{Guide to Amsterdam}

guidetoamsterdam_2Corey and I lived in Amsterdam for two years from 2011-2013 and I have since returned twice since moving home — in the summer of 2015 and the fall of 2017. It is one of our absolute favorite cities in the world and certainly one of the most picturesque. It pains me that to some, the city is only known for it’s legal marijuana and prositutes because that is such a tiny part of this beautiful city. It has perhaps the most recognizable architecture in the world, is full of history and culture and is a must-visit in Europe.

Even though we haven’t lived in Amsterdam for five years I still often get emails and messages requesting recommendations for where to stay, what to do and where to eat, so I am finally putting all this information in one place so it can be easily accessed! As a bonus I have included recommendations from one of my very best friends who lived in Amsterdam with her husband more recently than us — from 2015 to 2017. She has amazing taste in food and drink and I was able to try many of her recommendations myself when visiting in 2017. They are winners!

STAY:

Hotels in Amsterdam are quite expensive. If you are on a honeymoon or special trip and can splurge I highly recommend The Dylan. It is a luxury boutique hotel in a beautiful area of the city.

We stayed at the Andaz Amsterdam on points and we loved it. The location is perfect right in the nine streets and the hotel design is modern and gorgeous.

If you’re looking for an Airbnb look for places in the Jordaan, Nine Streets, Centrum, Zuid, near Vondelpark or if you want a lively young atmosphere De Pijp is fun!

TO DO:
Anne Frank House (Open daily from 9:00 am – 7:00 pm, Saturdays from 9:00 am – 9:00 pm) – I’d recommend buying tickets ahead of time to avoid standing in line forever! 

Walk around the Nine Streets (one of the city’s most picturesque areas to explore, photo ops at every turn!) – very close to Anne Frank in the Jordaan District

Museumplein (this is where you can take a photo with the iAmsterdam sign if you’re interested) and right by the Van Gogh Museum.

Rent a bike and ride around the city (if you like bikes). It’s truly an experience! (To rent a local-style bike, try Het Zwarte Fietsenplan in the city center on Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal http://www.hetzwartefietsenplan.nl/12___centrum-het-zwarte-fietsenplan)

Do a canal boat tour – they only take 1-1.5 hours usually and it’s a great way to see the city and hear some of the history. (I recommend the Canal Hopper for a smaller, more personal boating experience https://www.canal.nl/en/canal-hopper) My best friend lived in Amsterdam for two years and she highly recommended Those Dam Boat Guys!

Walk through the Red Light District. A quick walk, but I feel like everyone should see it as it is unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. Don’t take photos – very against the rules. You won’t want to anyway…

Stroll (or ride a bike) through Vondelpark (huge and beautiful city park). Stop at one of the outdoor cafes there for a fresh mint tea and just people watch. You should also venture outside of the park, the neighborhoods around the park are beautiful!

Favorite Museums: Rijks, Stedelijk (modern art), Van Gogh & Hermitage

You should try out a “Dutch Brown Cafe” – they are typical, sometimes-divey bars where people gather after work for snack and beer. A big part of the dutch culture – you can read more about them here: . A good one to go to near the Jordaan is Cafe Van Zuylen

Skip the Heineken Experience (Heineken Museum) — it’s cheesy and touristy.  A more fun and authentic Dutch drinking experience can be found here at Wynand Fockink, where you can taste and drink the Dutch flavored liquer jenever!

If you want a fun activity for the day, love to ride bikes and want to see a bit more of the quaintness outside of the city I highly recommended biking out to Ouderkerk aan de Amstel. It’s about 14 miles round trip give/take and easy and flat (like all of Holland!). It’s quaint little village that sits right on the water and has beautiful architecture to take in. You can grab a nice waterside lunch at Loetje aan de Amstel and fuel up for your ride back to Amsterdam!

Easy day trips by train: Utrecht, Gouda, The Hague, Haarlem, Antwerp (via Thalys train) and Bruges (via Thalys train).

And a couple more recommendations from my friend Jenna who lived in Amsterdam the last two years and recently returned to Portland:

Albert Cuypmarkt – in de pijp area. Old school market with some occasional hidden gems.  Eat a fresh Stroopwafle ☺. 

