foodie

Travel Guide to Dubrovnik

When you hear of the city “Dubrovnik”, HBO’s “Game of Thrones” comes to mind. It’s true, Dubrovnik, Croatia tourism has boomed ever since GOT premiered the gorgeous White City of “King’s Landing”, but Dubrovnik is a beautiful city with friendly people and a storied past that goes beyond the Emmy Award Winning Drama.

I was fortunate enough to visit Dubrovnik this past May for my sister’s wedding and wanted to share all the hot spots for those of you traveling to this wonderful city. I’ll show you the best food, bars, gelato, tours, views, photo opps, and more!!

Preparation

Flight / Airline

When I booked, there were no direct flights to Dubrovnik. I flew economy from Boston, Ma, USA to Dubrovnik, Croatia with a layover in Dublin via AerLingus and It. Was. Fabulous. I was anxious about fitting all my clothes, plus my bridesmaid dress, in a small carry-on but luckily I didn’t need to. AerLingus gives you ONE FREE CHECKED BAG, ONE FREE CARRY-ON AND ONE FREE PERSONAL ITEM. Thats right. Additionally, they had free new movies and were super friendly. My flight only cost $700 roundtrip. 10/10 would recommend. Pro tip: just book at least a few months in advance and in an incognito window.

Currency

Pro tip: request Kuna (the Croatian currency) from your bank at least 48 hours prior to traveling. I was misinformed & told Euros (EU currency) were interchangeably used in Croatia. They are not FYI. Most businesses in Dubrovnik are local, small businesses and do not accept Euro because they lose money in the exchange. So when you get to Old Town & see that a cocktail is 75 kn, don’t have a heart attack–that equates to ~$12 USD. If you get stuck with Euros like me or only bring US dollars, there are plenty of places to exchange currency but you will be at the mercy of the exchange rate & fees that day.

Language

Whenever you are going to foreign country, you should learn a few words or key phrases. Not only will it improve the quality of service you receive, but it will start conversations & improve your overall experience as a tourist. Here are a few key words/phrases I was taught by Croatians:

Thank you : Hvala

Beer: pivo

Please / Response to “Thank You”: Molim

Your City is Beautiful: vaŇ° grad je lijep

Attractions / Tours / Photo Opps

Dubrovnik Tourist Guide

Want a GOT tour, a photo tour, a history tour or a custom tour? BOOK IVAN ! He is the official tour guide for GOT actors, a National Geographic co-host & local Dubrovnik celebrity. He has been featured in People, TIME & El Mundo. See for yourself Here.

He gave my brother, sister, boyfriend, sister’s boyfriend and myself a custom tour. He asked me what I like, I said: GOT, Film, History, Culture, Food & authentic, one-of-a-kind experiences you cannot get anywhere else”. He customized the tour to include all this and more. He spent FOUR HOURS with us. AND we saw him at one of the local spots he recommended days later & we drank coffee & chit-chatted about life. I cannot recommend him enough!

Ana is the founder of Hello Dubrovnik and she is just as adorable as her IG photos. As a Dubrovnik native, she has connects to all the local brands, products & services to customers like me & you. She gave me custom recs for food, shopping, tours & photo opps. She’s the one who recommended Ivan (mentioned above). She even offered to set up reservations FOR ME at spots that were booked for months. She’s a gem! Im not even going to give you all the recs she gave me because you will just have to ask her yourself. Trust me, you wont regret it!!

Dubrovnik City Walls

The one thing everyone will recommend is walking the city walls. Old Town Dubrovnik is enclosed by a fortress of walls you can walk along to view the expansive city & coast. The photo to the left here was taken when it started randomly pouring about 5 minutes into our walk. Though, I gladly got soaked to catch a glimpse of these breathtaking views.

I bought tickets in the square for 200 kn (~$50 USD) so I don’t have a great, reliable rec for money saves here. It seems this is pretty standard in my research although you may be able to save a few bucks on websites I cannot personally vouch for. Most of the photos I took of Dubrovnik were taken on this self-guided tour. You can get a tour guide but I highly recommend booking Ivan (mentioned above) separate within the city walls and just enjoying the city wall views without a tour guide. DISCLAIMER: once you get on the wall, you cannot leave & go back. Your admission ticket is only valid once you enter the gates & is rendered void as soon as you leave.

