My Favorite City in Georgia: Savannah

Washing cars, babysitting, and selling homemade lasagnas, flans, cookies, and chicken. That’s how 12-year-old Cristina paid for her first trip to Savannah, Georgia with her dear Girls Scout troop 133 from San Juan, Puerto Rico. I had the privilege of doing my crossing from Junior to Cadette in the same building where the Girls Scouts founder, Juliette Gordon Low, grew up. While I don’t remember everything from that trip, I remember it being a special place and it remained as such in my heart for years.

Flash forward to today and I am now lucky to live only a 4-hour drive away from this beautiful city. I made my grand return last year for my birthday and since then, I’ve been back two more times. I can’t get enough of this city.

I am excited to share with you what I’ve explored, what we’ve discovered, and what I’ve yet to encounter.

Where to stay in Savannah

Savannah is super walkable so bring comfortable shoes and get ready to explore. I switched back and forth between sandals and my converse and had zero issues. Due to its walkability, where you stay matters. Thankfully, Savannah has plenty of options.

Planters Inn – We stayed here for my birthday and the location was perfect, right next to The Olde Pink House. I found it to fit well within our budget and didn’t have any complaints.

The Perry Lane Hotel – If you have a loftier budget, you should check out The Perry Lane Hotel. I have not stayed there but their bars are great and their interiors look stunning. From The Peregrin on the rooftop to The Wayward downstairs on their building across the street, you’ll find amazing cocktails and even some yummy snacks.

The Grant by Black Swan AirBnb – Short-term homestays are another solid option and this one was in a fantastic location. We were right in the heart of all the action and were able to easily walk in and out of the apartment as needed. It is right across the street from Rise Southern Biscuits & Righteous Chicken which was perfect for breakfast after a fun night out (nothing helps a hangover quite like a fried chicken biscuit sandwich with fountain diet coke). This Airbnb does not include parking so if you have a car you will have to find street parking or a parking deck.

VRBO by Lucky Savannah – A little further out but still within the historic district, this spot was available for a last-minute summer visit. Street parking was a lot easier here compared to the previous Airbnb option. This property is dog friendly if you are interested in bringing your pup!

Where to eat & drink in Savannah

Here’s a list of all the places we visited last year. The classifications of dinner, lunch, etc. are based on my experience so I definitely encourage you to check each spot to see what else they offer! I highly recommend you make reservations for dinner. Places like The Olde Pink House, for example, book well out in advance.

I also included a list of the spots I still have to try in case you want to check them out too. You can find them at the end of this post.

Dinner

HuskI had been to the Husk in Greenville, South Carolina for brunch but going to the Husk for dinner was a totally different experience. In fact, without really trying, we ended up having dinner there on all three of our visits last year. The food is consistently delicious, even as the menu changes seasonally. I also was able to taste some delicious Georgia oysters. Yes, you read that right, apparently, Georgia has good oysters if you know where to search! Needless to say, this opened up a very interesting dinner conversation with my husband.

The Olde Pink HouseI highly recommend you make a reservation ahead of time so you can eat inside the historical (and allegedly haunted) house. I noticed the menu is the same in the other parts of the restaurant but dining in the main room definitely adds a special touch. Their food was delicious but what really makes the place is the history and ambiance. The downstairs bar had a great vibe and live music playing, perfect for sipping an old fashion or dirty martini.  

Cotton & Rye – This restaurant is a little ways out from the heart of the historic district but still walkable if you are feeling up for it. Pro tip: If there’s a wait, put your name down and walk two blocks up to Tacos + Tequila for a margarita while you wait.

Coco & MossThis spot was recommended for sushi. My friend and I went there for lunch and gravitated toward their bowl options and wow, they were delicious. I definitely want to go back and try their sushi though!

Cha Bella – This one is lower on my list but still wanted to include it as it’s a solid option if a lot of the other popular spots are booked. I really enjoyed their gnocchi.

Vic’s on The River – As you may have guessed by the name, this is one of the nicer spots on the river. I actually got stuck on a work call and was not able to make lunch here but my friends went and said it was nice. She said the fried green tomatoes were mediocre but the rest was good. I feel like it’s probably overrated due to its great location by the river.

