Working from home is great. I don't miss office life at all. BUT I do miss people. When you work from home you have to make a conscious effort to get out the house and be a productive member of society. Thankfully I have my gym friends, so that usually gets me out the house for an hour a day. Some days, I crave more than just an hour of civilization. I like a good happy hour, but some days I don't feel like drinking. That is where the coffee shop comes in handy.
I have to admit, I am bit of Starbucks junkie. Gold card member since 2015. There is literally a Starbucks right across the street from my house. As much as I love Starbucks, it gets noisy, and crowded. It's also not a local business. I realized there are so many other local coffee shops that I was missing out on. So I went on a journey to discover all the local coffee shops in Charleston. Here's where I went.
Sojourn is a quaint little coffee shop located across from the Starbucks near my house. Sojourn is not your modern/techie coffee shop. It is family owned and provides a very nice atmosphere. The coffee is good. I like that their ice coffee comes with the "good" crushed up ice. Their breakfast sandwiches are to die for. Literally, my favorite breakfast sandwich. The pricing is relatively close to Starbuck's pricing ($4 or so for the sandwich, $3-4 for coffee). It serves as a central gathering spot for politicians and those involved in the West Ashley community. It can get quite noisy when they are having their roundtable discussions.
Vintage Coffee is located across the bridge from me in Mt. Pleasant. I really like Vintage Coffee's outdoor space. I decided to venture to Vintage Coffee on a nice day to get out the house. I had my roof of my Jeep so I wanted to drive a bit and ended up there. It was a weekday early afternoon when I went. I was taken back by how crowded it was. It wasn't even lunch time or a prime time. The parking lot was full and I had to park next to the shopping center next door. All the picnic tables were full, so I grabbed my iced coffee and sat outside. The coffee was okay, nothing remarkable, but as I looked around me, people were ordering food. The food looked amazing. I have had their avocado toast there in the past and it was great. I enjoyed sitting on the porch looking out at people and cars passing by. It is definitely a family friendly place, so if you have kids, I would recommend taking them there. (They have a playground out back). I would definitely go back. (Maybe when the weather is a little cooler, with a laptop it can get quite hot outside and feels like my laptop is literally baking).
Collective Coffee was probably my least favorite coffee shop, although I hit it right before it closed for the day. I ordered an iced green tea. It was okay. I've heard the food there is fantastic, but haven't had a chance to try it out. The inside is a little quiet and stiff. If you are truly looking for a place to hunker down and study or churn out some work, then this is the place. They have a couple tables outside. I met a friend there and it was nice to be able to sit outside and chat for a bit.
Black Tap Coffee
Out of all of my coffee ventures, Black Tap was probably my favorite. The only downside is the lack of parking right there. I did the park and pray and at a meter with no change. I managed to get away with parking for two hours with no ticket. Anyways, the space inside is small. The day I went it was raining so everyone was inside. There was a small outdoor place to sit. I grabbed a latte. I typically don't drink hot drinks in the summer, but I was wet from the rain and it was a bit chilly, inside so I went with it. I found a small little spot with my own table. I liked how the crowd was diverse. You had working professionals (like myself) and some college aged kids (it is downtown, so that makes sense, although college was out at that time). The latte was AMAZING. Probably the best cup of coffee I have ever had. I slurped it down and debated getting another. I was able to work for a few hours from Black Tap. It did get a little loud and crowded at times, with people literally sitting on top of each other. Other than that, I HIGHLY recommend.
Other Honorable Mentions
Although, I did not visit these places during my coffee journey, I have visited both Kudu and Normandy Farms on Broad Street. Kudu is a great spot to grab coffee and a beer. It is on a highly trafficked area of King Street, so it's not ideal for parking. If you are within walking distance, I highly recommend going.
Normandy Farms also deserves an honorable mention. When I worked at the Brandon Agency on Broad Street, I would walk to Normandy pretty much every day and get a shot of espresso or an Iced Coffee. The sandwiches there are to die for. I would highly recommend it for a grab and go spot, but not necessarily one to sit and stay for a while. Although, there is a group of older gentleman who gather their daily and chat about politics and current events.
So I've been doing Crossfit for about year now (I started late July of last year). Crossfit has transformed my body (hello traps and lats). However, I have hit a point with Crossfit that I'm realizing working out alone isn't going to help me achieve my goals. I desperately want to be able to lift heavier and just have more endurance and strength throughout workouts. I knew my diet was a major factor holding me back from this. Let's get real personal, I'm 5'2". I weighed 110 pounds up until my 26th birthday. In 2016, I switched some medication and gained 10 pounds. I've been weighing roughly 120 pounds since then. When I arrived back from Rome, I realized I had dropped nearly seven pounds, and felt incredibly weak. This was when I realized, I needed to supplement my workouts with an adequate diet. I want to be strong, and fit. Being lean isn't necessarily my main focus.
I looked around for the "perfect" diet for me. I didn't want to lose weight, I wanted to gain, but healthy mass, not fat. My gym started an RP Challenge in April. I knew would be traveling in May and wasn't quite ready to commit to this diet. What is RP, you ask?
