Napa!

So, after we spent three nights in Carmel/Big Sur, we drove 2.5 hours to Napa. Corey and I had never been, but have dreamed of going for a very long time, so our expectations were prettyyy high. I had reached out for recommendations on Instagram months before we went on our trip and I got so many it took us an entire evening to capture and organize all the information! We ended up with a giant excel spreadsheet of Napa winery and restaurant recommendations. If you’re interested in the spreadsheet you can view it here.

Once we got everything down, we started researching every.single.recommendation. That’s right, I googled every single spot — we looked at menus, photos, reviews, prices, etc. From there, I narrowed down the list to my favorites (it was my birthday trip so Corey let me pick ;), and from there my rockstar husband put them all on a map so we could try to make a plan-of-action.

We only had two days in Napa, so we knew we had to be strategic about where we went and how much time we spent at each winery. Now that we’re back, I know that 1-1.5 hours felt like plenty of time at each spot. We definitely could have packed more wineries into our trip (at least on the first day), but we also didn’t want to feel rushed. We also figured we wouldn’t want to drink that much wine, ’cause let’s be honest, after enough wineries, the wine all starts to just blendddd together!

We stayed at the Andaz Napa using our Hyatt Points. The hotel is gorgeous, the staff was amazing and we got upgraded, so we were happy campers! None of the wineries we visited were more than 25 minutes from our hotel, which was great, and there are plenty of delicious and cute restaurants within walking distance. I will say, downtown Napa leaves a lot to be desired in terms of charm. It’s not like it was dirty or ugly, but it didn’t give me the same feeling I got when we were walking around downtown Yountville… Which was… Oh my gosh I never want to leave 😉

Day One: Sonoma

This was our lightest and most leisure day. We had driven over from Carmel that morning, so we didn’t want the agenda to be too packed. Here’s what we did:

Domaine Carneros: We started at the well-known Domaine Carneros (we made reservations ahead of time). This was by far the largest and most touristy of all the wineries we visited, and I have to say I’m glad we got that out of the way at the very beginning. The villa (is that what it is? haha) is absolutely stunning and it looks like you’re in Italy, but aside from that we weren’t overly impressed with the experience or the wine. You definitely feel like you’re just one in a thousand people who come through there each week. It’s not that I wouldn’t recommend stopping here, but I do think there are a lot more hidden gems, so if your agenda is already packed, don’t be too sad to miss this one.FullSizeRenderIMG_7744IMG_7741

Scribe Winery: This was our only other winery for the day, and I’m sooo glad we didn’t have anywhere to rush off to because this is the kind of place you want to sit and stay a while. They just opened up the “hacienda” portion of the winery in February and it took years to restore, and it is so obvious why. I couldn’t stop walking around each gorgeous room and wishing I could just move in! The tasting here is expensive at $60/person, but it does come with some light snacks that are made in-house with farm-to-table ingredients. Between the beautiful setting and the price of the tasting, we were 100% content to hang around Scribe for a few hours enjoying the sun, the views and their amazing rosé. If I had to pick a favorite winery from our entire trip, this would be it. Reservations are required so book as much in advance as you can!IMG_7816IMG_7772IMG_7761IMG_7758IMG_7780IMG_7788IMG_7792IMG_7793IMG_7800IMG_7802

After the wineries we were ready for something heavier to eat so we ventured a few minutes down the road to downtown Sonoma and had a casual lunch at the Sunflower Caffe. It was super laid back, affordable and the food was fresh and delicious! If you don’t have much time, this is a great option for a quick lunch stop.

We ended our day with dinner in downtown Napa (close to our hotel) at Ca’Momi. Really cool space with a good ambiance and we were really pleased with the food. There was a lot of burrata and truffle on the menu — basically two of my favorites, so I left with a full and happy tummy!IMG_7831.JPG

Day Two: Yountville|Saint Helena|Oakville

Bouchon Bakery: We started our day with breakfast and coffee at Bouchon Bakery in downtown Yountville. You guys, Yountville is the cutest. If I were to do it all over, we would’ve stayed there instead of downtown Napa. There was a short line at Bouchon, which we’ve heard is typical, but the food was super delicious and the coffee was great, too!IMG_7842

