Life Lately…

Apologies for being quite absent lately…. it’s been 3 months since my last post- eek!  I have a few drafts in the works, so you will see some more blog posts in the coming weeks.   Is there anything specific you want to hear about? Let me know!!

It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is next week!  We sure have lots to be thankful for this year.  Our baby girl is already 10 months old and is such a happy, fun baby.  She’s adventurous and always on the move… I think she may start walking soon.  I’m so very thankful that we’ve been blessed to continue with exclusive breastfeeding still even with all our troubles in the beginning.  She also loves food, which I can thank the Baby Led Weaning process for- I’ll be sharing all about introducing her to solids here soon.

I’m also thankful to work for a company & manager that have been supportive of me as a working mom and allowed me to go part-time.  It’s allowed for much better balance in my life and I am blessed to be able to spend more time with my daughter.  Just a few months ago, I was in absolute survival-mode; now I can breathe again.  On Mondays, I try to prep our breakfast & lunch meals for the work week, so I’ll soon be sharing my favorite recipes like overnight oats and paleo broccoli salad, as well as some go-to weeknight meals. In the meantime, follow me on Instagram @chrissysu and #healthyandhopeful – I am always showing my #mealprepmonday routine and recipes on my Story.

I hope y’all have a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends.  God Bless!

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Vacation to London

This is the last installment of a five-part blog series all about the details of our travels to Europe the past 2 years. So far, I’ve covered our time in Italy with the Amalfi Coast, RomeTuscany+Florence+Venice+More, and our time in Paris.  Today, I’m sharing about our trip to London two months ago.

London

Getting There & Around: We flew into London Heathrow airport. Once you arrive, follow signs for the Underground. We took the tube directly from the airport into the city- it was easy and much cheaper than the Heathrow Express (and not much longer either).  We bought a couple of Oyster cards and filled it up with money to use throughout our trip – you can refill at stations as necessary. We took the Underground everywhere throughout the city; Google maps makes it easy to figure out your route.

When we flew out of London, we left from Gatwick. Since our flight was early in the morning, it was before public transportation started running to the airport. Instead, we hired Hummingbird car service to pick us up from our apartment and drive the hour-long ride out there. It was half as cheap as Uber or a taxi.

What to Pack: Late March/early April is a tricky time in London.  We happened to visit during the first weekend they had Spring weather and only had one night of rain. But, it snowed just a couple weeks later!  Here are the top items I would recommend packing to make sure you are prepared for that time of year:

  • IMG_3870Layers + Jacket – I debated bringing a coat, but knew it wouldn’t be necessary in Italy (the second part of our trip).  I was glad I had a jacket that I could wear over layers when it was chilly, but I also took it off a few times when the sun was shining warm.
  • Flats (Shoes) – Bring a few cute pairs of flats that are comfortable to walk in. I don’t think I ever saw anyone wearing heels in the entire city.  Even if you take the tube, you’ll still be doing lots of walking.
  • Umbrella – While it only rained one evening, it certainly caught us by surprise. Bring a small umbrella that’s easy to pack in your purse and have on hand when the weather changes.

Where to Stay: Anywhere in central London near an Underground stop is going to be great. We stayed in the South Kensington neighborhood and it was a beautiful area with lots of restaurants and shopping. We absolutely loved our flat – this adorable Airbnb. Sign up with this link and get get $20 in travel credit for your next vacation!

