Kayla Weber Art

It's a world full of color!

One Week In Peru!

TravelKayla Nord4 Comments
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Hey friends!! I am finally getting around to posting this— always takes forever to write these things.

Also, it took me like 3 weeks just to get back into the groove of life after returning from this trip! Traveling internationally is a lot of work! ESPECIALLY while trying to juggle a business back home.

Anyways, I wanted to tell y’all all about our trip and how AMAZING it was!! We have been planning to go to Peru for several years, so we were super excited it worked out for this year’s “Spring Break” trip. Most of you all know already that John is a school counselor, so we go by his schedule for traveling and early april is always their Spring Break week off. We thought that would be a perfect time to head down to South America again. (Last year we did Colombia— you can read about it HERE.)

We bought flights back in November and had a tough time finding a good route. Anything out of Cincinnati had us flying for over 20 hours and going up to Canada and then back down to Peru— no bueno.

We ended up finding a direct flight on Delta from Atlanta to Lima for $750 each— and it was only a 6 hour direct flight. We bought that and flew out on a Sunday and came back on a Sunday. My little brother, Mitch, lives in ATL, so we thought it would be a perfect excuse to go down and visit him for the weekend before leaving!

Lima

We left at 5:55pm from ATL and arrived to Lima at 11:30pm on Sunday. The airport was bustling because most flights from the states arrive late at night for some reason. I had arranged for our hotel to send a taxi which was SO NICE— they had a sign with my name and we immediately found our guy and were on our way.

Lima is a HUGE CITY with TONS of PEOPLE— over 8 million to be exact. And the traffic is HORRIBLE. The distance isn’t far, but it still takes 30- 45 minutes to get anywhere because of the bottleneck of cars. It took us about 30 minutes without traffic (it was late) to get to the Miraflores district in Lima. We stayed at the Best Western and it was wonderful! It was right in the middle of the Miraflores area which is fun and vibrant little part of town. The room was also very nice and super clean!

Our first day in Peru we hit the ground running, ((per usual)) exploring all parts of the city. We walked the Malecon along the sea, we wandered around the fancy shops, stopped for a beer, strolled though the parks, shopped in the little souvenir shops, and ate our hearts out! It is definitely true that Lima is a very foggy place, but the weather was a perfect 75 degrees! After exploring the Miraflores area for a while, we grabbed an uber to the Historic District and explored there for several hours! The scenery was beautiful and the buildings and architecture made me feel like I was back in Spain! The uber took about 45 minutes to get there during high traffic time, but we were glad we went!

We spent a total of 1 day here and it seemed like plenty to do everything and see what we wanted to!

THINGS TO DO:

  • Walk the Malecon

  • Eat all the food

  • Try a Pisco Sour (beware of the raw egg— might have made me sick, but still glad I tried it!)

  • Explore the Historic District

  • Saint Francis Monastery

  • Miraflores Central Park

  • Basilica and Convent of Santo Domingo

  • Cerro San Cristobal

Historic center of Lima.

Historic center of Lima.

Traditional Peruvian cuisine and a complimentary pisco sour! The foam is the raw egg—yikes!

Traditional Peruvian cuisine and a complimentary pisco sour! The foam is the raw egg—yikes!

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Saint Francis Monastery.

Saint Francis Monastery.

The Historic District

The Historic District

Basilica and Convent of Santo Domingo

Basilica and Convent of Santo Domingo

Historic District

Historic District

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Cusco

Getting to Cusco was super easy and relatively cheap. There are flights every hour all day long back and forth between Lima and Cusco. We decided to do an early one to get us there with plenty of time to adjust to the altitude and still be able to explore as much as we could.

Our flight left at 7:30am and we arrived at 8:50am in Cusco. It cost us $250 total for us to both fly there round trip on LATAM. Upon arriving to Cusco, we could definitely feel the altitude immediately. I had been super apprehensive about it, and had taken some advil the previous day (said it would help with the symptoms). Breathing at first was definitely more difficult and it felt like I had to keep taking deep breathes to actually get any air! CRAZY!

For this leg of the trip, I had found a company called Apurimic Adventures to help us plan and guide us around Cusco and Machu Picchu. You can find their information here. Juan was my contact and he was super helpful in booking all of our tickets and tours. It was nice to not have to worry with it all! ((Although, as the savvy traveler that I am— I checked and added up all the prices that each ticket would cost to make sure we weren’t being over charged by too much and that it would be worth it—TOTALLY WORTH IT!))

He picked us up at the airport and took us to our hotel. We stayed at the Abittrre Hotel found HERE and we loved it! The room was small, but it was a great location and price with free breakfast and very friendly service.

We rested for several hours and napped to try and adjust to the altitude. Our hotel also gave us coca tea which helped with the symptoms as well.

NOTE: we had no idea but coca tea and coca leaves are actually illegal in the USA! John loved the tea and wanted to bring some back— but after googling it I found that bringing some back would have been a very bad idea!! LOL

After several hours of just hanging in the hotel we were ready to explore! We drank tons of water and felt perfectly fine with no signs of altitude sickness.