Ma(i)sonry: Maisonry is walking distance from Bouchon and had been recommended to us, so that was our next stop, and boy am I glad we went in! To be honest, I didn’t realize Ma(i)sonry was a tasting room and not a winery — I guess I didn’t look close enough in my research, I just saw photos of the outdoor space and decided it was a must. Had I known it was a tasting room I probably would’ve passed it up, but I’m so glad we didn’t. I am so bummed I forgot to take down the name of the sommelier that was helping us because he was AWESOME. You know how a person serving you can either make or break an experience? Well, he definitely made it for us. He was super personable, knowledgable and not pretentious at all. We got to try some incredibly amazing cabernets (our favorite) here and their outdoor space is what dreams are made of! Seriously, can I move in? Awesome spot.IMG_7864IMG_7857

Odette: We had pretty much planned (meticulously) every single stop for this day, but when the amazing sommelier from Ma(i)sonry recommended Odette to us and we had a little time to kill before our next reservation, we jumped at the chance to give it a try. It was actually very close to our next stop, so it worked out great. Once again, this winery had an incredible tasting room, the interior design was so beautiful and I was definitely taking inspiration for our dream home! We didn’t have a reservation and they weren’t able to take us on for a tasting when we walked in (they might be reservation only, actually), but they were super kind and let us purchase a glass of wine and enjoy their outdoor space, which is also lovely. I would definitely recommend going and doing the full tasting here if you can get a reservation!IMG_7867IMG_7868

Cliff Lede: After Odette, we made our way to our reservation at Cliff Lede. It was just down the road, but if we had planned Odette into the itinerary, it would have made more sense to do this spot first then Odette, but it wasn’t too out of the way. When we made our reservation, we paid extra to secure a table outside and I’m so glad we did. The indoor tasting room isn’t overly impressive, but their garden area is peaceful and beautiful and a great place to enjoy a leisurely tasting. We had a really wonderful sommelier/server here and he made our experience great. Before traveling to Napa I had heard that it can be very pretentious. Maybe we just got really lucky, but every single spot we went we were met with warm, knowledgable, endearing people. Nobody was snooty or condescending. A pleasant surprise!IMG_7882IMG_7892IMG_7887

After three wine stops we were definitely ready for some food! We made our way over to Oakville Grocery, which had been recommended to us by countless people. It’s a super cute, casual spot where you’ll find delicious sandwiches and other deli type foods as well as really cute souvenirs (like mugs and cutting boards and the like).IMG_7911

After lunch we ventured just a few minutes down the road to Turnbull Wine Cellars. We didn’t have a reservation here, but they were able to take us as a walk-in. We absolutely loved the grounds of this winery, like a rustic Italian garden. They had a fire pit, which would’ve been awesome to sit around had it not been 90 degrees the day we were there! Definitely a cute spot worth visiting and walking around/enjoying your wine in their back garden area.IMG_7934IMG_7918

We knew we didn’t want to be out too late since we were flying out the following morning, so we opted for an early dinner at Farmstead — less than 10 minutes from Turnbull. This spot was super cool and the food was amazing! The cheddar biscuits and ribs are not to be missed! Too bad my phone died before we got there!! 🙁

Before heading out for the airport on our last morning in Napa we walked from our hotel to breakfast at Grace’s Table and it was so delicious! We are definitely breakfast/brunch snobs thanks to Portland’s amazing breakfast scene and Grace’s Table really impressed us (Corey’s chilaquiles especially stole the show!). Highly recommend this cute little restaurant.

Phew! That was a lot! If you have any questions or if you have more Napa recommendations to add to this list — leave them in the comments! Cheers 🙂

