Monday, December 8, 2014

Destinations: Charlottesville, VA

Destinations: Charlottesville, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

I wish I had had more time in Charlottesville. The few days that I spent in Virginia were mostly packed with back-to-back site visits of destination wedding venues. That's what most people don't tell you about travel writing - when you're on assignment, you're lucky to spend an hour in any one place.

In fact, you're often rushing from appointment to appointment, connecting with and interviewing sources, snapping photos for reference, burying your head in a notebook, trying to write down all of the things that you'll need to remember for that article that's due next week, next month, maybe a year from now. It's a lot of fun, but it's no vacation.

Travel writing is my job, but it's also something that I love to do. So, I've decided to try and slow down on my trips and take the time to really enjoy a moment when it draws me in. In Charlottesville, that moment was the two hours (!!!) we spent at Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards. After a lunch of cheese, brick-oven pizza and an arugula salad (for good measure), we took advantage of the free picnic blankets they hand out to guests and sat down with our bottle to take in the rolling hills of fall foliage.

Destinations: Charlottesville, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Destinations: Charlottesville, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

How do I describe the vibe at Pippin Hill? I'm not even sure...it just...was. It was busy enough to have a good flow, but not too busy to where you couldn't find your own plot of grass on the lawn. There were couples, groups of friends, families with infants flailing about happily in their Baby Bjorns. There was a carefree Saturday afternoon buzz in the air. Staff was friendly; not for the tips, but because they just are friendly in Virginia. It was perfect.

Pippin Hill is owned by a husband and wife team. He's got a background in advertising and she's a local weddings expert. It makes total sense. They've nailed it as far as hospitality goes...and it's not all about the superficial. Pippin Hill is absolutely beautiful, yes, but the food is also delicious and the wine is great.

Destinations: Charlottesville, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Destinations: Charlottesville, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Destinations: Charlottesville, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Destinations: Charlottesville, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Destinations: Charlottesville, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

While in Charlottesville, we stayed at The Boar's Head Inn, another place I would have loved to spend more time. It's charming, comfortable and very low-key - the kind of inn where guests congregate in the living room for coffee every morning and tea and pastries every afternoon. Our room was cozy but also very modern and it looked out onto the lake.

We woke up early one morning to take a walk around the property and ended up chatting with a couple who's daughter is going to college here in New York City. They were both UVA alums, in town for the big homecoming game that weekend, and en route to catch a party bus that was taking them to the stadium. They almost missed it because they were giving me their recommendations on other beautiful wedding venues to check out for my story. This is Virginia, friends.

Destinations: Charlottesville, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Destinations: Charlottesville, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

I also wanted to mention - on our ride up to Charlottesville from Richmond, we made a stop at Tuckahoe Plantation (pictured up top). It's Thomas Jefferson's childhood home. Now, the family that lives in the house rents the outdoor spaces for weddings and special events. The Southwestern girl in me still can't believe places like this exist...

PHOTOS BY: Stjepan Alaupovic
MORE INFO: Virginia Is For Lovers
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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Photo Tour: Richmond, VA

Photo Tour: Richmond, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

On a trip to Virginia in October, I spent a few days in Richmond. Most of the time was reserved for touring the city's weddings venues as part of research for a story, but I did manage to sneak in a few nerdy-fun history stops, The Virginia State Capitol being one of them (where a lot of movies have been shot, including Lincoln...they used it as The White House).

I hopped on a Segway to tour the city's other historical landmarks and of course made sure to try out some of Richmond's best restaurants. My favorite was Comfort, where Chef Travis Milton's Appalachian family recipes take center stage. During a site tour at Maymont, a preserved 1800s mansion with vast lawns and beautiful views, I spotted one of the coolest and most ornate beds (IT'S A SWAN!) I've ever seen.

Fall was in full swing during my visit and I'll never forget the colors that I saw peeping out around the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.

Photo Tour: Richmond, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Richmond, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Richmond, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Richmond, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Richmond, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Richmond, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Richmond, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

PHOTOS BY: Stjepan Alaupovic
MORE INFO: Virginia Is For Lovers

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Photo Tour: Riviera Nayarit

Photo Tour: Riviera Nayarit - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Somehow it's already Dec. 4. I say this every time, but I really don't know where this year has gone! Is it possible to ever get to a place where "busy" isn't the first adjective you use to describe life? I really freaking hope so. I need to stop saying "Oh, good, busy..." in response to "How are you?" Maybe that will be a New Year's resolution. Add it to the list!