Juan met us and introduced us to our guide, Habrahan, and our driver. We started by touring the Coricancha, (which happened to be directly across the street from our hotel!) where he told us some incredible history about the city. The particular church we were in was one of the most sacred buildings in the Incan capital, so when the Spanish took over they destroyed all of the Incan temples and built churches on top of them. Much of the Incan stonework forms the foundation of the Santo Domingo church and convent. An earthquake in the mid 1900s caused the Incan ruins to be revealed! Pretty cool stuff!

After this, we hopped in the car with our guides and went all over the outskirts of Cusco touring the different Incan territories, an alpaca textile shop, and so much more! It was so nice having a driver because we were able to see more of Cusco than we would have been able to on our own.

We stopped at Saqsaywaman, which is another Incan ruin area— and stumbled upon a ton of alpacas. I of course had to get some photos! I took so many with one alpaca that he spit on me… pictures below. lol! It looks like he’s kissing me— definitely spitting on me instead! haha

Coricancha

Coricancha

The view from Saqsaywaman.

The view from Saqsaywaman.

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Saqsaywaman

Saqsaywaman

Photos at the Plaza de Armas

Photos at the Plaza de Armas

Our first full day in Cusco was amazing! We had a delicious meal and walked around a little more after our guide dropped us off. We went in the beginning of April which is still technically the end of rainy season— so our first day was pretty wet and a tad bit chilly. The rest of our time there we had beautiful sunny and warm weather and only needed a light jacket!

We had a second full day in Cusco at the end of our trip and we spent the day hanging out in Plaza de Armas. My favorite part was enjoying a morning coffee at one of the second floor cafes, which can be found on three sides of the square. The balconies are very small, but it is a perfect spot to sightsee and watch the world of traditional and tourist Cusco strolling along.

That day we also walked to the San Pedro Market, which is a bustling market down the road from the Plaza De Armas. It was such a neat place to visit and see both tourists and locals mingling, shopping and eating!

For this night we stayed at the Estancia San Blas which was very nice. Our room was basically a closet, but we still really liked the hotel (we aren’t super hard to please)! It was a little further from the city center and up a hill, so keep that in mind if you don’t like hills or walking! haha!

We had a total of 2 full days in Cusco. That was plenty of time, but I could have stayed a lot longer! :)

THINGS TO DO:

  • Saqsaywaman

  • Q’enqo

  • Alpaca factory - La Vicuñita Factory

  • Explore the Plaza de Armas

  • San Pedro Market

  • Eat Aji de Gallina

  • Paddy’s Irish Pub for late night drinks

  • Grab a coffee at a second floor cafe above Plaza De Armas and people watch

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San Pedro Market

San Pedro Market

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Sacred Valley

We woke up early to head out to Sacred Valley for the day. We planned to stay in Ollantaytambo for the night and then would catch an early train to Machu Picchu. It was so nice having a guide because they picked us and all of our luggage up and we were on our way. That was one of the most confusing parts for me when trying to plan this without a guide, was how we would get our luggage from place to place and where we would store it. Habrahan took care of all of this for us!

Along the way to Machu Picchu and Ollantaytambo, there are tons of amazing things to see, so we decided to take their extended sacred valley tour. We would be seeing Pisaq, the Pisaq market, Chincero, Moray, Maras salt mines and Ollantaytambo. This tour can be booked through here and we did it in combination with the 3 day Cusco and Machu Picchu tour— here. They customized everything for us— which was so nice!

The drive was GORGEOUS and we loved seeing everything along the way. Our guides were so helpful, explaining things as we drove and stopping wherever we wanted along the way. As we were driving we passed through several small towns where the ladies stand on the street and wave plastic bags at you as you drive by. That means they have fresh food/bread and want you to stop. Our driver pulled over and we bought a huge loaf of bread— it was so sweet and delicious!! We also drove through the area that our guide told us has the best guinea pig— the ladies have them on sticks and wave their bags to get you to stop…. we did not stop for one of these though LOL!!

THINGS TO SEE:

  • Pisaq

  • Pisaq market

  • Chincero

  • Moray

  • Maras Salt Mines

  • Ollantaytambo

Pisaq ruins

Pisaq ruins

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Pisaq Market

Pisaq Market

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Chincero. Learning how they dye the alpaca fur and how they weave it into the different textiles!

Chincero. Learning how they dye the alpaca fur and how they weave it into the different textiles!

Moray Ruins.

Moray Ruins.

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Maras Salt Mines

Maras Salt Mines

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John may or may not have been eating a guinea pig here.

John may or may not have been eating a guinea pig here.

Ollantaytambo

Ollantaytambo

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Ollantaytambo

Ollantaytambo

Eating alpaca on a stick…. against my better judgement.

Eating alpaca on a stick…. against my better judgement.

Ollantaytambo

We opted to stay in Ollantaytambo after exploring Sacred Valley all day. We knew we wanted to see Machu Picchu in the afternoon to avoid the crazy crowds in the morning... so we had Juan and Habrahan book us a room in Ollantaytambo for the night and then we had them get us an early train ride to MP in the morning.

The train ride to Machu Picchu was one of my favorite things. On the way there (we left at 7am) the train wasn’t crowded and we got a whole 4 seater row to ourselves. They served us breakfast, coca tea and coffee on the way there.

The train travels along the river and the scenery is absolutely gorgeous. It was such a relaxing and fun morning.

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We made it to Agues Calientes!

We made it to Agues Calientes!