Lunch / Brunch / Baked Goods

Gryphon Tea Room If you know me, you know I love a nice high tea experience. Champagne, little bites with explosive flavors, unique tea selections, and cute tea cups… what is there not to like? While some of the tea rooms that appeared in popular Savannah articles were not open anymore, the Gryphon did not disappoint. Located in a beautiful historical building and operated by SCAD, it was the perfect way to spend my birthday afternoon.

The Public Kitchen & Bar – We walked in for lunch and had a great experience. My husband loved his burger and I found my salad super refreshing.

The Crab Shack Although this is technically in Tybee Island (~25 minutes away from Savannah), I still wanted to include it on this list. It’s such a fun spot to get seafood –it truly lives up to its name. I loved sitting outside and the waiter even showed me how to properly eat a crawfish. Cool experience but will likely not order them again. Too much work for little meat.

Collins Quarter – This Australian Café was great for brunch. We sat outside and enjoyed people (dog) watching while sharing several breakfast plates. Pro tip: schedule a morning tour of the Juliet Gordon Low Birthplace and then cross the street for brunch at Collins Quarter.

Common – The brunch here was spectacular. If you go, please order their Good Morning Mac & Cheese. Your stomach may regret it but your happy soul never will.

Debi’s Restaurant – We stumbled here after trying to get breakfast at B. Matthews Eatery and failing miserably. To be fair, I think we were the last couple seated at Debi’s before a rush of people came through. A simple, homey feel with great food. I had their special which was some sort of lobster omelette and it was delicious.

The Paris Market – This charming boutique has a cute little café perfect for enjoying your coffee with a delicious baked good. I also found some unique gifts while browsing through the store.

Rise Southern Biscuits & Righteous Chicken – As mentioned above, this spot was right across the street from one of the Airbnbs we stayed in and it was clutch. Fast and delicious, do yourself a favor and try their righteous chicken.

The Little Crown by Pie Society – This spot sells, you guessed it, pies! While I did not grow up with pies, I feel like the musical Waitress really helped me fall in love with these tasty dishes. Their pies did not disappoint. Most orders are made to-go but they do have a few seating options on the back if you want to eat it on the spot.

Drinks

The Peregrin & The Wayward – Both spots are part of The Perry Lane hotel and their cocktails are fantastic. Check out The Peregrin for sunset rooftop cocktails and then go down to The Wayward for a nightcap. Don’t miss the side room with a couple of arcade games if you are feeling playful.

Mint to Be Mojito Go here for some empanadas and you guessed it, mojitos! Stay for the surprise in the back. Warning, there may be some dancing involved for access. 

Bösendorfer Lounge at The Mansion on Forsyth Park – We first sort of stumbled into this bar after strolling down Forsyth Park. Both times we had no issues finding a post and getting a drink before walking over to whatever was our next destination. I’ve heard good things about the hotel’s restaurant, 700 Drayton, but have yet to try it.

Myrtle & Rose This cute rooftop garden is a must when you are strolling down by the river. I can’t vouch for the food or drinks but the view alone makes it worth it.

What to do in Savannah

Contrary to what this blog post may portray, there is more to do in Savannah besides eating. 😉 

River Street – You need to make your way down to River Street and stroll by the river to your heart’s content. As I mentioned above, there are several cool rooftop spots that will give you great views, especially at sunset.

Forsyth Park – After exploring River Street and all its quirks, make your way down to Forsyth Park through Bull Street. You’ll stumble upon a lot of cute little shops along the way. Depending on the weather, you will likely see plenty of local artists in the park showcasing their unique work. I still regret not buying a painting of Forrest Gump sitting on a bench with Pikachu.

Juliet Gordon Low Birthplace Whether you were a Girl Scout or not, I definitely recommend visiting the birthplace of Juliet Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts in the US. You don’t need to be familiarized with the scouting movement to appreciate the history and stories of the house and its past inhabitants. I recommend you check out their site before you visit as tours were by appointment only last year. 

