long weekends

Four Days in Coastal Maine

When I was up north last month, for the Maine Coast Bosom Buddy Relay, the race was clearly the highlight of the trip. But I also had a great time exploring the stretch of coast from Kennebunkport to Portland.

Since the race was in Biddeford, I wanted to stay somewhere nearby. After a bit of searching online, I came across a little beach cottage for rent in Saco, a neighboring town.

Eiderdown Cottage, Saco, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

While it wasn’t big or fancy, it worked well for our purposes. It had two bedrooms and an enclosed porch that served as a third, which more than accommodated five of us.

Plus, it was on the same block as the beach! And luckily, the weather was in the 80s for two of our four days, which gave us some much-appreciated sun time.

Saco, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

Saco, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

TheВ Saco/Biddeford area also hadВ some great food:

Run of the Mill Public House and Brewery: I love trying new breweries, and this was our first stop when we arrived in Maine. We sat outside and had beers and a late lunch.

The Portland Pie Co., which has some of the best pizza I’ve ever eaten outside of NYC. It was so good, we had it three times (!!!) in four days: for dinner the first night we were in Maine; at the race, where each finisher received a slice; and the day we were heading back to NYC! I highly recommend a veggie-laden pie with the beer crust.

Biscuits & Company, another restaurant that we visited multiple times. It’s a bright, airy cafe that specializes in its namesake. We had breakfast there the day before the race—delicious biscuit sandwiches that were crispy and salty on the outside, and rich and soft on the inside. And on Sunday after the race, we went back for Mother’s Day brunch.

Biscuits & Company, Biddeford, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

Huot’s Seafood Restaurant: Hunt, the caretaker of our cottage, highly recommended this place, just a quick drive away. We went for dinner the evening after our race and the place was packed! The restaurant is larger and nicer than it looks from the outside, and once the food came, we could see why it was so popular. I loved the clam chowder and every bit of my whole lobster.

Huot's, Saco, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

Huot's, Saco, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

Portland and Cape Elizabeth
The day before the race, we drove into Portland for the sole purpose of going to Lululemon. (Yeah, I know!) I needed running pants and a wicking shirt. Plus, I’d never been to Portland.

I could easily see the appeal of the city. It’s small, walkable and has a cute downtown with stone streets. We picked up my running gear at Lulu, and then spent a few hours exploring the nearby streets. We loved Sherman’s bookstore; the Coastal Maine Popcorn Co., a place that sells popcorn in every flavor; and the Holy Donut, which features potato doughnuts. Of course, we had to try the chocolate sea salt one.

From there, we drove to Cape Elizabeth.

We grabbed lunch at the Lobster Shack.

Lobster Shack, Cape Elizabeth, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

It has the look and location of your classic New England joint: perched on a rocky shore, and decorated to the brim with fishing paraphernalia.

Lobster Shack, Cape Elizabeth, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

Yet, the lobster rolls, though pretty, didn’t blow us away.

Lobster Shack, Cape Elizabeth, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

But watching the waves crash against the shore outside the restaurant, afterwards, made the trip worth it.

Lobster Shack, Cape Elizabeth, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

Afterwards, we drove north to Portland Head Light, a beautiful lighthouse in pristine condition. I’ll admit, as we were walking up to it, I couldn’t help but think, “Oh yes—this is what a Maine lighthouse is supposed to look like!”

Portland Head Light, Cape Elizabeth, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

Portland Head Light, Cape Elizabeth, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

Kennebunk
After the race, despite the free pizza and beer at the end, we wanted a proper celebratory seafood lunch. We opted for the Clam Shack, in Kennebunkport, which had just reopened for the season.

This was my favorite lobster roll of the trip. The meat was so fresh and sweet.

The Clam Shack, Kennebunkport, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

Kennebunkport is a cute little tourist town, but by the time we’d finished lunch, we were zonked—getting up early for the race caught upВ with us. We were too tired to explore, but we mustered up enough energy to go to Rococo, an amazing ice cream parlor with flavors like goat cheese and blackberry chambord swirl, honey vanilla and whoopie pie.

