San Diego, California

San Diego. Famous for Ron Burgundy, the Chargers, and the very best Mexican food you'll ever taste. One of the most sought-after places to live in the US and a top vacation destination for all you sun-seeking travelers.  My grandparents have lived oceanfront in La Jolla for 45 years and, because of them, it has become my second home.  As a kid, it was all about the fact that this amazing metropolis had the five things any kid would want... SeaWorld, the zoo, waves, sand and Legoland.  As I got older, it was still about the waves and the sand,  but also the adorable downtown La Jolla, the Pacific Beach nightlife, and the countless water activities, from jet skiing, to paddleboarding, to biking the boardwalks. San Diego truly has something for everyone, as long as you like sun, surf, sand and sea. Which is everyone.

 The mild 75-and-sunny weather year round brings the people in to this coastal California paradise, but it's the unique SD lifestyle that keeps them coming back. The people are easy-going, friendly, and affluent. The beaches are picturesque, full of surf-worthy Pacific waves, and aren't overcrowded. Located just 2 hours south of Los Angeles, San Diego could not be more different from it's neighboring CA metropolis. Whereas LA has the bustle of a busy city, complete with traffic 24 hours a day, cutthroat careerists and a huge lack of open space, San Diego seems to have taken that city way of life and thrown it right out the window.   I don't think there are many people who wouldn't want to live in this amazing city  with it's laid back vibe, stunning ocean views, and incredible weather. 

So, even if you can't afford to retire to a 15 Million Dollar Oceanview mansion in La Jolla just yet,  you can plan an awesome trip!
Everyone in San Diego has a dog...
for the tourist
San Diego Zoo
If you have only been to small zoos, you're missing out. The huge San Diego Zoo is one of the world's top ranked zoos, and it's no question why. You can't possibly see everything in a day, but you're guaranteed to have a great day trying. Whatever you do, don't miss the famous Giant Panda Exhibit, as the SDZoo prides itself on having the most successful breeding program outside of China for the endangered species, and they are making huge strides in saving the pandas from extinction. My favorite things to do at the zoo are see the panda cubs, feed the giraffes, and watch the polar bears swim. Feeling adventurous? Sign up for the Ropes Course Safari. It's new and looks awesome!
Sea World
Sea World is Disneyland for ocean lovers. Full of awesome water rides and even better sea animal shows, SeaWorld is a family vacation must-do. Feed the dolphins, touch the starfish and the stingrays in the tide pools, and don't miss the Polar Bear exhibit! So much fun.  

Seal Beach
Taken this summer in La Jolla
If you find yourself in La Jolla, don't miss Seal Beach, also called Children's Pool. Here you can watch and get up-close-and-personal with hundreds of seals playing and sunbathing in the cove. 
Del Mar Racetracks
Del Mar, located 20 miles north of San Diego, is a really cute seaside town and is home to one of California's best horse racing tracks. If you're looking to win big or just have a good time at the races, this is definitely a fun adventure. And the horses are gorgeous. Check the schedule before you go, and of course study up on those thoroughbreds to know who to bet on!

Old Town San Diego
This historic center prides itself on being the "Birthplace of California". Lots of authentic mexican restaurants, museums, shops and great history.  A tourist fave in SD. 

for the foodies
Maitre D
One of my very favorite special occasion restaurants I have ever been to. The 'Maitre D' owner, who gives the restaurant its name and it's fame, is an 80-something year old man whose energy and charisma make this restaurant the gem it is. As soon as you walk into this small, 10-table restaurant, the maitre d and his staff do everything possible to make your celebratory night a night to remember. The menu is full of decadent tableside-prepared dishes such as bananas foster, baked alaska, and the finest chateaubriand steak.  The live piano music combined with the gorgeous antique furniture makes you feel like you've stepped back into the roaring 20's for dinner. The atmosphere, the service, and the food are all incredible. Don't miss out on their famous "infused vodka" which comes to your table as a bottle in a cube of ice, infused with fruit or flowers.  There are also Ice swans between courses that hold your sorbet. Every bit of this restaurant is an amazing experience. It's quirky, crazy and elegant all in one, but the best part has to be the night has to be the owner and how he takes photos of every table with his little camera, then develops them and will give them to you when you return. He wants to make sure your special night is remembered! He remembers every single diner that comes into the restaurant... it's incredible.  I guarantee you your night at this hidden gem will be a night to remember.  Maitre D. 5523 La Jolla Blvd. 