Sites to See: There is so much to do in London… plenty of museums to visit and famous places to see. Here’s what we decided to see:

  • Kensington Palace Gardens – FREE! We did not go inside Kensington Palace, but instead just saw it from the outside and walked through the surrounding gardens and park.  We also enjoyed Afternoon Tea onsite at the Orangery (see under Eat/Drink below).Kensington Palace
  • London Eye – Reserve tickets in advance to skip the long lines and visit at sunset so you see the city both during the daylight and as the city lights begin to turn on.  This was a great experience for our first night to help us get a feel for the layout of the city.  The ride lasts 30 minutes.IMG_7034
  • Big Ben – FREE! Of course you have to see the famous clock tower! Make sure to visit both at night and during the day.
  • Tower of London – Buy your tickets online in advance and pick up from the Group Tickets counter onsite to avoid lines. This palace was the home of many former monarchs and has a rich, dark history (many know it as the site of Anne Boleyn’s beheading).  The Beefeaters (guards officially called Yeoman Warders) guide a FREE tour every hour on the hour leaving from the front gate – I highly recommend taking it to learn some fascinating bits of history.  Don’t miss the Crown Jewel exhibit… you’ll have to wait in line once you get inside the complex, but they are absolutely stunning. It’s also here that you’ll get some fabulous views of old Tower Bridge.
  • Borough Market – Across the London Bridge, you’ll find an outdoor farmer’s market with lots of unique, local foods to eat.
  • IMG_7072Old London – FREE! This area of London was the central town in Shakespeare/Elizabeth I times. Download Rick Steves’ audio guide to walk through the area and learn about the Great Fire, the many churches built afterwards by famous architect Sir Christopher Wren, Fleet Street, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the original Twinnings tea shop and Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub where Charles Dickens and Dr. Johnson wrote and drank.
  • Westminster Walking Tour – We took an awesome walking tour with Free Tours by Foot (the tour is technically free, but they work for tips) of the beautiful Westminster area. We began at Buckingham Palace for the Parade of the Horse Guard and Changing of the Guard.  Seeing these events in this tour saved us tons of time and allowed us to get the best view – we are so glad we didn’t wake up early to spend hours waiting at the gate to watch. We saw St. James Palace (built for Anne Boleyn by Henry VIII), 10 Downing Street, the former location of White Hall Palace, Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament.
  • British Museum – FREE! This beautiful museum is open to the public and displays many historic artifacts.  The museum website has great guides for what to see if you only have an hour, 3 hours or all day at the museum. Highlights for us were the Rosetta Stone, Egyptian mummies, Parthenon sculptures and Assyrian lion hunt reliefs.
  • IMG_7178Windsor Castle – There are so many options for day-trips outside London and I had such hard time choosing… I don’t regret this choice at all! It was easy to get there: train to Windsor/Eaton Central from Paddington Station in London (40 minutes total). When we arrived, it was lunchtime, so we stopped for meat pies & pints at the Duchess of Cambridge pub across the street from the castle. It was not crowded at all this time of year (late March) so we got right in with no lines.  You get a free audio guide to take you through the castle’s main sites: the State Apartments and St. George’s Chapel. The State Apartments are just stunning with medieval knights armor, swords, guns and coats of arms all over. In St. George’s Chapel, you’ll find the burial sites of Charles I, Henry VIII and Jan Seymour. Plus, you are likely to see another Changing of the Guard while you are there.

Where to Eat & Drink:

  • IMG_3815Breakfast: The Muffin Man – This adorable place was just around the corner from our apartment in South Kensington.  We both got pots of tea to drink, then hubby got the full English Breakfast (complete with baked beans) and I chose toasted scones with clotted cream and jam. Everything was delicious and it was a ton of food for super reasonable pricing.
  • IMG_3829Fish & Chips: Rock & Sole Plaice – The oldest place for fish and chips still makes everything according to their original recipe. We chose the cod fish and chips – the regular is a huge serving. The homemade tartar sauce was amazing!
  • Pub Pies & Pints: Barrowboy and Banker Ale and Pie – This old bank building was transformed into a pub and the keep the beer in the old vault and cellars below.  We grabbed a couple of local pints and shared a meat pie for lunch, which was perfectly filling and delicious.
  • IMG_3728Afternoon Tea: Orangery Restaurant at Kensington Palace – This beautiful building is just off the palace gardens and is the perfect setting for Afternoon Tea.  At 27£ per person, it is one of the more reasonable options.  You can add glasses of champagne for an additional cost. The three-tiered tray of food is certainly enough for a meal – we barely finished it between the two of us.  It includes a selection of tea sandwiches (I loved the egg mayonnaise and hubby loved the coronation chicken curry wrap), soft scones with decadent clotted cream and strawberry jam, and several delicious mini desserts on top.  As for teas, the Lady Earl Grey was my favorite!
  • IMG_3811Curry: Dishoom – Our BEST meal of the trip… do not miss this spot!  There are several locations around London and all will have a queue if you arrive after 7, maybe earlier. The drinks (especially the green tea old fashioned) are amazing and the food is unforgettable.  Our server was great in helping guide us through the menu and decide on what to order, so if you’ve never tried Indian food, don’t let it scare you.
  • Cocktails: The Blind Pig in Soho – With a very speakeasy-like entrance (we almost missed it!), this cool bar had some incredible hand-crafted cocktails.