Prohibition MuseumI am not gonna lie, from first glance I thought the Prohibition Museum was going to be super cheesy. To my surprise, however, I ended up learning a ton! From the loss of tax revenue to the hoops people jumped through to get some sort of alcohol, there are some twisted historical facts you’ll see on display. I definitely recommend a visit. We were easily able to walk in during the day on a Friday and just get our tickets at the door.

Pedal Pub I know a lot of cities now have this (heck, I saw one in Augusta, GA!) but I have to tell you, it was a blast. I now have done this twice in Savannah, once for my friend’s birthday (more bachelorette vibes) and once with a couple of friends (more chill). Both times were a blast and given Savannah’s open container laws, it’s a super seamless transition from pedal pub to bar. The pedal pub is a great way to explore new bars and make note of what places you want to return to later. 

Haunted Pub Crawl I am a scaredy cat when it comes to horror movies, ghost stories, etc. but I figured when in Savannah, let’s do a ghost tour! I left the research for this in the hands of my husband and he booked us what ended up being a fantastic tour. If you are interested in a ghost pub crawl, you have to go with Spooky Steve. Not only did we visit a variety of bars all over historic Savannah, but his storytelling is also excellent. I even ended up learning a little bit of history in the process!

Still on my list…

There’s always a next time, right? Anything I should add?

Leopold’s Ice cream

The Grey

700 Drayton Restaurant

Common Thread

Treylor Park

B. Matthew’s Eatery

Hitch

Bull Street Taco

St. Neo’s Brasserie

Rancho Alegre

Emporium Kitchen & Wine Market

Garibaldi’s

Flock to the Wok

Sorry Charlie’s Oyster Bar

Alleycat Lounge

Artillery Bar

Sting Ray’s Seafodd (Tybee Island)

I hope you find this post helpful! I love Savannah and want more people to experience the magic of this city. What are your favorite spots in Savannah?

How I Found The Best Tuna Tartare and Other Portuguese Tales [Vol. 3: Lisboa]

Sintra Portugal Cristina Nogueras

It may have taken me over a year to do it, but I am finally completing my Portugal series!

If you missed my earlier posts, here’s my post about the beautiful Porto and the great region of Douro. Ok, let’s do this!

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What better way to learn the history from a city than with a light show projected on the ruins of a monastery? The Lisbon Under The Stars show was only in town for a limited amount of time, but I really hope other places around the world are following suit and doing similar presentations as they are such a rich experience. We sat in the middle of these ruins, under the stars… it was magical.

Lisbon Lisboa Portugal Cristina Nogueras Time Out Market Lisbon Tuna Tartare

Time Out Market Lisbon

During this trip I had, what I still consider the best tuna tartare I’ve ever tasted, and still have dreams about it. It was from the Tartar-ia booth if you want to go taste it and tell me all about your experience!

It was a busy hall, tourists everywhere but in spite of my hate for crowds and overly touristy spots, I really enjoyed it. There is one now in New York City too, if you want to explore it (overpriced, in my opinion, but great views). For the one in Lisbon, you had to camp out a little bit in order to get a table but once you did, you were set. There are SO many good things to try that you can spend hours eating and drinking from different renowned places without having to leave the hall. Definitely, recommend stopping here if you don’t have a lot of time to explore Lisbon, but want to have a good food variety. 

I also took the opportunity in Time Out Market to purchase even more canned fish selections from a local shop. No regrets. Seriously, canned fish from Portugal > any other canned fish. 

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More food

Unlike other places in Portugal where we were able to make reservations the day of or just walk into excellent restaurants, I recommend you plan some special dinners ahead of time and make reservations. We, unfortunately, were not able to try some places on my list because of that same reason. Thankfully, Lisboa is full of culinary wonders and I still had an incredible experience. I did not write down every place we visited (sorry!) but I recommend you ask locals about their favorite places (your hotel receptionist, Airbnb host or random person at a bar!). 

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Our first night, we had a delicious dinner at Taberna da Rua das Flores, a small but cozy restaurant. They had a curated selection of small plates and I let the waitress recommend the best options for us. These crabs in steamed buns were absolutely amazing. We also had a goat cheese dessert that sounded kind of weird (not that common to have goat cheese in a dessert for me) but was actually really good! We did not have reservations and were able to just walk right in for an early dinner. 

