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Avec Amour : February 2015

Thursday, February 26, 2015

National Parks of New Zealand

If you think the National Parks in the US are gorgeous.... wait until you Google "national parks NZ". Prepare to be blown away.

We're only going to be visiting New Zealand for 12 days (on the ground), and sadly, it's not enough time to hit them all! We've been doing TONS of research and here are the parks we'll be hitting.

Tongariro National Park

This National Park has a trail that is commonly referred to as "New Zealand's best day hike" (the Alpine Crossing). It was also NZ's first National Park and is a World Heritage site! We're really drawn to this hike with the exception of knowing it can be freezing in parts of the hike (literally below 32*) and very warm in others. We are going to see if this is practical for our time there... but with amazing photos like this... it's hard to say no!

There are also 3 inactive volcanoes in this hike and some Hobbit homes if that floats your boat! There are short (1-2hr hikes), day hikes, and several (3-4) day hikes. A little bit of something for everyone.

Abel Tasman National Park

This is slowly becoming the park I'm most excited about. It's on the Northern part of the South Island, and is right on the water. From what I've read, it's very moderate in temperature and always enjoyable, and its claim to fame is renting sea kayaks like in this photo. I think it will be a fun alternative to exploring by foot or car :)

Fiordland National Park

From what I can tell, Fiordland Natioinal Park (the home of Milford Sound) is one of the most sought after attractions in New Zealand. The Milford Sound trek is really famous and you can see why - unbelievable terrain from mountains to lakes. Milford Sound is also one of the most removed places in the entire country - it's 2 hours drive away from the nearest small town, and almost 4 hours drive from the nearest city! What's funny is on the map Queenstown & Milford Sound look very close in proximity, but the protected lands prohibit you from driving the short way. Buckle up, I'm sure it's worth the ride!

Westland National Park AND Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park 

These National Parks are a 2-for-1 deal - they border each other. While I don't think we'll be in Aoraki Nat'l Park, we will admire it's crown jewel (Mt Cook, pictured above!) from Westland. Westland is also home to two of New Zealand's most famous glaciers, Fox & Franz Josef. Verdict is still out on if hiking ON these glaciers is possible at this time (they are still advancing and conditions are changing), but we will at least do some of the public hikes in this park.

Even though we won't be spending significant time in these places, we're still going to be driving through a handful of the other National Parks.... which will make the long days feel a little more magical in the car! I grabbed these next three images from Google Street View... which is amazing.

Kahurangi National Park

Pure scenery between Abel Tasman & the next national park....

Paparoa National Park

If you've ever heard of the "Pancake Rocks"... this is where to find them. This beautiful Nat'l Park is right up against the coast, making for a gorgeous drive ahead!

Mount Aspiring National Park

No question of street view here.... but how can you complain about an 8hr drive when you're looking at all this eye candy? Gorgeous.

We're getting closer & closer to leaving.... so excited! If anyone has been to the National Parks in NZ, I'd love to hear any tips, tricks or suggestions! Thanks in advance! :)

Bottom 3 images via Google Street View

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

WINNING WEDNESDAY: Travel Jewelry Organizer (a giveaway!)

Yes, it's Wednesday, which means you could definitely WIN!

Today I'm giving away 2 Travelon jewelry organizers (in black) - the jewelry organizer I personally use and absolutely LOVE (as seen here).

It has 6 different zipper pockets, and works like a charm. If I ever have one too many necklaces, I'll put it in a small bag (zip bag that extra buttons come in, cloth jewelry bag, etc) and store with another necklace in the larger pouch so it doesn't get tangled. 

Magazine for length reference. The more you stuff in there, the less flat it will be, but with normal use it is about 1/2-1" thick when rolled. 

It can be laid flat on top of your suitcase or rolled nicely and tucked in the corner. I carry mine in my purse typically when I travel because it's so small.

NOW - who wants to win one? There will be two lucky winners! Enter below - the drawing closes at 12pm CST on Friday, February 27. Best of luck! :)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Monday, February 23, 2015

This Week in Travel Vol.17

There are so many travel blogs & publications I read on a daily basis! Wanted to share some of my favorite links, articles, info graphics and tips from around the web this week.

my favorite looks from last night. Apparently I have a thing for blush!!!
I'm embarrassed to say this, but the only Oscar nominated film I've seen this year was Into the Woods.... and it wasn't heavily nominated. BUT! After watching all the clips of these amazing films, I can't believe what I've been missing out on! 

Above are my favorite looks from last night. Could Zoe Saldana be any more gorgeous? And she just had TWINS! Jen, classic, as always. Loved Meryl & Oprah choosing beautiful, sophisticated pieces. Anna Kendrick looks a little bit like she's going to prom, but for some reason, I still love it on her. I have to say I'm usually booing most of the outfit choices, but I feel like last night was pretty good looking on the red carpet!