Machu Picchu / Aguas Calientes

Once arriving in Aguas Calientes, we explored a while and waited for our bus ride up to Machu Picchu. Since we had limited time in Peru, we did not hike the trail or even hike the trail up to MP. I was very thankful of this after watching others climbing up while on the bus ride— definitely not for the faint of heart.

I was not thankful for the fact that the dirt road on the way up was basically one way (with two way traffic) no railings and a seemingly distracted bus driver. I had a small panic attack just because of the height of the road and the straight down incline off the edge. It was pretty TERRIFYING. And naturally, I had already googled all of the bus crashes in Peru earlier in the week, so that really helped with my anxiety.

We made it to the top… and let me tell you…. it was INCREDIBLE. Totally worth the crazy bus ride up. The mountains alone surrounding Machu Picchu are gorgeous and it is seriously majestic up there.

It was like nothing I had ever seen before…. and the pictures really don’t do it justice… like AT ALL.

It wasn't as crowded as I expected which was nice, but there were definitely a lot of people around trying to get that perfect selfie!

We walked around, took tons of pictures, and Habrahan gave us the best tour with so much information. I was completely awe-struck by how amazing the Incans were.

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BUDGET

This trip was not a super expensive one, mostly because we were only there for a week. Like I said earlier, our flights were $750 each, so $1500 total. And then we spent $250 on flights to Cusco and back. Food was pretty cheap and the conversion rate was very good! We spent about an average of $50 a day on food and alcohol for both of us— totaling to around $350-$400.

Hotels were on the cheap side also… we stayed in 3 and 4 star hotels for $50-$85 per night, totaling around $400 for the week. We use hotels.com so we got a free night during this trip because we have stayed 10 nights using their website.

Our tours and activities added about $1350 for both of us. That covered all of our trains, tours, MP tickets, one night accommodation through Juan’s company and all of our transportation. We tipped our guides an extra $200.

For the entire trip we spent around $4,000 for the two of us to spend a week in Peru.


Overall, our week long trip to Peru was incredible! I cannot get over how insane Machu Picchu was! I also did not expect for Cusco to be one of my favorite cities— but it is up there on the top of my list. It was such a quaint, lively, beautiful little town. I do wish we would have had time to hit rainbow mountain, but our itinerary just didn’t allow for that.

One thing to keep in mind that was unfortunate, was that I did get a little sick at the end of the trip— so always be vigilant when eating adventurously. My husband ate everything in sight including a guinea pig, and didn’t get sick— so I don’t really know why it always happens to me! We both take these travelan pills which kill the bacteria in your stomach so that you don’t get sick— but towards the end of the trip I got a little more lax. So my advice is to take those diligently if you are planning on going and just be weary!~ Maybe my stomach just doesn’t agree with South America!!

Please let me know if you have any questions about our travels! Peru is so amazing!

Happy travels!

xoxox

Kayla

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Travel Guide to Cuba

TravelKayla NordComment
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Shop my outfits: yellow dress || favorite travel shoes || travel purse || white dress || hat

Hey friends! Happy 2019! 

Can you believe how fast 2018 went? Yikes. They say every year older you get, the faster time goes… not cool with that. ESPECIALLY because I turn 30 this year.

THIRTY.

WHATTTTTT?!

But anyways, we ended 2018 and started 2019 on such a fun and relaxing note— CRUISIN’ TO CUBA!

John and I have always wanted to go to Cuba… well, at least since it’s been opened back up— so we were determined to get there some how and soon, before it all started to change! It got a little harder to get there this year, but we found a way! John’s parents also wanted to go, so they came with us!


We have never gone anywhere during winter break, so this whole idea was very exciting. Another time to travel?! WOO HOO! I was about it…. And then Christmas came and I was: 

1. Exhausted from working ridiculous hours and

2. Exhausted from all of the fun (but exhausting) Christmas festivities. 

So, long story short I was so excited that we decided to take a cruise to Cuba, instead of trying to do it like we normally would… because that would have been, well… exhausting. ;)

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We went on the Norweigan Cruise Line and it was SO NICE! The staff was amazing, so friendly and literally the hardest workers I have ever seen. It was just so nice not having to worry about anything. The food was great, the service impeccable, the boat was beautiful, and the rooms were very— quaint! Lol 

We left from Miami, Florida and sailed overnight to Cuba. We actually spent New Years Eve and New Years Day in Cuba which was really interesting because they don’t really celebrate it like we do! Everything was pretty quiet and a lot of places were closed, but we still had the best time. It was actually kind of nice and perfect for photo ops!

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Before leaving, I had not planned much of anything… (what else is new?)… but I HAD looked up a convertible tour company and found one that looked good— and was open… a lot of them were closed for the holiday. A quick email later and our booking was confirmed!

Upon arrival, Michel, was waiting for us with a sign and my name on it. He was so warm and friendly, and immediately started telling us about his amazing country. 

He walked us to his bright red convertible and introduced us to Maykel, our driver. We loved that Michel had a driver, because he was able to really focus on telling us all about Cuba. They drove us around the city and I couldn’t help but admire all of the 1950’s cars, including the one we were in! It seriously felt like we had stepped back in time. They were everywhere and so beautiful. Even the taxis were old colorful cars… wish they still made them like that! When the world cut off trade with Cuba, the Cuban mechanics had to make things work without extra parts… they say the mechanics here are magic. I believe it! 