Play old school arcade games at Ton Tonhttp://www.tontonclub.nl/

RESTAURANTS:

Dinner:

De Kaas: For a truly special dining experience. Set in a gorgeous greenhouse. Definitely a bit off the beaten path for tourists as it isn’t close to the center of the city, but worth the trek! I blogged about our experience here and you should visit their website, too! Make reservations!

Food Hallen [Indoor Food Market] – This is new since Corey and I returned to Portland, but we were able to visit when we returned. Super cool indoor food hall with lots of different food options: http://www.foodhallen.nl/

Pata Negra – Cash Only. Amazing Spanish Tapas – VERY busy on the weekends, reservations recommended! Fun place to go with a group, but also fun for just two for some sangria and yummy food!

Thai Bird or Thai Bird Snack Bar – Super yummy Thai in Chinatown, very well known. Be prepared to wait in line for the restaurant or just go across the street and get takeout.

Koh-i-Noor – Amazing Indian food! Best in the city that we found – there are two locations — one in the Jordaan and one in the city center.

Casa di David – One of our fav italian spots in the city – small and cosy – our go-to date night spot 🙂

Burger Meester – Cute burger joint with gourmet options, also relatively affordable

Lunch/Brunch:

Café George – pretty affordable, good place for lunch (yummy sandwiches and fries) Also, brunch is fun here.

Buffet van Odette – Great cozy spot for brunch or lunch! Would be a nice place to sit and linger with some work or a book while drinking a cappuccino 🙂

De Laatste Kruimel – This is an unassuming but incredible little
bakery. Great place for pastries on a weekend morning, or we’d go here for cheap (but huge and delicious!) sandwiches on weeknights. The owners are a brother/sister pair who work their butts off and the space is super cute!

Cafe de Jaren – This is a popular spot in Amsterdam. Especially great during the summertime as they have an outdoor patio area that sits right on the Amstel. You can go for a coffee, soup, sandwiches, etc. We lived right around the corner so frequented this place often

Pancakes! Amsterdam – Yummy dutch pancakes in the Jordaan. I highly Recommend the smoked salmon, creme fraiche, guacamole, pine nuts one. To.die.for!

Two For Joy Coffee – DELICIOUS pancakes – almost like home – great place for a lazy weekend morning

Bar Moustache – Small and cute restaurant/bar, good place to grab a glass of wine and appetizers with friends or a nice (but spendy) meal

Greenwoods – One of our favorite spots for brunch/lunch. Affordable, yummy food! We never went for dinner, but they do serve it.

Droog: This is as much something to do as a place to eat and enjoy some coffee. If you are into design, this is a must-visit. Droog is an art gallery, hotel and cafe all fused in one. Definitely worth a walk-through and stop for a cup of coffee. And bonus that it is right off the street we used to live on in Amsterdam (Groenburgwal)!

Lastly, my favorite place for a quick and easy to-go coffee was Coffee Company – so delicious (way better than Starbucks) and all the locations are cute and different! You’ll see them everywhere!

A few more recent restaurant recommendations from my best friend Jenna (I wholly trust her taste in good food and was able to try a few of these, which I denoted with an asterisk, when I did my girls’ trip last fall and they were all amazing!) 

DINNER:

CANIBALE ROYAL: Amazing ribs and just a good food and drink spot.  Can be very busy on weekend but they take reservations.

LA PERLA: If you’re in the Tales and Spirits area, head over to La Perla for pizza. Best in the city, but keep in mind there isn’t great pizza here, they even do take away.

BLEU – Cute and cozy French restaurant in the Jordaan area (close to Ann Frank House and 9 streets shopping).

VAN ‘T SPIT – very simple rotisserie chicken and sides. Cozy, casual, and convenient.

THE DYLAN HOTEL* – nice for tea or wine in a very nice and cozy hotel in the 9 streets area. Have a quiet back garden to escape the chaos.

BRUNCH:

BAKERS AND ROASTERS*: Great brunch spot.

STARING AT JACOBS/KU KITCHEN: more brunch but also does Japanese food in the evenings. Chill neighborhood and vibe.