P.S. Looking for more details? I reviewed hotels, restaurants and sites on TripAdvisor here. Or, feel free to email me with questions and for more details at healthyhopefulblog(at)gmail.com.

Vacation to the Amalfi Coast, Italy

Welcome, new blog followers!! I know that many of you discovered my blog through my Instagram photos of our recent trip to Europe… You asked and I’m answering- this post begins a five-part blog series with all the details on our trips to Europe. Healthy & Hopeful is not a travel blog, but I’m a big fan of vacations and the importance of having a work-life balance to reduce stress for better health.

Here’s a quick overview of our two trips and the destinations I’ll be covering. In May 2014, we visited Rome, northern Italy (Tuscany, Cinque Terre, Pisa, Florence, Lucca, Maranello & Venice) and Paris over 16 days with my family. In April 2016, my husband and I visited London, then returned to Italy to the Amalfi Coast and back to Rome over 13 days.

Today, I’m starting by sharing the highlights from our most recent trip to the Amalfi Coast:

Sorrento

Getting There: We flew into Naples, so the easiest way to get to Sorrento was on the Curreri bus – as soon as you walk out of the airport, it’s parked right in front (Curreri is the bus company name – you’ll see a paper sign on the front window). You buy your ticket for 10€ cash right from your driver. The drive was supposed to take an hour, but traffic made it closer to two. The bus will drop you off at the train station in central Sorrento.

Sorrento AirbnbWhere to Stay: From, the train station in Sorrento and walked 10 minutes down the street to our Airbnb (get $20 travel credit here). Our 3rd floor apartment (totally worth the stairs!) for $100/night had a beautiful balcony and view of the hillside and was perfectly located to explore Sorrento. Sorrento is easy to walk around and fairly compact, so as long as you stay near the town center, you’ll find your location convenient. There are several hotels up in the hills that I’m sure have incredible views, but we liked being able to walk everywhere rather than wait for a shuttle.

Where to Eat:

  • Taverna dell’ 800 – We ate a quick lunch here and enjoyed homemade pasta & prosecco for cheap.
  • Gelato @ Raki – I’m not sure why everyone raves about Davide… the service, portions, pricing and taste are all way better at Raki. We loved it!
  • Ristorante ‘O Parrucchiano La Favorita – Breathtaking atmosphere… rooftop Mediterranean garden perfect for a romantic night. The service and food were great too – I highly recommend the Taste of Sorrento pasta IMG_3968dish: homemade gnocchi, ravioli & cannelloni tossed in the local Sorrento tomato sauce.
  • Ristorante Bagni Delfino – This was our favorite meal in Italy… it’s on the Marina Grande, on a pier over the water with a view of Bay of Naples & Mt. Vesuvius. We had the seafood risotto & gnocchi di sorrento- both were huge but we ate the entire plate they were so delicious. Plus, they bring free bruschetta & limoncello. Make reservations!

