I took the day trip to Zaanse Schans, Marken and Volendam and at Albert Cuyp Market.

Food/Bar Recommendations

1) Try a Hipster cafe – I was not aware of this until my friend who lives there took me to one. We went to Café de Ceuvel which is a beautiful bohemian waterside cafe which featured not only yummy food and delicious drinks but also beautiful music. The cafe has been found by people who want to make a difference in the world and this belief goes further than a label that reads organic. They make their own soda’s with the organic syrups, grow their own vegetables, their bitterballs are made of oyster mushrooms that grow on coffee grinds and have a greenhouse on the roof where they grow their own herbs and are also building the world’s first Biogas Boat in which they can transform their organic waste into biogas to cook on! Highly recommend if you are looking for a real Dutch experience. This place is filled with locals and you will not see any tourists here. You can reach here either by taking a ferry or Uber.

2) BAK Restaurant – The chef heroes seasonal Dutch produce in beautiful dishes. This is an organic restaurant with great food. They have a varied wine list and offer a 3 course lunch menu on weekends at a great price. They also offer an 8 course dinner with wine pairings. If you get a table by the window you can enjoy the stunning view overlooking the water. I loved the food here. They have a great menu for vegetarians too.

3) Daalder – Located in Jordaan, Daalder offers amazing modern European food. The food here is not only creative but also delicious. Daalder does not offer a la carte menu. However you can choose how many courses you would like to eat and the chef does not fail to impress.Keep an open mind & let the story unfold. Every course is precisely balanced yet delightfully unique. We had paired our food with wine.

4) Winkel 43 – Located in Jordan, Winkel 43 is famous for its Apple pie. You can see the slices of fresh apples, and they aren’t doused in a heavy syrup like you would find in an American apple pie. Each bite is perfectly sweet and tart apple paired with crumbly and lightly sweetened crust and a dash of luscious whipped cream.

5) Ciel Bleu – If you are looking for a Michelin Star experience head to Ciel Bleu. We could not get a reservation here as by the time we had planned our trip it was already booked. Something on my bucket list the next time I visit Amsterdam.

6) The Pancake Pastry – This bakery in Amsterdam only makes one thing: an ultra decadent chocolate cookie stuffed with gooey white chocolate. There is always a line out the door. A must-try in Amsterdam.

7) Ice Bakery by Nutella – There is a Nutella bakery in Amsterdam. If you love Nutella this place is a must try. You can get Nutella ice cream, Nutella milkshakes, Nutella hot chocolate, Nutella cookie sandwiches, Nutella waffles, Nutella pancakes, Nutella poffertjes and Nutella muffins too.

8) The Lobby (Fizeaustraat 2)- If you are looking for breakfast definitely try The lobby. This was a recommendation provided to us by a local and we absolutely loved it. They also have amazing wines. An insider tip which was given to us by our host of the Airbnb we rented was to ask for “het vies boekje” (dirty book) which has a list of all their special wines.

9) Pazzi (De Clercqstraat 93) – Who doesn’t like Pizza? Pazzi is one of the best pizza places in town.

10) Frits (Jan Evertsenstraat 135) – Burgers, fries and beer! What is not to like? They are well known for their burgers and extra crispy fries and have all the locals favorite beers from local breweries.

11) Floor 17 – Just do it for the view!

12) Other Restaurants – A few local friends had also suggested us – De Struisvogel located in the 9 streets for a 3 course meal and Cafe Modern located in Meidoornweg 2 (fixed menu) however we did not happen to go there. Something to do on our next visit to Amsterdam.

Highly recommend to make a reservation beforehand especially if you are traveling during the peak season as it may get difficult to get a reservation last minute.

Where to Shop

Whether you are searching for a souvenir, a unique vintage dress or the latest designer handbag, Amsterdam has something for everyone.

1) Boutiques – If you are someone like me who likes to shop at local boutiques then head to The Nine Streets. A couple of interesting boutiques I found there were Scotch and Soda, King Louie and Who’s that girl ?.