LITTLE COLLINS: and more brunch.

MOOK – more pancakes. Less traditional and more hipster.

DIGNITA* – great brunch in a cute restaurant.  Motto is eat good, do good. Highly recommend. They have multiple locations.

COFFEE:

LOT SIXTY ONE: Some of the best coffee located right by foodhallen.

COFFEE AND COCONUTS*: cool chill place to grab a coffee, cookie, light lunch and do a little work or browse IG.

CAFFENATION AMSTERDAM – Hipster coffee shop, locally roasted great coffee, cool kid vibes. A place to go to get coffee to stay and hang for a bit. Also their hot chocolate is a chocolate bar melted into steamy milk, looks yummy and cozy when you get caught in the rain.

TREATS:

FRIES: Vlaams Friethuis Vleminckx – Suppose to be the best in town and definitely a dutch must eat.

VAN STAPELE – COOKIES. YUM!

WINKEL 43* – Best Apple Pie around. A sugar cookie crust and fresh whip cream make it the perfect afternoon treat with a cup of mint tea (a dutch favorite made with fresh mint).

DRINKS:

TALES AND SPIRITS: Fun small cocktail shop that knows what it is doing when it comes to mixology.

WATERKANT: Great for a casual beer with a local crowd sitting by a canal.

WINDMILL BAR* (actually known as Brouwerij ‘t IJ if you can pronounce dutch). Note from Liz: We loved biking from our house in the city center to this cute windmill bar! Fun activity for a day!

OEDIPUS TAPROOM: Local beer that is far better than Heineken.

BAR CENTRAAL – perfect for a small bite and natural wines!

GLOU GLOU* – Natural wine bar. Same owners and concepts as Bar Centraal but in different neighborhood. 

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{The Ultimate Packing List for Traveling With Kids + Our Must-Have Travel Products}

packinglistYour first trip with a baby/kids is quite the eye-opener. You don’t really realize just how much stuff you use for you kids until you’re packing for a trip! Over the years of travel since Elodie was born I have been keeping a super detailed packing list in the notes on my iPhone. I have added on each trip as I remember things and at this point I am not sure there is much in my life that ISN’T on this list.

Do we pack every single thing on this list for every single trip? Heck no! Is it the place I start and determine what I want for whatever trip we’re taking? Yes. Since I have nearly everything on this master list it is easy to cull it down to match our destination (cold or hot) or our form of travel (car/airplane).

There are a few things that we’ve bought over the years that have made traveling with kids a lot more manageable, so I’ll outline those below. I’ve also hyperlinked anything in the travel list where we use a specific brand or product we love so you can see what we use! I hope this is helpful to share and if you would add anything to this list, please leave it in the comments below and I can update the post!

Travel blackout shades: Our kids need absolute darkness to sleep well, so we always travel with these blackout shades that suction to windows. One shade is huge and can cover a lot of space, but there is also velcro that makes it easy to adjust to use on smaller windows. These have been such lifesavers especially in rental homes where some came with literally NO windows treatments at all! If you’re in a bind, you can also tape up black garbage bags to a window!

Travel sound machine: Our entire family is addicted to the Marpac Dohm Sound Machines, so when we travel we bring three along — one for each kid and one for us! We love their travel size and if we had known about it could have just as easily used these from the beginning as they sound just like the original, just in a compact size. The travel size is also nice to have with you to pop into a stroller, or on the beach, etc.

Travel high chair: We obviously can’t really take this with us on a plane as easily (although if you have space in a suitcase it can get pretty small/flate, but if we’re driving we always bring our travel high chair. Even at just over two-years-old James really needs a high chair to keep him contained during mealtimes otherwise he’s running around all over the place and not eating much. We love this one and we keep it in our car at all times in case we come across a restaurant that doesn’t have high chairs! You can purchase a tray for it as well, but we never did and honestly didn’t miss it.