It was worth it—as was running a road race just to have a good excuse to travel!

Spring Running Weekend, Booked! Maine Coast Half Marathon Relay

lobster buoys

Apologies for the radio silence!

The past few months have been pretty crazy. I’ve had some good things going on—work has been busy, and I’ve been doing lots of ballet, including my first pointe variation performance! But I’ve also been dealing with some not-so-fun personal life stuff, as well.

I think it’s telling that we’re now deep into the long slog (my least favorite time of year), and I haven’t even put up my annual post about getting through it!

In all seriousness, though, over the past few weeks, I decided I’ve been in need of some carrot-planting: planning some fun things to look forward to, to ride out the remainder of this long slog/rough patch.

The very first carrot planted: signingВ up for a spring road race.

I’ll admit, I was a bit hesitant. I really haven’t gone running since my last race, the Long Branch Half Marathon Relay, two years ago (!!). And that was such a special race. My pace was a personal best, and Mal and I hit the goal we set for ourselves. And we finished ninth out of all the female teams! Accomplishing that, with my sister, was seriously one of the best moments of my life.

But I realized that that’s not a reason to never run again! I’ve felt like Evan and I have needed to shake up our routine. Plus, I wanted a carrot that would take me right into spring. And, of course, I wanted an excuse to get away.

The Maine Coast Marathon’s Bosom Buddy Relay seemed like the perfect fit. It’s in early May, which will mean ideal running weather–not too hot, not too cold. Since it’s another relay, I can prep for the raceВ without disrupting my ballet schedule—and Evan and I can train as a team. Part of the run is by the beach—and you know how much I love the beach. Shipyard Brewery Co. is one of the sponsors—and it’s in Maine! Hello?! Beer and lobster to celebrate afterwards!

So we’ve started training, a bit. Some runs at the gym, an outdoor run this weekend, now that NYC isn’t covered in ice. (Evan had the brilliant idea to run from my place to Sylvia’s, 4.5 miles away in Harlem. Nothing like the promise of mac and cheese to get you motivated!)

Seven weeks to go!

(Image via Pinterest)

A Long Weekend of Great Eats in London

Whenever anyone asked me how my trip to London was, my automatic response was: “It was amazing! I ate sooooooooo much!!” Which prompted most people to respond: “Really? I thought the food wasn’t that great over there.”

I can’t speak to how London’s overall dining scene is, since I was there for such a short time. But everything I ate was fabulous. Reen planned an awesome itinerary for my trip, which revolved around two of my favorite activities: eating and wandering around. Each day, we trekked for hours, getting to and from every restaurant.

I couldn’t have asked for a better arrangement. Along the way, I saw tons of the city and walked off a fraction of the calories we consumed. And, best of all, we got to catch up on everything that’s been going on with us on opposite sides of the ocean, for the past year!

Some highlights:

Despite flying in on a red eye, I was still game for a long walk from Reen’s Marylebone apartment to Spitalfields. We had a late lunch at the English Restaurant, a wonderfully old school place. It’s housed in building from the 1670s, and the interior has gorgeous wood floors and dark wood booths. The restaurant has a lovely menu, which includes some refined takes on British standards. We shared a delicious salmon roulade and an omelet.

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Later, we had drinks with some of Reen’s co-workers. I don’t remember either of these two things from my previous trip to London, but I’m convinced we need both, in the States: The ability to stand outside a bar and drink. (As long as you’re in a designated area.) And mulled wine. Seriously, it’s one of the most amazing drinks I’ve ever had. How has it not infiltrated bars on this side of the pond?

The next morning, we embarked on another long walk to Maltby Market. Along the way, Reen led us down Drury Lane, which she knew I’d love for one reason:

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…there are a bunch of ballet shops within a few blocks of each other! Of course, we stopped into a few.