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Of course, we had to try the famous pastéis de nata. We may or may not have had these for breakfast every single day in Lisboa. 🙂 We did not make it to Pastéis de Belem for the “authentic” ones but these ones from Fábrica da Nata were honestly really good (and right next to our hotel). It’s great to go to the “original” or “popular” spots but a lot of times when traveling, it’s about striking a balance between what you are told and what you want to discover on your own.

Sintra Portugal Cristina Nogueras

Sintra

If you go to Lisboa, Sintra is a must. I know of people going only for the morning, the whole day or even stay overnight. We ended up spending the day there and it was lovely. There are several transportation options but since there were 3 of us (hey, Lala!) and we were being lazy, we decided to Uber to and from Sintra. Not bad at all when you are splitting it.

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Once in Sintra, we had the option to walk up all the way to the Palacio Nacional da Pena or choose from other methods of transportations. We were kind of winging it at this point and up for exploring, so we decided to walk all the way up… nobody really told us what this entailed. Let’s start by saying I was not quite wearing the best “hiking” gear. There were people rock climbing up this trail and I was wearing my white converse, jeans, and a cute top. It probably took us about 2 hours, but we made it. Barely. I would encourage you to explore your transportation options. 🙂 If you are not a big fan of crowds I would also encourage you to wake up super early and get there when it opens. 

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After exploring the palace and the Castelo dos Mouros, (crowds, crowds!) we were FAMISHED. We hopped on one of the little tuk-tuks and made our way down. Once back in town, we stumbled upon Tascantiga Sintra and had a feast for basically zero dollars. We ordered way more food than we could handle, but wow, it was the best reward after an unexpected hiking day. We basically lived on ham, cheese, olives, cod, and wine for our entire week in Portugal. My kind of diet, if you ask me.  

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There is a LOT to explore in Lisboa, so much that in fact, we barely made a dent on the list we had compiled prior to arriving. We were in a chill, exploratory mood and did not want to rush any of the wonderful experiences we were having. Sure, sometimes it’s fun to rush through places and activities in order to cover more things on your list, but most times I believe that doing less with more focus and intention is more valuable and enjoyable that skimming your way through a wonderful city such as Lisboa.  

For next time though, and for your own considerations, here are some places we did not make it to. Have you been to any? What was your experience like?

Food & drinks

To do & explore

  • Belem Tower
  • Praca do Comercio
  • Sao Jorge Castle
  • Tram 28 to Alfama
  • Monastery of St. Jerome

* BONUS! *

We did go to some other places in Portugal besides Porto, Douro and Lisboa. I don’t think we spent enough time exploring for me to share full-on recommendations but still wanted to share my experience briefly, just for reference. 

Fátima – I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic school, so getting to see Fátima was truly special. We stopped there on our way from Douro to Albufeira. The day was gloomy so I don’t have great pictures, but it had a very solemn vibe. I had never seen people complete a pilgrimage so that was really impactful, especially the older folks that do so on their knees! Seeing such devotion and commitment in person is something truly special.

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Albufeira – If the Jersey Shore and Bourbon St. had a baby, it would likely be called Albufeira. It seems to be the place where all the Brits go for bachelor parties. Lots of fun, but not at all the “authentic, chill beach vibe” we were looking for. Still, we had a fun time, I mean, you are in a beach town in Portugal! I can’t wait to have the opportunity to return to the southern coast of Portugal for a proper vacation in such a beautiful area though!

I think that’s it! 🙂

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions about my experience. You can follow me on Instagram @cristina.nogueras to check out my latest photos and more.

How I fell in love with Portugal’s wine country and other Portuguese tales [Vol 2. Douro]

cristina nogueras photography portugal douro

I had already shared how I was not expecting much on the wine front from Portugal before our visit. Shameful, I know. You may associate port wine with Porto but did you know that the grapes are actually harvested in the Douro region? In fact, if they are not from there, it’s not technically port wine. The process may slightly vary by the producer but in general, grapes are harvested and transported to Porto where they are stored for aging and eventually consumption. Also, there is a LOT more to this beautiful wine region than port wine, we tasted plenty of other varieties that were just absolutely wonderful.