IMG_7191For Beautiful Views: There are two public parks on the edge of town that are at the top of the cliffs rising above the sea – both provide fantastic views of the Bay of Naples, Mt. Vesuvius and the beaches & piers down below:IMG_3935

  • Piazza della Vittoria – be sure to peak into the colorful, wisteria-framed terrace of the Hotel Bellevue Syrene next to this park.
  • Villa Comunale – on your way in/out, take a peak into the cool, columned garden of the Convento di San Francesco

Shopping in Sorrento: There are SO many small shops throughout Sorrento you can spend hours walking through the narrow streets browsing. My two favorites were:

  • Sapori e Colori Fabbrica di Limoncello – This limoncello production shop will welcome you with tastings of chilled limoncello and an assortment of lemon treats – chocolates and cookies with limoncello filling. We also bought a hand-painted ceramic limoncello cup here to remember Sorrento by.
  • Antica Sartoria – This women’s clothing shop is full of super cute beach wear for reasonable prices. (Quite a contrast to all the other expensive linen shops in town)

Nearby Day Trips: Sorrento is the perfect home base for exploring sites nearby. We took a couple of days to visit the ruins of Pompeii and the island of Capri.

Pompeii

Getting There: The Circumvesuviana train leaves from Sorrento every hour and is a 20-30 ride through the mountain tunnels to the ruins of Pompeii (get off at Pompeii Scavi stop). You can purchase your round-trip ticket at the ticket office at the station and you will likely see the train sitting there waiting for you.

Touring the Ruins: Instead of paying for an audio guide, we downloaded the Rick Steves Pompeii walking tour guide on our phones (you do not have to have service or wifi to listen once you’ve downloaded). His walking tour was great, included a map to help guide you – though you should pick up a free map at the ticket office too – and helped us see just the main sites. The ruins of Pompeii cover a very large area and it would really take days to see all of it. You would waste a lot of time with the self-guided option, seeing things that may not be as remarkable. Rick Steves’ guide included 18 major sites & we walked over to see the Amphitheater (mini Colosseum). We spent around 4 hours there and it was just perfect.

What to Wear: Pompeii is HOT, so dress accordingly. There is little breeze and the ruins attract sunlight & provide little shade. Pompeii was probably 15 degrees warmer than Sorrento. Also, wear tennis shoes. The streets are really rough to walk on and your feet will hurt if you don’t, I promise.

Capri

Getting There: Take a 20-30 minute ferry ride (schedule) to the island from Marina Piccola. You’ll see the ticket office (arrive early to get a spot) or you can book online. I highly recommend leaving by 9 am so you can get there early to begin your day (we slept in and felt rushed all day). To take advantage of a round-trip ticket price, you’ll have to leave the island on the 4 pm ferry.

IMG_7368Exploring the Island: When you arrive, you’ll dock at Marina Grande. As soon as you get there, head over to the Motoscafisti Capri ticket booth and book your boat tour around the island. Choose the 2 hour tour that goes all the way around the island- it’s only a couple more euros and a way better deal than the other two short rides that only go to one main site each.  On your tour of the island, you’ll see several different caves, the ruins of Villa Jovis (home of Emperor Tiberius), and the famous rock formation Faraglioni rocks – and you’ll drive through the arch, kiss & make a wish! The last stop is the Blue Grotto, a beautiful glowing blue cave with a tiny opening… small row boats will come to your boat and you pay them 13€ cash to row you inside for 5 minutes. I didn’t think it would be worth the price but it was truly a once in a lifetime experience!

After our boat tour, we took a very full bus 20 minutes up to the town of Anacapri. We visited Villa San Michele (entry is 7€ cash), a house museum created by the 19th century Swedish writer and physician Axel Munthe.  The villa has the most heavenly gardens and incredible panoramic views of the island.

Capri is expensive, so budget accordingly. We only ate lunch on the island but all the transportation really added up. It was worth it for a day-trip, but we certainly couldn’t have afforded to stay overnight.

Positano

Getting There: We took the SITA bus from Sorrento to Positano – it leaves from the main station and you can buy your ticket directly from the driver. Get there early as the seats will fill up fast.