Galleon Tirena

Take a cruise in this gorgeous sea beast called the Galleon Tirena. I was fortunate enough to ride for free since it was part of my sister’s wedding package but for ~50 Euro, this sail is fully worth it. As a social media content creator, this cruise is certifiably ‘grammable. Check out some scene pics captured by moi (and a professional wedding photographer) .

Either before you board the Galleon or after you return to port, walk around the port & the surrounding walls. It has the most gorgeous views of the city. Best of all, its free to look & take ‘grammable pics. But dont take my word for it, look:

Sponza Palace

Sponza Palace is such a gorgeous building with a ton of history. It has withstood hundreds of years, fires & earthquakes and still maintains its beauty. Definetely worth a quick visit. Pro tip: Go in & look up then go upstairs to look down. Its breathtaking arcs & open ceiling will leave you swooning.

Clara Stones

This jewelry store is unlike any other. There are two storefronts right across the ally from one another; one is commercial & the other is more demo/high end. Coral is a very rare commodity & a Croatian specialty.

I went here twice. TWICE. Once on my tour with Ivan (mentioned above) & once with my mom–who is a professional jeweler. Her & the lead jeweler talked about coral & precious stones for over an hour. He even gave her his personal email to stay in touch. I guess there are not a lot of coral enthusiasts & I can see why: it’s so rare that it’s authentic. I will let them explain the process to you but spoiler alert: its fascinating. Even if you are not a jeweler, like me. Mark my words: I will be back here when I get rich & famous to wear one of their gorgeous coral pieces.

Food / Drink

Konoba Dubrava

Hands down, Konoba Dubrava is the best meal I had in Croatia and perhaps in my life….and if you knew me, you would know I would NEVER say that lightly. Disclaimer: this place is not best fit for vegetarians, nor is most of Dubrovnik since their specialty is Octopus & all things seafood.

We ordered the ribeye, the octopus, grilled chicken, chicken wings, french fries, salad & lots of Croatian red wine. If you don’t go with a hungry army like I did and could only order one thing, I would HIGHLY recommend the octopus. It changed my life. The wait staff was amazing & made excellent recommendations! One drawback: it sits on top of a windy mountain so be sure to buckle up in your Uber ūüėČ

Lady Pi Pi

This oddly named restaurant had one of the best views of Dubrovnik plus delicious, reasonably priced food. It’s named after a fountain of a woman with water coming out of her lady bits. I kid you not. You would think this place would be packed but its steep hike up hundreds of stairs just outside the walls borders deters most. Pro tip: wear sneakers!

I happened upon Lady Pi Pi by accident. I was on a mission to find an authentic, hole-in-the-wall spot with a good view. I climbed up hundreds of stairs toward the walls that enclose the city and when I got to the top / the wall border, there it was. Nestled just outside the wall, with an ivy-covered pergola & the best views of the city outside the wall tour, Lady Pi Pi is a MUST. Be ready to climb but what a way to burn off that free bread basket ūüėČ

D’Vino Wine Bar

This was my favorite place to get a glass of wine. Not only did they give us a flight of wine to taste, but their Australian-Croatian sommelier explained his excursions to find each fine wine in great detail. If you love wine as much as I do, this is a must. Get a wine tasting flight & sit outside. You’re welcome.

Glam Cafe

After you get wine drunk at D’Vino’s, save your table & send someone right across the ally to Glam Cafe for lattes & craft beers. The man who works here loves nerding out about craft beers from all over. He came over to give my boyfriend (a craft beer enthusiast) a sip of a rare craft beer he himself was saving for such an occasion. Croatian people are truly the kindest & most generous people. Bonus points: if you have ever been to or heard of Treehouse Brewery –mention it to him. He is OBSESSED with their beer. Massachusetts is internationally known for its beer ūüėČ Yes thats their sticker on my fridge.

Dolce Vita

You cant do to Europe & not get Gelato. It’s sacrilegious. I went to two Gelato spots, one touristy one & one authentic one. Which one did I prefer? The authentic one obvs: Dolce Vita. They have amazing flavors but you have to get their namesake flavor: Dolce Vita.

