Weekend in Vermont

I often get asked the question, “What is your favorite place to travel to?” or “What is your favorite Starwood hotel?” Well, this past weekend could arguably answer both of those questions:  Manchester Village, Vermont at The Equinox Resort & Spa.

Here’s the deal.  I’ve written about this place before, calling it New England’s Hidden Gem and everything I said then was true and it’s the same thing I would say today.  GO THERE!  And read the aforementioned post to get the full deets and a few random other thoughts, per usual.  For now, for my weekend in Vermont post take two, let me share with you the highlights of my latest girlfriend getaway with my best friend, Eileen!

One of my favorite parts of going to Manchester Village is the drive from Albany Airport to the hotel.  It’s about an hour and 15 minutes, it’s beautiful and, well, interesting.  Eileen and I stopped off near Bennington, Vermont (seems fitting given that’s my maiden name) at Potters Tavern and it was actually a meal highlight for me.  Seeing a giant PBR truck wasn’t too bad, either.

Ahhh, The Equinox Hotel.  It’s cozy and luxurious and comfortable and magical.  It is in my top five favorite hotels of all-time…I feel super-duper blessed to get to experience this property!  And I was able to reconnect with Astri, one of the incredible concierge at the hotel.  She’s the best!

weekend-in-vermont-ann-ueno-4 weekend-in-vermont-ann-ueno-5And right behind the hotel is Mt. Equinox.  A grand mountain that offers all sort of hikes and adventure.  Eileen and I did a two-hour hike on Saturday afternoon with the sun shining through the giant trees and the 75 degree weather just perfect.  So perfect that I felt hand stands were a better way to hike vs. walking.  Naturally.

weekend-in-vermont-ann-ueno-6One of the many great things about Manchester Village is the shopping.  This quaint town, which is all of one main street, has outlet shopping combined with antique shopping combined with mom and pop stores.  They are all walkable and cater to all of our different shopping desires.  Need some fall clothes for work? Done.  Want some 1954 Stage Magazines to spruce up your coffee table?  Done.  Never been to a Marimekko outlet store?  Yeah, me neither.  Done and done.  And here’s proof below because obviously having brightly colored bean bags in front of their store makes sense.

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At The Equinox’s casual bar and outdoor area, they only serve cheese and chocolate.  Yeah, only.  I know, it’s awful, right?  This is basically my stomach’s dream.  A glass of crisp Sauvignon Blanc paired with some local Vermont cheeses with a gorgeous sunset over the mountain.  I will forever hold that moment in my memory…and let’s not tell anyone I basically devoured this cheese plate below all. by. my. self.

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There is a 6-table restaurant in Manchester Village called The Silver Fork that I had heard about the last couple of times I was there, but couldn’t get in for obvious reasons.  Well, Eileen and I lucked out, thanks to Astri, the amazing concierge, and were able to get a reservation to eat at the bar.  We were happy and the food was outstanding.  weekend-in-vermont-ann-ueno-9

This happened on the last morning.  Sitting in the sun, drinking coffee, reading some of my favorite editorials and munching on their famous apple cider donuts.  Ahhhh!!

weekend-in-vermont-ann-uenoAnd similar to our drive from the airport, our drive to the airport, we had to stop at this amazing Dairy Farm for some real-deal soft serve ice cream.  It was sad to leave, but all good things must come to an end.  Thank you, Vermont and thank you Equinox Hotel for yet again, providing amazing hospitality, delicoius, local food and many memories I will carry with me forever!

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Friday Round Up: A Weekend in the Hamptons

ann-ueno-hamptons-13When you have friends that have a house in The Hamptons (go ahead, click…I didn’t know exactly what “The Hamptons” were either…let’s keep that secret between us, okay?) and invite you to come for the weekend, what do you do?  Yeah, exactly.  You say yes and you start packing and you book your flight and you GO!

Rick and I are so grateful that our friends Suzanne and Neil invited us into their beautiful home in Southampton.  Southampton is historic, filled with lush landscapes, mom and pop shops that you want to spend hours in and food that will make your stomach smile for weeks.  We grilled out, slept in, went for runs, drank buttery Chardonnay on the patio in the midst of the moist summer air.  We explored The Hamptons by driving down long, winding roads with shrubs the size of mountains, oooing and aaahhhing over the mansions.  We relaxed at the  beach.  We ate the most delicious blueberry pie.  We talked, told stories, shared our lives.  It was a really, really nice weekend.  I would SO recommend finding friends that have a house there so you can get the invite.  Um, and if that doesn’t happen, put it on your travel bucket list, save up your cash and stay at a bed and breakfast.

Take a look at some of the no-filter beauty I captured on my oh-so dependable iPhone lens.