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Our first stop was the huge Jesus statue overlooking Havana. We walked and talked, and learned some awesome facts and history about the city and country. It was so interesting hearing Michel’s view on the history and turmoil between the states and Cuba. My favorite thing he said was the famous quote “there’s your side, my side, and the truth.”… so true! He even showed us one of the missiles that had been pointed at the U.S. during the Cuban Missile Crisis. CRAZY!

He told us that this is the “party Jesus” because he is holding a cuban cigar and a mojito! Haha! Really does look it!

He told us that this is the “party Jesus” because he is holding a cuban cigar and a mojito! Haha! Really does look it!

Our tour continued through the colorful streets of Havana, driving around with the wind blowing in our hair…. “(and in my mind I was singing “Havana oh na na” the whole time haha!!!). We stopped at the Capital, because— duh, it was picture time! Michel was snapping pics the whole time too, and sent them to me a week later. They were so good and I loved the candid nature of them all!

He told us that The Capital building looks just like one in the states, but is actually 4 inches taller than ours, because they wanted to win. Lol!

He told us that The Capital building looks just like one in the states, but is actually 4 inches taller than ours, because they wanted to win. Lol!

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We drove around a little more and then headed to a cigar and rum shop. This was easily John’s favorite part of the trip and I swear he bought the whole cigar store. It was so interesting to see all of the choices, because obviously we still can’t get them in the states. Michel also taught John the proper way to light and enjoy a cigar— too cool!  

We made another pitstop at the Floridita bar, to see where Ernest Hemingway hung out. The place was PACKED. We could barely get in the door it was so busy. Everyone in the bar was drinking Hemingway’s signature drink. It looked delicious, but seeing as I couldn’t even move, we didn’t stay too long… although it was really cool!

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Our tour ended at a traditional cuban restaurant called Draquecitos. We said our goodbyes to Michel and Maykel and had a traditional Cuban lunch, complete with a Cuban beer and a tiny taste of Cuban Rum. We signed the walls and headed back out to explore. We walked around even more, took a ton of pictures and then stopped for a mojito! The mojito originated there, so there were amazing— of course!

The next day, John and I did what we do best— which is getting lost in the streets of wherever we are. John actually has the most amazing sense of direction, so we are never actually lost— (I don’t know how he does it). I, of course, have to use maps.me (an app that allows you to download places before you go and then it uses your gps— not data— so you don’t get charged and you don’t have to be connected to wifi) for back up purposes. Lol. I always test him on where we are, and he’s somehow always right. (eye roll)

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So, we usually walk and explore and take photos and then end up getting so tired that we have to stop and get a coffee or a drink or some food… and then we walk some more!

We stopped at Cafe el Escorial and grabbed an Americano and people watched. This is one of the most well known coffee places, and is in the cutest little piazza. 

((In this piazza we also took a bunch of pictures, by setting my DSLR camera in a planter… more on this to come. I think I am going to write a blog about how I take and edit our travel photos while we are away! Would y’all like that?!))

We explored some more, walked around by the capital, but most things were closed for the New Year.

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Overall, our short time in Cuba was so much fun— and so very interesting! If you’re looking for a relaxing, yet adventurous trip, taking the cruise is the perfect way to get both. We loved every second. If you have a chance to go, definitely get a hold of Michel for a tour! His email is bestwaytourscuba@gmail.com and his website is here! He was so knowledgeable and we loved our tour!

THINGS TO KNOW:

MONEY:

Credit cards, debit cards, any kind of card will not work in Cuba. If you are going, be sure to take enough cash to exchange for your whole trip! Our dollar is basically equal to their dollar (CUC), but there is a pretty hefty fee to convert USA $ to the CUC. The exhange rate is more favorable to Canadian dollars or to Euros… so if you can, exchange at home and bring all Canadian dollars to exchange to CUC in Cuba. Definitely not ideal to have to convert your money back and forth so many times, but you gotta do what you gotta do!… and of course we procrastinated until the day before and couldn’t get Canadian dollars or Euros in time before we lefts, so we had to eat about $40 every $300 to switch USA $ to CUC. Not terrible, but not great. 

ViSA:

You do need a Visa to get into Cuba. It costs about $75 per person. You can get one through the cruise line or here.

SNACKS:

If you get hungry easily, bring snacks because there aren’t any convenient markets around! If you’re like us and walk a lot and start getting hangry before your next meal, bring some protein bars, or almonds to tide you over!

BUGS:

We didn’t see one mosquito, but according to the CDC there is Zika in Cuba, soooo put your bug spray on. We use this kind and it’s literally like a shield and no bugs come close. I usually get eaten alive, but this type is travel size and amazing … Shop it HERE.

Hope this helps! Literally this was the easiest trip ever… mostly because it was a cruise… but also because the Cuban people were so nice, accommodating, and kind. I highly recommend going before it becomes like all the other tourist traps! It is still so authentic and stuck back in the 50s. Happy traveling!!

Kayla :)

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Styling a Fall Table

Home Decor, HOW TOKayla NordComment
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Look at me, y’all!! Another blog post!! I told ya I’d start cranking them out!! LOL… but let’s not get ahead of ourselves… who knows if this will last!