Want the ‘grammable, gimmicky experience? I don’t blame you. Hell, thats why I went to the alternative spot: Peppino’s. I got their GOT themed flavor. It was super delicious, albeit not as authentic gelato as Dolce Vita but totally worth it for the ‘gram. Check it out:

Oliva Pizzeria

Want to keep it simple with some budget-friendly pizza? Oliva is the place to get it then. Quick, easy & nice servers. No frills but very cute & cozy. My family & I went here because it was close to our AirBnB & we wanted a relaxing dinner after the wedding madness!

Phew!! That was a lot, I know. And believe it or not, I left out a TON. There were two whole days of festivities I didn’t include among countless other gems that just didn’t make the cut as the BEST of Dubrovnik. There are quite a few expiditions I was unable to enjoy but were recommended, like cave diving, kayaking, etc. But that will have to wait till next time. Hope this was helpful!

xo, Tina Bell

Post-Holiday Gym Feels

Its Monday. Everyone is in a post-thanksgiving turkey-induced coma as they sit behind their desks, typing away with zombie-fingers. But what happens after work? How will you get rid of those turkey thighs, those mashed potato muscles or those gravy glutes?

The Gym (cue dramatic music: Bah, Bahh, BAHHH).

None of us want to do it, but we will. You will go whether it be for a New Years Resolution, post-holiday binge-eating guilt, or simply because you are a weirdo who loves the gym. Watch how  I braved my post-holiday #gymfeels:

https://www.facebook.com/pg/TinaBellCreations/videos/

 

xo Tina Bell

#TeaTimeWithTina: A Model’s HEALTHY “Diet” Plan

Hi Bellas!

I get asked all the time¬†if I diet. I always respond with yes AND no. There are¬†periods of time when my diet fluctuates and yours should too. You should never use restrictive diet methods or deny yourself good food (no, that doesn’t mean you should eat the entire bag of potato chips). You also should not over-indulge.¬†Soooo, what do I do?!

 Phase 1: Quantity Diet/Portion Control.

I do a combination of things. First, I start by doing my “Quantity Diet” (patent pending). All this means is eating everything I normally eat (yes, even potato chips) but in “moderation”. I put moderation in quotes because we over-eat in general as a society and so when I eat in “moderation”, it means I am actually eating the amount a proper human should eat. I only put on my plate a small amount of everything. When in doubt, use the “healthy plate” as a template:

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Fruits or veggies are supposed to be 1/2¬†of the plate, protein is a little under 1/4 and whole grains are a little over 1/4. I am lactose intolerant so I skip the dairy and just have water (even less fat). Of course, my plate does not always looks like this. I am human and so are you. Start off easy. Drastic “diets” do not work and you will only end up gaining back all that weight you “lost” as soon as you stop denying yourself the proper amount of food.

But what really is the “proper amount of food”?

This differs from person to person. When I start to explain my transition from eating like crap to my “quantity diet”, people freak. But, its not denying yourself food, its science…sorry folks! Here’s crash course in nutrition and anatomy: our stomach is a muscle. That’s right. Your stomach expands and contracts based on intake. Your stomach starts off about the size of your fist then YOU eat more than that and it stretches. Therefore, unless you eat the same amount of food (large or small), your stomach will remain that size until you make a habit of eating more or less. This is why when we over-eat we get stuck in a cycle of over-eating…you do not feel full. Its because technically, your stomach is not full. However, your stomach is stretched to accommodate the unhealthy amount you have been eating and so when you eat a “normal” amount, you feel hungry. The gas and air pockets that fill that excess space in your stomach muscle make noise called “growling” which prompts you to feel hungry and eat more. So, when starting the quantity diet, know that your stomach WILL growl and tell you its hungry. This is your body being tricked by your over-eating and trying to trick you back into continuing the cycle it has been told is “normal”.

How to Curb Cravings:

So, you started the Quantity Diet, what now? Expect stomach growling discomfort for about a week. This is your stomach telling you its not full, but you are smart, disciplined and determined and now know better than to give in. What do you do to ease the discomfort and growls? Here are a few options:

–have a cup of tea/coffee

–have fiber rich meals/snacks

–have an apple or fruit as a snack instead of junk food

–hydrate

–workout (make sure you aren’t starving yourself and have a little snack before you workout so you don’t pass out–take care of you!)

–distract yourself with some busy work (ie: walk, sew, edit pics, play video games, applying to modeling/acting jobs, etc).