For our trip, we decided to rent a car in order to travel through all of our stops:

Porto -> Douro -> Fatima -> Albufeira -> Lisboa

I 100% recommend renting a car if you can, as it not only gives you freedom from schedules but you can also explore at your own pace and change things up as you go if you so desire.

cristina nogueras photography portugal douro quinta nova

For our stay in Douro we stayed at Quinta Nova Nossa Senhora do Carmo, which you can see in this photo. When looking at where to stay in Douro, I saw plenty of gorgeous quintas in the region but I wanted to make sure we could stay in a quinta that offered wine tastings and actually had a vineyard. Our stay was short but wonderful. Due to time constraints, we actually did not leave the quinta once we got there and honestly have no regrets.

cristina nogueras photography portugal douro quinta nova wine and cheese vacation

We began our stay with a wonderful spread of ham and cheese and started tasting some of the wonderful selections from Quinta Nova right away. Their reserva was one of our favorites and definitely affordable considering the quality and taste, says the girl that is happy with a $10 bottle of wine at the liquor store, but you get it. 🙂

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My favorite part was walking through the vineyards, just me and Brian. There was not another soul in sight and the weather was absolutely perfect, not too hot or too cold. This region is truly a beauty and the landscape is breathtaking, unlike anything I had seen before. It’s also very calm, the kind of vibes you have to stop for and take a moment to really take it in because it’s a magical experience.

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Quinta Nova offers a delicious dinner with a chef’s menu and of course, dedicated wine pairings. Each course was a unique experience and everything was purely exquisite. Dinner wouldn’t have been completed without an excellent dessert and of course, port wine.

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The breakfast selection the next day was also delicious but the best part was enjoying it all with a morning view. I mean, how often do we allow ourselves to not only enjoy breakfast time but enjoy it with this kind of view. Good coffee, good food and knowing that the day can only get better. That’s what vacation should feel like.

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You can never have enough of something wonderful, right? I would have loved to stay longer in this region and explore further. If you have the time, definitely recommend you explore other quintas and even take a boat through the river. Even if you are tight for time and can’t stay for the night, Douro is not far from Porto and you can do a day trip to get a taste of the magic (it’s only a little over an hour drive).

Stay tuned for more of my Portugal series and feel free to message me if you are planning to visit and have any questions about my experiences. 🙂

cristina nogueras photography portugal douro quinta nova

How I fell in love with canned fish and other Portuguese tales [Vol. I: Porto]

I want to start this post by apologizing to Portugal.

I must admit, Portugal was our second choice for a trip that for months we had been envisioning as a Greek adventure. I’m pretty sure Brian and I were talking about doing our one year anniversary in Greece when we were still in Thailand for our honeymoon. Disgusting, I know. Timing, flights and curiosity slowly led us to consider Portugal more and more. First it was going to be a second stop in our trip but as we uncovered all the potential we decided we were going to dive in completely and we are so glad we did. (Don’t worry Greece, I’m still coming for you!)

I will be doing a series for every stop we made in Portugal in order to truly make it justice. I will be sharing what we did but also, a lot of recommendations I collected before the trip (and during it) that we were not able to discover.

Let’s start with the wonder that is Porto. Jetlagged as we were and with some time before we could check into our Airbnb, we did not miss a beat and found ourselves having breakfast by theriver. We had no set plans, just a list of choices. What did we do? We propped ourselves outside a local restaurant, drank wine and watched the people walk by. To be fair, we did walk in the church of Saõ Francisco on the way and explored some of its barroque beauty.

Let me tell you, Portuguse wines are so underrated. Maybe it’s because I am not a sommelier but when I hear people rave about European wines, it’s always French, Italian and Spanish wines… but Portugal? Not so much or at all. Sure, we hear all about the wonder that is Porto (the wine) but I was pleasantly surprised to see (and taste) all the different varieties they have to offer.