But alas, it’s finally the best time of year— FALL!

In the past, I have waited way too long to switch my house decor over from the summer decorations to the Fall. Then before I know it, it’s time to put the Christmas stuff out— but NOT THIS YEAR! This year I am prepared— (probably because I have one less full-time job— SHEW! Life is good!!)

Anywho, I decided I really wanted to keep my blue & white ginger jars out for my Fall table. (But let’s be honest— I really have no where else to store them now that I’ve bought 3,000 of the dang things.) So they will be used again for this season, with a little updating.

Plus, they are so pretty and BONUS, blue + orange are complimentary colors. In art teacher terms, they look really good next to each other, so they will make my fall table pop!

This picture below is what my table started as… I always use more pinks, whites, and light green flowers in the Spring & Summer table.

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I started with this version already on my table, so switching it over to Fall wasn’t too difficult.

If you’re starting from scratch I’ll link where I got everything that I am still using in the Fall version! I used the ginger jars still (similar ones found here, here, here, & here), the West Elm gold table runner (couldn’t find the exact one, but these two are similar found here and here), chargers, place mats (not the exact ones but similar style here), and the Kate Spade plates!

So first thing I did, was remove those candles and candle holders above. They were a little too chunky, so I added thinner candle holders and candlesticks (shown below). I varied the tall and short ones on both sides of the ginger jars. These candle holders are antiques which I found at the Burlington Antique Show. I’ve been looking for these thin ones FOREVER, so I was super excited when I found them.

I then removed all of the pink and white flowers. I had already purchased fall colored flowers from Michael’s. They can be found here. I would recommend going into the store and picking out bunches that go together— it’s hard to tell online. These in the second picture below are the ones I found, and they were 50% off! I liked the duller oranges, peachy-orange colored berries, and more brownish/orange colored flowers. I didn’t want anything too red/bright orange.

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While I was there, I found some cute pale orange pumpkins and some cream and orange acorns shown above! These will be added to the table also!

I started putting the flower bunches into the vases, alternating between berries, flowers, berries, flowers in my taller jars.

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Next, I laid down some fall “garland” along the table. I got one string from Michael’s here and the other strand is real bittersweet from the side of the road (thanks Dad!). Here is something similar! I then laid down the different acorns on every other side and spread them evenly!

Next, I put the smaller pumpkins on each end. The important thing is to keep things balanced!

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Next, I added the placemats, chargers, and plates back on! Adding a placemat and a charger helps make the table look complete... and a little extra fancy!

I topped the plates off with a smaller blue and white patterned plate. I found these at a local store called The Great Room on Southland Drive, but I’ve also seen similar ones at Tuesday Morning!

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Last and final thing I did was add these orange gingham napkins from Michael’s under the plate to throw a little orange there. I can’t find them online, but I got them at the Michael’s off of Nicholasville, Rd. They are paper!

I just love mixing all the patterns here. I also LOVE how the orange and blue contrast next to each other… the art teacher/artist in me gets realllll excited when I get to use color theory in my decorating :) !

Before having guests over, I would definitely set the table with gold silverware and we’d be ready to entertain! My silverware set isn’t in the pictures, but it’s from John’s grandmother, Memo (she had great taste!). If you’re looking for a set, I love this one from Target— here.

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My dinning room table is from Universal Furniture and you can find it here. My dinning room chairs are from Overstock and you can find them here. The China Buffet is also Universal Furniture found here. Curtains are Wayfair, found here. Chandelier is custom made by Kim Schwab.

The ginger jars have been picked up all over town… I usually have the best luck at Hobby Lobby, Homegoods, Ross, TJ Maxx and Marshall’s. But like I said earlier, the majority of mine came from John’s Grandma and my Grandma!

Hope this helps and inspires you to get out your Fall decor and create your own Fall table!

I just love having seasonal decor… mostly because my Mom (aka Martha Stewart) always did growing up— and still does, of course! It just makes each season so special!

Let me know if you need help with anything or if I forgot to link something! Have a great Fall season, and as always, thanks for reading!

Kayla :)

3 Weeks in Australia & New Zealand

TravelKayla Nord8 Comments
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Hey there! Finally got around to doing this! I swear I am busier now than when I was teaching because I keep adding more and more to my plate! WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME!?! haha!

Anyways, let’s get to the reason why you are here-- Australia + New Zealand!! One of my goals in life was to visit every continent (except for Antarctica-- for now ;) ...) before I turned 30! I really wanted a broad view of the world, so I decided it would be a good idea to get to each part of it! I also have a world map tattoo on my wrist... so I totally had to go to every continent!!

Our last continent on the list was Australia... so that's why we decided to go there for Summer 2018. Our planning process began around April-- well, that’s when we bought our flights. Ahem, the actual planning-planning began a week before leaving. 

I know... I know. Crazy, right?

You all know I am a huge procrastinator, so I kid you not, we didn't have anything but the plane tickets purchased until a week before we left. With school, weddings, live paintings and art I literally didn't have a second to put towards it. We didn't even know where we were going in Australia/NZ except for we knew we were flying into Sydney and then leaving from Sydney three weeks later!

