Italia! : Portofino + Cinque Terre

The best part about having a car was getting to go for day trips or make a pit stop along the way to our next destination. While we were in Sestri Levante that meant Portofino and Cinque Terre. The drive to Portofino was stunning and Portofino itself was adorable and quaint, filled with designer shops like Chanel, Dior, and Gucci. I had another amazing pizza there, but horrible service {to be fair, there was a major rush when we were seated but the waiter clearly forgot to put in our order}. Cinque Terre is even more beautiful than the pictures you see everywhere. We did the hike, which was a bitch at the beginning because of all the stairs going up. It did provide some beautiful views though and of course my family did it in record time. Personally, I would have rather used the time to go to another town or two, but I know for some people this would be something really impressive to say you did.

Not too many pictures from Portofino because it's so little.

Starting the hike in Monterosso al Mare. Don't worry beach, we'll be back for you!

The views on our hike were too good.

Vernazza, finally!

Saying goodbye too soon.

That water though, right?



Italia! : What I Read

I'm usually all about the feels but during the summer I try to keep things lighthearted. I peppered my vacay reading list with two comical and superficial reads to balance out the Valley of Tears that was The Fault in Our Stars.

Summer Reading

Psychos is the sequel to White Girl Problems written by Babe Walker, an imaginary personal hero of mine. I was cracking up constantly reading it and texting quotes to my bestie, Kate. It's wickedly funny and on point with many stereotypes, but at the same time Babe Walker is so original, so Babe, that I have to applaud the writers for this feat. I mean, to create a character born out of typical white girl problems and have a unique, strong {albeit crazy} personality - bravo! Also, the plot was actually interesting and the outcome ridiculous but perfect. Supposedly there is a movie coming out produced by Elizabeth Banks which needs to happen ASAP or I'll know dreams never come true. If you haven't already read White Girl Problems, then what the hell are you doing still reading my blog? Get your butt on Amazon immediately! I still pick it up and reread it every so often when I need a good laugh.

I guess I was on a superficial reading bent because when I saw Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan in the bookstore at the airport I immediately thought, yes. I think I also didn't want to become so emotionally invested and distraught over a book, like I tend to do, when I was trying to enjoy my vacation and actually pay attention to the world around me. So lifestyles of the rich and famous {or discreet old money/practically royalty} it twas. This book was a little less vapid and hilarious as Psychos, but just as jaw dropping as you learn about the insane money, customs, and families - and just what those families were willing to do to make sure the right people married each other and stayed married. That is the plight of the somewhat main character, Rachel, an ABC {American born Chinese, better be quick on the uptake because there is a lot of lingo in this book}, who lives a completely normal life in America with her boyfriend until he brings her to his home in Singapore and she learns he is basically Prince Harry of China. While there was a couple plot lines I was interested to see unfold, I was less invested in the characters and more amazed by the excess. Which was just fine by me.

Sometimes when something is insanely popular, especially a book, I put it off for awhile. It's like I want to save what is supposed to be such a wonderful experience until the perfect weekend at home or in the midst of a creativity drought. There is always the worry that my anticipation will be for naught though, that because of the self-inflicted build up, it will only lead to a major let down. Not the case with The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I think I pushed this one off even more than most because I knew I was going to cry my eyes out and as I previously explained, during the summer I just want to be all blue skies and sunshine and lighthearted happiness. But knowing the movie was looming, I bit the bullet. I'm so glad I did. What I loved more than anything was it's ability to be beautifully written and deep, tackling hard, philosophical questions, while maintaining a sixteen year old's way of speaking and thinking and sense of humor. It made me think, it made me laugh, it made me appreciate life a little more, and while yes, it made me cry, even made me look to the sky and ask, "what are we all even doing here?" {wish I was kidding}, it wasn't as depressing as I thought it would be. In fact, it was uplifting. It made me want to really live.