For our first dinner in Portugal, we went to Wine Quay Bar. This was a place we had seen mentioned in various lists and I really liked that it brought together a lot of Portugal delicacies in a “tapas” style menu. The cheese, meats and olives were superb but oh my goodness… the bacalhau. Not sure how you feel about cod (bacalhau) but I grew up with my grandma’s Puerto Rican “bacalaitos” (cod fritters) and to me cod has always been associated with fried greatness that you should not have too often. Well, Portuguese have been doing it right all these years (sorry, grandma!). The cod we had here was soft and full of so much rich, yet delicate flavor. I don’t think my description can do it justice. 

I knew canned fish was a delicacy in Portugal and I was excited to try it but to be honest, I never expected to fall in love with it like I did. There are currently about 12 cans of different fish varieties in my kitchen. No day feels special enough for us to dig in just yet. Brian wants me to add that he was not a huge fan of the cod but was obsessed with the spicy tuna that they serve (also in a can). The saddest part is that I could not buy the exact cod they had at the restaurant because they ran out. The waitress was telling us about how cod is not as abundant as it used to be. There are issues with over fishing and people respecting sea borders. Really a shame since a lot of people, like them, have grounded their business around cod.

You really can’t go to Porto and not experience a Porto wine tasting. Like I said, we did not have set plans but for this, I recommend you do a little research and look to reserve beforehand. We were lucky to be able to walk in and just get a spot in Cockburn’s Port and had a great experience. First of all, I didn’t know port came in whites! Refreshing to start the tour with a port and tonic, even though I realized once more that I just don’t like tonic.

Did you know that port wine has about 20 % alcohol volume? You feel it. It’s good.

Porto (technically Gaia) houses all the port wines for aging but the grapes are actually harvested in the Douro Valley region. Just like champagne is not champagne if it’s not from Champagne, France – port wine is also only port wine if it comes from this region. Lucky us, Douro Valley was our next stop! More to come on that in an upcoming post.

So yes, this is a Francesinha (missing the fried egg on top). It’s a signature plate in Porto that I feel I have no authority to criticize. Essentially, this plate is available in almost every restaurant that serves Portuguese food but I was being such a brat that I didn’t want to order it if it wasn’t from the places “the internet” said are the best. The way our day ended up flowing, we were not near the famous Cafe Santiago when it was time to eat so Brian convinced me to let it go and just order it where we were. It was alright. Plot twist, we ended up having the best Francesinha in Lisbon from a restaurant with a chef from Porto. I will share more on that when I write about Lisbon!

The whole thing was so silly and has really got me thinking about the way I want to travel. I don’t want to miss out on the good stuff that other people have discovered but I also want to take my own chances and discover for myself  the wonders that are out there. We worry too much about what other’s have lived that sometimes we forget to make adventures of our own.

This was the case for our anniversary dinner. We tried to get reservations in some of the popular places but they were all full. We ended up walking by this small and cozy restaurant that was playing live Fado – exactly what I wanted for such a special evening. I was hesitant to trust our anniversary dinner in a restaurant that was unknown to us but Brian ignited the explorer in me and we went for it. I am so glad he did, as our dinner at Terreirinho Restaurant was the most special dinner of our entire trip. Who would have thought?

And that, my friends, was the view from our AirBnb. It was affordable and with a great location, here’s the link if you are interested!

Here are some other food spots we did not get to try but totally encourage you to consider. If you do end up going to Porto and trying some, let me know what you think!

Any Porto food recommendations you think I should add? Let me know!

You can see more from my Portugal travels on my Instagram. 🙂

[Thailand] My Friends, The Elephants

elephant jungle sanctuary cristina nogueras beaches & brie thailand

I can’t remember who was the first person to tell me to watch where I was going to see elephants in Thailand, I just remember knowing that I needed to educate myself instead of just showing up somewhere random. I knew I wanted to see these beautiful animals, I just wanted to do it responsibly so that I wasn’t contributing to their pain.

Through research and personal accounts of people living in Thailand, I found The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. The elephants in the sanctuary have been rescued from riding camps or other places where they were treated unfairly and abused. There, they are provided with everything they need within a safe space. Some may argue that they are still not in ideal conditions, but it’s better than what they had before. Also, as one of the volunteers argued, they have been captive for so long, they are not fit to survive in the wild on their own. Elephants are not meant to be ridden, it’s not natural for them.

We arrived to the sanctuary on the back of a mini truck, well aware that we were in for adventure and that we were going to be in the throws with the elephants.

