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Perivolas Hotel Santorini, Greece

Ever since I saw Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants in high school, I’ve dreamed of visiting the picturesque Greek town of Oia on the island of Santorini. In the movie, Lena spends her time sketching on a dock by the sea, exploring winding white alleys, and finding love. It’s nothing short of magical.

Part of my dream of visiting Oia included staying in a traditional cave, so we chose to spend our time at the luxurious Perivolas. The hotel is known for stunning views, an incredible infinity pool, and cave rooms carved into the volcanic rock. We were looking for amazing, and we found it.

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The resort is only a 10 minute stroll to Oia, the main tourist destination on Santorini. You can easily walk into town for dinner or shopping, which we did at least once a day. Even though we aren’t pool people, we spent the rest of our time (a solid three days) lounging by their world-class infinity pool. The pool is the focal point of the resort, which is perched on a cliff with breathtaking views of the caldera. You can see miles of ocean and unique geological formations while watching boats come and go from the island. It’s very quiet and very peaceful. Every evening but one, we sat by the pool with a cocktail and watched the famous Santorini sunsets. Most people flock to Oia for the iconic photos, which we definitely did one night, but there are so many people you literally can’t walk down the streets. We found it much more enjoyable to sit back and enjoy the sunset at Perivolas.

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As I mentioned before, one of the main reasons we chose to spend our precious time at Perivolas was because of their incredible cave style rooms. The suites are all white caves with stone walls and vaulted, arched ceilings. Each suite looks like it could be a spa – tranquil, modern, luxurious. One of the suites even has a swimming pool that looks like a river running through it! The suites are decorated with oversized cushions and bright, hand-woven rugs. The beds are tucked into alcoves, which makes the room feel more cave-like. Perhaps one of my favorite parts of the suites is that Perivolas chose to exclude TVs from the entire resort. This is intentional, so guests can fully experience the gorgeous island, which we definitely did. When we arrived to our suite, we were greeted with fresh hand-picked flowers and a traditional Greek dessert wine. Our bed was super comfortable, the jacuzzi bath tub was relaxing, and the complimentary Nespresso was a perfect pick-me-up each morning.

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Perivolas offers a great breakfast spread, included in the room rate. There is a wide variety of salads, cheeses, breakfast pastries, and fruit. You can order a custom omelette, french toast, and all kinds of breakfast entrees, along with smoothies, juice blends, and specialty coffee drinks. It’s one of the best hotel breakfast offerings I’ve ever seen. We also had a moonlit dinner by the pool of lemon braised lamb and sea bass fillet from their contemporary Greek menu, complete with a specialty Perivolas Sunset cocktail. Be sure check out their extensive cocktail menu.

Every aspect of the resort is impressive and luxurious. Perivolas one of my favorite places I’ve ever stayed. It lived up to my high school dreams of staying in a romantic Grecian cave with views of the blue Aegean. Hopefully I’ll get to return to this dreamy place again some day!

Learn More: Here

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How to Shoot Travel Photography

I remember the very first trip Sarah and I had ever taken. We went to Paris, for our honeymoon. We were newlyweds and ready to take the world by storm. Our camera of choice was a tiny Canon Rebel with the standard kit lens. It wasn’t fancy, but for us it was the ticket to a lifetime of memories captured.

Like most things, the more you travel the better you get at it. You learn how to navigate a new city, how to find good food and (most importantly!) how to hone your photo editing process. When I went back to look at all of the “amazing” pictures I had taken on that first trip, I was really disappointed. Sure, I was hitting the shutter button a lot, but I wasn’t being very intentional with each shot. The camera acted as an extension of my face rather than a useful tool to collect great content.

It was at that point I decided it was important for me to learn how to take better photos. Here are a few tips I learned over the years. They’ve helped me tremendously, and I hope they help you too!