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Friday Round Up: Boston, Instagrammed.

This may be completely contradictory to my travel woes post on Monday, but, I’m doing it anyways.  Why?  Because it’s my blog and I can 🙂  Isn’t that the beauty of blogging?  We can write whatever we want, whenever we want and even have spelling errors and it’s fine.  Free speech at it’s finest.  Why else?  This was one of those travel high weeks for me.  Those do happen.  Yes, traveling for work can be fun and not so sweaty and awful as I noted in the aforementioned post.  So let’s get to it.  I have an office in Boston and therefore travel to the great beantown once every 6-8 weeks, give or take.  I have been to Boston so many times and always enjoy it but this time it was that. much. better.  Why?  Let me show you through Instagram!  And to oversimplify, if you travel to Boston, here are 5 recommendations for your next trip.

  1. Stay at W Boston.  It’s a little off the beaten path, but 100% worth it.  Amazing design, delicious food, incredible rooms and most importantly, top-notch service and staff (just check out the hand-written note from the Director of Operations below as a little surprise and delight).  #whotels
  2. Eat at Neptune Oyster.  This is my all-time favorite restaurant in the world (yes, in the world).  Get oysters.  Then get the steamed clams.  Then end with a lobster roll, with butter.  Wash it down with a glass of their Sancerre (ask for it, it’s not on the menu). You will thank me later.
  3. Shop at Acquire.  It’s a boutique in the North End that has everything from super unique jewelry, hostess gifts, well-designed pillows, books, candles, etc.  It was a design dream for me.  Hopefully Mike will be working.  He’s awesome.
  4. Pamper at Bliss.  Whether it’s a quick hot-cream manicure or a full spa day, Bliss continues to be the best spa around, in my humble opinion.  I squeezed in a manicure at 8:30pm with Nancy and she rocked.  It’s wicked ‘spa-some,’ as they say at Bliss 🙂
  5. Eat at Douzo Sushi.  Located in the Back Bay area and introduced to me by my dear friend Alex, this sushi spot is not to be missed.  I have tried a bunch of things and would recommend it all.  But, most importantly, get salmon and tuna nigiri.

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Travel Woes Worth Sharing

tired_womanAs I sit on the terrace of the Westin Milan reading a book by one of my favorite authors, she writes about her journey of being a writer. And she talks about as a writer, it’s important to write truth.  I was convicted by this and realized that as a person, I am a glass half full person which means, I generally communicate  the positive, happy truth.  However, I am an honest and fairly direct person so therefore, I do communicate things people may not want to hear.  Feedback that may hurt someone, but that comes from the heart, with good intention.  So if you have been reading my blogs, getting my Instagram pics, reading my FB posts, you will see all the beauty of our trip to Italy.  And other places I – or we – have traveled the last few months.  And beautiful, it was.  And beautiful traveling is.  But there is the other side of traveling that some people don’t talk about…the travel woes.  And as I now, ironically, sit 30,000 feet above ground on an American Airline flight to Boston, I am here to disclose some personal travel woes, to be honest, to communicate some truth about travel.

Yes, of course, traveling the world, traveling the country, taking road trips is fun, exciting, educational and freeing.  But, it’s not perfect, and it is certainly doesn’t happen without some level of suffering. Traveling through city after city after city, planes, trains and automobiles, can be ugly.  And tiring. And frustrating.

While in Italy, Rick and I rented a car and one of the days we were to drive 30 minutes and end up at an outlet mall outside of Florence.  2.5 hours later, we were sweating, irrational and still in the car, feeling like complete idiots having not found where we needed – okay wanted – to go.  And to top it off, we were running late to catch our train from Florence to Milan and ended up having to RUN through Florence, RUN through the train station with bags and bags and suitcases and backpacks and posters I didn’t want to bend and bottles of Prosecco that I didn’t want to break to BARELY make the train.  That was a low-light of Italy, for sure.  There is real stress that comes from missing a flight, from delayed flights, from cancelled flights, from getting lost, from being frustrated by who you are traveling with…it’s not always smooth sailing.

I travel for work and travel for leisure.  In both cases, I have a very hard time staying disciplined to eating healthy.  Case in point:  At the lovely O’Hare airport yesterday I tried so hard to find the best of the WORST options to eat lunch.  I landed on a quinoa veggie chili burrito from the food court at a placed named Burrito Beach that had 450 calories (vs. the 1,000 calorie meal from McDonalds that I really wanted).  I committed to not eating the whole thing as to come in at maybe 350 calories.  And this was a win for me, if you can believe that.  As a result of being on the road so often,  I am carrying 5-7 extra pounds of weight that I literally cannot get off to save my life.