Any way, it's been a year of very happy travels. One trip I never got the chance to share on my blog, but wrote about for Destination Weddings & Honeymoons, is Mexico's Riviera Nayarit. I can't say enough how much I loved my time here. It's a beautiful region with some of the most delicious food I've ever had.

I stayed a couple of nights at the St. Regis Punta Mita, where the design and architecture were great, but also where I spent most of my time at the pool or at the Mita Mary food boat...fresh seafood caught from off the shores and then served up just minutes later. I also caught the staff setting up for a beach dinner reception just before sunset.

Even though I would have been perfectly happy with my beach --> pool --> Mita Mary food boat routine for those few days, I did make it a point to venture off into Nayarit's charming towns: the laid back, surf-town happiness of Sayulita (choco-banana!), charming Bucerias (tuna tartare on the beach at El Brujo), and artsy San Pancho (where I didn't get a pic, but lunch at Don Pedros is a must).

Enjoy the pics, friends.

Photo Tour: Riviera Nayarit - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Riviera Nayarit - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Riviera Nayarit - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Riviera Nayarit - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Riviera Nayarit - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Riviera Nayarit - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Riviera Nayarit - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Riviera Nayarit - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Riviera Nayarit - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

PHOTOS BY: Me!
MORE INFO: Riviera Nayarit

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Photo Tour: Oahu's North Shore

Photo Tour: Oahu's North Shore - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

During my stay at Disney Aulani Resort & Spa, I did venture off property one day for a few delicious hours on Oahu's North Shore. The group and I made a stop to visit some sea turtles, hiked to Pu'u o Mahuka Heiau historic site for scenic views, and then went to Haleiwa for much-needed Matsumoto shave ice and, of course, a stop at the Leonard's Bakery truck (in the K-Mart parking lot!) for some pillowy malasadas, aka Portuguese donuts. (These.)

Photo Tour: Oahu's North Shore - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Oahu's North Shore - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Oahu's North Shore - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Oahu's North Shore - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

PHOTOS BY: Me!
MORE INFO: North Shore

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Where to Stay in Oahu: Disney Aulani Resort & Spa

Where to Stay in Oahu: Disney Aulani Resort & Spa - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Going to a Disney resort for a spa retreat may not seem like an obvious choice, but the Mouse House is working hard to change that perception. This past spring, I visited Disney Aulani Resort on Oahu to check out and report on its relaxation offerings. The idea is to make spa and fitness a family affair, but trust me when I say that you can easily escape to Laniwai and feel worlds away from screaming kiddos (yours or anyone's).

In fact, at no point in my visit did I feel overrun by children or "Disney," for that matter. I think the resort is beautifully designed...definitely an island vibe, but it doesn't feel kitschy. You can have the full Disney experience if that's what you want - there's a "character breakfast" every morning where Mickey and gang hang - but, in general, Disney Aulani is just a really nice resort. So many places for adults to escape for some quiet time.

It was my first time experiencing the hospitality machine that is Disney...everything that you've heard is true. I had a nightmare of a flight from the East Coast and my travel day ended up being 19+ hours. By the time I finally got to Aulani at about 1 a.m. local time, the overnight concierge, somehow aware of the day's flying mishaps, whisked me right past front desk check-in straight to my room...which was dimly lit and quiet, and obviously prepped for a weary traveler who was ready to crash in a big, comfy bed.

Where to Stay in Oahu: Disney Aulani Resort & Spa - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Where to Stay in Oahu: Disney Aulani Resort & Spa - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Where to Stay in Oahu: Disney Aulani Resort & Spa - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Where to Stay in Oahu: Disney Aulani Resort & Spa - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Throughout the rest of my stay, resort employees I came across at the restaurant, on a property tour, and in the spa would greet me with things like, "We're so glad you finally made it after that flight!" and "I hope you were able to get some rest...heard you had a long trip!"

Let me just say that this subtle, but super-effective, level of hospitality doesn't happen without a very organized workflow and careful attention to detail. It makes a big, big difference in a guest's world.