Phil's BBQ
best sandwich in america? you gotta try it
Phil's Barbecue is less of a hidden gem and more of a you're-going-to-be-waiting-in-line-for-two-hours-if-you-want-a-table San Diego staple. But, have no fear, they do take out and you can call ahead and pick up your order with no wait!! Definitely the way to do it! Winner of Travel Channel's best sandwich in america, you have to try the El Toro Tri-Tip Sandwich. It is heaven. And I'm a North Carolina Tar Heel who loooves barbecue and although I would never imagine that my favorite barbecue would be found in CA, Phil's definitely takes the cake.  Also try the pulled pork Broham and their incredible beer battered onion rings. I don't even like onion rings and I could finish a whole order myself.  Phil's BBQ 3750 Sports Arena Blvd 619 226 6333

Harry's Coffee Shop

La Jolla's breakfast hot spot. Harry's has been around in downtown La Jolla since 1960 and it's red leather booths, loyal local diners and classic delicious breakfast haven't aged a bit. I'm not kidding you when I say I dream about Harry's cinnamon rolls, a delicious warmed donut roll that I get every time before my omelette. They also have great benedicts, waffles, pancakes, oatmeal pancakes, omelettes and anything else you could possibly want for breakfast or brunch.  Harry's Coffee Shop 7545 Girard Ave La Jolla CA 92037

Old Town Cafe
Admittedly, this is a very touristy place. But, if you're into touristy mexican margaritas, sombreros, and delicious authentic mexican food, I highly recommend it. They handmake their tortillas right there which is awesome, and the margaritas are muy delicioso!! Old Town Mexican Cafe 

Roppongi Sushi
Located on Prospect Street in the heart of downtown La Jolla, this sushi bar, complete with outdoor fire pit dining for CA summer nights, was awarded Zagat's Top World Restaurants Award as well as Wine Spectator's Award for Excellence. With its contemporary vibe and stunning decor, it's a great place to grab drinks or dinner. 

Dos Pedros Taco Shop
Shhhhh. This place is a local secret. It is literally a 100-square-foot little shack that serves up the best Mexican food I have ever tasted. Get the carne asada fries, a carne asada burrito, or just the quesadilla and take it to the beach. Best. Mexican. Ever. 723 Turquoise Street, San Diego, CA and 6990 La Jolla Blvd, La Jolla

My favorite view, taken this Summer in La Jolla
for the adventurer
snorkel with leopard sharks 
Yes, sharks. But they're small and harmless, so don't be scared. Here at the La Jolla Cove, you can snorkel with them! Pretty cool. 

jetski in mission bay
Mission Bay hosts some great water for jetskiing. SO much fun. Check out Mission Bay Sportcenter  for prices and reservations. 

kayak the caves of la jolla 
Rent a kayak or do a tour and see the caves of La Jolla Cove! 

golf at torrey pines
Famous for being Phil Mickelson's go-to course and the site of the 2008 US Open, golfing or sightseeing at Torrey Pines is a must for any golfers coming to SD. Situated atop cliffs overlooking the Pacific, it's a stunning course. 