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We started by changing our shirts and wearing the traditional karen clothing so that the elephants would feel more familiar with us. In order to really win their friendship from the start, we fed them lots of bananas. Literally banana after banana, after banana… they can really eat!

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We walked around and brought them sugar canes for them to eat. Again, impressive to watch these beautiful beasts eat. This one even tried to eat my GoPro.

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I must admit I was a bit scared. They are beautiful, yet intimidating beasts. They were gentle and friendly and to me, it was scary to think they could be so friendly that they could hurt me without realizing so. For example, being together on the river, a quick playful roll could have basically killed me. Maybe it was just me being cautious, but those thoughts were always in the back of my mind.

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Still, I was able to enjoy and admire them up close and in their natural habitat. We literally got into the mud with them, I went in barefoot to a pile of God knows what. I legit probably stepped on their poop more than once but hey, I did not come all the way to Thailand to stay clean and watch from afar, right?

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The mud made jumping in to the river 10 times more amazing. Sure, the elephants still pooped on the water there, but hey, at least I could clean myself! It was really an experience like no other. The closeness with nature (think walking barefoot through the jungle) and the majesty of these animals (think huge elephant running around like a puppy) was just absolutely incredible.

elephant jungle sanctuary cristina nogueras beaches & brie thailand

elephant jungle sanctuary cristina nogueras beaches & brie thailand

This day really made me want to continue exploring ecotourism. It was interesting, yet not surprising, that the group was composed of people like me from around the world (mid/late twenties all the way to mid/late thirties) hungry for meaningful experiences that do not cause harm and help you learn about the awesome world we live in.

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[Thailand] Best Stay of My Life

There’s traveling. Then there’s traveling for your honeymoon.

Your heart is still full of wedding joy, eager to embrace whatever comes, thirsty for adventures. There are no limitations from the body, mind or even your wallet. With the excuse of “once in a lifetime” we say yes to everything that ignites a sense of passion for this amazing world we live in.

During our Thailand honeymoon, we decided to stay at the Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas during our stay in Phuket and let me tell you, we were absolutely blown away. Never in my sweet life had I stayed in a place like this. We had our own private villa with a private pool, outdoor shower, lagoon cabana and excellent service. I will let the photos speak for themselves.

Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas - Cristina Nogueras - Beaches and Brie - Phuket Thailand

Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas - Cristina Nogueras - Beaches and Brie - Phuket Thailand

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Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas - Cristina Nogueras - Beaches and Brie - Phuket Thailand

I know Puerto Rico is my paradise, but this place was out of this world. Outside of our villa, the views were not that bad either, including sunset cocktails up on a tree house. Every detail here was taken care of, from lighting up torches before the sunset to welcome drinks by the water so you don’t even have to sweat your check-in process.

Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas - Cristina Nogueras - Beaches and Brie - Phuket Thailand

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Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas - Cristina Nogueras - Beaches and Brie - Phuket Thailand

Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas - Cristina Nogueras - Beaches and Brie - Phuket Thailand

Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas - Cristina Nogueras - Beaches and Brie - Phuket Thailand

Forget about work hard, play hard.

Work hard, relax harder.

[Puerto Rico] Sunset in Guánica and a Little Bit More

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If you are looking for a romantic and downright amazing getaway in Puerto Rico, you have to consider Copamarina Beach Resort & Spa in Guánica. It’s about 2 hours away from San Juan, but oh so worthy.

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They have their own beach, but what’s really cool about this place is that you can actually take a small boat out to Guilligan’s Island (official name is Cayo Aurora). This is a small island with white sand and beautiful, clear water.

Also in Guánica, you can find a beautiful sunflower farm. I still have not been, but it’s on my list. A less popular but still interesting visit is a stop at the Guánica State Forest, better know as the “Bosque Seco de Guánica” or dry forest. It does not sound appealing but it’s home to some really interesting plants and animals.

copamarina beach resort puerto rico

Back in Copamarina, you have a nice selection of food, although it falls a little short compared to other restaurants in the south that serve delicious traditional Puerto Rican food. The main restaurant was also closed during my stay, so I can only speak for the more casual dining space.

copamarina puerto rico guanica

Although a day trip to Guilligan’s Island is amazing, you don’t even have to leave the resort to have a wonderful day since they have plenty of activities to choose from. I wanted to do paddle boarding but as you can see from the pictures in a kayak, I was not successful. In my defense, we tried to do two in one, didn’t work too well.