2) Kalverstraat – If you are looking for international brands such as Pull and Bear, Zara, Urban Outfitters, River Island, etc then head here. There are over 100 brands on this street.

3) Leidsestraat – For beauty products

4) De Bijenkorf and P C Hooftstraat – For high end shopping.

If you have any questions please leave a comment and I will be happy to answer all your questions.

Food, Travel

The Ultimate Travel Guide to Miami

Renowned worldwide for its beautiful beaches, colorful street art, rich Cuban heritage, glamorous nightlife, diverse and vibrant food plates, interesting cultural mix, amazing music, and sunny weather – Miami needs no introduction. The vibe in Miami is amazing with beautiful palm tree-lined beaches and incredible sunrises and sunsets. Yes, I fell in love with Miami! It had me smiling from start to finish.

How to get to Miami

I traveled to Miami with my husband the first time and we took the flight from Boston to Fort Lauderdale, Fl and from Fort Lauderdale, you can either take the Brightline rail, uber to Miami or rent a car and drive to Miami. We took the flight to Fort Lauderdale as I was flying on the 4th of July weekend and direct flights to Miami had skyrocketing prices since we were booking last minute. On the other hand, Fort Lauderdale offered better rates and it takes approximately only 30 mins to reach Miami from there. There are also direct flights from Boston to Miami which you can opt for. The second trip I took to Miami was with friends and took a direct flight to Miami.

Where to stay in Miami

We absolutely loved our stay at the Four Seasons which has great views of both the city and the bay, a fun pool deck, hammocks where you can lay and sip your drinks while reading a book or simply relax, a great spa to pamper yourself, a fitness center for every fitness freak and all the other 5 star amenities you look for. My favorite in-room feature was the comfortable cushioned window seat that is perfect for curling up with a book or just relaxing to soak in the views. Bathrooms are large and the bed was super comfortable where I would just sink in at the end of the day. I highly recommend booking the Bay view rooms as the views are extremely peaceful.

Best Time to visit Miami

Florida is hot and sunny for for almost most of the year so there is not really a bad time to visit Miami. However, Spring – from March to May is one of the best times mainly because it is warm but not as humid as it would get during summer and also because it is not the hurricane season. If you are planning a trip in summer – make sure you check the weather as rains in summer is very common in Miami. I travelled to Miami in summer but was lucky to have skipped the rains completely. Summer is also one of the busiest times of the year to visit Miami purely because school break which enables families to take vacations. The winter – December to February is high season time for Miami as everyone wants to escape the dreaded cold and temperatures in Miami are usually in the 70’s making it a great time to visit.

Must-do things in Miami

1) Little Havana Rituals Tour – I cannot recommend this tour more. It was a fun way to learn about traditions and Cuban culture. Yoel makes this tour extremely personable and exciting experience. On his tour he shows the perfect way to make Cuban coffee, explore cigar and rum pairings (Trust me I am not a cigar person or even a smoker – It was my first time trying a cigar well actually second but my first time I could barely get to even lit a cigar and I had a great time) and explains the history and the significance of Little Havana as we explore. He is himself originally from Cuba and is extremely knowledgeable. If you are looking for an authentic Cuban experience in Miami – this is it!! He offers the tour both in English and Spanish and is very accommodating to fit your schedule. He also gives great suggestions to explore in Little Havana. Attaching the link for the tour here

2) Wynwood Walls – The Wynwood Walls was established in 2009 by the visionary Tony Goldman as an outdoor museum of international street art. It is a unique outdoor destination featuring huge, colorful street murals by artists from around the globe and is free. I am an absolute sucker for color and the Wynwood walls had me completely mesmerized. Before going to Miami I had seen some pictures on social media and I could not wait to go and see those walls myself. While the Wynwood walls are the most famous in that area, the street art extends further stretching for a few blocks and all the murals are an absolute treat for the eyes. While I explored Wynwood walls myself there are also tours which you may take to learn more about the walls and artists.