I spent this week not only iced in by the weather, but completely bed ridden with strep throat. If you haven't had it as an adult, it is brutal. I get sore throats all the time, but they typically go away in a day or two with tea, ginger shots, and a salt water gargle. Not this beast! I was actually in tears on Thursday from the pain. Not fun :( I'm very thankful for penicillin that is killing this infection, and I'm feeling way more like myself today! Thank goodness. There's only so many bad CW dramas I can watch on Netflix.

With the sickness taking over my body, I've finally let the winner of the eBags know she's won. Congrats, Sarah! If you didn't win this time, stay tuned - another travel fave will be up for grabs on Wednesday :)

I'm OVER Winter (in my head, Winter ends in January so I don't know why it's still so cold), ready to be somewhere warm... but alas, I'm here. Who else is frozen solid and extremely low on Vitamin D? I'm starting to feel see through.

I hope everyone has a great week and that it starts to warm up for EVERYONE!


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Avoid iPhone Data Charges When Traveling Out of the Country

Disclaimer: I don't know anything about Android or Windows Phones, I'm sorry! I can only speak on what I know... and that's iPhones.

Back in the day, there was nothing to worry about when you brought your cell phone overseas - because it just wouldn't work unless you upgraded to an international plan. These days, with smart phones & data, you could find yourself with a hefty bill without even realizing how you got there.

Here are some tips on avoiding data charges, as well as still using your phone freely without worry!

From there, you can turn your wifi on - but this way, you'll avoid accidentally using data.

Make sure your data is off, off, OFF!
Voice, Data & International Roaming - Settings -> Cellular -> Roaming -> (switch all 3 off)
Cellular Data - Settings -> Cellular -> Cellular Data (switch off)

There are lists of free spots with wifi. It's also great to do some research before you go. Does your hotel/Airbnb/flight have wifi? Is it free? Is it pay per use, per minute, per day? Be sure to check out cafes nearby where you're staying and where you're planning to go. Is there a cafe by the Colosseum with wifi to decide where to head to next? It can easily be done with a little planning.

If you're traveling without best friends and loved ones (perhaps without your spouse or children!), you'll miss them dearly. You can FaceTime over wifi for free, which you probably know. If you don't feel like staring at anyone (or you're multi tasking while getting ready), you can use FaceTime Audio. It's basically a speaker-phone-only phone call.... but it's free on wifi!
Please note, this is iPhone to iPhone only.

Some apps require you to be online... but many don't. There are some shortcuts! Apps like Google Maps are useful when you travel, but aren't worth the data plan they'd require. If you use Google Maps while still on WIFI, then type in "ok maps" into the search button, it will save that map offline. It can be a lifesaver!

If you plan on needing your phone (long term travels or working while you're away), it might be worth switching to an international plan. Call your provider to see what options they have for the country (or countries) you'll be visiting.

There's no reason to end up with a massive surprise phone bill when you get back from your trip, so plan ahead and use the phone to your advantage!

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

WINNING WEDNESDAY: eBags Packing Cubes (A Giveaway!)

If you read any of my packing posts, you're probably sick of hearing about eBags packing cubes - but it's truly one of my favorite packing tricks! It helps keep everything organized, reduces wrinkles, and maximizes space in any bag.

Here are a few ways packing cubes help me pack:
- smash down puffy down jackets
- separate different parts of your trip (warm & cold weather, city & country, work & personal... you name it!)
- keep dirty clothes away from clean clothes
- sharing a suitcase with my husband, it allows us each to have our own sections!

Seriously, they're great. This is not a sponsored post, I just really think packing cubes are amazing! This giveaway is open until Thursday at 11:59pm, and there are several ways to enter. The winner will be chosen at random and will be notified privately :) 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


We're leaving for New Zealand in about a month, and I'm gearing up (literally) to go!

To celebrate, I'm giving away some of my favorite travel gear! Packing gear, space saving, lightweight, organizing, travel size.... you name it! We'll have 4 weeks of giveaway..... so check back tomorrow to see what you can win!

Good luck!

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This Week in Travel Vol.16

There are so many travel blogs & publications I read on a daily basis! Wanted to share some of my favorite links, articles, info graphics and tips from around the web this week.

Everything in Nashville is FROZEN! We're living in a real life Arendelle, it's beautiful :) I've been able to accurately test my Sorel boots & down jacket, and I can say they definitely do the job

On Saturday Matt said to me "should we drive to Florida for the week?" I shouldn't have even paused to answer, thrown a bathing suit in my purse and jumped in the car. I'm so cold! I'm just glad there are pretty flocked trees to look at while we're shivering :)

I hope everyone had a great three day weekend. Here's a few popular posts around here from the past week.
- Packing lists: Vegas // Cruise for Him & Her // Florida (Sounds like everyone is ready to be warm.... I'm with you)

Have a great week!

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Valentine's Gift Guide: Give the Gift of Travel

I'm not sure about you, but my choice gift is always experience over things. I'm not just saying this, I truly feel this way. Clothes go out of style. Jewelry is expensive. Flowers die.