Clothes (summer/winter)

  • Tops
  • Bottoms
  • Dresses
  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • Bathing suits
  • Hats (summer/winter)
  • Gloves
  • Winter Jacket or Lightweight Jacket
  • Shoes/sandals
  • Water shoes
  • Snow boots

Bedtime

Bath time

Daily

Outside/Beach Destination

Kitchen/Laundry

Airplane/Car

BABY

Technology

  • iPhone charger
  • Speaker/speaker charger
  • Camera
  • Camera charger
  • Adapters (if traveling to foreign country)
  • Batteries

Medicine

  • Baby/children’s advil and/or tylenol
  • NoseFrida
  • Honest Chest Rub
  • Thermometer
  • Saline drops/spray
  • Adult pain reliever
  • Dramamine
  • Benadryl

{Guide to Charleston, SC — WITH KIDS!}

Charleston 2017 from Liz Denfeld on Vimeo.

I can’t believe it’s already been a month since our trip to Charleston. Time flies! Lots of you asked for a post with all our recommendations from the trip, so here it goes:

STAY
Hyatt House Charleston: We stayed at the Hyatt House Charleston on points and there were so pros and cons that came with the hotel:

Pros: Suite-style rooms with small kitchens made it great for the kids, free breakfast (which worked perfectly to grab yogurt, cereal or toast for the kids before going out for real breakfast), possibility to get adjoining rooms (we had two rooms, which was perfect for us — we slept in one and James and Elodie slept in the other), close to lots of food and coffee.

Cons: It’s definitely not a luxury hotel, but nice for what it is/cost, rooms are a bit cramped for a family, not super close to the heart of Charleston (like Rainbow Row, where all the cute stuff is haha), but you are close to really good food

EAT
Obstinate Daughter: I URGE you not to miss this spot. We were BLOWN AWAY with our dinner, just kept raving through every single dish about how absolutely incredible the food was. Also, the interior design is so dreamy and my wine was on point, so basically I was ready to move in and stay forever! We started with flatbread that came with this delicious butterbean puree (sounds kinda weird, but it was gooood). Then Corey and I shared the pappardelle with mushrooms, greens, parmesan and pangrattato and there are just no words to tell you how much I loved this dish. We also shared the Old Danger pizza with pancetta, mozzarella, white sauce and a farm egg …  And it confirmed that eggs on pizza are so, so right. I typically am able to choose hands down what my favorite dish is if we’re sharing, but we kept switching back-and-forth because we both loved both dishes equally.

Beardcat’s Sweetshop: We popped down to Beardcat’s Sweetshop after dinner at Obstinate Daughter as it hast he same owners and is right downstairs. Their gelato was delectable and sitting outside and relaxing after our big meal was wonderful!

Butcher & Bee: Behind Obstinate Daughter, this was our favorite place. The space inside is super cool, but the best part was the outdoor area where our kids could run and climb while we took turns drinks our coffee and eating (haha talk about real life!). The food was absolutely phenomenal. We are total brunch snobs thanks to Portland’s amazing brunch scene and this food impressed us. We had the stuffed french toast, the morning hummus, a side of delicious bacon and the kids had the avocado toast. All of it was top notch!

Leon’s: Oh man, where do I begin. If you’re in Charleston, Leon’s is not to be missed. We went for lunch and loved seeing the spot in daylight and admiring their fun outdoor space. We got the Fried Oyster Sandwich and the Grilled Mahi sandwich and both were delicious. If I had to pick one I would go with the fried oyster. Yum! They both came with this little side cucumber salad that was delectable and added the perfect crunch and freshness. We got some fried chicken (without the spice) for the kiddos and they devoured it. We tried a couple bites and were super impressed. We finished the meal with some vanilla soft serve, which was hands down the best soft serve we’ve ever had! Honestly, pretty much the ENTIRE menu looked amazing, so we were tempted to go back a second time, but we just had so many other great options we wanted to check out

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Smoke BBQ: This was our very first meal in Charleston and it was a fantastic introduction to the city’s great food scene. I got the Smokey Chick Sandwich, which I LOVED, but be warned it is spicy! Corey had the sloppy smoke sandwich, which he also raved about (and wasn’t spicy). My mac & cheese side was just okay (but we had it takeout and by the time I dove in it was lukewarm, so that could be why), but Corey got the famous hash & grits and he couldn’t stop talking about them! The kids shared the chicken fingers kids meal, which is a good thing because it was HUGE.

