Transportation

Organizing a Kick-*ss Bachelorette Party

Last month, my best college girls and I were draped over the furniture in a hotel suite in Austin, primping, drinking champagne, and roasting each other about our considerably more messy college selves.

At one point, one of the girls asked the room at large, “Did anyone think Lucy would be the responsible one planning all our bachelorette parties??”

The answer was a resounding “NO!” and gales of laughter!

You guys, they’re not wrong. I have, ahem, grown up a lot over the last fifteen or so years. I still put my foot in my mouth more often than I would like, but I have learned through trial and error how to manage some of the more important things in life.

One of those things is being there for your nearest and dearest at the most important times in their lives. I’m now in the middle of maid of honor duties for the third time, and was also delegated the bachelorette party planning role when I was a regular bridesmaid in a fourth wedding. It's a serious honor (and responsibility) to be in charge of this kind of occasion, and can be stressful because bachelorette parties get wrapped up in the whole wedding industrial complex.

And as with all things wedding industrial complex, there are a ton of tips on the internet about how to throw a bachelorette party. So instead, I wanted to share with you the less obvious ways you can make the event a source of treasured memories instead of drama.

1) Your bride is all that matters.

Ask her what she wants, and LISTEN. One of my best friends wanted a night out on the town with pink and sparkles, another a chance to relax somewhere quiet for a weekend. Just as there are a million types of weddings, there are a million types of bachelorette parties. Resist the temptation to copy curated parties on Pinterest and instead plan something that truly fits your dear friend.

This is the more, ahem, photogenic part of the bachelorette stash.

This is the more, ahem, photogenic part of the bachelorette stash.

This goes double for bachelorette… paraphernalia. I have a stash of funny stuff I bring to each party, but every bride should be able to decide for herself exactly how much attention she wants to attract and how risqué she wants to be. I have pictures of one girl carrying a large inflatable “item” into a restaurant, and another didn’t wear her sash or beads outside the hotel room. If it’s all in the name of fun, then it doesn’t matter!

2) Be very transparent about costs with the guests - and don't bother your bride.

This means involving all the guests in the planning process before you make reservations so that you can make sure everyone is comfortable. It also means that if you find the budget too restrictive for your party goals, your only option is to cover the balance yourself and do so quietly and graciously. No bride wants to feel like she's causing her best friends stress and anguish! On more than one occasion, I have used my own airline miles to make sure a treasured member of the wedding party can make it to a destination bachelorette. I’ve also covered activities the bride was stoked about but others wouldn’t have chosen on their own. 

If you can swing it, I also recommend putting everything on one person’s credit card and privately giving each guest a clean total after the party is over. When you remove the feeling of nickel and dime-ing during the party itself, you make the whole thing feel more seamless. This may mean extra work on your end, but it’s worth it. 

3) Restrict your geographic area during the party.

When doing a destination bachelorette, I either like to keep all activities on property or within walking/short Uber distance. The reason? A weekend is actually very limited time to spend with people you may not see very often, and what you really want to focus on is maximizing the quality time you all spend together. Of each bachelorette party I’ve planned, some of the most memorable time has been when we’re all getting ready together in a hotel room, or just chilling out by a pool. Time spent in transit, and all the stress that causes, just saps the energy from your good time.

4) Give your schedule plenty of breathing room.

For a weekend bachelorette, I like to have dinner reservations for both nights, a general post-dinner plan for Friday night and definitive reservations for Saturday night, and one daytime activity on Saturday. Anything more, and you’re going to be forcing crabby, hungover girls to get up too early or stressing everyone out with trying to get to too many appointments. No, you may not be able to hit that Instagram star brunch spot if you don’t plan ahead, but again, this party is all about quality time. Grab some brunch from a food truck or counter service cafe, and enjoy your morning together!

Vegas ready in spring 2010!

Vegas ready in spring 2010!

I’ll confess that for my own bachelorette party, way back in 2010, I wanted the whole Vegas shebang. I remain incredibly grateful that all my best girls gamely rolled out in their sparkly best, treated me to a fancy dinner and night out, and generally made me feel like the star of the show. I'm so lucky that they indulged me, and that we're all still close to this day!