I'm sure I'm making some of you all sweat by now, but that's just how John and I both operate... The majority of our trips have been like this and I think sometimes less planning turns out better— if you’re a pretty seasoned traveler! Our first big month long European trip together was very well planned out, but now we know how we travel together and enjoy just going with the flow.

So… the week before we left, I finally sat down and decided where exactly we wanted to go and then made John do the logistics on how we were getting to each place. Once we figured out where we were going and how we were getting there, then I could start planning our hotels, airbnbs, and activities! Honestly, the hardest part was deciding what we could fit in and where was most important to us. 

I chatted with people who had lived there, looked at blogs, and stalked instagram for the most beautiful places. We finally decided on Sydney, followed by Queenstown (NZ), then back to Australia c/o Brisbane and Whitsunday, before a road trip to Cairns, and then finishing back in Sydney. We made the decision to stay in Northern Australia since the seasons are flipped and we didn’t want to pack too many winter clothes.

I always recommend at least 3 days in each city with a travel day in between, so 3 weeks really doesn't give you a ton of time. Especially since Australia is HUGE and spread out, so we had to cut out a lot. It's sad, but I would rather enjoy the places we get to go, rather than rushing through to hit everywhere and be exhausted at each place. 

It also makes your trip SIGNIFICANTLY more expensive the more places you add. Australia and NZ are already super expensive to get to and travel around. 

BUDGET

Something I always get asked is how much do our trips cost and how we budget. To be honest, we don't do a great job of keeping track of everything to the penny, but we definitely have a number in mind of what we think it will cost and an amount we don't want to go over. We always do things the cheapest way we can find, but it can still add up quickly if we're not careful. We definitely don't skimp on anything and enjoy ourselves, but don't do anything excessive or beyond our means. At this point in our life, travel is very important to us, so we save our money accordingly. 

For spending while on our trips we put everything on our Chase Sapphire card, which has no foreign transaction fees and is double the travel points. We basically use it as a debit card by paying it off in full each month. This also makes our travel points add up quickly, which eventually will be used to pay for our flights! :) 

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Flights + Transportation 

But like I said, Australia and New Zealand are EXPENSIVE! Knowing this, we really tried to find the cheapest options for getting around. Our flights there were $1,500 per person round trip through American Airlines.. and yes that's economy... and yes it was rough. This was a huge expense up front that we paid for in April and got out of the way. That is actually one of the cheapest prices I have seen to Australia and I believe it was because we were going in June/July which is their winter. During their summer (Dec-Feb) prices are even higher! Luckily, we went in the off-season, so that helped!

For going from city to city we opted to fly because we only had 3 weeks and wanted to see as much as we could. Australian/NZ domestic flights were not terribly pricey but ranged from $120-$350 each.. with the flight to NZ being $350. This adds up so fast. In the end, we spent about $1,500 each for flights within the country. ((Total cost of all flights was around $4,500)).

One thing a lot of people don't factor into their trip planning is transportation to and from the airport in each city you are staying. That usually costs around $50 each way depending on if you taxi, shuttle, or bus. John is a big fan of the metro, so we try to save money by using that from the airport in bigger cities. There is definitely a way to work the public transportation system, but sometimes that's not an option in smaller or remote destinations. Don't forget to budget for that! 

Traveling with luggage larger than a carry-on is also important to consider. We only bring one personal item and a carry-on bag apiece. This can be very hard when traveling for multiple weeks, but if you bring anything larger, you will get charged on every single flight. We use Amazon packing cubes found here to better organize clothes and fit more in our suitcases/backpacks. Since we would be in Sydney (60 degrees and chilly at night), Queenstown (30 degrees and freezing), and Whitsundays + Cairns (80 degrees and up), we had to do some crazy packing. We had to bring gloves, hats, scarves, a winter coat, light jackets, and bathing suits all in the same suitcase. It was wild!

We brought suitcases this trip, but we usually bring 60L Osprey backpacks. Most airlines we flew didn't charge extra for the carry-ons, but there were a couple that did and I can't imagine how much it would have cost had we brought full sized luggage!! Also, always check your airline to see what their baggage policies are because it's usually cheaper if you pay ahead of time.

Hotels + Airbnbs

As far as rooms and hotels... we always go for hotels/airbnbs that cost around $50-$90 per night. In Australia and NZ, this got us some nice places but they were no Ritz Carlton's!! I think we spent around $1,500 total on rooms for the 21 days. We did a $30 hostel one night... mistake!! And then two nights we got for free by sleeping in our I-Moova campervan!

Food + Alcohol + Activities + Souvenirs

Food in Australia + NZ  is OUTRAGEOUS. Every time we ate out it was around $50 for 2 meals and 2 drinks. In the USA you can get a nice meal for $12ish depending on where you go-- or at least that's what I always try to spend on a meal. In Australia or NZ you can’t find a burger/sandwich for less than $19. It is insane. Same with beer/alcohol... most drinks are around $8+. This made it hard to find budget friendly restaurants. Even the grocery stores were super expensive. At one point we tried to find something quick, cheap, and easy so we thought pizza.... for a big enough one to fill John up, it would have been $35!! SO CRAZY! 

With that being said, we definitely tried to find hotels/airbnb's that included breakfast or had a kitchen, so we could cook and save some money. We also tried to only eat 1-2 times per day. This was tough, but you gotta do what you gotta do! I always pack protein bars, almonds, and travel sized peanut butter to eat throughout the trip and hold us over until our next meal. We probably spent around $1,750 on food and alcohol. 