Poogan’s Porch: To be honest, this was probably my least favorite restaurant of the bunch, but it was still good. I wasn’t feeling totally awesome this night, so that could’ve contributed for sure, but I also just asked Corey and his review was “pretty forgettable”. It was a place recommended to us several times, though, so I wouldn’t write it off. Our Mac & cheese and shrimp & grits were good, just not great. Our cocktails were pretty awful though (weak and really sweet — we got “The New Old Fashioned”), so I’d stick with beer or wine here. The restaurant is also housed in an old home and the layout was just strange and the place was smelly and warm. Man, I am kind of tearing this spot apart! This is why real restaurant reviewers go several times. I’m sure we caught it on and off night for both us and them. Any fans, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit: First of all, I am obsessed with the name of this cute little place. Second, holy yum!! By our fourth day in Charleston we really needed a break from longer sit-down meals with the kids so we popped in here and grabbed biscuits to go for lunch. Corey had the Bacon, Egg & Cheddar and I had the BLT (with fresh roasted tomatoes) and both were drool-worthy! Definitely super soft, dense and delicious biscuits. The kids had three of their mini-biscuits: Cheddar and Chive, Buttermilk and Blackberry and seemed to love them all, especially the blackberry. Really small shop with limited seating, so I wouldn’t plan to sit inside in case it’s crowded. We went around noon on a Tuesday and there were seats for us, but we took ours back to our hotel, which was just down the street.

Hominy Grill: We had tons of recommendations for Hominy and it was definitely a great spot. I actually like that my portion wasn’t GIGANTIC, the perfect size and my huevos rancheros tasted really fresh and perfectly cooked. Corey had an omelette and he thought it was good, but not great (in my opinion it was a poor menu choice haha). The service stood out as one of the best, the waiter was attentive and very nice and our food came out lightening fast.IMG_5846IMG_5851Poogan’s Smokehouse: This is a restaurant that actually wasn’t recommended to us by anyone, but we almost got it mixed up with Poogan’s Porch and therefore ended up checking out their website and Corey fell in love with the menu, so we decided to give it a go. We don’t have much good BBQ in Portland, so I figured I should let him eat ALLTHEMEAT. He got a half rack of the St. Louis Babyback ribs and he was in meat heaven. I don’t really eat pork and would certainly never order ribs for myself, but Corey insisted I try and I must say they had an amazing smoky flavor and just melted off the bone. The kids shared some mac & cheese off the appetzier menu (which was so good it was hard for me to stop taking bites) and the pulled pork sandwich with brussel sprouts on the side. They actually both ate and loved the brussels sprouts and the pulled pork. Success! The space is also really nice, so I’d definitely recommend this spot, especially if you want good BBQ!

Xiao Bao: We almost missed this place. Almost. But after having it recommend over and over by locals we decided we needed to give it a try. Boy oh boy am I glad we didn’t miss it! The food was all so flavorful and unique and just perfect. We were a little scared at first because the waitress said pretty much everything on the menu was spicy, which wouldn’t work for the kids (and I actually can’t handle spicy things either), but I’m glad that didn’t scare us away. The Okonomiyaki (Japanese cabbage pancake) was especially stellar, but we also LOVED the curry and the Som Tum with Chicken. Thought we ordered way too much when all the food came, but let’s just say we devoured every single bite 🙂

DO:

As you can imagine with young kids, we didn’t get around to seeing as much as we would’ve/could’ve had it just been us two, but we still did a couple nice things I’d recommend.

Boone Hall Plantation: Not only is the plantation just beautiful (especially the Avenue of Oaks and the Cotton Dock), but we found the history to be so interesting since it is so different than our history in the Pacific Northwest. We unfortunately missed the house tour due to nap schedules, but I would’ve loved to do that. The kids loved the Plantation Coach Tour and we were able to saunter through the Slave Cabins and learn a lot, which I found heartbreaking and fascinating.