Phase 2: Cut Carbs & Increase Protein

My “diet” is a 2-step program and its really simple and easy to follow. The second phase is actually not that hard (unless you love bread and cheese). Now that you have made it past the quantity diet phase and your stomach has shrunk to its normal size for appropriate food ¬†intake and its no longer growling, you are ready to complete the process. Cut carbs. Most americans prefer bad carbs anyways (ie: white bread or rice over wheat) and that’s not going to work. You DO need grains in your life but substitute them for healthy ones like wheat, quinoa¬†barley, oats, sorghum, millet, ¬†or¬†rye. If you want to see the best results, cut out bread entirely.¬†Most of the time bread is just filler. For example, instead of having a breakfast sandwich, just have the egg, turkey bacon and avocado. OR instead of a chicken sandwich on white, have a thai lettuce wrap instead–season the chicken and some veggies how you like and put it in a slice of lettuce–its DELICIOUS!

Cheese is another difficult card for people to cut. Luckily, I found out I am lactose intolerant so I feel a lot better without it (although it did not make the breakup any easier). Cheese is often filled with sodium naturally and often more sodium is added with store-bought cheeses. Take a look at your nutrition label and make sure you know what you are getting yourself into. Often, you can be consuming a lot more than your recommended sodium intake by adding cheese. I know cheese is a tough one SOO just be careful because if you still feel or look bloated, its definitely from your sodium intake.

If you want any suggestions for recipes, I have made a tutorial with a few good ones for snacks, breakfast, or lunch. Bon appetite!

As always, any questions or comments, feel free to ask away!!

xo,

Tina Bell

 

Tina Bell’s Travelers’ Guide: Kansas City, MO

Hello Bellas,

Rome, New York, Paris, Tokyo, Kansas City. JK! But Kansas City was a really fun place with good people, eats, and shopping. So, if you ever find yourself in KC, Ive got your guide.

First off, follow me on snapchat for a live feed of my adventures @tinabellmodel. Secondly, regardless of where you are going, you want to book an AirBnB for all your trips. AirBnB is an online rental website in which you can stay in someone’s whole apartment or rent a room or stay at an actual B&B. You select the type of arrangement you want and you pay a fraction of what you would at a hotel. Plus you look like a big shot when you have an entire loft to yourself. One down side, its sort of a mixed bag.

I have been told by a Midwesterner that the Midwest is the beef capital of the world, and he would be right. If you are a beefitarian like me, you will LOVE KC. That being said, if you are like the rest of my party that was with me, you will still be well-fed. The one thing I will say is that if you are trying to eat healthy–you are in the wrong place. Down every street in KC there is at least one person in a wheelchair that has no physical ailment other than being too obese to walk on their own two feet for more than a block. BUT! KC, MO has the best BBQ in the country.

The first night, I went to Jack Stacks:

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In case you were wondering, that is true to size. I ordered the half slab of beef ribs. HALF! I would have pooped myself had I gotten the full one. Sorry if thats gross…its true. It cost me $3 to replace the cole slaw with broccoli as a “healthier” alternative and when I received my broccoli, it came dowsed in cheese and garlic. Again, do not go to KC to be healthy, embrace the 5-10 lbs you will gain. That said, I didn’t even get to the fries and barely ate the broccoli (which was probably less healthy than the ribs) and it was DELICIOUS.

To put just how unhealthy most of your options are in KC MO, I went to CVS THE NEXT DAY to buy a sports bra (yea, they sell them there, crazy right?!) to do Insanity workouts. I did the workouts the entire time I was there and at best, I broke even on weight gain/loss and Insanity is the most intense workout known to man!! (My review of Insanity workouts is coming next).

The next day, my co-worker and I went to this coffee shop and I got the best tea I have ever had called Hibiscus Elixir from Kaldi’s Coffee. It comes out on this platter with your own personal¬†dispenser. This picture on the left is not mine because snapchat decided to only download half of my photos -__-

 

Unfortunately for lunch we ate at this federal building cafeteria and somehow, I don’t know how, they made salad unhealthy. We did this 2 days. It wasn’t until Wednesday that we ventured out further to a hole-in-the-wall breakfast/lunch joint called Silver Spoon. I have this tradition with myself that I order a reuben at lunch spots all over and compare which is best. I must say this one was extremely juicy and really warm. It was a comfort for sure and I missed it when it was gone. One down side was that the dressing started quickly being absorbed into the bread so the bread was wet from dressing, but it was still so good. We enjoyed the place so much that we came back the next day for breakfast, which also amazed.