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The Bloch store was my favorite. It was new and pretty with all their shoes displayed on the bottom floor. At Bloch, and the other stores, women and girls were getting fitted for their pointe shoes. It’s funny—and comforting—how ballet rituals are similar, no matter where in the world you are.

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After crossing the Thames and walking along the south bank for a while, we came to what appeared to be a row of garages under a bridge. We’d arrived at Maltby Market.

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On weekends, each of the garages houses a pop-up restaurant or food stall—but they’re only open until they run out of eats, usually between 2 and 4.

Reen had chosen Bea’s of BloomsburyВ for brunch. When we arrived at their garage, we were dismayed when we saw their door down—we’d thought we’d missed our window of opportunity!

Then we realized you could walk in through a small door within the door…

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…and into a cute, makeshift restaurant!

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Bea’s has a simple brunch menu with staples like pancakes, french toast and poached eggs. I opted for both the pancakes and a poached egg and a side of smoked salmon.

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Bea’s also has maple bacon, which is the most amazing bacon I’ve ever eaten—sweet, salty and crispy, all at once. Sadly, I was too busy chowing down on it to take a pic!

Afterwards, we stopped into the other pop-up shops. My Cup of TeaВ had gorgeous-looking blends and elegant accessories.

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A few steps down, Comptoir Gourmand was selling some of the prettiest pastries I’ve ever come across.

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I wished I could have sampled everything, but I was so stuffed, that I just opted for one of their Portuguese egg tarts, which I devoured a few minutes later. So delicious! The filling was thicker and richer, and the crust more flaky than the Chinese ones I’m used to eating.

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On the other side of the bridge is Maltby Market’s Ropewalk—which meant even more amazing-looking food and cocktails!

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Again, I wanted to try everything. Reen highly recommended the Bad Brownie Company, so we got one to go.

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To return to Reen’s place, we walked back along the south bank of the Thames, passing sights like Tower Bridge.

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We eventually hit the Southbank Christmas market. Unlike Maltby, this place was packed—a complete sea of wall-to-wall people! It had a German theme, so all the booths looked like little wooden chalets. We purchased cups of mulled wine to sip as we walked. Though, thanks to the crowds, I could barely drink it!

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We crossed the river right near Big Ben, which looked gorgeous in the sunset. So much so, that we asked someone to take this touristy photo of us!

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The following morning, we walked to Notting Hill for brunch at Granger & Co. Reen had warned me that we’d have to get there early, because there’s always a line. She wasn’t kidding!

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Luckily, it moved pretty quickly.

I loved the aesthetic of the restaurant—the big windows and wooden ceiling.

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Everything on the menu looked fantastic, as well. Since I was already doing a great job of eating my way through every place we hit up, I opted for the full Aussie breakfast. It was great, especially the eggs—though I wasn’t able to finish it!

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Even though it was drizzling, we walked around Notting Hill. The neighborhood is adorable, with pretty little houses and boutiques.

We stopped into Ottolenghi, the deli/patisserie from the chef/cookbook author of the same name. (He wrote that Jerusalem cookbook, that’s been everywhere!)

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The salads looked so good, but at that point, I was stuffed nearly to the point of self-loathing.

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So Reen and I got a few treats (a cupcake, chocolate-dipped macaroon and lemon tart) to go.

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I was still full on the walk back to Reen’s place, but since I was so hooked on mulled wine, I couldn’t resist the chance to stop for a glass. We ducked into the Swan, one of Reen’s go-to spots. The owners of the pub were super-friendly, and they gave us two very tasty mince pies to go with our drinks. (I think we could use some more mince pies, here in the States, as well!)