for the beaches
La Jolla Shores
La Jolla Shores is your catch-all California beach. It has huge waves and a gorgeous stretch of white sand that spans for a mile. Go to a nearby surf shop if you want to rent a surfboard for the day or take a lesson! They also rent boogie boards, paddleboards, skimboards, and more! One of the most famous is Mitch's Surf Shop
Pacific Beach
Rent a bike and ride along the whole boardwalk lining Pacific Beach. This beach can get crowded, but is definitely a fun one to people watch. Great restaurants also line the boardwalk! (and my favorite shaved ice place, a popular little stand you won't miss)
Coronado Island
Coronado island is one of my favorite places in the world. It is this gorgeous island ten minutes from downtown San Diego that is home to a naval base. The town itself is so great. Full of cute shops, dining, and one of the best hotels in the world, Hotel Del Coronado. The beach outside of the Hotel Del is a great place to go for the day. 

for the nightlife
Pacific Beach bars
Pacific Beach is packed with beachy bars, full of tank-top clad college kids looking to have a good time. The casual atmosphere among all the PB bars is so much fun, and completely different from the bars in downtown San Diego. Check out Typhoons, especially for dancing.

where to stay
Hotel Del Coronado
One of my favorite hotels in the world. Site of Marilyn Monroe's movie "Some Like It Hot", this hotel has incredible history but is gorgeously refurbished to be a top notch modern resort. The pool area, restaurants, and shopping are amazing, and the beach is fantastic. Not to mention you're on the cute island of Coronado, a gorgeous section of San Diego. This is definitely my pick for where to stay! You won't be disappointed.

The Omni Downtown
This Omni Hotel is connected via a skywalk to Petco Park, the home of the Padres. So, if you're planning on catching a game while you're in town, there's no better place to be.

La Valencia
If you want to stay in La Jolla, this downtown hotel is my favorite. It's beautiful iconic pink architecture and overlooking ocean views make it a top tourist spot for the city.

If you can't already tell, you're never going to get bored in San Diego. The people here are super active, and you'll adapt well to their awesome way of life. Jetskiing, paddleboarding, surfing, boogieboarding, and soaking in the sun... who's with me?

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When in Rome ...

Pizza, gelato and well-dressed Italian men... what more do you need?
Well, how about 2800 years of history, masterpieces of art, magnificent architecture, and countless cobblestone roads filled with romance, wine, and vespas??? Let's go to Rome


for the tourist
Vatican City
Located entirely within Rome, the headquarters of the Catholic Church is actually also the smallest country in the world, at only .2 square miles. Don't miss this masterpiece-packed sight during your trip.
St. Peter's Basilica. The most famous sight in the Vatican. This dazzling church is sure to be a highlight of your trip. Stunning doesn't even begin to describe the 500 year-old largest church in the world. Around 20,000 visitors go through what many consider to be the "Center of Christianity" on a busy day. If you're planning on being one of them, don't forget to dress appropriately! No bare knees or shoulders.  
Sistine Chapel. You also won't want to miss Michelangelo's famous masterpiece on the ceiling of Sistine Chapel. It is one of the most treasured works of art in the world and will leave you in absolute awe.  
The Colosseum
Of course, how can you go to Rome without visiting the icon of the ancient city. The amphitheater, once used for gladiator contests, was constructed in... wait for it... drumroll please.... 70 AD.  You read that right. The history in this city is absolutely incredible, and you won't want to miss the tour of the Colosseum. Take either a self-guided audio tour or one accompanied by a tour guide, so you can hear the rich stories that the Roman Colosseum has to offer. 

The Pantheon
Along with the Colosseum, the Pantheon is another one of Rome's iconic sights to see. Currently a catholic church, it's located in the center of a cute square lined with outdoor dining restaurants. Lots of romantic spots and gorgeous city settings. 
The Trevi Fountain
No trip to Rome is complete without tossing a coin in the Trevi Fountain. Legend has it that, if you toss one in, you will be back to visit the city again. Toss your coin, make a wish, and witness the magic of the city. 
Roman Forum
Full of history, the Roman Forum was the ancient center of the Roman Empire, and parts of it still stand today. If you're a history buff, you'll love seeing the remains of the heart of the fallen Roman Empire. 
Piazza di Spagna
Less of a sight and more of a destination, the Spanish Steps serve as a central meeting place in Rome. Every day and especially at sunset, people gather to meet up or just sit and watch the crowds go by. It's been a magnet for visitors and locals alike in Rome since the 1700's.  Definitely a great spot, with lots of shopping, dining, and hotels all around.  