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Silver Spoon Kansas City, MO Reuben

The next BBQ place we went was highly recommended and over the state lines into Kansas City, KS (Yes, they are 15 minutes away from each other) called Joe’s. ¬†Apparently there was a mini civil war during the purchase of this territory way back when that caused the two to split and stubbornly keep the same name. The restaurant is in a gas station. It was so funky. Very casual and you wait in line for easily 20-45 minutes depending on how busy. I went to¬†place like this in Dallas, TX called the Pecan Lounge. Honestly, the Pecan Lounge was better. The brisket was thinly sliced and the pork was dry. I was kind of bummed I waited so long. The fries and the BBQ sauce itself ironically was what made the wait worth it. I wanted to buy some sauce to bring home with me but there were no 3 oz, flight-friendly sizes. I bought a T-Shirt for the novelty of it and chalked the experience up to just that, an experience. You cant visit this part of the county and not go where the locals recommend the most.

Wednesday night, we went to Phoenix Jazz Club. This place was probably my favorite stop. Not only do I love the blues, live music and good food but the place has a cool back-story. I had no idea how much history was in KC MO but the locals are always really proud of it and willing to share. The story behind Phoenix is that it dates back to prohibition and still has the tunnels/basement to prove it. Therefore, their drink are something magical. Take a look:

The bleeding heart was my favorite. I had one more that was a bourbon-based drink that tasted like holiday happiness but I was too embarrassed to use my flash in a dimly lit jazz bar 3 times. The band that played looked like a random hodge-podge of people but the sound that came out of them was unrivaled. The singer came over to our table, because we were cheering so loudly after every song and totally fan-girling her, and we told her we were from Boston and she asked if there were jazz places there for them to travel to. So, you’re welcome because that amazing sound might be coming to Boston and I might single-handedly be the reason for it. That’s just me though, making the world a better place, one band at a time. Their name is A LA MODE. Here is the best recording I could find but it TRULY does NOT do them justice.

 

The last day in KC MO we walked around in an attempt to go shopping. I always like checking out local boutiques and consignment stores to find one-of-a-kind pieces. Of course on the hottest day there, I decide to walk 15 minutes to a store that no longer exists (thanks for nothing YELP!) all while the Big 12 BBall Tournament is going on, causing 2.7x the sur-charge for Uber as I get hopelessly stranded in the middle of no where. It wasnt all for not though, because I took this sweet pic by a graffitied ally:

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Don’t let the smile fool you, I was covered in sweat. I felt like Steve Carrell in Crazy Stupid Love¬†in second 14 of this clip:¬†Crazy Stupid Love

Buying clothes in KC MO was difficult since I was staying in the food part of town and the shopping center was on the complete other side. I did buy a fleece-lined jacket at a boutique called The Garment District. Nothing like the one in Boston since this jacket cost me $60…on sale. Nonetheless, it was cute and we got to sight-see:

Lastly, I went to the fanciest restaurant in KC, called Gram and Dun. You know you are in a fancy restaurant when the girls next to you are clearly famous social-lites who are talking about how difficult it is to decide between flying to DC or driving for the fear of looking like a douche for flying when you can just drive or looking like a commoner who drives a few hours. The eavesdropping was prime-time and also insufferable. Mark my words, if I get famous, I will never lose perspective like that. I digress. Here are pics of the mouth-watering drinks and entrees we got. I got the steak, because duh! And my co-worker took a pic of his chicken:

I scheduled a shoot with a local KC writer, photographer and book-cover publisher named Kennedy Kelly and like so many meet-ups with photographers for the first time, she never got back to me. We were communicating just fine up until when I landed and firmed up a day and time…then she flatlined. Nothing. I hate when people are unprofessional and disrespectful of other people’s time. So unfortunately, I do not have any modeling pics from this trip and it would have been cool to be on a book cover somewhere ūüė¶ but I hope you enjoyed my travel blog! I travel often for work and leisure so come again soon!

xo Tina Bell