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That evening, we went to St. John for dinner. The restaurant features local, seasonal ingredients, and its menu is comprised of small plates for sharing. Reen and I each selected two. I chose the kohlrabi, brown shrimp and cucumber salad. It ended up being my favorite dish of the trip—and that’s saying a lot! The salad was light and refreshing and perfectly dressed. I also chose the whole crab with mayonnaise, which was among the most popular dishes at the restaurant, that night. Nearly all the other diners were eating it, too. I don’t think you can go wrong with whole crab. We ate ours sans the mayo, and were glad we did, a few minutes later.

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Reen’s two picks came out next, and they were probably the two richest plates on the menu. The fois gras and duck liver toast was amazing, but also the heaviest thing I’ve ever eaten in my life. After just a few bites, I was stuffed to the point of self-loathing. Reen was, as well. We were nearly in pain when the Jerusalem artichokes came out—covered in a creamy sauce. Yet, we still managed a few bites.

At that point, we were ready to explode. Still, we got two of the puddings, anyway—because we had to try dessert, as well!

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The next morning, Reen had work, so she recommended I get breakfast at the Providores and Tapa Room, a cute restaurant in her neighborhood.

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Even though I was meeting her for lunch just a few hours later, I had to try the Turkish eggs:В poached eggs on yogurt with hot chili butter. I would happily eat that for breakfast every day, if I could!

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My last meal in London was at Spuntino, another awesome place Reen knew of. It’s nondescript from the outside; I’m don’t even remember seeing a sign. Inside, it has an underground feel, thanks to the distressed subway tiles, exposed brick and bare lightbulbs.

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We shared a pulled pork slider, the slaw and the mac and cheese—one of the creamiest and most delicious I’ve ever had. It was more than enough to fortify me for my tube ride to the airport and flight back to NYC.

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…I also cannot thank Reen enough for being the best host (and friend!) that I could ask for! Thank you, thank you, Reen for making my trip so wonderful!

Holiday Highlight: The Royal Ballet’s Nutcracker

As you may have noticed, from my lack of posts, this holiday season has been nutty! But as hectic as it’s been, I’ve enjoyed every minute: spending a whirlwind long weekend in London with my best friend. (Highlights coming soon!) Seeing Ailey during their annual City Center run (Wayne McGregor’s “Chroma” was the highlight of the program I saw) and ABT’s Nutcracker. And celebrating Christmas with all my loved ones, yesterday. (Mal and Peter are the best hosts, ever! They plan the menus, do all the cooking and somehow manage to mix and mingle with everyone.)

In a month filled with great times, one experience especially stood out as a highlight: Seeing the Royal Ballet,В in London.

Like I’d mentioned, my best friend, Reen, and I both tried to get Royal BalletВ Nutcracker tickets weeks ago, but they were sold out. My parents (who I already knew were the world’s most awesome parents), however, surprised me with tickets before my trip.

nutcracker envelope

They’d purchased them via Stubhub. And in an additional surprise, the seller included this beautiful note when she mailed the tickets. (I’ve also transcribed it, below, since it’s a little hard to read.)

nutcracker ticket note

Dear ‘Kevin,’ [my stepdad]

I see that you have my tickets and I just hoped that if they are for you that you have a wonderful time and if not then someone else enjoys them.

Just so you know, I am not a [illegible] and this is a special show for me and it is years since I have managed to get tickets to the Opera House—where I saw the Nutcracker with my divine late husband—also called Kevin!

This year, I had a later opportunity to visit a goddaughter in Jersey, one thing the past, one the future. Decisions, decisions, rather than do my usual toss a coin, I costed the Jersey trip and put the tickets up for sale. If they sold, Jersey, if not the Opera.

You know the rest.

Merry Christmas.

Anison (really quite sane!)

…I nearly cried after reading that! (And, to be honest, got a little teary while typing it up, just now!)

Dressing up and going to the Royal Opera House was so exciting. For such a renowned theater, it’s surprisingly nondescript from the outside.

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I was also shocked at how small it was, in the inside! I suppose I’ve become accustomed to the massive proportions of the Koch Theatre and the Met Opera at Lincoln Center.

royal opera house

Our seats were in the center of the balcony, but it felt super-close to the stage. Since the theater is so intimate, there isn’t a bad seat in the house.