Where + When

So much of taking good photos while traveling has to do with where and when you take the photos. Before we go anywhere, we look up exactly what we want to shoot (but always keep an eye out for those spontaneous shots!). If you know the general region, we suggest just typing it into Google image search. If you know specifics, you can use apps like Instagram or VSCO’s search tool to really get an idea of great photo locations.

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We used both Instagram and VSCO’s search tools throughout a recent Thailand trip to find places we wanted to photograph, while also giving ourselves the freedom to wander around, discovering new places. This balance of research and wanderlust are what we love about travel photography and help us to always make the most of our time in a new place. The images we return home with have become proof of a trip well spent! When you’re in a new place, figuring out what to photograph can be overwhelming. Everything is a new sensation and new experience, so you want to document it all. Finding your personal passions will help to hone in on what you really want to focus on. Personally, we love photos that highlight the simplicity of nature. The world is so chaotic and busy that finding an area of serenity that exists naturally is so beautiful and appealing, but also reflective of the city we’re in. It’s one of the reasons we travel!

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Timing is also HUGE.

Some of our best photos were taken during what’s called “The Golden Hour.” Basically it’s anytime the sun is at the horizon (sunrise/sunset). Setting the alarm clock to be up before sunrise is so painful but also so worth it. This is the time of day when the lighting produces the richest colors and most even lighting. You get some warm, creamy highlights and the deep blues that start to set in with the evening.

You’ll want to capture these colors naturally, but editing in Adobe Lightroom will also help enhance and pull the richness of those colors out of the image. I dive more into some Lightroom editing basics later in this post to help you really capture your travels. However, when working with images captured during Golden Hour, we like to use the Color Selection tool in Lightroom. It allows you to individually adjust the hue, saturation and luminance of a specific color. See below.

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If you’re unable to capture the perfect shot during Golden Hour, don’t fret. During the day, we try to take photos in the shade or with overcast skies to avoid harsh contrasts between sunlight and shadows. This makes a world of difference in the editing process because you’re working with even tones across the image. It allows you to adjust the entire image without destroying the highlights or lowlights.

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Gear Selection

Most often we shoot with our Canon 5d Mark III. It’s a fantastic camera and really meets the needs of what we’re going for. We love the full sized sensor, tons of AF points and video features. With that, we will often shoot with Canon’s 24-70mm LII lens. In a perfect world, we’d all shoot with specific prime lenses for every scenario, but we’ve found that the 24-70 provides incredible sharpness and versatility. The marginal gains that we’d get from swapping out prime lenses hasn’t outweighed the cost to purchase them, especially when you can achieve a lot of those added features in Adobe Lightroom. Specifically, using the Lens Correction tool, you can remove chromatic aberration, lens distortion and lens vignetting. Adobe Lightroom also has camera profiles baked into the software that “fix” common lens distortions associated with specific lenses. It’s a very neat feature and one that will help you achieve those marginal improvements that prime lenses typically offer.

It’s also worth noting that we like to shoot everything in RAW so we have more flexibility in the editing process. Keep following along for a deeper exploration of how we edit!

Publishing + Editing

After you’ve taken all of these amazing photos, getting them published to your platforms is the next step. As mentioned, our primary camera is a Canon 5d Mk III, which hasn’t always played nicely with platforms like Instagram, but now it is easier than ever. We use an Apple Lightning to USB Camera Adapter to import our photos to our phones on the go and have never looked back! When we get back to the hotel, we also back them up on our laptop and sync across our Adobe platforms (when there’s wifi!).

One of our biggest creative influences has been the film emulation products created by VSCO. They sell presets for Adobe Lightroom that mimic film photography and really bring a creative approach to digital editing. Once you download a VSCO preset, install it to Adobe Lightroom and have fun! We try to use them as a starting point for our creativity. Every image is different (lighting/composition/tones), which means that there is no perfect VSCO preset to make your photos instantly look incredible. All of them should be viewed as a jumping off point to set the direction you want the photo to go, and then you can perfect the image with Adobe Lightroom’s potent adjustment tools.