Sullivan’s Island: We caught the sunset at Sullivan’s Island Public Beach one night (right by the lighthouse) and it was just plain dreamy. Huge wide open beaches perfect to let the kids run free. Very close to Obstinate Daughter for the best meal of the trip!IMG_6058IMG_6212Enlight8Enlight6

Horse-Drawn Carriage Tour: So I’m going to be honest that I was VERY conflicted about taking one of these tours. I don’t know enough about the treatment of the horses and such, so it made me sad and I know that there are many animal activist groups that are very much against these tours in Charleston. Having said that, they are EVERYWHERE and when you have a 3.5 year old who sees horses on every corner of every street, she was dying to go on one and wouldn’t stop talking about it. So we went and did it and it was very interesting and the kids loved it. If you are interested in this type of thing, or another type of tour I would highly recommend going at the beginning of your trip to help you get the lay of the land and see what areas you want to see more or less of.

Bike Taxi: This is kind of silly, but there are bike taxis everywhere and they were a hit with the kids! At night when we didn’t want to walk far to a restaurant it was a good option for us since parking was really tough in downtown!

Rainbow Row: Just a really cute street with many different colored houses in Charleston. And right down the block you can walk down to the water and it is just beautiful!

White Point Garden: This is a really pretty waterfront garden/park, but even better are the homes right around this area. They are extremely old and full of history! Definitely spend time walking the southern part of Charleston — you’ll feel like you’ve been transported back in time!

Waterfront Park: A cute spot to walk around, near rainbow row. Nice views of the water!

 

Traveling On a Budget

HOW TO TRAVEL ON A BUDGET

Last month I jetted off to Amsterdam for a week to visit friends, this week we’re heading to Charleston as a family and early next year we’re traveling to Oahu with Corey’s family. But how are we taking all these trips when we’re on a pretty strict budget? I thought I’d share some of the ways we’re able to make these trips happen while not breaking the bank. Because we could all use a little more vacation in our lives, right?

Use an airline and/or hotel credit card: Some people are really scared of credit cards, but there’s no reason to be. We have two major credit cards we use to make every purchase we possibly can. Then, at the end of every month we pay off the cards. We never pay interest and we reap the benefits — free flights, hotels, etc! Here are the ones we use:

Hyatt Chase Visa: When you sign up for a Hyatt Visa you get 40,000 points to use at any Hyatt worldwide. At the time Corey I opened our cards back in 2013 they were offering two nights at any Hyatt property worldwide when you signed up. That’s how we stayed at the Hyatt in Kauai for four nights (for our babymoon) completely free! Then, each year you have your card you get one free night at a Category 4 hotel or lower. This is how we did our really fun Portland staycation this summer — totally free — and how we will be getting one room for one night in Charleston totally free. Using this card we’ve stayed at the Andaz Maui, Hyatt Carmel Hylands, Andaz Napa, Hyatt Paris Etoille, the Grand Hyatt Kaui and soon the Hyatt House Charleston completely and totally free — and we still have lots of points we can use for future vacations! The yearly fee is $75, so we’ve now gone down from each having one card to sharing one joint card.

Alaska Airlines Visa: We had only our Hyatt Visa up until earlier this year when Alaska Air was running a new promotion for their companion fare. Typically, you get one companion ticket a year for $100 + the cost of taxes and fees. But this year they waived the $100 fee, so if you bought one ticket somewhere you could add another ticket on just for the price of taxes and fees. This is how we are flying all four of us to Oahu next year for under $300 a person (!!!). We used our own companion fare + my mom has an Alaska card and wasn’t going to be using her companion fare this year, so we lucked out! We’re also flying out one way to Charleston on miles, so combining that with the great airfare we found we are flying there for next to nothing!

Find Cheap Airfare:  There are a few sites and apps I use to find cheap airfare and even track prices and get alerts when prices drop:

Hopper App: In this app you can search for flights and the app will tell you if the price for the flight is so good that you should purchase now, or if it will likely go down so it’s best to wait. The vast majority of the time their predictions are spot on. My favorite functionality in this app is that you can “watch” flights — you put in dates and destinations and the Hopper App will send you an alert on your phone when the price is right! This is how I flew to Amsterdam for $500. I actually found even cheaper tickets (around $460), but the timing didn’t work out, but that is an insane deal! For deals that good you literally need to book within an hour or so, otherwise the price disappears.