The performance, itself, was great—I really enjoyed watching a production that was new to me.

Elizabeth Harrod as Clara in The Nutcracker В© Johan Persson/ROH 2009

Unlike in Balanchine’sВ Nutcracker, the version I’ve seen the most, Clara is a company member, rather than a child. She dances en pointe through most of the performance, and is featured in most numbers.

Francesca Hayward as Clara with Artists of The Royal Ballet in The Nutcracker В© ROH / Tristram Kenton 2013

Plus, it was interesting to see how the company still keeps the tradition of putting most dancers in wigs. I can’t recall a U.S. company that does the same!

Laura Morera as The Sugar Plum Fairy and Federico Bonelli as The Prince in The Nutcracker В© ROH / Tristram Kenton 2013

One particularly special moment, for me, came at the end of Act I, during the “Waltz of the Snowflakes”—my favorite part of the ballet. I’d forgotten that the version of “Snow” that I’d performed last year was partially based on the Royal Ballet’s choreography. So when the snowflakes came out and started dancing, I remembered that I had done many of those steps, myself. I felt truly lucky to see the Royal Ballet perform it live. I’d watched this low-quality YouTube versionВ many times in the past. It majorly pales in comparison to seeing it in person!

During intermission and after the performance, Reen and I went to the Opera House’sВ Paul Hamlyn Hall Champagne Bar, which is in a gorgeous glass atrium.

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At the bar, you can pre-order food that would be set out for you during intermission. So Reen treated us to champagne and plates of smoked salmon andВ charcuterie, which we ate between acts. (Thanks Reen!)

I can’t thank my parents (and Reen!) enough for such an awesome night. You can just tell, from this photo here, how thrilled/thankful/happy I was. And still am.

heg and reen at opera house

(Royal Ballet photos via the Royal Opera House)

Off to London!

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As we speak! I’m sitting in the plane on a runway at JFK, waiting to take off.

The past few weeks have been nutty—hence, the lack of posts! But don’t worry; life has been crazy, though with all good things.

Considering how little I’ve been sleeping, a mellow beach vacation would seem more in order. But I’m so energized for this quick jaunt to London. In fact, having it to look forward to kept me feeling upbeat and optimistic for the past several months.

I’ll be visiting my best friend, who moved to London about a year ago. I couldn’t be more thrilled to see her! She’s planned a fabulous weekend: lots of Christmas markets, hearty brunches, mulled wine. I told her that I want to see her London, and I’m so excited to see the city from her local perspective.

My stepdad also surprised me with tickets to see the Royal Ballet perform The Nutcracker—he procured then long after it had sold out and I’d deemed it a lost cause. As you can imagine, I was over the moon when he told me.

I’m a lucky girl. рџ™‚

And if you have any London recs, please let me know!

Photo via Pinterest

A Long Weekend in South Beach

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Three days in South Beach was exactly what I needed before starting my new job. (Don’t get me wrong—I’m thrilled about it, but definitely needed some R&R, especially after the holidays!) I’d been to Miami once before, about a year and a half ago, for Mal’s bachelorette party. While that wasn’t exactly a wild and crazy time, this trip was even more chill—I’m sure I was in bed before the rest of South Beach was going out for the night!

Some highlights/favorites:

EATS

Yardbird

yardbird

butter lettuce and mango salad

On our first day, we ate lunch atВ Yardbird, a hopping, Southern food restaurant with hip decor, run by formerВ Top ChefВ contestant Jeff McInnis. I wanted to eat everything on theВ menuВ (which included deviled eggs, pulled pork and shrimp n’grits) but opted for the butter lettuce and mango salad topped with local swordfish. I also had a few bites of the signature fried chicken and biscuit—and can vouch for both being amazing.