RP, stands for Renaissance Periodization. This diet is from what I can tell, relatively new. It's highly promoted in the Crossfit/Weightlifting industry. RP is an individualized diet/exercise program designed to help you "cut" (or lean out) or "mass" (gain muscle/mass). It works in conjunction to your workout program. To get started with RP, you buy a template online. Each template is specifically designed for your body and your goals. RP is designed to be no less than a 90 program, with new "cuts" or cycles occurring every few weeks. RP is very stringent. You have to eat certain foods at certain times of day. It's designed to give you optimal fuel for your workouts. RP is a pretty serious commitment, but can bring you great results if you stick to it. Our gym has divided up into teams and are competing against each other for prizes and bragging rights. I am still learning to "clean" up my diet (getting rid of fast foods and processed foods), so I wasn't quite ready for RP. I hope to be able to do it later in the year and document my results.
Paleo is probably the most popular "Crossfit" diet. Paleo is essentially the "Caveman" diet. It is designed to rid your life of processed foods and eat foods straight from the Earth. One of the pioneers of the Paleo diet is Dr. Lane Sebring, The Paleo diet includes lean meats (even those of wild animals), nuts, fish, eggs, fruits, and root vegetables. The Paleo diet excludes dairy (a staple in my life, unfortunately), salt, processed oils, processed grains, and refined sugar. I've wanted to go Paleo for a while, but I am not sure I can go cold turkey excluding those foods from my diet.
Growing up my mom was a single mom. Between baseball games and practices with my brother and cheerleading with me, our diet was more grab and go. We were not healthy eaters growing up. Most everything we ate was processed. (I loved me some Beanie Weenies out the can...haha). Trying to transform my diet to a more mature, whole diet has been hard. My current goal is just to try and avoid as much processed food as possible.
Whole30 seems to be the latest craze in dieting and healthy eating. Whole30 is similar to the Paleo diet, with more food restrictions. With Whole30 you cannot eat or drink: sugar, alcohol (a major game changer for me!), grains, legumes, dairy, carrageenan, MSG, or sulfites, You also can't recreate "junk" food with healthy ingredients. Whole30 is designed to be done for 30 straight days. It is not designed for as a weight loss program, however, most people I know who do the program and do it right experience some type of weight loss. Whole30 is not for me, at least at this point in my life. I enjoy eating out every now and then, and having a drink or two. Being that restrictive on my diet, may not be the best fit for me mentally. Whole30 can cause some people to experience some psychological and mood problems due to the restrictive nature of the diet. Unlike RP, with Paleo and RP you do not have to weigh or count your food.
Recently, I started tracking my macros. I used Macro Calculator on IIFYM.com (IIFYM stands for it If It Fits in Your Macros). This calculator gave me the amount of Fat, Carbs, and Protein I should eat each day based on my goals and how much you work out. It is referred to as Reverse Dieting, because you can essentially eat what you want as long as it fits within your Macros (Carbs, Protein, Fat) for the day. It is very similar to RP, with RP being more targeted as to what you can eat and when you eat it throughout the day.
I've been tracking my Macros for about 10 days. I've noticed it's impossible to track on the weekends, if you go out to dinner or have a couple drinks. However, for me, I want to focus on controlling what I eat Monday-Friday for now. Obviously, you can tell I am not hyper-intensive about diet. My philosophy on it all is balance. Eat well and enjoy life. I will say I have noticed a change in my workouts since I have begun tracking my Macros and thus eating more. I haven't jumped on a scale lately so I do not know my weight, however, last week we tested out on some of our lifts and I PR'ed or tied my PR with all of my lifts. I am noticing I am stronger and have more endurance throughout my workouts. Below are some photos of when we tested out these lifts.
Overall, I think you should chose a program that fits within your lifestyle. Even if it is not an actual diet program, but rather just cutting out processed foods, eating less fast food, or dining out less. I think there is a happy medium out there. I think you truly can enjoy being healthier.
If you know me, you probably are well aware that I am not a girly girl. Most days I leave the house with little to no make up on, in gym clothes. (Yes I am a Lululemon snob, so I can be a little materialistic!). Now that I work from home, it's an exciting day when I actually have plans and have to put on regular clothes and make up. Anyways, one of my best friends got married Memorial Day Weekend and I wanted to make sure that I didn't look like the gym rat in her wedding. I decided to splurge (yes, for me it was a splurge) and buy a good foundation. I needed something that I knew would last the whole wedding. I had read a lot about Veer Cosmetics' Foundation, so I decided to order it.
I ordered it a week prior to the wedding. I wasn't super hopeful it would arrive on time, but figured, I already use drug store make up and could make due with that if I needed to. Anyways, to my surprise, the product arrived six days later. It cost about $18, which is well over the $1 I spend on make up at the Dollar Store (don't judge, the Dollar Store make up has served me well!).
I ordered the "natural" shade, which was the second lightest shade. I have pretty olive skin, but my face is always lighter because I love to wear hats and I try to keep it out of the sun as much as possible. I knew that if the shade didn't match my skin, I could ship it back and exchange it free of charge. I decided it was safe to test out the shade prior to using it for the wedding.
The foundation matched my skin perfectly. (Like I couldn't tell you the last time I found a foundation to match so well!). I guess I learned my Dollar Store BB Cream wasn't as good after all, because it would go on super light and I would have to cake on bronzer to blend it. Two pumps of the Veer Foundation covered my whole face. It went on light and didn't feel cakey at all. I did use some bronzer just to blend with the rest of my skin, but I didn't have to use a lot of heavy bronzer. (I actually used the lighter of the two bronzers I have). I had some blemishes under my eye and on my chin, and the foundation seemed to cover them well, without the use of additional concealer. (I typically have to use a foundation + concealer to cover my blemishes).