Out with friends this Summer in Roma!
for the girls
Okay, so I have to admit that I've shopped my way around the world. And Rome, mis amicis, is some of the best shopping I have ever experienced. First of all, it's so easily walkable. There are streets and streets of all your favorite department stores, boutiques, and italian designers you've never even heard of. The most famous is Via Del Corso, as well as the streets that radiate from it. Take an afternoon, burn off that gelato and shop until you drop into that glass of italian wine at dinner. On Via Del Corso, you'll find so much variety. With the well-known top designers, the huge amazing H&M's and Zaras, and the hole in the wall Italian leather shops, you can't go wrong. Also check out the street Via del Boschetto, full of less chain stores and more boutiques and artisan stores. For men, no matter where you shop in Rome, you're going to want to splurge on an Italian suit. It'll be half the price of what you would pay for one of that quality in the states, so go for it. For the women, been dreaming of that perfect leather jacket? An awesome colored leather wallet? Italy has some of the finest leather in the world. Take advantage, and come home with some killer gifts for your loved ones.. or yourself. After all, why get a magnet for your refrigerator of the Colosseum when you can get some new Prada shoes and call them your Italian souvenir. 
Me on the Spanish Steps before the crowds
Where to stay
It won't take you long to get your grounds in Rome. By the second time I visited the city, I knew it backwards and forwards. With so many iconic landmarks, it's hard to get lost, so have fun exploring the city and walking everywhere. There are so many hotels in Rome, and most popular places to stay if you're in a hotel or hostel are close to the center of the city, so it's easy to get around. Personally, I recommend being by the Spanish Steps, as it's a great area of the city, close to everything, and right next to one of the main train stations to get you anywhere you want to go.  The Hotel Esquilino comes highly recommended by my best friend who stayed there for her honeymoon recently and had a blast. She says it is a great value, has charming service, fresh breakfasts and a prime location in the center of the city!!

Check out these hotels: 
Hotel Esquilino

Where to have a drink

The Hassler
The famous luxury 5-Star Hassler Hotel rests on the top of the Spanish Steps and boasts one of the most romantic settings in Rome. Go there for a drink on the upper patio and enjoy the panoramic view of the city that will leave you breathless. The Hassler. Piazza della Trinita dei Monti 00187 Rome, Italy

Go to a Wine Bar 
Wine bars abound the streets of Rome. Glasses of impeccable Italian wine with dinner are not a luxury in Rome, it's the standard.  Check out Trimani, in the city center near Termini train station, as it's one of the best known wine bars in town, with all the labels you winos will be looking for. 
Roscioli, also near the center of the city, is also famous for it's food and is super trendy. Definitely worth checking out for a great night out! 

The Albert
Check out the Albert pub for a beer by the Trevi Fountain. This traditional British Pub is a great place to stop and grab a drink. Via del Traforo 132

Campo de Fiori
Tossed a coin in the Trevi with my brother.. and yes, I've been back!
Check out this picturesque piazza, lined with bars & pubs. Gets pretty crazy on summer nights. Need somewhere to start? Check out The Drunken Ship, or La Vineria!

Via della Pace
More upscale than Campo de Fiori.. This street is just a couple blocks West from Piazza Navona and is a great spot to grab a drink or go out at night. 

Go on a tourist bar crawl!
This is what we did this summer! A group of 10 girls and I were hanging out by the Spanish steps and got approached by a rep from one of the tour companies that run nightly bar crawls in the city. It was awesome because they took us to so many bars that we would have never have known about- we even went to a party on a yacht as part of the night!!! At only about $20 a person, this is definitely a great idea for a night out with friends, and a great way to meet people while traveling! 

for the foodies
Gabriele Bonci's Pizzarium
With the chef being dubbed the "Michelangelo of pizza", you're not going to want to miss this place. Prices are reasonable and I know you're already craving some Roman pizza, so you better put this gem on your itinerary!
Pizzarium. Via della Meloria 43, The famous chef also gives pizza making lessons, what a fun idea for your trip!