When we left Positano to go to Rome, we took the ferry from Positano to Salerno (a 70 minute ride). The 5 minute walk from the port to the Salerno train station was easy with luggage and to navigate. You can then take a train to all the major cities in Italy – the trip to Rome only took a little over 2 hours. I highly recommend buying your ticket online in advance to save money.

IMG_4013Where to Stay: We stayed at Hotel Savoia and loved it! We booked on TripAdvisor for a very reasonable price. The hotel is located up on the hill, great for a beautiful view, and a great location, close to both the SITA bus stop and the walkway down to the beach. We booked a Double room with partial sea view – perfect because while you want to see the water, the colorful homes that make up the town are the most beautiful part of Positano. We loved spending evenings on our private balcony drinking vino & playing cards.

What to Do: Positano is known for it’s beaches, so definitely spend some time there. Spaggia Grande is the main, larger beach, but a 10 minute walk along Via dei Positanesi d’America will get you to a smaller, less crowded beach: Spiaggia del Fornillo.  When you’re not at a beach, walk the steps of town browsing ceramic, beachwear and sandal shops. Don’t forget to peak inside the gold-domed church – Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta.

IMG_7434

IMG_4086Where to Eat:

  • Ristorante Max – art gallery + wine bar… they have a beautiful terrace, great service and incredible food. Get the fresh fish of the day!
  • CHEZ BLACK – This place is right on the beach, so it’s a bit pricey, but we enjoyed our meal and view there. Since we went right at the start of the season (early April), it was one of the few places open.
  • Vini é Panini (The Wine Shop) – Get sandwiches (ask for proscuitto & mozzarella), prosecco & fresh fruit for a picnic on the beach or on your hotel balcony on a rainy night. Note: this does not show up on Google maps, so to find it, IMG_4021go to the church and face away from it – it is just down the steps to the right.
  • Lemon Granita Stand – The best local granitas were from this small stand that opens in the afternoon near the corner of Via dei Mulini and Via Cristoforo Colombo next door to Antica Sartoria.

Day Trips Nearby: Positano was our favorite town on the Amalfi Coast, and I am so glad we chose it as a base to explore the area from. We took a couple of days and explored nearby Amalfi and Ravello.

Amalfi

You can take a SITA bus (ride could be up to 1 hour, arrive early at the stop for a spot) or a ferry (20 minute ride). Either option will drop you off just a block away from the main piazza.IMG_7532

When we arrived in Amalfi, we walked to the piazza and climbed the stairs up to the massive Duomo – apparently where the apostle Andrew is buried. The inside is just beautiful! We spent the rest of our day touring a lemon farm, tasting limoncello and taking a cooking class with the Amalfi Lemon Experience – read all about that incredible experience here.

Ravello

Take the SITA bus (20 minute ride) up to Ravello from Amalfi. You can buy your ticket from the Tabbachi shop across from the bus stop. Ravello is a small town up high on the mountain with beautiful views. There are two main Villas where you can enjoy panoramic views of the coast:

  • Villa Cimbrone – at the far edge of town… we walked all the way there to find out they were closed for movie filming. womp womp.
  • Villa Rufolo – when you enter town through the tunnel, on your left. It’s an ancient villa with beautiful gardens and views. We were not disappointed.

IMG_1748

IMG_1746Eat lunch at family-run Cumpa Cosimo for a delicious meal and friendly service. The fresh mushroom fettuccine was one of my favorite meals of the trip. Plus, they provided complimentary bruschetta and chocolate cream profiterole for dessert. Longhorn fans – look for the Bevo!

We spent about 3 hours in Ravello; it’s a perfect morning or afternoon trip, leaving the rest of your day to enjoy the beach.

The Amalfi Coast was absolutely stunning and one of the favorite places we’ve visited in Italy – it’s absolutely a destination to add to your bucket list!

What destination should I cover next?

P.S. Looking for more details? I reviewed hotels, restaurants and sites on TripAdvisor here. Or, feel free to email me with questions and for more details at healthyhopefulblog(at)gmail.com.