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Let’s face it, he was doing all the work. I was busy holding on tight to the GoPro.

Now, let’s get real. Copamarina is now one of the most special places in Puerto Rico to me because right at the beginning of the year, during the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen, my boyfriend proposed. It was a freaking dream and writing about it makes everything feel even more surreal. As I type, I can’t help to notice the ring on my finger shining back at me as a confirmation that everything did happen and I am indeed marrying my partner in crime and love of my life. Permission to gag. Still, not apologizing for being cheesy. 🙂

puerto rico beach paradise beaches & brie

Here I am thinking what a beautiful day, how can it get any better? Little did I know…

puerto rico sunset guanica

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puerto rico sunset guanica

Then, this happened…

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So yeah, I’m getting married! I promise I won’t turn into bridezilla… as long as I am well fed. Also MAJOR thanks to the couple that took the picture right in the moment. I don’t know your names but I will be literally forever thankful.

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I’m still learning the ropes on this whole “being engaged” thing so feel free to comment with advice, warnings or recommendations! 🙂

copamarina guanica puerto rico cristina nogueras

 

January was a trial month: Welcome to Beaches & Brie!

Playa La Selva Puerto Rico - Beaches and Brie

After many months of tossing and turning, I am thrilled to announce that Peace, Love & Diet Coke is now Beaches & Brie. Peace, Love & Diet Coke will always have a special place in my heart but I’ve felt for a while now that I needed to change the name to help shape my journey and portray more of who I am.

When I started Peace, Love & Diet Coke back in 2013, I was in dire need of a creative outlet. Adjusting to the workforce was not easy and this blog gave me the opportunity to share what was on my mind, no guidelines or parameters needed. I’ve learned a lot about what I love along the way, all while nurturing a hunger for life and adventures (and food, duh).

Food and travel are two of my biggest passions, as made obvious by my Instagram feed and ongoing rants about how I want to travel the world. Beaches & Brie is both an invitation and a declaration. I want to continue to explore places and plates all over the world, or as close as my backyard. Check out the new look!

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I’m still me, nothing’s changing. I’m just excited to roll this new phase out and continue to share places and plates with you, with some other interesting nuggets along the way. Stay tuned for more to come.

January was just a trial month, 2016 begins now!

 

[Strasbourg, France] Forever nostalgic

Strasbourg, FranceI will forever be nostalgic of the few months I lived in Strasbourg, France. I really don’t think that feeling will ever go away and I am ok with it, I’ve said it before. I think everyone needs to live abroad at some point in their lives, even if it’s just for a few months. To some it sounds annoying, but I have never heard anyone who has lived abroad say that they regret their decision. Seriously, it opens your eyes, your mind and your soul. It also empties your pockets, but that’s another story.

Instagram did not even exist when I was studying abroad. *Does quick Google search* Ok, Instagram was literally being built as I was studying abroad. I can only imagine the absurd amount of pictures I would have been posting on a daily basis if I had an Instagram account at that point. I had a basic Nokia phone with limited minutes and text messages as my loyal companion, I used bbm (Blackberry messenger) as the way to chat with my family and friends in the other side of the Atlantic and guess what? I took pictures with an actual camera and not a phone. Bizarre, right?

There’s nothing I can write that can wipe away the nostalgia that I’m feeling at the moment, so I will not keep trying. It’s all just really weird and beautiful at the same time. So join me while I reminisce, I hope all of you have a happy place and set of memories that can bring out the same sense of comfort and longing like Strasbourg does for me.

Strasbourg, France

Strasbourg, France

Somewhere near Strasbourg…

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It’s called enchanted island for a reason

Just in case I don’t give you enough reasons to visit Puerto Rico on a regular basis, this video by Javier Letour should do it. It’s sweet torture for me right now, facing this bitter New York winter and counting the days until I can return to my one true home. Enjoy!