Kayak.com: I’ve used Kayak for years — this site searches flight prices from many airlines and sites and consolidates all the options into one search query so you can make sure you are buying the cheapest flight possible. But what I really love about Kayak is their newish “Explore” feature. Let’s say you know you want to take a family vacation in the month of February, but you’re not dead set on a certain destination. You put in the airport you want to fly out of, when you’d like to travel (can be “Thanksgiving Weekend” or “February 2018” or “President’s Day Weekend”, etc etc.) and how long you’d like to travel for and then Kayak will show you where you can fly for how much. Such a nifty feature when you’re on a budget — it really helps you maximize where you can go without spending a lot of money.

Skyscanner: This site is nearly identical to Kayak, but for whatever reason I used it a lot more when we lived in Europe. Just another site that is worth checking out when you are booking travel — especially within Europe!

And here’s a tip when booking plane travel — sometimes it is more cost efficient to book two one ways on different airlines. Try to get sneaky with how you book things, you’d be surprised how much money you can save!

Find Cheap Lodging: Travel with a Group / Take advantage of Airbnb/Homeaway/Kid&Coe, etc:

I’ve discovered it’s actually not that hard to find cheap airfare places, but it’s almost always hard to find affordable, but great, lodging. I will admit I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to where we stay. If I feel like a place isn’t clean or in a sketchy part of town it totally kills my vibe. This is another reason I love our Hyatt card, we have been nothing but impressed with all the hotels we’ve stayed at. Another great option (especially with multiple kids) is renting through home rental sites like Airbnb, Homeaway and Kid&Coe (specifically geared toward families). This can make your trip a lot more affordable since  you’ll most likely have a kitchen you can use to cook at least a few meals. Bonus if you can travel with additional people and can split the cost! You can really get affordable housing this way!

Some people feel uncomfortable with the idea of renting someone else’s house, but we have done it many times (in Paris, Madrid, Switzerland, Los Angeles and many more) with great success, so we are big fans! We’re using Homeaway to rent an awesome, big home with a pool in Oahu (which I’ll share after we stay, for security reasons). We have yet to book with Kid&Coe, but love that their homes are specifically geared toward families — so many/most come with cribs, toys, etc!

I am sure there are tons of other ways you can travel as a family on a budget, but these are the things that have worked for us! If you have any tried-and-true methods I am all years — comment below!

All-Time Favorite Travel Photos

A month from today I’ll be on my way to Amsterdam for a week of fun with two girlfriends who live in the Netherlands. Thinking about being back in Europe literally makes my stomach do back flips — it’s a mix of nostalgia, excitement, fear and longing. I am so glad I mostly kept up with blogging while we lived in Amsterdam because going down memory lane and reading old posts and seeing all the photos I took is so fun. I mostly can’t believe we ever lived abroad and got to jet off to Spain and Italy whenever we felt like it! I totally got carried away the other night going through old travel posts and I couldn’t help but round up my absolute favorite photos from our travels over the years. Can’t wait to keep adding to this collection in the years to come — even better to have the kids by our sides 🙂

FLORENCE, ITALY

italyitaly2

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICAcapetown2capetown3capetown4

south africa 4south africa 5

KAUAI, HAWAIIhawaiihawaii1hawaii3

PARIS, FRANCE

paris4parisparis2paris3paris9paris10paris8parislockbridge

Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

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BRUGGE, BELGIUMbrugesbruges2

EDINBURGH, SCOTLANDediburgh

LONDON, ENGLANDlondonlondon2

NICE, FRANCEnicenicefrance

POSITANO, ITALYpositano

SANTORINI, GREECEoiagreece2santorinisantorini6santorinisunsetsantorinisunset2

SEVILLE, SPAINseville

SWISS ALPSswissswitzerland

{Photos © Liz Denfeld Photography}

Day Trip to Cannon Beach

Corey’s taking a little staycation this week so we decided to kick it off with a bang and take a day trip to Cannon Beach (and check one off the Denfeld Summer Bucket List!). Temperatures in Portland were supposed to get near 90, so we thought it would be the perfect day to beat the heat and head to cooler temps along the coast.