Overall, I was very, very pleased with the foundation. It worked well with some of the rest of my drug store, dollar store, and Ipsy make up. Hopefully, this bottle will last me a while (since I am not an everyday make up wearer). Check out my (unedited) video below of my Veer Experience/My Overall Make Up Routine. Also, check out these photos from the wedding.
The foundation worked wonders at the wedding. It stayed all day (and night). I also used it for the rehearsal dinner, which was outside in the heat, and it survived the sweat and didn't just drip off.
You could probably drink at a different Charleston Brewery for a month and still not hit them all, it seems. Every day you hear about a new brewery opening, moving locations, or hosting a new festival or event. I've had the opportunity to go to several Charleston Breweries since moving here five years ago. Five years ago, due to state laws that limited the servings breweries could provide patrons, there were only a few breweries. The main three I can remember from that time are Westbrook, Palmetto, and Holy City. Now there are dozens! Below are a list of the ones I've gone to and my thoughts on each.
Holy City is one of the originals and is probably the first brewery I went to in Charleston. The first time I went to Holy City I was nervous. It is not necessarily in the "nicest" area of town, and it is hard to find because it is behind a building off the main road. What I like about Holy City is the indoor/outdoor feel. It is a great spot in the spring and fall when it's not scorching out and it's not chilly. Holy City is probably my favorite brewery when it comes to actual beer. I love their Holy City Washout Wheat and their Pluff Mud Porter. I will say the last time we went to Holy City (probably about three or four months ago), it was the first "hotter" day of the year and the bugs were out in full force. Also, it wreaks of garbage and rot because they keep all their brewery supplies outside.
I've only gone to Palmetto once or twice since being Charleston. I like the fact it is downtown and it had a nice feel inside. I honestly don't have a strong opinion on the brewery because it didn't leave a lasting impression. I remember their being live music outside, but it was a chilly night. I don't recall off the top of my head what I drank or how I liked it. I know Palmetto beers are in a lot of other bars (their tap is made of Palmetto leaves and is pretty eyecatching), however, I don't typically gravitate to their beers for some unknown reason.
Revelry is probably one of my favorite breweries since they have added their rooftop space. It is pretty easy to get to from my house (literally a 5 minute drive on 26). There is typically plenty of parking and you can walk to Home Team BBQ, Edmund's Oast, and a few other downtown spots as well. The Rooftop is a cool space to hang out. It gets pretty crowded on a nice day. The overall crowd is younger. They do have a few sandwiches and food items on site, which is great. Revelry's beers are okay. They have a pretty decent wheat beer (in case you can't tell, I'm a huge wheat/light beer fan.) The downstairs and picnic table area is nice too. Again, they have a great indoor/outdoor feel .
When it was announced a year ago that Frothy Beard was moving from North Charleston to a shopping center right across the street from us, we were ecstatic. What made it even better was they were partnering with one of our all time favorite food trucks, Zombie Bob's Pizza. We were so excited about Frothy Beard's opening that we went the first day they opened. Overall, I like the space, but since it also draws a lot of people because of Zombie Bob's it gets really crowded with the tables and people sitting down and eating pizza. We've gone back several times and each time had an issue. The bar space is really tight, so there is not a good place to come up and grab a beer from the bartender. You have to wait in line to get a beer, order food, or just close out your tab. It's quite frustrating when the line is long. The lines have since died down a little and it isn't so bad. The first couple times we went we would order a slice or a whole pizza with no issue.
About a month or so ago, my husband and I decided to stop in for a beer and a slice before heading to the Riverdogs game. We were meeting a friend who had our tickets at the gate of the stadium so we were on a tight schedule. We had an hour to kill so we decided to just go ahead and grab a bite and a beer. When we got there we went to the bar and ordered a beer and our food. My husband ordered a slice of pizza with some toppings, I ordered just a cheese slice. We sat down, enjoyed our beer. After about 20 minutes we were starting to wonder where our food was. We had about 30 minutes until we had to leave for the game. We didn't want to be "those" people so we just continued to wait. After about 30 minutes, we went up to the kitchen and inquired. They said it was coming right up. My husband's slice came out about 5 minutes later, and my very basic slice didn't. I waited another 10 minutes for my slice before following up again. They said they just put it in the oven. Five minutes later we had to go. I asked if they could wrap my slice up to go. We waited and still no pizza! We ended up asking for a refund for my slice (since I never received it). The fact that we had to ask to be refunded and they didn't offer, infuriated me. I am not a difficult customer, but some customer service skills go a long way with me. Anyways, we went to the bar where they "supposedly" refunded our money to our card. The refund never came through.
After that horrible experience I had no desire to go back, but since it was right near the house other friends of ours liked it, we decided to go back a few weeks later. My husband got there before I did (about 10 minutes or so), and ordered our food knowing it may take a while. Again, I ordered just a cheese slice. Again, we waited 30 plus minutes for our food, with our breadsticks coming out after our food. From what I gathered, if you order a cheese slice, you apparently get pushed to the back of the line. We went back to Frothy Beard this weekend (because again it's like .25 miles from our house). This time we ordered a whole pie to split with four people and breadsticks. Surprisingly the food came out pretty quick. Lesson learned, always order a whole pie, even if you want the slice. My biggest complaint from this past weekend was that they were out of pretty much all of their beers. I ended up with the Low Tide (a guest tap) Wheat. It was really, really good. (Side note, the manager of Zombie Bob's reached out to me. He was quite nice and apologized profusely. A little apology goes a long way with me!)