{April in Paris}

Well hello there blog land. Per usual I popped in quickly and then didn’t make a return anytime soon. Oops! I always have the best of intentions to give this space attention, but somehow it always gets pushed to the bottom of the neverending to-do list. If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter you already know that we bought a house (more on that later)! And that’s what’s been taking up all of our time on evenings and weekends. We’ve also taken a few fun trips to Los Angeles (to meet my adorable new nephew) and to Vancouver, B.C. (you know, because we were really missing using our passports!). I have so many photos from the past months and even year to share and I fully plan on getting them up here!
I’ll start by looking back on an amazing trip I took to Paris back in April. I got a call from one of my best friends at the beginning of the month telling me she will most likely be coming out to Amsterdam and Paris for work (we work at the same company, score!) and would I be interested in joining her in Paris? I mean, you just don’t say no to that! So even though we had just gotten back from South Africa and had many more trips planned that spring, I booked a train ticket to Paris for a weekend away with one of my dearest friends. We had an absolutely incredible time touring the city, eating delicious food and catching up after being oceans apart for far too long. These are memories I will cherish forever and ever.
A few highlights from our trip:
-Hot chocolate at Angelina — how did it take me four visits to Paris before I made it here? You can’t miss it if you’re planning a trip!
-Brunch at Cafe de Flore – a Parisian institution. Amazing people watching!
-Dinner at Le Coupe Chou (not pictured, but trust me it’s incredible!)
-And of course, pink champage and sweet treats at Laduree – as girly as it gets!

{Photos © Liz Denfeld Photography}

{Checking In}

Well, after several comments from friends and family about my lack of blogging, I finally decided it might be time to check in! It’s hard to believe we’ve already been back home in Portland for a month (as of tomorrow!). I am happy to say that my reason for not blogging isn’t just because we’ve been busy catching up with people, but also just because we’ve spent a good portion of time just being lazy and getting settled into life in Portland! Corey are I have both been back at work for a while now (took a whopping 3 days off!) and have been living between my in-laws’ house and my mama’s house. We’re currently searching for a place of our own and hoping to be out of the parent’s house by the end of the summer. But I can’t complain about living rent-free and having dinner cooked for us when we get home each night. Yeah, we’re pretty spoiled at the moment!
A lot of people have been asking if we miss Amsterdam. Mostly, I must admit we’re just happy to be home. Everything feels so familiar and comfortable. But there are certainly times my heart aches for those canals or our perfect apartment where we made such amazing memories. There will always be a big, special place in my heart for Amsterdam.
So what have we been up to? Lounging by the pool, eating lots of home-cooked meals, venturing downtown for dinner + drinks with friends, welcoming our new nephew Ryder into the world, and working on checking things off our summer to-do list. Time is flying!
I have an overwhelming amount of travel posts to blog (some even going back as far as Switzerland in December!) and I can’t wait to get back to it. I keep telling myself this week is the week I’m going to get back to blogging. And somehow it just doesn’t happen. I know I just need to make it a priority! I’ve just been having too much fun being lazy 🙂 So bear with me… I’ll be blogging regularly again soon…
Hope you’re all doing well out there! I’ve so appreciated the few emails and comments I’ve gotten from those saying they miss my posts. It makes me feel so good, you have no idea! And a little guilty, but mostly just really good. I miss you guys and can’t wait to be a regular blogger again soon! Thanks for hanging in there with me! Below you’ll find a bunch of iPhone photos from the last month at home!

{South Africa: Days Five & Six}

Hello, hello! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Well, the good news is I wasn’t eaten by a lion 🙂
We got back from our safari 8 days ago. I can’t believe we’ve already been back so long.

I want to continue on with a couple short posts giving a general overview of each day of our stay in SA, then I’ll do some more detailed posts on where we stayed, our itinerary, restaurant suggestions, the whole deal. I’ve already gotten several requests for a detailed itinerary to follow, so I will definitely be working on that!!

On our fifth day in Cape Town we finally got to take things a little slower. We slept in a bit and then made our way up to Table Mountain. We booked our tickets on the gondola ahead of time as we’ve heard the lines can get pretty long. Luckily there weren’t any lines at all! Cape Town is just full of amazing views. We didn’t think we’d be up at the top of the mountain long, but of course we ended up taking our time walking around and enjoying the scenery. It was a warm and beautiful day! 

Later that day we ventured over to Camp’s Bay – the more “posh” beachside area in Cape Town. We strolled along the beach as we got lost trying to find our restaurant and wished we would have come down earlier and spent the day soaking up the sun (took note for next time!). We ended up getting appetizers and cocktails and watching the sunset at The Bungalow. I must admit, while it was a nice experience, it wasn’t really our scene. One of our friends had told us it was very “South of France”, but I would have gone further to say it was more Miami. I felt a little out of place, but it wasn’t anything a couple drinks couldn’t fix 🙂 We ended up seeing a beautiful sunset and having tons of fun. 