Ola

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My mom’s birthday was on Thursday (happy bday, Meme <3!), so to celebrate, we went toВ Ola, a Latin American restaurant that happened to be inВ my hotel. (More about that below.) It was the perfect place for a special dinner—the food and service were superb. The corn empanadas were probably the best I’ve ever had, and the hamachi ceviche was delicious. And the deconstructed key lime pie? Just the right balance of sweet and tart.

Joe’s Stone Crab

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I left a day earlier than my parents, so they wanted to send me off with a good meal—and I couldn’t have been happier with their restaurant selection. We went to lunch atВ Joe’s Stone Crab, a perpetually crowded, wonderfully old school institution where waiters still wear jackets and bow ties. Stone crabs are in season from October through mid-May and we were in luck: A batch of jumbo crabs had come in that morning. I’m used to eating littleВ Maryland blue crabs, so I was shocked at how large and meaty these guys were. (I’m still dreaming of those claws!)

Other South Beach Eats I’d recommend (from this and the last trip):
Puerto Sagua:В Classic (and cheap!) Cuban food in a casual, diner-likeВ atmosphere. (Perfect for the morning after a night out!)
Dilido Beach Club:В Delicious cocktails and eats—plus impeccable service—at the Ritz-Carlton’s oceanfront bar; great for lunch when you don’t want to stray far from the beach.
BLT Steak:В True to its name, meat is the main event, but the gigantic Gruyere popovers, alone, are worth the trip.
Spris:В Al fresco Lincoln Road spot that serves thin-crust pizzas.
Sushi Samba:В I’ve never been to the NYC restaurant, but I really enjoyed my late-night rolls and cocktails at this outpost, also on Lincoln Road—plus, the people-watching was fantastic, at that hour!

SIGHTSВ 

The Beach

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Obviously. When I’ve left behind freezing, cold NYC for a few precious days in the sun, there are not many things I’d rather do than lie onВ the beach.В And luckily, South Beach, itself, is really nice. The sand is soft and well-kept.В On sunny days, the water is calm and brilliant blue—I find it hard to believe it’s the same Atlantic we have up north! I spent most of every day chillaxin’ in a lounge chair, soaking in the warm weather and listening to the sound of the surf.

Lincoln Road

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It’s hard to go to South Beach and not end up onВ Lincoln Road, at some point. I love the idea of a pedestrian mall and wish more cities would adapt it; it’s a luxury to walk past shops, outdoor dining, public art and palm trees without the noise and chaos of cars. Lincoln Road isВ quintessentiallyВ Miami and nice anytime of day: in the morning, when you want to take a quiet stroll; in the late afternoon, when you want to shop after a day at the beach; or at night, when the restaurants and lounges fill up!

ACCOMMODATIONS

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South Beach has a ton of amazing hotels but, in my experience, it’s not easy to find deals. I booked this trip at the very last minute (just two days before) and it took me about four hours to find a good hotel in my price range, which was around $200/night. (Since I wasn’t splitting the cost with anyone.) I ended up at the Sanctuary, a small, quiet all-suite hotel one block removed from the fancy beachfront properties. The service was friendly—though not particularly polished—and the place had a bit of a motel-vibe, since all the rooms face into a courtyard. Still, I had beach and pool access via its sister hotel, the Shelborne, and my suite was very clean and spacious.

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My parents, on the other hand, stayed at the Betsy, a swank boutique hotel with a retro vibe and gorgeous rooftop. Rooms are small, but have lots of sweet extras, like Frette linens and Malin + Goetz products. (I had a little hotel envy over that!)

loews miami

For Mal’s bachelorette, we stayed at the Loews, which I’d highly recommend. It’s pricey, yet more affordable than many of its beachfront neighbors—and the service was on par or with what you’d get at a W or Ritz.

Have you been to South Beach recently? What are your favorite restaurants and hotels? (I’d love to know for my next trip!)

(Sanctuary photo via SanctuarySoBe.com, Loews photo via their Facebook page; the Betsy photo via TheBetsyHotel.com)