Low Tide Brewery
A few weeks back, after a few drinks in West Ashley, we decided to meet some friends over at Low Tide Brewery on Johns Island. Other than the brewery being quite the haul from our house, I really liked it. It had the traditional/industrial brewery feel. I felt like I was at a legit brewery and not a restaurant. They had a lot of picnic tables inside with corn hole boards inside as well. I don't recall what I drank, however, as I mentioned above, I really liked their Wheat beer. I would definitely love to go back, it's just so far away from us.
We went to Twisted Cypress a few Saturday's ago after attending a Derby party. It was a group of about five of us. The brewery is right around the corner from our gym so we were eager to try it out. Surprisingly the place was dead for a Saturday. I could tell the place has a more laid back vibe (not trying to be as trendy as Frothy Beard). They had some good live music, but again there was no one there. We played corn hole outside, however, the corn hole boards were next to a fence and if you (drunkenly) overthrow the beanbag, it lands it someones yard and is hard to retrieve. The beer was good. Again, I'm not sure what I had. I just wish the place had a more lively vibe. I wish it was a happy medium between dead and Frothy Beard. I would love and try it again.
My Favorite Place
My favorite place to grab a local brew is a place called Craft Conundrum. Craft, as we call it, has a ton (not sure the exact number but thinking like 50+) brews on tap. Most of their beer is local. The owners are amazing and treat you like family. We have been going to Craft since they opened three or so years ago. The owner used to operate the Beer Garden in the old Piggly Wiggly (grocery store) next door. When the Pig closed, he renovated the space next door. Originally it was more a retail space, but over time it became more a bar scene. Craft, unfortunately, doesn't have a really vibrant outdoor space, like some of the other spots, but that's what makes it such a great winter bar. I love going to Craft and trying out all the local brews. They typically have food trucks on the weekend. One of my husband and I's favorite things to do is go across the street and get sushi at our favorite sushi restaurant (Zen), then head over to Craft and have a couple beers. They also have Cards Against Humanity and some other games, so it's fun to go with friends, grab some beers, and play some games.
If you know me, then you probably know that I can be the most ADD individual sometimes. My mind wanders and quickly conversations turn from "How is Your Day?" to "Oh my gosh! Look at what my dog is doing!". I am very much a proponent of solving problems without the use of prescription drugs, which is why I have fallen in love with my Comfort Cube.
What is Comfort Cube?
Comfort Cube is a highly addictive fidget cube that is designed to relieve stress and help you focus. It can be used at work, at school, and even at home. Since I work from home, I keep my Comfort Cube on my coffee table and use it while I work. I particularly find use for it when I am brainstorming solutions for my clients or needing to think outside of the box. It is a more mature version of the new kid-crazed fidget spinner.
The Comfort Cube has six sides that you can fidget with when the need arises. The sides include Click (which is similar to clicking a pen), Flip (which is similar to flipping a switch repetitively), Roll (which includes a rollable ball and three gears), Breathe (which is similar to a worry stone and helps relieve stress), Glide (which is similar to a gaming joystick), and Spin (which is similar to a dial, that you can continually spin). If you have ever sat through a meeting with me then you probably know which side is my favorite, Click. I am always clicking pens to their breaking point. This Comfort Cube has helped saved me numerous pens while helping me generate useful ideas and solutions for my clients.
I particularly like the Breathe side when I am stressed and needing to relax. On my recent trip to Italy I brought my Comfort Cube along. The Breathe side particularly came in handy to help soothe my anxiety prior to boarding our nine hour flight to Rome. (I'll admit, once I boarded, I did have to take half a Xanax to help knock me out for the duration of the flight.) Anyways, as my palms were sweaty, my mind was racing, and my stomach was uneasy, I simply pulled out my Comfort Cube and utilize the Breathe side to help relieve some of these pre-flight jitters.
Where to Buy Comfort Cube?
Again, if you know me, you know I very rarely buy anything from the store anymore. I recently started subscribing to Hello Fresh so I don't even get groceries from the store! Comfort Cube is pretty easy to purchase and can be bought directly from their website, www.getcomfortcube.com. There's no real hoops to jump through to order the product. It's even easier to order then Hello Fresh.
Another cool thing about Comfort Cube is that they come in a bunch of different colors. You can even buy his and hers Comfort Cubes. I like the white and pink one for me and the blue and white for my husband. With most things in life, the more Comfort Cubes you buy the cheaper they are (so it's more affordable to buy his and hers instead of just buying his or hers).
The two pack of Comfort Cube's is considered the "best value" with a two pack costing $25.00 per cube and including free shipping for both cubes. If you want more Comfort Cubes then you can go with their "most popular" package which includes three Comfort Cubes costing $20.00 per cube and including free shipping. If you still aren't sure about Comfort Cube and just want to buy one for now, you can purchase one Comfort Cube at $29.00 plus $4.95 in shipping and handling fees.
Shipping is pretty fast. I ordered my Comfort Cube and got in the same week. This product has been a godsend on my productivity and focus. They also make great gifts and prizes for employees! Why not reward your employees with a Comfort Cube for their next achievement. Obviously, I am not a very "salesy" person, but this product was so awesome that I just wanted to spread the word!