...but your photos & memories from your awesome trip will last forever :)

Truth be told, if you're still trying to figure out what to do for Valentine's Day, it might be a bit late, so let's talk about some alternatives.

Book a Trip (for a different weekend)
Quite frankly, traveling for Valentine's Day can be pretty expensive. We actually chose to go to Charleston last weekend because the flights were half the price & there were many more hotel options.

Planning a trip for your significant other is SUCH a romantic gesture, they'll love it. 
- To save money, choose a low density time to visit - the weekend before or after Memorial Day, or traveling mid-week to save money on flights. 
- To make it more of a "gift", make a cute card or give a small gift as a token of the trip. You could wrap the plane ticket, find a print on Etsy that represents the location, or give sunscreen in preparation for a tropical getaway. Get creative!
Road Trip
Everyone lives within a few hours of another city. From Nashville, I'd suggest the Whisky Trail in Kentucky, a cabin in East TN, or Birmingham for a small city getaway. Pick somewhere you both love or maybe you've never been before. 
Ah, the art of the Staycation. The only rule of the Staycation is to treat it like you're out of town. Turn off your phone, avoid your typical spots & forget about Netflix! There are so many options:
- Book a hotel in your town. Whisk them away and have something special planned, like a nice dinner or a spa treatment.
- Skip the hotel to save a few bucks, but make your home a hotel for the weekend. Turn off your phones, stock up on your favorite snacks and cook a meal together. Add a bottle or two of wine, and you've got yourself a great little weekend.
- Plan on visiting places you've always wanted to go/do but never been. See a play, try a hike you've never done, visit a museum, whatever - play tourist in your own town. It can be really fun!

So if you're looking for a last minute idea, skip the over priced roses or stuffed animal... give experiences. They'll love it, I promise.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Charleston City Guide

Charleston - what can I say? You're a gem.

If you're looking for somewhere beautiful, charming, relaxing, delicious & quaint, Charleston is the place for you.

We stayed at a hotel in North Charleston, but I would suggest staying closer to the city center. The city is very walkable, and you'd be able to function without a rental car.

We could not have asked for better weather! Highs in the 60's, I'll take that any day of the week. 

My favorite part of the weekend was simply wandering around. All of the houses have these huge two-story porches that face the water. There are a ton of historic homes and they're all gorgeous. Matt and I just walked up and down every street, picking out our favorites and what we'd change on the less desirable ones (there were very few).

Saint Alban. This place is less than a month old, but one of the cutest coffee shops I've ever been in. It's a little north of the city center, so you'll need to be ok with a longer walk or drive there :)

Black Tap. Pour overs for days. A great cortado. A Charleston classic. Definitely go! (And stop by the Old City Jail while you're over there!)

Bakehouse Bakery Cafe. After you hit up Rainbow Row, make sure you grab a treat at Bakehouse. Super cute atmosphere and delicious baked goods.

A note to vegetarians - there is a LOT of meat in Charleston's food. Check ahead and ask if they can take the pork out of everything :) 

Stars Rooftop & Grill. I loved the Kale Salad & Mushroom Bruschetta... YUM. They also had really great craft cocktails. Grab a drink after dinner and go up to their rooftop bar! It's open til 2am and they have a lot of big heaters :)

McCrady's. A great farm-to-table restaurant with a rotating menu. Very cozy inside. Also, they give you a little treat at the end of your meal, which is such a fun touch :)

Taco Boy. AWESOME a la cart taco menu. The Baja Fish was a favorite! Not to mention they have a great outdoor patio area (we sat inside because it was full, but they had all the windows open and it was wonderful!) We were at the Charleston location, but they also have one on Folley Beach. 

The Obstinate Daughter. This place is on Sullivan's Island, and was decorated in the most adorable nautical style - not overly kitchy, just beautiful. We came here for brunch, and we were NOT disappointed. Matt ordered the Apple French Toast, and I can confidently say it was the best french toast I've ever tasted. I always opt for savory over sweet, but this is one time I feel I made the wrong decision (full disclosure, everything we ordered was good). 

While You're on Sullivan's Island, take a walk on the beach from the lighthouse. You get a great view of Charleston from this beach. It was a little chilly for laying out, so we took a walk with our coffee instead. It was beautiful!

A few tips:
- A rental car might be worth it for the option to take a trip to the beach. We didn't make it to Folly Beach this time, but we loved Sullivan's Island! I would still rent even if we stayed downtown.
- Select a hotel/Airbnb downtown
- Bring quarters. Most of the street parking is metered Monday-Saturday.
- Don't eat too much in one sitting. There are SO many great places, choose coffee, brunch, lunch, snacks, drinks, and dinner at different locations. 

We absolutely LOVED Charleston, and there are so many great places we can't wait to visit next time. Oh yes, we'll be going back.

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