On our sixth day in Cape Town we checked out of our amazing hotel (can’t wait to tell you more about it!), and drove an hour outside of the city to wine country! We didn’t even make time to drop our bags at our guest house as we had lunch reservations we could not be late for! Going into this trip we actually had a lot of recommendations. A meal at Maison was at the top of our friend’s list, so we booked weeks in advance to make sure we wouldn’t miss out. The second we stepped in we understood why they had said it was their favorite meal of their entire trip. Everything was flawless. The decor, the service, the food, the wine, the grounds. My my my. We ended up spending a good 3+ hours there just making ourselves at home and contemplating never leaving (maybe they wouldn’t find us if we hid in their awesome bathrooms?). It was an afternoon to remember. There will definitely be more to come on this place! 

After checking into our cute little guest house in Franschhoek we made our way to Dieu Donne Vineyards to enjoy the view (and a glass of wine of course). I wish my camera could have captured the insane beauty of the landscape. It literally took my breath away. We were so excited to be in wine country and couldn’t wait for a full day of tasting the following day! 
 {Photos © Liz Denfeld Photography}

{Madrid: Around Town}

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When we moved to Europe we made a huge list of cities we wanted to visit while we were living abroad. The list was long. Way too long to accomplish seeing all these beautiful places in two years. We’ve put a dang good dent in those cities, but there are still many on our list. One that wasn’t on our list? Madrid.
To be honest, as an American, you hear way more about Barcelona than you do about Madrid. And I remember a year and a half ago when we researched Madrid for a quick weekend away, we realized there really weren’t any notable sites we felt like we had to see, so we scratched it off our list.
Well, then Nicole moved to Madrid and she raved about how incredible it was – even saying it was more amazing than Barcelona. I trust that girl’s opinion, so a few months after she moved Corey and I booked a quick weekend visit. I am so glad we did. Madrid isn’t about any specific sites, it’s just about being a big beautiful city packed with charm, beautiful architecture and really good Italian food (What! I know, strange, but true.). We so enjoyed our weekend in Madrid and only wished it would’ve been a teensy bit warmer (but when do we not wish that?!). Hanging out with Nicole is always such a treat! And what’s not to love about having a personal city guide?! She showed us all the best parts of her new home. Here are some snaps from all around town. I hope they give you an idea of just how gorgeous Madrid is!
P.S. A few travel tips below the photos if you’re looking for Madrid suggestions 🙂
 {If you find yourself in Madrid – here are a few places we suggest you don’t miss (many pictured above!): Retiro Park, Mercado de San Miguel, Chocolateria San Gines (for the most amazing churros – be prepared to wait in line), Plaza de Oriente, al fresco lunch at Cafe de Oriente, Plaza Mayor, Vertical Garden at CaixaForum followed by coffee and a treat at the Vertical Cafe, Templo de Debod, and my biggest tip of all (thanks to Nicole), dinner at Piccolo Diavolo – get the pasta with pear and ricotta. I know it sounds crazy, and we were totally skeptical, but Nicole convinced us it was the best thing she’s ever eaten, and goodness was she right. We returned the next night to have that dish!}
{We stayed here. We found the location to be great, the price to be fantastic, and the place was comfortable and cute}

{Salzburg: Downtown + Hohensalzburg Castle}

After strolling through the Mirabell Gardens, we continued on walking through downtown Salzburg and up to Hohensalzburg Castle. On the way we stopped by an adorable litte cafe for radlers and ice cream. It was a perfect break in the day, and the place couldn’t have been cuter!
 And I just couldn’t leave this one out…. 😉
{Photos ©  Liz Denfeld}

{Weekend Snaps!}

After last weekend’s debacle I was really looking forward to a chilled out weekend at home in Amsterdam.
And that’s exactly what I got – complete with the most gorgeous, crisp fall days and bright blue skies. I was a happy girl.
This weekend included lots of long walks with the huz and pup.
Exploring different neighborhoods and discovering new places.
Lots of fresh mint tea.
A trip to the Pure Market for fun trinkets and delicious treats with these two.
All in all it was just the weekend I needed!
{Coat: TopShop, Scarf: H&M (old), Jeans: J Brand, Booties: Sam Edelman, Sunglasses: D&G}
 {Photos ©  Liz Denfeld}