I love recapping my trip to Rome. It makes me feel like I'm there all over again. (I know that sounds extremely cheesy, but it does make me relive the memories as if I am in the moment). For the second half of our trip we explored all the sites: The Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Sistine Chapel, among others. Here is part two of our Rome Trip.
Day Four (Sunday)
Sunday started pretty early. We wanted to try to hit all the big sites on Sunday because Monday was a national holiday in Rome and we weren't sure what would and wouldn't be open. Our day started out by grabbing breakfast right outside the Colosseum. I had a croissant and "Iced" coffee (which was nothing more than coffee with cream that had been sitting out, no real ice to speak of) and Zach had a coffee and something else. Anyways, I pinched myself as I ate just steps away from such a historical site.
Anyways, after our quickie breakfast we headed out to conquer the Colosseum. The one big thing we noticed in Rome vs the US is that efficiency and organization are lacking. We get to the Colosseum and there are lines going each and every direction. This was the one thing we had already pre-purchased tickets to. Trying to figure out which line was for what almost made me lose my cool. There are people everywhere selling guided tours and their "skip the line tickets". They are annoying and the LAST thing you want to do is engage with them, but we had no choice. We could not for the life of us figure out what line to get in. We decided to make it known to one of the tour vendors that we already had tickets and just needed to know where to go. He kindly directed us to a line. Chaos continued to ensue from there, but eventually we made it inside the Colosseum.
It was amazing to see and learn about how architecturally advanced the Romans were so long ago. The Colosseum looked like modern day arenas. Thinking about Gladiators fighting to their death was crazy! The Colosseum was probably one of my favorite attractions. It's hard to describe the experience.
After we exited the Colosseum, we continued to wander around the grounds. We found a cute church up a very steep hill. We wanted to get all the highlights in on Sunday, so we decided to start the journey to the Pantheon. The Pantheon was about a 2 mile walk from the Colosseum. But walking in Rome, as I mentioned earlier, was one of my favorite things to do. We crossed over a bridge with the Tyber River underneath, which was cool.
We FINALLY made it to the Pantheon. It was magnificent. We sat down inside and took it all in. We were chatting here and there. We forgot that the Pantheon is technically a church and you are supposed to be quite. Some not so friendly Italian lady came over the loud speaker to tell us to basically shut up.
After the Pantheon, we tried desperately to find a place to grab a drink and eat. After two not so nice waiters and restaurants, we finally found one. We ordered some beers and grabbed a bite. This place had an awesome view of a square. After our bellies were full and we had a couple drinks to relax us, we headed out to the Spanish Steps. Thankfully, the Spanish Steps were close to the Pantheon. Not so thankfully, there were literally thousands of people going the same direction. The only comparison I can make of the crowds is if you have ever been to Rockefeller Center in NYC around Christmas. Yes, it was like that! People everywhere! We made it to the steps, started the climb. You can definitely tell the altitude changes in Rome. Literally one flight of stairs, feels like you climbed a mountain. The temperature is cooler the higher you go. We made it somewhat to the top and stopped to take in the views. Looking down at the crowds was awesome.
The next thing on the list for the day was the Trevi Fountain. Again, not such a long trek from the Spanish Steps. Again, MASSES amount of people. I was most excited about the Trevi Fountain, but found it extremely underwhelming. Partially because I was exhausted by this point, partially because I was tired of the crowd and just wanted to have some space to breathe, and partially because it was pretty warm and I was in long sleeves and long pants sweating. We got to the fountain, but you couldn't get anywhere close to the edge due to the people. We decided after that to call it day and grab an Uber back to the AirBnB.
After relaxing for a bit, we headed back out to our downtown Trastavere area. By this point, my appetite was back and I was craving a burger. (Odd, I know. We are in Rome, I should want pasta or pizza). We found a nice little fusion place basically America meets Rome. We ordered a burger with Mozzarella, pesto, and tomato. I kind of filled up on the Bruschetta ahead of time and ended up only eating a few bites. I was exhausted. We decided to call it any early night and head back.
Day Five (Monday)
Monday was a Roman Holiday, essentially their Labor Day. We were unsure of what they city would be like that day, so we didn't plan much. We were pleasantly surprised to see that most everything was open. We didn't experience any inconveniences by it being a holiday. We slept in a bit Monday and had a slow start to the day. (After all, we really had nothing to do). We grabbed an Uber downtown. We wandered into this cute little bakery/restaurant. I had a Italian Doughnut of some sort and espresso. This place was so cute. Very authentic. You could tell it was a family run business. As we finished our breakfast, they were setting up for lunch. It appeared their lunch was a grab and go type lunch. They had whole chickens and such that you could purchase.
After our late breakfast, we decided just to walk around. We stumbled upon some interesting sites. We wandered in and out of a few churches, taking in the amazing artistry and architecture of each. Honestly, I really have no clue where we went and exactly what we saw because we just wandered. It was super relaxing and enjoyable. Again, I can't think of a time where I've spent so much time just relaxing with my husband with no bickering and no real fuss. I think we both enjoyed being out of our element and just exploring. We stopped in at a random restaurant and ordered a bottle of wine to split. We enjoyed our bottle and then set off to explore more.