Some of our favorite VSCO presets for Adobe Lightroom are TRI-X and Kodak Portra 800 (Film 01 pack), 400H+1 and Kodak Portra 160 +1 (Film 06 pack), and Agfa Portrait XPS 160, Ilford Pan F 50, and Kodak Ektar 25 (Film 07 pack).

Behind the Scenes

For those of you with Adobe Lightroom, you’ll definitely want to follow along here – for those of you without, what are you waiting for? We’ve put together this little tutorial to show you how we edit and some of the tools we use most often. Here is a before and after photo of a beautiful rolling hillside in South Dakota. Hopefully some of these adjustments will give you an idea of how to achieve a similar look with your own travels!
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One of our favorite things to do is to enhance the greenery in photos. We do this in several ways, but it always starts with the Color sliders in your toolbar. We typically start with adjusting the greens, but where we are determines how we adjust them. In this particular photo, we want the field to have a blueish hue to the grass. So we select the green color, move the hue towards the right which changes our grass to a bluer cooler. In general, the hue slider will move a color up or down the color spectrum (ROYGBIV). Blue, for example, can be made to look more like an indigo/violet if you move it to the right, or a greenish-yellow if you move it to the left.

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You can see the exact adjustment made here.

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The photo below is a screen shot of all of the adjustments made in the Color toolbar for this photo. The most dramatic adjustments were made to the warm colors in the photo. These adjustments allowed me to really draw out the colors in the sunset. Given we shoot everything in RAW, we retain more of the color data and therefore have greater flexibility in the editing process.

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We also like to use the Graduated Filter to enhance large sections of a photo. For the following photo in particular, we used it to pull out some of the detail in the clouds by increasing the clarity. We also wanted to make the sky appear a little bluer and achieved that by making the shadows darker and increasing the saturation. You can see the affected areas here in the pink tint. The Graduated Filter can also be used on the bottom of an image to create a base, giving the image a sense of balance and stability.

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These are just a few ideas on how to get started. Some other links that I’ve found particularly useful can be found here.

*This post has been written in partnership with Adobe

Alma Restaurant at Casa San Agustin – Cartagena, Colombia

Casa San Agustin is a world class luxury boutique hotel sitting in the heart of Cartagena’s enchanting Old Walled City. It is the epitome of romance and old world charm mixed with the lively culture and history of Cartagena. We spent some time there and loved every minute of it. Their hospitality is excellent, the property is stunning, and the dining is unforgettable! I can’t say enough good things about the hotel. It is by far the best hotel in Cartagena and worth a visit.

Whether you stay there or not, you should experience their mixologists and exquisite dining at Alma Restaurant, under the direction of Executive Chef Heberto Eljach. We had one of the best meals we’ve ever had abroad at Alma. There is a variety of seating areas, from their beautiful open air courtyard accompanied by tropical foliage to their indoor rooms, filled with rich leather furniture and rustic tables. The bar area is swanky and understandably gets quite busy at night.

To start with, Jonathan tried a Caipirinha, his South American favorite, and I had a fancy gin and tonic made with 24 year old gin. Alma is well known for its craft cocktails. We spoke with the bartenders, and they truly are passionate about creating unique and tasty drinks.

Following cocktails, we tried two cold appetizers. One was a burrata di bufala (buffalo cheese) surrounded by a nest of tomatoes, lettuce, tomato chutney, pesto, and balsamic vinegar. It was a more advanced version of a caprese salad and tasted better too. Our other appetizer was a unique ceviche with a Cartagena twist. It featured shrimp in a Kola Roman sauce and double fried plantains, which really are twice as crispy and delicious as regular fried plantains. Kola Roman is a red soda made famous in Cartagena in the 1800s, and it reminds me of Big Red if you haven’t had a chance to try it for yourself. The shrimp ceviche paired with the soda-based sauce was a unique and tasty twist on regular ceviche.