3) Vizcaya Museums and Gardens – While Miami has the reputation of partying, the Vizcaya Musem and Gardens will transport you to an entirely different place. It was the winter estate of millionaire James Deering and a great example of the American Opulence during the early 1900s. To say the estate is gorgeous, impressive, or even magnificent, would be an understatement. The gardens extend up to around 10 acres and are massive and are so beautiful that pictures do it no justice. The museum and gardens have hosted several weddings and special occasions, given the site’s architectural and natural beauty and also screened several movies. It took me approximately 3 hours to explore the magnificent museums and gardens.

4) Miami Design District – If you are looking for a good photography area then Miami design district should be on your list- From casual selfies to professional photoshoots. It has everything from shopping, architecture, restaurants, and even contemporary art.

5)Miami City Lights Night Paddle Boarding or Kayak Tour – My new year resolution this year was to try different things and experiences I have never done before. I booked this tour with Daniel for a Paddleboarding experience I had never done before and what an experience it was! There is no better way to see the lights and sights of Miami than from the water. The skyline looks so scenic from the water and Daniel makes this excursion extremely fun. If you are looking for a unique and unconventional adventure to see the city of Miami I highly recommend this tour more even if you do not know to swim. I myself do now know to swim but Daniel ensures to make you comfortable to enjoy this beautiful experience and provides you with all the safety gear required. Daniel also plays music and brings beer and wine which is complimentary and takes amazing pictures. Attaching the link for the tour here

6) Little Havana Food Tour – One of the things I enjoy to do is to explore a new place by taking a food tour. I think you can learn so much about the culture and history of the place and at the same time enjoy delicious food and drinks along the way at some of the local favorites places. I decided to take the Little Havana food tour with Miami Culinary Tours and cannot recommend it more. They also have another tour of the South Beach food and if you are taking the Little Havana Rituals tour I would advise you to take the South Beach food tour as there is an overlap between the two tours however the food experience is great. We covered 7 places on this tour. When we spoke to JJ who was our tour guide he suggested that the South Beach food tour is also amazing and offers a great experience. Something on my list to try the next time I visit Miami. The best thing about Miami Culinary Tours was that they can adjust the tour to suit everyone’s needs without compromising the experience. While others in the tour enjoyed the meat-based options our guide had tailored the tour as per my request as I am a vegetarian and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. We covered around 7 places. Attaching the link for the tour here

7) South Beach – Needless to say you are in Miami so hit the beach. A great point to watch the sunset in Miami is at the South point pier point. I am an absolute beach person so enjoyed spending my time at the beach dipping in the salty seawater, just relaxing on the daybed sipping my Pina Coladas and gaping in the beauty of the mighty sea. Later in the evening, we walked on the ocean drive exploring the area, shops, and bars. The best way to explore Ocean drive is by walking.

Restaurant/Bars Recommendations

1) Barton G. The Restaurant Miami Beach – I simply wanted to try Barton G for the over the top experience that they have the reputation for. They completely awed me by all their inventive presentation and pushed my imagination. Watching people receive their food and drinks is a show in itself as the presentation on each of them is extremely unique. My favorite part of this experience was the fancy drinks – Sabrinatini and Buddhalicious and the extravagant dessert -Dolla Dolla Bills Y’All that I got. The desserts there go all the way up to $250.

2) Kyu – Located in the heart of Wynwood this wood-fired Asian fusion place offers a great array of flavors. Kyu is a believer in green and sustainable methods, The Kyu Team vows to plant trees, and source most of their foods locally. My favorites at Kyu were Roasted Cauliflower( their signature dish), Grilled summer corn, and Thai fried rice. The Pollinator and Koji and Oates were my favorite drinks.

3)Planta South Beach– Planta is such a cute little spot decorated with plants and great to get brunch/lunch. It is a vegan place and I cannot recommend it enough even if you are not vegan or vegetarian. The food is lip-smacking. I highly recommend getting the cauliflower tots, steamed dumplings and spicy tuna from the small plates. For the large plates, I recommend the Planta Burger with a side of truffle fries. I got the Pink Flamingo and Charcoal Bourbon sour cocktails and loved them both. I also got the Strawberry cheesecake with sorbet and charcoal flavoredsoft serve – Both were delicious.