We meandered our way to Piazza Navona (a place we were told by friends we needed to go). We wandered the square. Took in all the fountains and architecture. It honestly reminded me so much of downtown Charleston surprisingly. It was rather quiet and quaint. We figured what better thing to do on a Monday, then day drink. We sat down at another restaurant overlooking Piazza Navona. We ordered a bottle of Rose. We weren't quite hungry yet, so we just sat there and drank our Rose. The waiter was rather rude about us just ordering drinking and not eating. We ordered some bruschetta to get him to calm down. Once we finished our wine, we dipped out. Overall, the service in Rome was not bad, but people like this waiter give it a bad name. It was just off-putting.
We continued to wander around stopping for some gelato. We stumbled upon the huge statue and very governmental looking building with, once again, TONS of steps. We went up the steps and discovered this was where they had their Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. There were two armed guards standing by it. We found out that this was the "Capitol Hill" of Rome. We found another place to climb and sit. We sat and just took in the views.
We continued our day drinking journey by going back to our favorite rooftop, Les Etoiles. We ordered another bottle of wine. The sky was starting to turn and it cooled off fast, so we high tailed it inside. We had a few more drinks before calling it a day. (I had a few too many drinks, admittedly!).
We Ubered back to the AirBnB. I fell asleep instantly. Zach wandered down to get us a couple of pizzas. The AirBnb didn't have a dining room table, so we sat on the floor and ate our pizza straight out of the box.
Day Six (Tuesday)
Tuesday was our last day in Rome. We set aside visiting the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel for Tuesday. Again, we didn't purchase our tickets ahead of time so we knew we would have to wait in line. We knew we needed to set out for our venture super early. We got up at 7 and were out the door by 7:30. We arrived at the Vatican Museums around 7:45 and the line was wrapped around the building. We knew the lines moved fast in Rome, so we didn't think much of it. After all, we thought, the Museum didn't open until 9 am. (We were wrong, it actually opened at 10, and ticket sales opened at 9...oops!).
As we stood in line, we chatted with this lovely engaged couple from NYC. They were fun to talk to. We talked about "city life" and basically all of their Roman adventures. We noticed the line was not moving at all, even after 10 am. By this point we had been in line close to 3 hours. Luckily there were snack stands all around so I got a snack so we didn't starve. We FINALLY got into the Museum around 11 am.
Navigating the Museum was tricky. As with everything in Rome, there was a million people everywhere we turned. We finally started our journey through the Museum. There were tons of guided tours and it was difficult to get around them so we would be stuck in certain points of the museum, unable to move to the next thing until the group moved. There were also so many small doorways and walkways. If you are claustrophobic, this is not the place for you. After wandering all the way through the Museum, we finally made it to the bottom. At the bottom of the Museum is the Sistine Chapel. The Sistine Chapel was extraordinary. I respected the no photos rule, and found a bench and sat down and took it all in. Literally, art everywhere you look. It was incredible to sit at such a seat of history. A memory I will never forget.
After exiting the Sistine Chapel, we decided to find the restaurant on site. The restaurant was actually quite lovely. Surprisingly they served alcohol at the Vatican, so we ordered a beer and lunch. (Again the server had a bit of an attitude, but we got over it. Thankfully, you don't feel obligated to tip in Europe, which made us not feel like complete jerks for not leaving anything extra). We enjoyed our lunch, and decided to call it a day and head back.
We relaxed for a while, then decided to go back one last time to our Trastavarian Square area. We found a nice restaurant (Grazie y Graziella). We ordered our last pizzas and reminisced on the trip. We decided to try and find that heavenly tiramisu one last time. We were successful in tracking it down. We ordered our last drinks and enjoyed the tiramisu. We were ready to come home, but sad that our vacation was over. It was a great end to an amazing trip.
Overall, I adored Rome. I would go back in a heartbeat. The only negatives were the travel time. Traveling back was a 20 hour day (because we gained 6 hours back). I hope that others have the opportunity to experience all that we got to experience. I recently read that 2017 was the year to travel to Italy and Spain due to insanely low flight costs. I encourage you, if you get the chance, to take advantage of the low costs and go explore Rome!
Below are the rest of the photos from our trip. Ciao!
So my husband and I have been back from Rome for a couple of days. What a dream vacation it was! I was happy to be home, but each hour that passes, I start to think about what we would be doing if we were in Rome right now. The city stole my heart. I love Charleston and old cities, so it came as no surprise that I loved Rome. Here is a recap of the first half of our amazing Euro trip.
Day One (Thursday)
Let's preface this with, we were able to afford this amazing vacation thanks to Scott's Cheap Flights. Part of the deal was, we had to fly in and out of Atlanta. Our flight left Atlanta to Charlotte at 11 am, so we traveled Wednesday night and spent a lovely evening with my Aunt Kim and Uncle John in Augusta (about halfway between Atlanta and Charleston). We woke up early Thursday morning and hit the road.
On the Tuesday prior to the trip, I came down with an AWFUL stomach bug. One that made me think twice about getting on airplane for nine hours. Anyways, traveling on Wednesday was rough and Thursday my stomach was still in knots (partially due to the anticipation of traveling ahead, and the fact I hadn't eaten anything of substance in 48 hours). Our flight left Atlanta and we landed in Charlotte. We had a 6 plus hour layover in Charlotte and were scheduled to take the overnight flight to Rome. The hours passed slowly. We ate (and drank, which was a horrible idea considering my stomach condition). We FINALLY boarded the flight, where a full on panic attack ensued. My stomach was still messed up and knowing I had 9 hours in the air made matters worse. A half a Xanax later, I was fine. The flight was long with little bits of rest between. My stomach hurt so bad, that I couldn't get comfortable. We finally landed in Rome early Friday morning. By this point, we were both delirious from travel.