Another thing to account for is activities! We went bungee jumping, sailing in the Whitsundays, scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, to an animal sanctuary in Townsville, and took a flight to Milford Sound in NZ! Even after all that, we still had things left on our list that we wanted to do! But all of these things add up fast, so you have to figure out what is most important! 

John and I hardly ever buy souvenirs, except maybe something small or meaningful like jewelry. We only travel with a backpack or a small carry-on, so there really isn't much room for extras.  

 

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THE TRIP

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA

We flew from Louisville, Kentucky, to Houston, Texas, and then from Houston to Sydney, all on American Airlines. The flight length to Sydney was 17 hours straight. I was a little apprehensive about the flight, especially because John's body is too long to sleep comfortably on a plane, so we were pumped to find out the flight was under-booked and that we had a row to ourselves! We stretched out as much as you can in a row of airplane seats and were actually able to sleep a lot of the flight. 

We left Louisville on Monday and arrived in Sydney Wednesday morning.... not sure where Tuesday went, but who needs it anyways?? We landed at 8:00am and headed to our boutique hotel that was located right in the heart of The Rocks area. I would highly recommend staying in this area as it is central to everything! The Mercantile Hotel is super basic and was the cheapest thing I could find in the area at $88 per night. The staff was friendly and it had everything we needed, including free breakfast. The hotel is on top of an Irish bar, so if you're a light sleeper-- might not be a good choice, and keep in mind, the bathroom is a shared one. But other than that, we really liked our stay!

THINGS TO DO & SEE

-Stroll along Bondi Beach to Bronte Walk or to Coogee Trail

-Check out the famous Bondi Icebergs Pool

-Museum of Contemporary Art…MCA Café and Sculpture Terrace—head to level 4 to eat with amazing views of opera house and Sydney harbor bridge.

-Wander through The Rocks… on the weekends there is a huge outdoor market!

-Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb

-Walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge

-Take pictures around the Sydney Opera House

-Have a picnic at the royal botanic gardens… walk to the top of the hill for panoramic views.

-Take the Ferry to Luna’s park

-Milk Beach, Camp Cove, Balmoral Beach, Manly Beach

-Watch the sunset from Ms. Macquarie’s chair

-Hyde Park

-Catch a rugby game at Sydney Olympic Park

-Vivid Sydney (May-June)

-Have a drink at the Opera Bar

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View from the Museum of Contemporary Art.

View from the Museum of Contemporary Art.

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View from Sydney Harbour Bridge.

View from Sydney Harbour Bridge.

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QUEENSTOWN, NEW ZEALAND

We flew to Queenstown, New Zealand, next through Jetstar. The flight took 3 hours and we lost 2 hours on the way there. Our flight got in kind of late and luckily we grabbed the last shuttle bus that dropped us off directly at our accommodations for the night. The bus was $20 for both of us, but a taxi would have been $50. We stayed at the Melbourne Lodge and it was perfect. Breakfast was also included and it was centrally located!

We found an even cheaper airbnb and ended up switching to it for the remaining nights in Queenstown. We loved Vickie’s place, and although it was super small, it was all we needed! Find Vickie’s airbnb here.

THINGS TO DO & SEE:

-Ride the Skyline Gondola

-Hike the Ben Lomand Trail (be more prepared than us— it’s long and icy in the winter!)

-Go bungee jumping!! Tons of places to choose from— we did the tandem Kawarau Bridge Bungy.

-Eat at Fergburger

-Check out one of the below zero or ice bars

-Go to Milford Sound— we took a 30 minute flight because the bus ride seemed like a lot of time wasted! The flight was amazing— a little scary, but INSANE views!

-Rent a car and drive to Glenorchy

-Grab a drink on the Floating Boat Bar and play cards

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WHITSUNDAYS, AUSTRALIA

After New Zealand, we flew to Brisbane, Australia, on a Qantas flight. It was a great flight— they gave us a meal and drinks and it took around 3.5 hours… we also gained 2 hours going back! John had a Skype interview that morning, so we didn’t get to do any exploring in Brisbane but we splurged and booked a room in an AMAZING hotel by the airport called The Pullman.

There weren’t any good flights from Queenstown directly to the Whitsundays, so we had to fly to Brisbane and then fly the next day to Prosperpine (NOTE- if you aren’t a millionaire, fly into Propserpine instead of Hamilton Island for the Whitsundays— we booked flights to Hamilton and then realized there aren’t any accommodations under $250 per night and to get to Airlie beach the ferry is $$ too!! We had to switch our flight to Prosperine after we realized that!).

Our flight the next day was through Virgin Australia and only took about an hour and a half. We arrived and had pre-arranged for our Airbnb hosts to pick us up! The Prosperpine airport is about 30 minutes from Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays. The shuttle costs around $22 per person to get into Airlie, so we opted for Glenda to pick us up.

We stayed with Glenda & Ernie in their INCREDIBLE penthouse. It was BY FAR the best airbnb we’ve ever stayed in and at $90 a night, it seemed like a steal. If you go to the Whitsundays, you must stay with them and let them know we sent you! They were basically like our Australian parents!! The hospitality was incredible… they cooked for us, hung out with us, and truly made us feel like we were family. Not to mention, their home was impeccable and the views were unbelievable.