LMW

My Favorite Mountain

I love Jackson Hole, you guys. For the second year in a row, my husband and I made the trek for a ski weekend, and this time we convinced my entire family to come along, as well as a few friends.  And I do believe we've made converts of them, too!

Most of my ski days happen at Alpine Meadows for one simple reason: that's where I work as a volunteer patroller, so I have a pass.  Pretty hard to pass up unlimited days, especially on a mountain that offers a wide variety of steep, interesting terrain - especially if you're willing to hike for it!

However, Jackson Hole has won my heart and I know we'll be returning again and again. Why?

Taking a little peruse through a powder stash...

Taking a little peruse through a powder stash...

...and agreeing, once again, not to ski  Corbet's Coulouir .

...and agreeing, once again, not to ski Corbet's Coulouir.

The terrain: it's unbeatable. Vertical for miles, plenty of steeps, lots of varied aspects, tree skiing, that great dry snow... it's really got everything you could want. Plus, there's a pretty impressive amount of beginner and intermediate terrain so a group with varied skill levels like ours can be happy.

Long steep blue runs for days.

Long steep blue runs for days.

The views: I mean, just look.

I ended up with jalapeño infused tequila (yum), a pickle juice back (even grosser than I thought), and a sour beer.

I ended up with jalapeño infused tequila (yum), a pickle juice back (even grosser than I thought), and a sour beer.

The village: lots of hotel options (we absolutely adored the Four Seasons - even the smallest rooms are big and comfy with plenty of places to unpack your ski gear, the service in the boot/ski room is next level, and there's a fully staffed bar at the hot tub/pool after 3pm with tasty warm beverages), good restaurants, and an excellent apres scene (don't miss beers at the Alpenhof or roll the dice for a potentially disastrous shot/back/beer combo at the Handle Bar).

The simplicity: United has direct flights from San Francisco, making Jackson Hole more accessible than pretty much all the great Colorado mountains. And this year, no cancellations!

My sister taking a few glorious turns.

My sister taking a few glorious turns.

The bonus: you can do a day heli-skiing trip! My husband gave me heli-skiing for my birthday last year and made good by sending my sister and me for an epic powder day unlike anything to be had inside resort boundaries. It was total hero snow: 6 inches of light high mountain fluff on hard pack, and fresh tracks all day. And we completely geeked out climbing out of a helicopter on the actual top of a mountain!

Usually at this point in the year I'm pretty excited about the end of winter, but if I could I'd go back to Jackson this weekend. It's that good. That said, I'm always willing to try something new! Where else should we look at for next year's ski trip?

LMW

Weekly Peek - Trip of a Lifetime Part 1

Sometime's life's best experiences take you by surprise.  It's why I've made it my personal policy to always say yes to unique opportunities.  So, when my mom emailed me the link to a Stanford Travel Study trip to an eco lodge well north of the Arctic Circle and told me my dad couldn't go, I just said, "let's do it!"

By saying yes to adventures, you also often encounter an amazing amount of serendipity.  The best way to get to Arctic Canada from the west coast of the US is to fly through Calgary, and our dates perfectly aligned so that we would be there for the final weekend of Stampede - one of the biggest rodeo events on the planet.  Obviously, we took this as a sign and extended our trip!

I can't do justice to this trip in one short blog post, so I'm going to break it up into a couple of parts.  Today: our adventure at the Calgary Stampede and exploration of Yellowknife, the jumping-off point for our Arctic expedition.

Calgary

My limited knowledge of Calgary came from stories I've heard about Stampede from horsey people (I briefly learned to ride gymkhana races in another life) and the Disney classic film Cool Runnings about the 1988 Winter Olympics.  As it turns out, Calgary reminds me of a hybrid of Denver and Houston: a modern city built on oil money in the middle of the plains featuring a high rise downtown and significant suburban sprawl.  There's clearly a lot going on there as evidence by the modern indicators of prosperity: a burgeoning food scene, a million condo buildings going up, and plentiful Ubers.

We had a great dinner at Rouge (fresh, local ingredients prepared expertly on the pretty patio of a historic home in the beautiful Inglewood neighborhood) the first night, followed by the heroic portions and epic kimchi hollandaise of brunch at Anju the next morning.  Appropriately fortified, it was on to the Stampede!

