Long Weekend in the Northeast: Itinerary

Finally, I had the time to sit down and write about our Northeast Road Trip Extravaganza. I recommend visiting in the fall for obvious reasons (leaves, crispness, etc.) but I could see this being an awesome spring or summer weekend trip. Winter for sure if you’re psychotic and enjoy being outside when it’s cold.

The shortlist for our itinerary was as follows, but please note I don’t recommend it. We were pretty rushed, and with early sunsets, we didn’t get to see as much of the towns as we would’ve liked.

  • Day 1: Fly into Boston, spend day/night in Burlington, Vermont
  • Day 2: Burlington, Vermont in morning, drive to Montreal for afternoon/night
  • Day 3: Montreal, Quebec in morning, drive to Portland, ME for night
  • Day 4: Portland, ME, Portsmouth, NH, and Salem, MA on the way back to Boston

Instead, look at these options:

If you have four days: Boston → Burlington, Vermont → Portland, Maine → Boston
If you have five days: Boston → Burlington, Vermont → Montreal, Quebec → Portland, Maine → Boston

For both trips, I do recommend stopping in either Portsmouth and/or Salem on the way back to Boston. They’re such charming towns that won’t add much stopover time to your trip back. Now! Let’s get into the highlights of our weekend trip.

Burlington, Vermont

While I dedicated a whole post to this magical city here, I’ll give you the lowdown. Burlington is Vermont’s biggest city, with a mere 42,000 people. The town is centered around Lake Champlain, an area our weather didn’t allow to us enjoy, but that I heard thrives in the summer.

We drove straight from Boston, winding through New Hampshire (a SERIOUSLY underrated state) and Vermont’s rolling mountains. Renting a car this trip is a must– not only are the views gorgeous, but I’m not sure the trip is doable without it, lol.

Activities

Ben and Jerry’s Factory Tour – Our first stop was one of Vermont’s most well-known and best tasting attractions. The tour was pretty good for its low price tag, and honoring the creators in their hometown felt pretty cool. It’s hardly out of the way to stop on the way to Burlington, so if you’re coming from Boston, I’d definitely recommend.

Around Burlington – If you’re visiting in the summer, take the time to see Lake Champlain. If not, Church Street is beautiful rain or shine. This tree-lined street is quintessential Burlington and is packed with shops, restaurants, coffee shops and more. I could’ve spent hours taking photos strolling around.

Food and Drink

American Flatbread – A hippie, homey, wood-fired pizza place with great local beer offerings and veggie specials. SAY. NO. MORE.
Citizen Cider – For those who are into cider and those who are not, you will enjoy. I never thought I wanted basil-flavored cider, but boy did I ever.
Feldman’s Bagels – Because brunch is overpriced and bagels are underrated.

More recommendations on my post, here!

Montreal, Quebec

Boy, Montreal, you ended up being out of the way, but I’m sure glad I met you. Now, I have to preface, you know when you go somewhere and it feels like everything about the place is against you? The weather, the festivities that are happening, etc.? That’s kind of how Montreal was for us. We got rainy, gloomy, and cold weather (which I actually hear is pretty common- so I’m not sure I should be complaining), and one of the main walking areas that was known for its charm was under construction.

Looking past the obvious annoyances, I could see what people loved about the city. Montreal is a modern city mixed with areas that felt straight out of Europe. Think: cobblestone streets, grand churches, and detailed architecture that you just don’t get in America. The fact that most people were speaking French probably contributed to that feeling as well, haha. It was a cool feeling, though, driving less than two hours north of Burlington and practically being transported to France.

Activities

Our activities, like in many European cities, involved walking around, admiring the architecture, and of course, finding food the country was known for. In this case, poutine, a dish with french fries covered in cheese curds and gravy.

I recommend walking around Old Montreal, specifically Rue Saint Paul. On our second day, we spent time around the Mile End area of Montreal, more of a hipster neighborhood (that was home to my favorite meal of the trip, below)

Food and Drink

Olive & Gourmando – We came here for coffee and pain au chocolat, and I would like to go back every day for the rest of my life. I’ve heard great things about the paninis, but I think you’ll score regardless of what you order.
Tsukuyomi – This was the real winner of the trip. I dream about this ramen. And because ramen is inherently a meat-based dish, you’d think you’d miss out getting a vegan ramen. BUT NO! Simply phenomenal.
The Cold Room – There’s just something about speakeasies in Montreal. We had so much fun searching for the entrance, and were greeted and brought to a dim but chic basement, if that’s a thing. My server even custom-made a spicy drink for me because I’m an asshole. Five stars.
L’Orignal – Everyone was pleased with their food here, but it wasn’t mind-blowing, and that’s what I’m looking for always.

Portland, Maine

I’m all about precursors here, and for Portland, my precursor is that I could absolutely see myself living here. I am PARTIAL to Maine now, and that just means I enjoyed it, so I’m going to continue to give my recommendations.