4) The Bazaar by Jose Andres South Beach – James Beard-winning chef blends his Spanish heritage with the local Latin tradition of South Beach. This is a tapas-style place so calling for food for the table is a great option. They have a great and vast selection of wines. My favorites here were Kueh Pai Tai, Cana de Cabra, Creamy Coconut Rice, and Patata Bravas. For dessert, I enjoyed the deconstructed version of the key lime pie.

5) Bodega Miami Beach – Whether you have had a long day on the beach or looking to crave your late-night hunger after all the partying and need some fuel – these tacos are a must! And the best part – they are open until 5.00 am. They also have a speakeasy bar in the back with great music which is so fun. Highly recommend.

6) Sugar – This chic rooftop bar and garden is located on the 40th floor of the East Miami Hotel. It is a great place to take in the panoramic views of downtown Miami skyline surrounded by the water.

7) Ball and Chain – Located in the heart of Little Havana and known for its rich history this bar serves great mojitos and has great live music playing all day and a great place to shake a leg. The vibrancy of the Latin culture shines here. Cardi B, J Balvin and Bad Bunny have filmed the “I like it like that” music video right here. Highly recommend.

8) Cuban Coffee and sandwiches– Las Olas Cafe or Versailles Restaurant Cuban Cuisine are good places to try the Cuban coffee.

9) Bachour – The desserts here are a piece of art and are exquisitely arranged and have the ideal balance of sweetness, flavor, and texture. The desserts are themselves Instagram worthy without any filters. Highly recommend.

10) Mango’s Tropical Cafe South Beach – Mango’s is very tropical and colorful with a great South beach vibe. I went to Mangos’s for drinks. It is a fun and entertaining place with live music and different performances. They are most famous for their mojitos and also have a dance floor to dance to the beats.

11) Clevelander South Beach – We went to Clevelander’s at dusk to get drinks and a quick bite. The music was great- a variety of old, new and different genres. They have an outdoor bar and pool surrounded by palm trees on the ocean drive.

12) Esplonala Way – Definitely explore this small pedestrian street which was built to mimic the Spanish village and as a result has a very Europe meets Miami vibe. With twinkling fairy lights the streets are picturesque and there are several restaurants to choose from with great music. We strolled around the street and then decided to get Italian on the street which was amazing.

13) Call me Gaby – Looking for an Instagram worthy romantic, modern Italian gem with a charming outdoor patio? Check out this restaurant with a great ambience and delicious food. You will not be disappointed!! We loved the cheese platter, drinks, pizzas, and our favorite was the stuffed gnocchi which we ordered several portions of. This place has great vegetarian options.

For all the dining experiences I highly recommend making a reservation beforehand as sometimes it gets difficult to get a reservation.

Shopping Recommendations

  1. Lincoln Road Mall – An open air mall with lots of options to shop including clothing, jewelry and accessories, beauty and shoes. Also, there are many options to grab a bite while you shop.
  2. K-Armas – While I am traveling I like to shop at boutiques or brands that are not available where I live. This was a cute boutique store that I found in Little Havana and fell in love with everything in the store. They have great bikinis, swimming costumes, beach/summer bags, accessories and clothes. They also have another shop just next door.
  3. The Shops at Mary Brickell Village – There are many shops, cafes and restaurants at the Mary Brickell Village. ‘Atiqshop’ was yet another boutique store where I really liked the collection. They had some really trendy and stylish pieces and accessories. The owners are very helpful and really help you to find something you are looking for.
  4. Dolphin Mall, Bayside Marketplace and Aventura Mall – Some other good places to shop in Miami.

Day Trip

We also took a day trip to explore Islamorada which is one of the Florida Keys and on the way to Key West. Check out a detailed post on what we did in Islamorada and where to eat here.

If you have any questions please leave a comment and I will be happy to answer all your questions.