Our seats for the rodeo (that guy is about to go flying over the stands)

Our seats for the rodeo (that guy is about to go flying over the stands)

The Stampede Spectacular

The Stampede Spectacular

Calgary Stampede is basically a combination of a huge rodeo and a massive state fair.  All the fried foods you could ever wish for are on site, plus tons of agricultural exhibits and acres of livestock barns.  My mom did her research ahead of time and got us tickets in the stands to the actual rodeo events in the afternoon, which were so worth it: I had never actually seen bronco or bull riding in person, and it was so thrilling I watched most of it through my fingers.  We each picked a decadent fair food for dinner (spicy custom mac and cheese for me, poutine for my mom in honor of our Canadian hosts) and followed it up with fried cookie dough to share which was EVERYTHING wrong and delicious in this life!  We rounded out the evening by watching the Stampede Spectacular, which was basically a mini version of closing ceremonies at the Olympics.  We were both impressed by the theme of the show - "We Are Better Together" featuring many of the cultures that make up modern Canada and enthusiastically supported by the crowd - and wistful that such a progressive theme would never be featured at a similarly rural/conservative leaning event at home in the US.

If you go to the Calgary Stampede:

  • Book your hotel early.  We booked months ahead and the boutique hotel my mom wanted was already full so we ended up at the Fairmont.  It is perfectly fine, but overpriced for a relatively under-remodeled old hotel (good bathrooms though!).
  • Dress for the heat and potential thunderstorms.  We both wore light cotton sundresses and flat shoes and carried rain shells and although we wilted slightly we were happy campers!  If I had tried to cowgirl it up in jeans and boots I would have been sweltering, and I felt for the riders in their heavy leather chaps.
  • Once you're at the Stampede grounds, plan to stay until you go home for the day.  The lines to enter only increase as the day goes on.
  • Fly Air Canada if you are a United customer with status - Star Alliance gold gets you into priority check-in and security lanes as well as the Maple Leaf Lounge.  Bonus: Global Entry also works for immigration in Canada, both arriving and leaving! 

Yellowknife

The official Stanford Travel/Study trip began in Yellowknife, Northern Territories, because it has Canada's northernmost airport served by major commercial airlines.  We really didn't know what to expect here, to be perfectly honest.  It's a bigger city than we imagined, about 25,000 people, and has a definite frontier town feel.  It's built for the harsh winter weather: buildings are square, sturdy, and no-nonsense.  The biggest industry in the area remains mining, so there's cash on hand - as we saw in our exploration of a very high end grocery and homewares store - but the legacy of mistreatment of First Nations and Inuit peoples is also pretty obvious in the form of substance abuse issues and social stratification.  Food and alcohol are expensive, since everything must be trucked in over vast distances: a head of organic broccoli was on sale for $7.95 CDN!

Looking over old town Yellowknife from the Bush Pilots Monument

Looking over old town Yellowknife from the Bush Pilots Monument

View across Frame Lake to downtown

View across Frame Lake to downtown

Looking back towards downtown from the Bush Pilots Monument

Looking back towards downtown from the Bush Pilots Monument

Inside Bullocks' Bistro

Inside Bullocks' Bistro

Yellowknife is less a tourist destination than a jumping off point for adventure excursions, but we had a day and a half there and had a great time!  Our first day, we walked into the historic old town and poked around - and were somewhat gobsmacked to realize that Yellowknife's pioneer heyday was pretty recent as in the 1930's and 1940's!  The second day, we did the hike around Frame Lake, a very pretty and well marked trail that borders the newer downtown, and visited the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre which has really high quality exhibits.  That evening, we met our travel group, got fitted for boots (more on those later), picked up our expedition parkas, and then headed out for dinner at Bullocks' Bistro.  This is one of those places with extreme amounts of local character, and also the best fish and chips I have ever had in my life - and I have spent more time than the average bear in the UK including sampling of various types of fish and chips!  On the way home, it felt so early - at was probably 8:30 p.m. and fully sunny - that we stopped off for a beer at Northwest Territories Brewing Company.  A great spot (we ended up coming back for dinner on our way back through Yellowknife at the end of the trip), and I recommend the Amber!