Now on to the mains, where I had the best soup of my life. Alma makes a Cartagena style seafood chowder that is to die for. Name a seafood, and it’s in this dish. It’s made with lobster, shrimp, squid, octopus, prawns and mussels, all in a lobster bisque made with coconut milk and served over coconut rice. This is something you must try if you are in Cartagena. Do not leave the city without trying it. I mean it! The other main course we tried gets five stars for presentation. It was a red snapper cooked with onions and tomatoes, all wrapped in a palm leaf. Delicious!

Did we try dessert? Of course we did. Something is wrong with us if we don’t get dessert. We tasted coconut lemon sorbet, coconut pie, ghost berries with shimmery gold dust, and a meringue with ice cream. They topped the meal off in a sweet, refreshing, and very Colombian way.

Overall, we give Casa San Agustin and Alma a solid five star review for creating a luxurious ambiance, amazing food, and excellent hospitality. This hotel is a must-see while in Cartagena and a perfect combination of romance and culture!

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Perini Ranch Steakhouse

You know you’re good when you invent a new genre of food. That new genre, thanks to Tom Perini, has become known as “cowboy gourmet”. We recently travelled to the legendary Perini Ranch Steakhouse to delight our tastebuds and overwhelm our senses with the infamous steak that has fed presidents and heads of state since 1983. Arriving at the ranch involves driving across a cattle guard, down a dirt path, passed the iron armadillo and parking underneath Mequite trees. Stepping inside the building is like stepping inside of an old bunk house from the 1800s. Everything is weathered the natural way. This is no ordinary steakhouse.

We started with the jalapeño poppers, a bacon wrapped slice of jalapeño filled with cream cheese. The steaks, however, are the main attraction. There isn’t a bad one on the list. You’ll pay top dollar for a filet, but it’s worth every penny. The peppered strip is highly touted and as delicious as it is plentiful. Good luck finishing the whole thing. Wash it down with a Texas-brewed Shiner Bock and maybe some jalapeño cheesecake or bread pudding for dessert. You can’t go wrong!

Tom Perini’s love for ranch life began as a young boy, growing up and working on his family’s ranch. In 1973 he turned that passion into a career and has since become America’s quintessential cowboy gourmet. After perfecting the traditional cowboy cuisine and creating a few recipes of his own, Perini moved from the back of the chuck wagon into his own restaurant on the family’s working ranch. Since 1983, Perini Ranch Steakhouse has served as home to the best chuck wagon style food in America. Perini Ranch Steakhouse is proudly located on the Perini Ranch in Buffalo Gap, Texas (population 463).

Learn More: Here

Hiking Masada at Sunrise

Hiking Masada at sunrise was totally worth it, and I recommend it to everyone who asks. Later in the day, you can take the cable car if you don’t want to spend 45+ minutes with aching calves. It will be far less rewarding, though, and you’ll miss the beautiful sunrise over the Dead Sea. At the top, you can see to see the beautiful, rugged mountain landscape of the Israeli desert for miles. You can explore the ancient fortress and learn about the history that took place there. The ruins still define rooms, palaces, and churches atop the towering mesa.

Sunrise is usually anywhere from 5:30-6:45 am depending on the time of year, so plan to get up early! We woke up at 3:45 and were staying less than 15 minutes away. Plan for 1.5 hours to check in, get a map, and hike to the top. Then plan for another hour at the top marveling at the sunrise, taking pictures, and wandering around. The trail up is called the Snake Path because of its windy twists and turns. There is railing and stairs on much of it, but be prepared for about an hour of steep walking and stairs. Of course, after that, the journey down is a breeze!

Learn More: Here

The Dead Sea

Floating in the Dead Sea is a bucket list-worthy item for sure. Resting in the Judean Desert, it’s the lowest point on Earth and also the saltiest body of water. Ten times saltier than the ocean, no macro organisms can survive in it, hence the name. People have been visiting the desert oasis for thousands of years to float, use the spa-quality mud, or just marvel at its beauty.