THINGS TO DO & SEE:

-Cruise through the Whitsundays on a sailboat… we went on the Camira (big purple sailboat) and LOVED it!

-Take a ferry to Hamilton Island

-Rent a “buggy” and drive around Hamilton Island

-Shop in Airlie Beach

-Catch a Rugby game at one of the many bars on the strip of Airlie

-Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef (we waited until Cairns to do this, but it can be done here also!)

-Spend a day relaxing by The Lagoon

-In our case, spend a day relaxing at the Airbnb! Rooftop pool and incredible views… we didn’t have to leave!

-Take a boat to Whitehaven beach— one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

The outdoor rooftop kitchen at our Airbnb + breakfast with a view!

The outdoor rooftop kitchen at our Airbnb + breakfast with a view!

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Hamilton Island

Hamilton Island

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John and Ernie reenacting John learning how to drive the manual campervan!!

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THE ROADTRIP

WHITSUNDAYS > BOWEN > TOWNSVILLE > MISSION BEACH > CAIRNS

After Whitsundays, we decided to road trip up to Cairns. We didn’t really have a plan at this point and actually ended up staying with Glenda and Ernie an extra night while we sorted out the car situation. We got the bright idea to rent an Imoova campervan that needed to be moved to Townsville. Imoova is a company that basically pays you to move cars to different areas where they are needed. We got the campervan for 3 nights with bedding, gas, and everything for $23. So it basically saved us 3 nights of stay, gave us a place to cook, and our transportation for twenty three big ones!

…. The only problem was it was a manual driver… and neither John or I knew how to drive one of those. HA! With the encouragement of Ernie and Glenda— we decided to go for it anyways because it is “easssyyyy, no big deal!” … SO, we rented the dang thing (would cost $775 if we didn’t get it to Townsville within the 3 days) and set out to learn how to drive it…. on the opposite side of the road… on the opposite side of the car. WHAT WERE WE THINKING.

After an hour and a half of perseverance, patience (on everyone’s part), several near death experiences, stalling every three seconds in rainy— terrible road conditions, and a lot of circles around a parking lot, John (kind-of) figured out how to drive manual.

It was bad. I remember thinking to myself (as I was being thrown around the back of the campervan)—— “how much are we going to need to pay Ernie to get him to drive this thing up to Townsville for us...?”

As always, I had faith in John and we ended up making it to Townsville and camped there for a night at one of the many camper lots. It was DEFINITELY an experience… my knuckles are still white from clutching the “oh sh** handle!!* LOL.

BOWEN

Our first road trip stop was Bowen. It was a beautiful little beach town with some awesome lookout spots and great hiking. We grabbed a coffee and hiked along some of the trails here.

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iced coffee came with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

iced coffee came with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

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TOWNSVILLE

Townsville was our next stop (3 hours from Airlie) and we went straight to the Billabong Sanctuary to see all of the kangaroos, koalas, crocs, and wombats! We then ended up camping in a campervan lot that was close to where we were dropping off the campervan the next day!

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MISSION BEACH

After we dropped off the van, we had to walk to a car rental place and rented a small car to drive the rest of the way. We tried to find another Imoova, but nothing was available. I’m just happy we made it to the place we were supposed to in one piece!! LOL.

We grabbed breakfast while we waited on the car and then we were on our way! We stopped at random places during the drive and ultimately stayed in Mission Beach. It was a rainy day, so we hung out at a couple restaurant bars, played cards and then worked on finding a place to stay. We were pretty tired after our traumatic experience the day before… so we found a cheap hostel to stay at.

It’s always at this point in our trip that John starts to PANIC about money, so the hostel for $30 that night seemed like a good idea. BAD. BAD IDEA. I wish I had taken pictures… lol no I don’t… I’m actually still trying to block that night out of my mind.

Mission beach was a cute little town though… and if we hadn’t spent all our money at this point I would have definitely gone skydiving here!!

CAIRNS

Our next and final stop was Cairns! On our way there, we found this place to stay called Cairns City Palms and we really liked it! It had an outdoor grill and kitchen and was perfect for what we needed! It also seemed like the Taj Mahal compared to the hostel from the night before. HAHA

THINGS TO DO & SEE

-Scuba Dive or Snorkel The Great Barrier Reef… we went through the “Reef Experience” which included both scuba and snorkeling— AMAZING experience! Highly recommend!

-Ride the skyrail cableway or drive to the town in the rainforest called Kuranda… we drove!

-Take the Kuranda scenic railway back

-Walk the rainforest trails to see the Barron waterfall

-Head to Palm Cove (adorable town with great beaches and restaurants!)

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After Cairns we flew back to Sydney for our last night in Australia! We stayed at the Felix Hotel because it looked awesome, was $88 per night, and was close to the airport! We ended up taking the metro into Sydney and spent our last night walking through the market, eating at our Irish Pub in the bottom of the Mercantile Hotel, and then had a drink at The Opera Bar while admiring the Opera House one last time.

Our trip was absolutely amazing and I crossed off SO many things from my bucket list!! We loved Australia and New Zealand and only wish that we could have spent more time in NZ!! I hope this inspired you just a little to visit this area of the world!

Kayla :)