That would be PM.

That would be PM.

The view from our Explorer Hotel room

The view from our Explorer Hotel room

This was where we realized that the long northern days were going to be weirder than we thought.  In Yellowknife, the sun does set at midsummer, but it only really ever gets dusky.  As a trip host told us, she hadn't seen stars since early May!  So, we easily lost track of time and found ourselves rushing back to the hotel after 10p.m. to make sure to get some shut-eye before our early-ish departure the next morning!

If you go to Yellowknife:

  • There's no need to dress up.  I felt overdressed at the hotel restaurant in jeans with a nice top, and we bummed around during the day in workout clothes and our finest Patagonia outerwear and fit in just fine.
  • If you want to sleep properly, close your curtains!  It may feel at 11pm like it's about to get dark... but it won't.
  • If you're patient, everything is walkable.  Taxis exist, but we were perfectly happy walking everywhere.  Nothing you want to see or need to do is more than a mile away.
  • Lodging options are limited.  We stayed at the Explorer Hotel, which is supposedly the best in town.  Facilities are what you would expect from a big city Holiday Inn or similar, rooms are less recently remodeled but perfectly fine with comfortable beds.

To see even more photos from this epic trip, be sure to follow me on Instagram.  I'll be back with more on our Arctic adventure next week!

LMW

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Weekly Peek

Friends Are Family

As I mentioned on the day itself, neither my family nor my husband's has a particular Thanksgiving tradition.  So it was that we found ourselves flying to North Carolina this year, to spend the holiday with my husband's best friend from college (they served as each others' best men), his wife and one year old daughter, and their families.  It was a warm and festive holiday just the way you always want Thanksgiving to be, including absolutely amazing food.  

Personal Best

I may have mentioned before (mostly because it seemed so daunting) that I planned to run an 8K race on Thanksgiving Day.  Well, I did in fact run the thing.  And at a personal best, averaging less than 10 min/mile!  I still don't think of myself as a runner, or even as a particularly fit person, but it was really rewarding to prove to myself that I can set a physical goal and achieve it.  I'm actually continuing to run a couple of times a week, but I am in no way addicted to long distance: five miles is plenty for a long run, thank you very much!

This is actually the room we stayed in!  Photo courtesy of fearrington.com

Cozy Country Inn

Our friends had a seriously full house while we were visiting, so we decided to stay in a hotel.  My husband found this adorable inn with amazing restaurant attached: The Fearrington House Inn outside of Chapel Hill, a Relais Chateaux property.  It was a little bit dicey getting to and from our friends' house since we didn't rent a car and Ubers were rare, but the commute was well worth the ambiance, service, and amazing food - from the included afternoon tea to the handmade chocolates placed by the bed each night.  If you need to be in the Research Triangle area, I'd highly recommend passing on the usual chain hotels and checking out this much more charming (and not much more expensive) option!

What I'm Reading

Photo courtesy of buzzfeed.com (Getty Images/Kevin Mazur)

The Media and Malia

I have a feeling that, for each and every member of the First Family, their time in the White House has only been the beginning of their impact on our world.  It's going to be fascinating to watch where they go and what they do next.

Photo courtesy of theringer.com (Getty Images)

An Etiquette Guide for Using Uber Pool and Lyft Line

I've taken Uber Pool and will definitely do so again - if I'm not in a major rush, it's by far the best combination of cheapest and fastest way to get from Point A to Point B in San Francisco.  I don't have any horror stories, but I do sign on to each and every tip here!

Image courtesy of ballot.fyi

Ballot.fyi

This is the best nonpartisan resource I've seen to get you up to speed on the multitude of ballot propositions we Californians face this November.  If you haven't already, please register to vote, make your voting plan, and arm yourself with the information you need - this country needs informed voters to make their voices heard!

Photo courtesy of impossiblefoods.com

Meatless Bleeding Burger Arrives in SF at Jardiniere and Cockscomb

Honestly, I can't wait to try this.  I've been gradually reducing my red meat intake for a number of reasons (mostly health, with a side of irrational "cows are cute!"), and the thing I find the hardest to kick is the occasional decadent cheeseburger.  Could this be a true substitute?