Over the last 50 years, the water level has decreased so much that the one Dead Sea is now in two main sections. People travel from all over the world to bathe in the mineral-rich muddy waters found in the larger northern basin, while we floated in the crystal clear turquoise waters of the smaller southern basin. Bring a newspaper to get the iconic Dead Sea photo, and enjoy yourself!

A few tips:

  • Don’t shave for several days before getting in the extreme saline water. I cannot emphasize this!
  • Bring a swimsuit you don’t mind getting messy. The mud and salty water can stain it.
  • Be extra careful not to get any water in your mouth and eyes.
  • It’s only recommended to stay in for about 20 minutes.
  • Rinse off at a beach shower immediately afterward.

While you’re in the Dead Sea area, you should also:

  • Visit the Ein Gedi desert oasis and nature reserve
  • Hike the mountain fortress of Masada
  • Get a massage at a nearby spa – there are lots of them!

 

Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe

We love to ski and will go any chance we get. We’ve been to a lot of mountains throughout Colorado and New Mexico, but one of our favorites is Ski Santa Fe in New Mexico. We went there again this year and fell in love with the Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado in Santa Fe. From soaring mountain views, to fresh produce grown on site used by the chef, Rancho Encantado is one of the most exclusive and rejuvenating resorts you can find.

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Centara Rooftop Bar & Restaurant

We love eating, and we love seeing new places (what this entire blog is about). Bangkok is such a great city to do both of those things at a rooftop restaurant or bar. The weather is warm year-round, so it’s a perfect city to explore from above while enjoying cocktails and tasty cuisine.

Naturally, we wanted to partake in the trendy rooftop scene, so we spent a fun evening at Centara Watergate Pavillion. They actually have two rooftop hangouts. One is a restaurant called Chili Hip that features Thai cuisine and other Asian delicacies. The other is a modern bar called Walk that serves craft cocktails and specialty snacks.

At Chili Hip, we tried a variety of dishes like roasted lamb, red curry chicken, and chocolate ganache cake for dessert. They have a specialty cocktail made with vodka that has an actual chili pepper in it. It’s one of the bravest/coolest looking drinks I’ve ever had! The entire restaurant is trendy and romantic without being ultra cheesy. 

At Walk, there is modern furniture, glowing lights, and a giant screen featuring models on a catwalk. Basically, it felt like we were at a fashion show after-party, not that I know what that actually feels like, but a girl can dream. The bar alone is edgy and posh, and the rooftop aspect and beautiful views of the city make for an incredible night out. 

To best enjoy stunning views of Bangkok, we recommend getting to Centara near dusk because the lighting is phenomenal for photography, and then continue to enjoy the mesmerizing city at nighttime. Start at Chili Hip for tasty fusion cuisine and then make your way up the stairs to Walk for a more upbeat cap to your evening. Check out the pictures from our experience!

Koh Phi Phi Leh

One of the most beautiful parts of Thailand is a group of islands called the Phi Phi Islands, where we were fortunate enough to stay at Outrigger Phi Phi Island Resort & Spa. The nearby island that has become world famous after the filming of The Beach is called Koh Phi Phi Leh and is an uninhabited national park. The island is just spectacular, with giant limestone cliffs rising over mesmerizing jewel tone waters.

We went on the Early Bird Trip with our resort to avoid the swarms of tourists that come from Phuket and Krabi around midday, and we loved it. There was only one other small boat of people, so we practically had the entire place to ourselves. We were never rushed and had plenty of time to enjoy the jaw-dropping natural beauty. We visited Maya Bay, Loh Samah Bay, and Viking Cave, famous for the bird’s nest that is used in Chinese bird’s nest soup. We also went snorkeling several times throughout the trip. It was the best snorkeling I’ve ever experienced. The fish are bright and beautiful, with many different varieties living among the coral reefs around the island. The water surrounding this incredible archipelago is the most gorgeous blue-green water I’ve ever seen, quite unforgettable. The pictures do not do the island justice!