And eating healthy is just the beginning of the love handles that create that great looking muffin-top I am rocking right now.  I am a physical person and generally enjoy working out and do it for my health and sanity.  I run.  I do yoga.  I play sports like volleyball and occasionally tennis.  But when I am on the road for work with meetings starting at 7:30 or 8am and events in the evenings (that inevitably have amazingly delicious unhealthy food like fried macaroni and cheese balls combined with cool cocktails and wine) it’s hard to stay in my workout routine that I have at home.  Often times I may pack my workout clothes and shoes to just have them sit sadly in my suitcase, getting no use whatsoever. #excusesexcuses

Switching gears, but still related, let’s talk about all the beautiful pictures I post when I am on vacation or traveling for work.  You know, for every super cute shot of Rick and me, there is 15-20 that I would be mortified showing anyone.  And for every mouth-watering food shot, there are dozens that are blurry, off-centered or just look absolutely disgusting and not worth sharing.  Or the moment you arrive at some really amazing landmark, the reason you have traveled thousands of miles and your memory card is full.  Or the double chins.  Or the pictures where you have to convince yourself that the camera DOES, in fact, add 5 pounds.  Or maybe it was the Panda Express I ate that literally added the 5 pounds.

Jokes and vanity aside, there are a couple more travel woes I want to share with you.  One actually came up this past weekend which is what prompted me to finish writing this post that I drafted in Milan.  Rick and I were at a party and a friend of ours came up to me to say hello and catch up.  One of the first things she said to me was “I am so envious of your trips, especially to Italy…” I am not sure about you, but I don’t want to be a person that someone is envious of.  Why?  First off, I am damaged goods saved by grace and my life and our trip to Italy wasn’t perfect and I don’t share those stories or photos for people to be envious.  I share to inspire.  I share to remind people of God’s creativity in this world.  I share to stay plugged in with family and friends that I otherwise would not be.  I share so that if someone were to travel to Italy or elsewhere, I can help them with their travel plans.  And secondly, as she talked about how she wishes her and her husband would have traveled more, traveled for longer period of times, prior to having their daughter, I looked at her and wanted to say, “I wish I could stay home, travel less and spend time with a daughter.”  It’s funny how life is.  She is pregnant and has one daughter and wants part of my life, the traveling part.  I am a global traveler without kids and would give anything to know  what it’s like to carry a baby in my belly, to give birth, to experience something so miraculous with Rick.

Finally, the toughest part of traveling is the literal and figurative distance that is created between Rick and me.  In fact, he and I were up until, oh 4am off and on the other night in a heated argument that had many parts to it, but one was my schedule.  While on one hand Rick and I are used to each other’s schedules and travel commitments, there are often times where it creates chaos in our marriage.  I am tired when I come home.  I am home for 4 days and leave again on the 5th day and during those 4 days, have 15 different things going on and forget to slow down and make room for the most important thing in my life…my marriage.  And sorry to be blunt, but, it’s pretty hard to have sex and try to get pregnant when I am hundreds of miles away from Rick.  I don’t care what anyone says, being on the road and away from your spouse is hard, can be the root of many arguments and a really difficult thing to ever get used to.

Yes, of course, I love to travel.  It is truly one of my most favorite passions in life for a multitude of reasons.  But it has many disadvantages and if I am being honest, as I promised I would be on this blog, there are days that I want to never get on an airplane again.  There are times I look at myself in the mirror, disappointed that my jeans are too tight and embarrassed by the bags under my eyes.  There are times that Rick and I have to see our therapist to help us work through communicating, lack of intimacy and pressures that come from our schedules.  There are times that I lie on my hotel room, in bed and wake up every hour because I can’t sleep.  And then I am crabby the next day.  And eat bad.  And drink too much wine.  Yeah, those moments are real.  Travel woes are real.  It’s not all roses and glitter.  Sometimes, it is sweaty and tiring and brutal and exhausting and sad and the source of fights in a marriage.

{photo credit: http://www.hotelchatter.com}

Word of the Week: Francophile + Assorted French Cards from Rifle Paper Co.

francophile-greeting-cardsBonjour!

Over the weekend and into late last night, Paris was on my mind.  When isn’t Paris on my mind?

For one, yesterday was Bastille Day (French National Day, a celebratory day, similar to 4th of July in the states, it is a symbol of the uprising of the modern nation and of the reconciliation of all the French inside the constitutional monarchy which preceded the First Republic during the French Revolution – thanks Wikipedia).

Second, my best friend just got back from Paris and over golf and dinner on Saturday, she shared some of her stories that brought me back to that beautiful city in that beautiful country.  Oh and she may have taken an all-day cooking class in Nice.  Yeah, talk about Julia Child on the brain.