I was so impressed with how well the kids did being off their schedules and with the hour and a half car ride. I know that doesn’t sound like a lot, but our kids seriously hate the car. Any drive lasting longer than 25 minutes and one or both start melting down (mostly James). They each napped a little on the way there and back and the rest of the time Elodie colored and James snacked on Cheerios (haha!).

I reached out for Cannon Beach recommendation on Instagram before we left Portland and I got lots of great ones! We ended up grabbing lunch at Pelican Brew Pub and a quick pint at Public Coast. We started the beach day at Tolovana Park and then stopped off along Hemlock and Center Streets and walked down to Haystack Rock. Of all the (many) times I’ve visited Cannon, this was the closest I’d ever gotten to Haystack Rock! It was such a beautiful day (albeit really windy). The kids were seriously in heaven and all their smiles and delighted squeals made me so glad we decided to make the day trip!

If you find yourself in Cannon Beach, here are a few other spots you should check out: Sea Level Bakery for pastries and good coffee (if you’re a coffee snob like us!), Bill’s Tavern for fish & chips or Pizza a Feta for a delicious slice!

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{Photos © Liz Denfeld Photography}

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 🙂

{Our Babymoon}

I know not everyone is into the whole “babymoon” idea, but let’s be honest, Corey and I will take any excuse to go on a vacation! I, being the obsessive travel planner that I am, thought long and hard about what kind of babymoon I wanted to go on….

Due to work obligations, other travels we had planned, and the fact that I was getting more pregnant by the week, we only had a tiny five day window in December for our trip. I knew right away I didn’t want to go somewhere cold and adventurous (read: ski trip or anything like it). I knew I wanted sun, mostly because by that point in Portland you are really ready to escape the dreary rain and cold. I also wanted the vacation to be no-fuss, easy to get to (direct flight), and incredibly relaxing. 

Usually when we go on vacation we are planning out every day, choosing restaurants, hikes, attractions, etc etc. We wanted the opposite for our babymoon. Pure relaxation. No agenda. Just the huz and me and me and the huz. We knew we wouldn’t be taking a vacation like that as often once Elodie arrived, so that was our plan.

We ended up going back to our honeymoon destination because we knew how great the Hyatt was and were dying to stay there. We loved the food on the hotel grounds (which was great since we didn’t plan to leave). It was in hawaii – so hello, sun! And there are direct flights from Portland to Kauai, so boom – Kauai it was!

Minus one day of torrential thunderstorms and lightning, the trip was a dream. It was exactly what we had envisioned – pure relaxation and good quality one on one time. I couldn’t recommend the Hyatt in Poipu enough for any vacation – but especially a babymoon or honeymoon! A few photos from our trip below!
{Photos © Liz Denfeld Photography}

{Kynsa Elephant Park}

Let’s talk about elephants. Prior to our trip to South Africa I really didn’t know much about them, but after a trip to the Knysna Elephant park I learned a lot about these gorgeous creatures. They’re extremely smart and have the self-awareness and cognition similar to what we’ve seen in apes and dolphins. They are quick learners and will glady show off some tricks for a piece of fruit. They love attention and cuddles. Really, they’re friendly giants. Within their packs they truly care for one another, and if something happens to an elephant in the pack, their loss is visibly mourned. I truly fell in love with them the more I learned about them. They are so fascinating and sweet! 

After our stay in Franschhoek we ventured along the Garden Route. One of the cities we stopped in was Knysna. We had read about the Knysna Elephant Park in our guide book and knew we definitely wanted to check it out and get the opportunity to pet and feed the elephants! The Elephant Park is actually an orphanage for elephants in need – who have either been abandoned, fallen ill, etc. My favorite part about the park is that they practice a “free-range controlled system of management” – which basically means the elephants range freely and they only interact with guests on their terms. We definitely saw this as they were not herded over to us by any means. We simple drove up into the park and waited to see what would happen. Luckily, they know we come with food, so they love to come get treats and get attention from the visitors! It was one of my most favorite travel experiences to date to interact so closely with these beautiful animals! I’d highly recommend it if you’re ever in South Africa.

{Photos © Liz Denfeld Photography}

{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}