We drove to Portland from Montreal which was not necessarily a FUN ride in the dark, but boooooy this is where New Hampshire comes back into play. We drove through the White Mountains, passed through the most quaint little towns, and I almost cried of its beauty. Don’t let people rip on New Hampshire, you guys. I’m about to plan a trip back to the MOUNTAINS where I BELONG.

Anyway, back to Portland. It’s not the capital of Maine, but it’s the SPOT, ya know? There’s lobsters, and cobblestone streets (we are in New England, of course), and poutine again, some more seafood, and great, great beer. The people were laid-back and friendly. I felt like everyone in town was a childhood friend that had that mutual feeling of knowing better than to say hello to you in public. Does that make sense? They were cool with us being there, but did their own thing, and everyone was okay with that. On to the good stuff:

Activities

Walk around Old Port – Old Port, or the downtown area, is a beautiful mix of New England coastal charm with Portland’s artsy vibes. This is a popular walking area for tourists, but didn’t feel touristy at all. Give yourself a couple hours to browse shops and stop at the Holy Donut, which I will cover below.

Allagash Brewery Tour – There’s many reasons this should be on your list, and they’re as follows: 1) it’s beer, 2) it’s free, 3) and it’s actually super interesting. They don’t skimp on time here, and you’re given a FULL tour, as this building does everything from the brewing to the bottling and shipping. Remember to book ahead as slots fill up quickly– we had an 11am tour (not complaining though, lol).

Portland Headlight/Ft. Williams Park – I’m a liiiiittle pissed I didn’t get to see a proper lighthouse while in Maine, but you can’t win them all. This is one of the closest and most popular lighthouses to visit while in the area.

Food & Drink

Eventide Oyster Co. – Home of one of the most famous lobster rolls in Portland, as well as, you guessed it, oysters. Mostly a seafood place, we all loved our dishes– and there was vegetarian specials for all you fellow veggies out there. Grab a drink at a dive bar called Tomaso’s Canteen while you’re waiting and MAKE SURE your table is ready before you leave : )
The Holy Donut – As a Chicagoan (or really any big city lover), I have an affinity toward donuts, specifically funky ones. The Holy Donut makes donuts out of fresh Maine potatoes, giving them a rich, moist (ha!!!!) texture. Combined with their fun flavors, this was one of my favorite stops of the trip. Highly recommend.
Lincoln’s – Another speakeasy because they’re way more fun than walking into REGULAR bars! This one was tough to find, but we did with the help of a local who was more than willing to watch us look like idiots walking into back doors of random establishments. The kicker: everything is $5! Again… say no more. (Bring cash) (Thanks, Zack, for this recommendation).
Bite into Maine – We stopped here on the way out for one of Portland’s acclaimed lobster rolls. People argue this is one of the best.

Others that we didn’t see that I would’ve liked to:  Duckfat, Central Provisions, Hot Suppa

Portsmouth, New Hampshire & Salem, Massachusetts

On our way back to the Boston Airport for our flight, we took two little detours in Portsmouth, NH and Salem, MA. I had coached a cheer camp in Portsmouth a few years back and remember how much I loved the town, so we did a 30 minute stop in the harbor town. I’ll let the photos speak for itself.

Salem was an obvious stop, as we were in town October 30th. If you’ve seen Hocus Pocus in the last five years (I hadn’t) you’ll absolutely love it. However, I’ll never complain about a New England town in the fall, and that’s a fact.

Have you visited any of these places? Hopefully! Did I miss some major spots? Most likely!

Thanks for listening to my rants of excitement and amateur food reviews,

New Year’s Resolution Alternative – Personal Challenges

Because let’s face it– New Year’s resolutions are trash. No one can stick to anything for a year. But I GET the concept, I really do. I just think there’s a better way to go about it.

I had originally written this post to explain what I do when I feel I’m in a “rut,” but as we head into 2019, I figured we’re all trying to determine how to better ourselves anyway. So here’s the idea, and this goes for wanting a new start, or when you’re in the middle of February and you haven’t seen the sun and you feel like every day, week, and month feels the same. Maybe it’s just me, but I often get this need to CHANGE something (if you know how many schools I went to, you understand this is just part of my personality at this point). 

Bettering yourself doesn’t start with some half-committal statement like “in 2019 I’ll go to the gym more often” or “I’ll be a better employee.” It just doesn’t work that way. You have to REFLECT! You have to MANIFEST! But first of all, you have to evaluate. For example, ask yourself:

What am I feeling is lacking? What aspects of my life can I improve? Am I surrounding myself with the best people? Am I feeding myself the best foods, or conversely, am I cutting myself enough breaks to enjoy foods that I love (that may not be the best for me)? Am I using my time to better myself?

Please note: I have almost no idea what I’m talking about. BUT, this helps me when I need a change. So, leading into the new year, look into completing your own personal challenges. The time lengths are at your discretion – maybe you’ll turn your phone off for a day, or maybe you’ll join me in not drinking for a month (wish me luck😬). The purpose is to try it and see how it makes you feel. That’s it.