And last, late last night I was checking out the blog of one of my new blog followers, Bravogue.  First off, how clever is that name?  Second, in his “about me” section of his blog, he deemed himself a Francophile.  And immediately my head went to of course I have a crazy Francophile following my blog, not knowing what the heck a Francophile was.  But in reading about him, he didn’t seem crazy and frankly, I admired his passion for going after what he wants (he wants to be a stylist slash work for Vogue Paris one day).  So a Francophile can’t be that bad/weird/crazy, right?

Admittedly, I had to Google what the heck a Francophile was.  And as I was reading, I was screaming in my head (Rick was sleeping next to me otherwise it would have been a verbal, very loud squeal) I AM A FRANCOPHILE, TOO, MR. BRAVOGUE!

So, I am going to err on the side that Francophile is a robust word, one that only smart people use and that it’s very uncommon (ahem, um, that’s why I had to look it up…) and share with you what a Francophile is from Wikipedia:

Francophile: Francophile (or Gallophile) is an individual who has a strong positive predisposition or interest toward the government, culture,history, or people of France. This could include France itself or its history, the French language, French cuisine, literature, etc.

Yep, that’s me.  

The best part is in a few hours I am jet-setting to Montreal which is one of my favorite cities because it reminds me of Paris!  Have a great week and please don’t make fun of me in person or in the comments for my complete ignorance to a word I should have known years ago!  🙂

{Photo Credit is from none other than Rifle Paper Co, one of my favorite Paperies. And how cute is this collection of assorted French Cards?

Italy’s Best Kept Secret: Livernano

 

There’s a good chance I may never get a moment like this again.  This moment where I sit outside in 74 degree temperature with a light breeze and the sun shining just enough rays onto my face and arms.  This moment where my feet are met with stoned grounds and my taste buds indulge in a chilled rose wine.  Where plants of fresh freesia surround me, smelling of a light, sweet perfume.  Where in my view, all I see are magnificent mountains of lush green trees, huge vineyards stacked with Chardonnay, Merlot, Sangiovese and Cabernet grapes.  Olive trees.  So many olive trees. A fresh garden that is used daily to prepare the meals.  Basil.  Saffron.  Arugula.  Eggplant. Romaine.  Tomatoes.  Cucumbers.  Zucchini.  This moment where beautifully designed villas made of gray and white and olive colored rocks create an estate that you only see in the movies.

This moment, with Rick, is in Tuscany, in the Chianti region on a piece of land called Livernano, at The Hotel Livernano.

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It’s the moment on vacation where Rick and I look at each other and ask ourselves how the heck we got here and immediately start to plan for our next adventure back. (We decided on 2015 for our 5-year wedding anniversary to renew our vows with our closest friends and family.)

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Three-and-a-half hours from Florence by choice.  We could have taken one of the main roads to get here in an hour.  But, since we rented a charcoal gray stick-shift Fiat, we felt compelled to seek the adventure, get lost.  And that, we did.  When your iPhone dies and your Blackberry doesn’t work and you are driving up and down winding roads that are maybe the width of a couch in the midst of vineyards and trees and not amidst any human beings, that’s the moment you know it’s going to be worth it.  And it was.  And we miraculously made it.  Without one fight or argument during the whole route.  We agreed on that at the start of the journey.  No fighting allowed.  If we get lost, we get lost.  If one of us is to blame, oh well.  This is the beauty of traveling, right?!

Welcomed with a glass of chilled Rose and a loud “Bonjourno Mr. and Mrs. Ueno!” I silently thanked God for this part of our trip in Italy.  As Rick and I rested before dinner (there is a prix fixe menu each night at the villa restaurant that you choose earlier in the day), we had the pleasure of meeting the owners, Bob and Gudrun Cuillo.  Bob is one of Rick’s boss’s closest friends and is actually considered more family than friend and deemed a “character.”  Character, he was.

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We ended up sitting with Bob and Gudrun for hours, breaking bread and drinking wine together.  We learned about their life.  Their wine business.  Their car dealership businesses. Their dogs.  Their millions of dollars made, and lost (but clearly they came out on top). Their marriage.  How they met.  Their challenges.  We ate and drank until late in the evening, hours after the sun had set.  We said goodbye.  And they invited us to their home for the following day.  To give us a private experience educating us on how the wine is made.  Blog post on that soon 🙂

I leave you how I started.  With the wind blowing scents of freesia and the mountains covering the land.  Italian words echoing from the kitchen.  Chilled sparking wine that tasted like the best glass of sparkling wine you ever drank.  Under the Tuscan sun.  In one of the most beautiful places I have been.  Livernano.  If you get the opportunity and want to experience something incredibly beautiful and unique and delicious, go to Livernano and stay at Hotel Livernano.  And as an extra bonus, try to meet Bob and Gudrun.

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