Fortunato al Pantheon
frequented by diplomats and celebrities alike, this classic Italian eatery is a perfect place to have your typical Italian meal, complete with menu items such as the tagliolini, fresh fish, ravioli, artichoke meatballs, and a fantastic wine list. FortunatoVia del Pantheon 55

Il Passetto
This cute restaurant is located right on Piazza Navona. A gorgeous setting. Try the white truffle fettucine, and, of course, limoncello for dessert. It's been around for awhile and was actually where my dad asked my mom to marry him so many years ago!! A perfect romantic Italian meal, and, in the summer, beautiful outdoor seating. 

What a city. 
If you're planning a trip to Europe or Italy, do not miss out on this iconic paradise that manages to combine it's magnificent history with it's bustling city life. Get out there and roam Rome! 
Don't forget to take time to relax, sip on a glass of Italian wine, watch the city crowds go by, and enjoy la dolce vita like only the Italians can. 

How to Travel in Style

I've never been able to sit still for long, and, with my undying urge to travel the world, I've stopped trying to fight it. With family all over California, my alma mater in North Carolina, and a boyfriend across the country, I'm flying all the timeIt's not like I'm George Clooney or anything, but I sure do find myself Up in the Air a lot. 
Traveling, especially internationally or across the country, can be exhausting. But who wants to start their amazing vacations looking and feeling like they just pulled a college-library-style all-nighter?  With these easy tips, I'll make sure you take on your next flight like a pro and arrive in paradise looking glam, refreshed & ready for your adventure.  

drink lots of water
This is key. Water will keep you hydrated and keep your skin glowing.  I always bring an empty water bottle with me in my purse as I go through security, then fill it up on my way to the gate so I always have water with me (and don't have to waste $5 on a bottle once I'm at the gates). It's also nice so you don't have to wait an hour for the flight attendants to finally quench your thirst.

pack your moisturizer
Your skin dries out with the recycled air on the plane when you're 30,000 feet up in the sky! Don't wear too much makeup, as it will just cake up with the plane's dehydrating dry air. Your best bet is a lot of moisturizer and a smooth layer of sparingly applied foundation. And, of course, always have chapstick or lip balm.

comfortably chic
Sweats are a no-no. but that doesn't mean you necessarily have to break out your sky-high heels to fly the friendly skies. My favorite travel outfits are usually leggings and boots, a big scarf, or a casual dress. Always pack a sweater as those planes get freezing! I also like to use the sweater as something to rest my head on if I'm planning on sleeping. 

Don't look like you fell out of bed and got thrown into a new city. Sunglasses, jewelry, and scarves can do wonders
I like these travel necessities:
Yoga Pants Kate Spade Pink Infinity Travel Scarf Jackery Travel Charger Aeris Memory Foam Travel Neck Pillow

Traveling does not need to be a high-stress activity. Get lots of sleep the night before, arrive early for your flight, check your bags, cruise through security, and relax on the plane. Think of it more as a couple of hours to catch up on Revenge or Homeland instead of thinking of it as an inconvenience. Chatty Cathy or a crying baby next to you? Noise canceling headphones will be your savior. If you love movies, plan ahead and download a few onto your iPad or phone. If you love music, make sure you have your flight playlists ready to go. If tabloids are your guilty pleasure, treat yourself and buy some at the airport newstand.  Kick back, relax, and enjoy your 'me' time in the sky. If you hydrate, relax, organize and accessorize, you're guaranteed to look happy and fresh when you land, and ready for wherever your next adventure takes you. 

follow my travel tweets on twitter @jetsetchristina