{Image via Ant Clausen}


Italia! : Sestri Levante

We ended up in Sestri Levante by happy accident. Like most tourists we wanted to stay in one of the towns of Cinque Terre, but found most of the better hotels all booked up. We started just searching for hotels in the Italian Riviera, knowing there were many other towns to stay in, and happened upon one in Sestri Levante. A few Google searches later and we discovered it was an adorable town cradled by mountains and had two bays created by a small peninsula that juts out into the ocean. One of the bays is called the Bay of Silence, which we would have a beautiful view of from our hotel. Looking back I can only describe Sestri Levante as magical. I would recommend it to anyone who wanted something cleaner, quieter, and a little chicer - a true hidden gem {we were the only Americans there}. And since we were about a half hour from Cinque Terre, Portofino, and Santa Margherita we could make day trips {pictures to come!}. Our hotel had the best view of the bay, but that meant it was on top of a steep hill that made me pray to sweet baby Jesus every time we drove up it. Thankfully, the hotel had a cool tunnel for when you were on foot {it kind of reminded me of a runway} that lead to an elevator to take you up. The top floor/roof had a pool and wrap around deck with tables and chairs to have drinks and little things to nibble on and the floor right below was a very nice restaurant with windows all around so you could see the view from every angle. The town, again, was so cute, filled with fancy shops, fun little bars, nice restaurants on the water {hands down best meals of the whole trip were here, who would have thought?}, it was really too good to be true. The beaches were great as well, exactly what you'd expect on the Italian Riviera. I loved it there so much and would die to go back one day!

The mountains surrounding Sestri Levante.

One of the bays.

My favorite view, the Bay of Silence.

The lovely pool on the roof of our hotel.

Our view for lunch one day.

P.S. I still have so many pictures from Italy, I really need to get it together and get them all posted. I'm going to try and pepper it with some other stuff though as not to drive you all cray.


Italia! : Low-Maintenance Hair

As usual I went a little blonder and shorter for summer. I'm not the greatest at doing my hair, I can just do the basics...straighten, curl, pony tail, top knot, etc. I do love and have an above average knowledge of hair products though, so with their help I had two solid hair dos {if you can call them that even} for Italy and are my go-to's for summer. I guess this is more about recommending hair products for the low-maintenance hair styles you already know and love.

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I always begin with a pump or two of Bumble and Bumble Hairdresser's Invisible Oil. I concentrate on the ends first and then use whatever is left on my hands for the rest of my head to ward off flyaways. I love the slightly beachy smell and it's the only one that doesn't weigh my hair down or make it greasy.

We quickly realized our straighteners and curling irons had a little too much oomph and would overheat/not work at most of our hotels. Thank goodness I had brought Joico Texture Boost Dry Wax Spray to save the day. I'd apply previously mentioned oil, then flip my hair upside down to blow dry till the roots were completely dry and the rest almost dry, then I'd part down the middle, french braid it, and finish getting ready. When it was completely dry I'd take it out, apply some of Bumble and Bumble Prêt-à-Powder {noticing a trend? Love me some B and B} to my crown for volume and then lightly spritz and twist and scrunch with the Texture Boost Dry Wax Spray. The beauty of this spray is it doesn't make your hair sticky or crunchy and a little goes a long way. I stopped using salt sprays for two reasons, 1. it never works for straight, fine hair, and 2. it is horrible for those who highlight their hair! I highly recommend making the switch to something that'll give you texture and some hold, without the damage.

A top knot was necessary most of the time due to the heat, but with a little more attention it could bring an otherwise laid back outfit some sophistication. My Prêt-à-Powder gave me volume and texture while Bumble and Bumble Thickening Hair Spray gave me even more volume while holding things in place so I could walk around sweating but my hair still looked like pure class.

P.S. If you're way more talented in the hair department than me I know this would be a great arsenal of products to get a little more creative!
{Images via}


Italia! : Venenzia

I'll admit, when discussing the itinerary for the trip and trying to figure out if we were squeezing too much in, I volunteered Venice for the axe. I'd heard it smelled and I'd heard the food wasn't very good and while I knew it was someplace I really wanted to see, I also knew that sometimes you can't see it all. But what a pleasant surprise it was! Our hotel was adorable and just out of the way of the hustle and bustle of tourists. The first night it rained {which actually made Venice so quaint} and we went to one of the best restaurants of the entire trip recommended to us by our hotel. Our waiter, a nice guy around my age, told us which bar to go to after to watch the Italy game and proceeded to be ever the gentlemen and walked my sister and I back to our hotel when the night ended. The next day was beautiful and refreshing in San Marco Square and my family had one of our favorite pizzas of the trip. I'm so glad we didn't nix our little two day trip to Venice!

I had to show our sexy hotel room!