Even with travel delays, I managed to fit in a couple of quiet hours on the beach the next day before the rest of my group got in. Aulani's beach is a quiet cove, lined by a scenic path that's connected to a handful of other resorts in the area. It makes for a really fantastic morning walk. (Two of my favorite snaps from this walk below.)

Where to Stay in Oahu: Disney Aulani Resort & Spa - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Where to Stay in Oahu: Disney Aulani Resort & Spa - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

ANY WAY: The spa! "Laniwai" translates to "freshwater heaven," so naturally there's a big h2o theme. You'll find an outdoor hydrotherapy garden - adults only - where you can dip in and out of vitality pools, minerals baths and rain showers. (Side note: It's also a perfect place to enjoy lunch and maybe even some champagne...OK, definitely champagne.)

You can also book a private 30-minute vitality bath, which includes a personalized DIY body scrub and colorful salts purposely chosen to aid whatever is ailing you. (Jet lag, maybe?) I had a traditional Lomi Lomi Hawaiian massage and a custom facial. What I really like about Laniwai is that the treatments feel like a treat, but they're also designed to be effective. There are no over the top, weird ingredients for the sake of attention...just really good, trusted products and results-oriented techniques and ingredients.

That being said, it's definitely a destination spa. Between your appointments, the outdoor hydrotherapy garden, a really nice salon, delicious lunch and wine, and an all-around calm setting...you could spend an entire day here. Some treatments are pricey, even by Hawaiian resort standards, but you really do feel like you're experiencing a special escape that you won't find elsewhere.

Where to Stay in Oahu: Disney Aulani Resort & Spa - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Where to Stay in Oahu: Disney Aulani Resort & Spa - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Where to Stay in Oahu: Disney Aulani Resort & Spa - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Where to Stay in Oahu: Disney Aulani Resort & Spa - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

For families, there's The 'Ohana treatment, which is designed for 3 to 6 people and includes a Lomi Lomi massage for all in a private room with its own garden patio. There's also the Painted Sky Teen Spa where kids can get facials, manis and pedis, and dig into some frozen yogurt while mixing up their own scrubs and face masks at a hands-on station. Think of Painted Sky as more of a relaxing teen hangout where they can kick back in their beach gear and "chill" with their friends. (By the way: LUCKY KIDS!)

If you visit Disney Aulani, the early wake-up call for beach yoga is totally worth it. Just get your butt in gear - you'll be happy you did, I promise!

After a few days of surprising quiet and grown-ups only fun, I had to give in to my inner child and take a few photo opps with everyone's favorite power couple. It's their vacation home, after all! What kind of a guest would I be if I didn't say hello?

Where to Stay in Oahu: Disney Aulani Resort & Spa - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Where to Stay in Oahu: Disney Aulani Resort & Spa - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

PHOTOS BY: Me!
MORE INFO: Disney Aulani

Friday, October 24, 2014

Photo Tour: Visiting MacKenzie-Childs in Aurora, N.Y.

Photo Tour: Visiting MacKenzie-Childs in Aurora, N.Y. - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Even if you've never heard of the name MacKenzie-Childs, you'd probably be able to recognize some of the brand's bold patterned pottery, especially if you're fond of certain E! and Bravo reality shows. Pieces are handmade in Aurora on a sprawling 65-acre estate, which was once a dairy farm. You can shop the store, stroll some beautiful gardens and even tour the family's old farmhouse.

MacKenzie-Childs isn't exactly my personal style, but I still appreciate the craftsmanship. And, as a person who also appreciates design...and, well, pretty things...I really loved touring the grounds and getting a peek into the farmhouse. Photo opps everywhere! I'd definitely recommend a visit if you're in the Finger Lakes area. It's a fun detour.

Photo Tour: Visiting MacKenzie-Childs in Aurora, N.Y. - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Visiting MacKenzie-Childs in Aurora, N.Y. - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Visiting MacKenzie-Childs in Aurora, N.Y. - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Visiting MacKenzie-Childs in Aurora, N.Y. - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Visiting MacKenzie-Childs in Aurora, N.Y. - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Visiting MacKenzie-Childs in Aurora, N.Y. - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Visiting MacKenzie-Childs in Aurora, N.Y. - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Visiting MacKenzie-Childs in Aurora, N.Y. - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

PHOTOS BY: Stjepan Alaupovic
MORE INFO: MacKenzie-Childs