Day Two (Friday, First Day in Rome)
We landed in Rome at 10 am (their time). Our arrangements to getting to our AirBnB fell through, and we were so tired that we got duped by a "taxi" person and ended up spending 90 euros to get to our AirBnB. We checked into the AirBnB and IMMEDIATELY passed out. We slept for a good 5-6 hours before deciding to venture out. Of course, we felt gross. We hadn't showered in over a day due to travel. I was still a bit under the weather with my stomach. We decide to try out the shower in the AirBnB. The shower was tiny. My 5'2" self barely fit. Anyways, we didn't realize that the liner had to be completely in the shower or it would flood the apartment. So with the liner in the shower, you had maybe 6 inches of room in the shower. The shower operated off of a gas heater. Zach took his shower, I waited a few minutes, tried to take one and there was no hot water. After an hour, I finally braved a cold shower and we headed out to find food.
We wandered around the neighborhood we were staying (Trastavere) and found a cool little pizza place. Had a few slices. I had heard about this amazing rooftop bar (Les Etoiles on top of Hotel Atlante Star) so we got an Uber and headed there.
That Friday was very chilly and rainy. We arrived at the rooftop bar and were greeted by an amazing server/hostess or who gave us a grand tour. The views of St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican were amazing from there! We explored for a bit, then sat down and had a drink. What I really, really loved about this bar is they gave you a plush blanket (in addition to heaters) to keep you warm. We enjoyed our drinks, and due to the cold, decided to call it day. We next walked over to this restaurant that was highly rated by our server. The restaurant, Ai Villini, was a cute, very typical Roman place. Zach ordered Oxtail and loved it, I just had spaghetti. The pasta was fresh (but I still had very little appetite, so we ate and called it a night).
Day Three (Saturday)
Saturday was the day we decided to dedicate to the Vatican. We knew the lines would be long (and didn't have a chance to purchase Skip the Line tickets before they sold out), so we headed out early. We got to St. Peter's Square at the Vatican pretty early. The line was wrapped completely around the square. We had heard horror stories as to how long it would take to get in, but since the Vatican was the only thing on our agenda for the day, we decided to wait it out. We got in line. I was still not feeling 100%, but knew I was getting better. The line went surprisingly fast. We finally got inside St. Peter's Basilica and it was breathtaking. We didn't do a tour, but instead took it in ourselves. It was crazy to look up at the Dome and know how much history was literally painted on the walls!
After taking in the Basilica, we set out to conquer something we were really excited to do, climb the Dome! It is roughly 500 steps to the top. We again waited in line for a few minutes, and got our tickets. Since I still was a little weak (I hadn't eaten a full meal in days), we decided to take the elevator for the first portion of the climb. That knocked out 200 of the 500 steps. We got off the elevator and our journey started. The steps initially weren't bad. They were wide, very manageable. Very soon, the steps narrowed and became a spiral. Poor Zach, and his broad shoulders had a hard time fitting. After a good bit of climbing, we made it to the top of the Dome. We had a full 360 view of the Vatican. The views again were mesmerizing. Literally worth the nauseatingly spiral staircases.
With a stop at the gift shop on the way down (because a trip to the Vatican wouldn't be complete with a post card and rosary), we made our way back out to St. Peter's Square. We stopped for a bite to eat at a place just outside the Vatican. It was okay, definitely could tell it was tourist trap. We decided to call it a day and go back to our AirBnb for a nap before dinner.
Our Uber driver told us about this lively area in Trastavere (the area where we were staying). We decided to get out and walk and see what we discovered. We set out on our journey. The aimless walks in Rome are truly what I will remember most. I can't remember a time in life where I've had better conversation with my husband. We walked and we talked. We eventually made it to the centralized area of Trastavere. Unexpectedly, I noticed a lot of commotion down an alleyway and decided to check it out. The alley led to a labyrinth of streets filled with restaurants, shops, and bars all leading to a large square. We found a cool spot, Gino51 and sat down. Our waiter was a nice, funny Italian man. We ordered a bottle of Pinot Grigio and an app and watched the people walk by. One bottle led to another and we enjoyed dinner of pizza and pasta. We capped off dinner with some gelato, and then meandered our way to a wine bar and ordered another drink and some of the best tiramisu the world has ever known (calories don't count on vacation, right?!).
To give you a backstory on this tiramisu, we sat down at this little wine bar. It was chilly out, so we sat inside. The place was packed. My husband orders this tiramisu. Some of the biggest fights my husband and I get into are due to me being somewhat of a picky eater. Knowing it would drive him crazy, I dug in. He anxiously awaited my response. I instantly blurt out, "it tastes like shit!". He was horrified. Of course, I was joking, and he saw that when I went back in and devoured the rest of the tiramisu. After dessert, we drunkenly stumbled out to get an AirBnb and go home.
Here are some pictures from the first part of our trip. Stay tuned for part two. Full of bobble-head popes and day drinking around Rome.
I promise! Life has been slow, yet busy lately. I love this blog. Even if no one reads it. It really is more of a personal outlet then anything. But not too personal, because I'm aware that what goes out to the public, will always be public. Anyways, here's an update on life lately.
Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the Women in Philanthropy and Leadership Conference hosted by Coastal Carolina University. I've been to several Women in Politics conferences, but this was my first true Leadership conference. Let's be honest, initially, I only went to the conference because I badly needed a break from the office. The day was long (commuting from Charleston to Myrtle Beach and back in day, makes for a long day, any day). I took away so much more than I thought from this conference. I would not classify myself as a feminist, or one who is really loud about female issues, but I found myself really relating to each and every speaker. In my head, I was screaming, "yes, that is so me". Here are a few key take aways I took from this conference.
1. Never say "no" to an opportunity. Jan Fields, the former US President for all McDonalds, was the first speaker. She brought up this amazing point. I was over the moon, excited to hear a McDonalds exec speak. (If you know me, you know my very, very, unhealthy relationship with chicken nuggets, and McDonalds). Jan was remarkable. Hearing how she worked her way up from the fry cook to a President was awesome. Her sense of humor and sarcastic attitude made it even better. Too often, I get too scared, or too nervous to do something, so I find it easier to say no, then to do it. There are so many opportunities that I sometimes kick myself for not taking part in, whether its a trip with friends, or a job that I saw on a job board that I felt I was under-qualified for. Under qualification brings me to point two.
2. Men are risk takers, women are not. At one point during the conference (I believe it was on the lunch time panel) someone brought up the point that women often settle with their careers. Whether it's not asking for a raise and not knowing our worth (I am very guilty of this!), or not asking for a promotion or interviewing for a job because we feel we are unqualified. Women often don't take risks, whereas men do just that.
3. Women tend to work office-hours and feel guilty if they are not at work during working hours. Men will show up at 10 am and say "Yes! I am here" and feel their day has been productive. There is nothing wrong with having this sense of productivity. It's all about learning how to be more efficient with your time. I'll admit, many of these women are successful due to long hours in the office and lots of work, but learning how to be more efficient with your time at work, leads to better productivity, and, in turn, leads to a longer, better career.
4. It's all about the Pie Life. The last speaker was Samantha Ettus, author of the Pie Life. What is the Pie Life? It is that messy pie that makes up your life. It's that work/life balance thingy that the we all strive for. I don't have kids, so I don't struggle with some of the same struggles that many other women struggle with; however, I do have this work/life balance issue. Learning how to balance, work, my stringent health and wellness sector, my husband, my four-legged kid, my house, it's overwhelming. I've learned to try and balance, but still struggle when any minor thing comes up and interrupts my weekly agenda. Many days I get up at 5 am and go straight to my Crossfit gym, come home, shower (have no time to dry my hair), dash to work, and sometimes not leaving work until well after 6 or 7. I try to keep this in check, but it's hard when there are events after work that I desperately want to attend to, but know that I have to be in bed or have chores to do around the house.
Overall, I took a lot from this conference. One, never show up to an interview with wet hair (thanks, Jan, I'll be sure to dry it before an interview). Two, approach life for what it is, life. Things are going to get in the way. It's okay not to be perfect. It's okay to have a pie that is messy. Mine sure is. I'm learning to embrace the mess. Embrace the times with my husband that we ditch laundry on a Sunday and instead get out the house and go on a walk downtown. Embrace the mess. The mess sustains me. No one ever said a pie doesn't taste as good just because it's messy. Life isn't an episode of Top Chef.
All too often in life, we focus on the negative. The "drama", the gossip... I'm as guilty as the next. When people ask me how my day is, I often respond with the negative before the positive, if there is a positive at all. A week ago, I found myself down in the dumps. Nothing was wrong with my life. Everything was going well, but I just couldn't shake this sad feeling. The music I was listening to was awful. Break up songs, man-hater songs galore. The shows I was watching weren't much better. I was having racing thoughts before bed and therefore having a hard time going to sleep. I couldn't shake this crappy feeling. I attributed it to the "winter blues". After all, the weekend before had been freezing, making any Vitamin D hard to come by. I realized I had spent too long focusing on the negative and the negativity was taking over my life. I'll admit, when it comes to personalities, I am more of a Negative Nancy that an Positive Patsy. It's something I've come to realize and want to work on 2017. My husband told me a story about someone he knew that decided the best way to transform their thinking was to, at the end of the day, write down three positive things that happened that day. It didn't have to be too extravagant (no life saving stuff), and it could be superficial (example: I had a good hair day). I took his advice to heart. I've spent the last week focusing on the positives and mentally noting three positives at the end of the day. Some of them have to do with the gym (not going to lie, many of them have to do with accomplishments at the gym), some of them have to do with work, and some of them just have to do with the way I looked. (I'm not afraid to say sometimes I can be vain, and I appreciate myself when I have a good hair day or my outfit is on point). On Friday the 13th, one of my wins was just surviving Friday the 13th without something bad happening. This has helped me realize that everyday has a positive. Everyday has negatives too, but I am choosing to focus on the positives than the negatives. Focus on the lifts I make at the gym, not the lifts I miss. Focus on the compliments I get at work, not the criticisms. I'm not living on this space cloud where I think the world is perfect, Lord knows it's far from it, but I"m choosing to focus on the good. This is especially trying this week, given the nature of politics and the country. I am fearful the negative is going to come out on Friday with people in general, but I'm going to choose to walk on my own little ray of sunshine and cast it aside. Everyday I get excited to think about my three wins. After even the crappiest of days, we all deserve three wins.
Haley Parler Moore
Charleston resident. Digital Marketer. Crazy Crossfitter. Bulldog Mom. Wife. Gamecock fan. Constantly clad in Lululemon.