Personal Challenges

  • Give up social media
  • FaceTime/call an old or distant friend every day
  • Try a new way of eating for a week (vegetarian, vegan, Keto, paleo, Whole30, etc.)
  • Read before bed instead of using your phone
  • Give up alcohol
  • Work out every day
  • Give up TV
  • Go makeup-free
  • Cook a homemade dinner every day
  • Workout BEFORE work every day
  • Do something outside every day
  • Have phone-free dinners
  • Try a new workout every day (in a class or through a YouTube video)
  • Participate in acts of service (tutoring, volunteering, picking up litter)
  • Try being waste-free

Let me know if you try any, and as always, thanks for reading!

Christmas Gifts that People Will Actually Use

Let’s get right into it. The holiday season is a beautiful time of year, full of food and family and coziness and friends and everything good in life. BUT, it’s also a spend-crazy, consumerist holiday that leaves us stressed and broke. I find myself with items I wouldn’t have normally purchased and a weirdly overwhelming guilt about returning them or not using them (I’m talking to YOU, White Elephant).

Recently, I’ve been trying to have a different approach on Christmas shopping. While I used to view these gifts as “things we want, but don’t want to buy,” I’m trying to think more about what a person needs. Of course, this isn’t always practical kitchenware or food gift cards. If someone requests their yearly perfume or a dainty everyday necklace, you can bet it’ll get some use, and that’s the goal here.

I’ve compiled a list of items that will hopefully inspire you to get someone something useful, or even if you’re still looking for gifts– read on!

For the Chef

1. High-quality cooking utensils – Since everything I bought for my first apartment was from Walmart and Target’s college essential lists, I could use some quality cooking gear that will last me more than a year or two.
Measuring cups | Measuring Spoons | Cast Iron Skillet , etc.
2. Silicon baking mats – These reduce the need for parchment paper/tin foil and make cleaning so much easier.
Option 1 | Option 2
3. Appliances – This year, I asked for a food processor. That’s where I’m at in life right now. But if I get one, I’m making some incredible hummus and some way better banana bowls so I’m not mad about it. I’ve also linked some high-rated blenders that would CHANGE my life.
Food Processor | Vitamix | Blendtec Blender

For the Eco-Friendly Folks

1. Reusable produce bags – You guys already know how I feel about these 🙂
Option 1 | Option 2
2. Coconut bowls – These are natural and sustainable alternatives to plastic bowls, and I swear I enjoy my salads and nice cream more when I eat out of them.
Coconut Bowls | TJ Maxx also has some good wooden bowls
3. Hydroflask – A good, reusable water bottle is KEY, and Hydroflasks are my forever favorite. I’ve linked a couple traditional options and some fun ones that would be great gifts for plenty.
Small | Large | Coffee | Wine | Pictured: this PHOTOGENIC S’well coffee thermos that was gifted to me : )

For the Beauty Lover

1. Facial cleansing brush – These exfoliators are tried and true tools to help with dry skin and acne– perfect for any skincare fan.
Clarisonic (splurge) | Facial cleansing brush (budget)
2. Small humidifier – Looking at you, Chicago folks. Combat that dry winter air and static with a small humidifier for your room (on my list!!)
Option 1 | Option 2
3. Spa certificate – I don’t know a single person that would be upset about a massage or manicure/pedicure! No fail, every time.

For the New Adult

1. Carry-on suitcase – Because you’re using your parents or your college duffel bag. It’s just time.
Option 1 | Option 2 | TJ Maxx also has good options
2. Costco membership – This was my favorite gift of 2017, because it’s the gift that KEEPS ON GIVING.
Membership
3. Bill payments – A bit more on the creative side, and limited to parents (most likely) but having a few months of phone payments, money toward groceries, or chipping in for rent goes a long way.
4. Uber/restaurant gift card – Because no one likes paying for lunch or transportation : )

For the Homebody

1. Kindle/NookAs you all know, I use mine religiously and couldn’t recommend it enough. However, don’t waste your money and buy a fancy one. If your purpose for it is to read books, then get one that does just that.
Option 1 | Option 2
2. Slippers or robes – Especially during the colder months, these staples are ON REPEAT.
Robe 1 | Robe 2 | Slippers 1 | Costco Ugg Dupes

For the Techies

1. Apple TV/Firestick – Another everyday use, these streaming devices make sure we’re not overpaying for cable and making the best out of our friends’ parent’s HBO accounts. Thanks!
Apple TV | Fire Stick
2. Automatic start – One of my friends got this for her car for Christmas and thanks the lord every day. I believe it’s a quick installment and it’s super helpful in the winter.
3. Tile – If you know someone who frequently misplaces their stuff, get this. It’s a life saver.
Tile App

When all else fails, you really can’t go wrong with a blanket, mug, or candle 🙂

P.S. I know there’s a lot of Amazon links in here (for your convenience), but remember to shop small if you have the resources/time!

Thanks, all!

*Photos by my homie, Laurel Pierce*