Hey, it’s Veronica. Veronica Figueroa. That’s right. Don’t adjust your contact lenses, glasses or whatever vision correction device you’re reading this with. It’s me, live and on WordPress.
If you’ve been searching through my Instagram account, trying to figure out what became of me during the past month and a half, I have no excuse for you other than I’ve been busy eating all the Mexican food in Central Florida (Please go visit Hunger Street Tacos, Black Rooster Taqueria, The Ocoee Taco Company and Fruta Mix Ocoee – I’m so serious. Just stop reading this awful blog post and go!), settling in to my new job and acting as a human chew toy for my new puppy.
Basically, I’ve had my hands quite full and I’ve settled into a very comfortable but predictable pattern in life where I do not find myself interesting enough to entertain you on a weekly basis. I mean, the fact that my birthday is coming up on Monday and I have no plans other than watching the second season of Master of None (YES!) and getting a pedicure with my stepsister (who is officially moving back from Hawaii this weekend and I finally get to meet my niece!) is very indicative of where I am right now. I just want to take it easy, blog once a quarter and count the days until I am officially retired (only forty more years to go, you guys!)
Anyway, crack open a cold one because it’s Friday and in true Friday fashion, I’ll be sharing a Fri(yay) Lovin’ list with all of the things I’ve been loving this week (it’s not just tacos and puppies!).
Las Chicas Del Cable: After riding an emotional rollercoaster with 13 Reasons Why and cry/laughing with Chewing Gum (and concerned that the show is borderline blasphemous and I may go straight to hell), I decided to give Las Chicas Del Cable (Cable Girls) a chance. The period drama, filmed and set in Spain, follows the lives of four women with very different backgrounds working as switchboard operators at a telephone company in Madrid – Alba, the young woman trying to erase her past and keep her secrets from being exposed, Marga, the shy, small-town girl who is finally making it on her own, Carlota, whose upper-class, controlling father won’t allow her to work and Angeles, a working mother with huge aspirations and a selfish husband who’d rather keep her at home. The show dives into women’s rights, feminism, sexuality, coming of age and so much more. If you were a fan of the badass female cast of Call the Midwifeand are (im)patiently waiting for Netflix to release its latest season, check out Cable Girls. It’s in Spanish but it has subtitles (for the Spanish-impaired).
PhotoScan by Google Photos: My husband is constantly raving about everything Google does (honestly, he’s their biggest fan) so it didn’t come as a surprise to me that he wouldn’t shut up about PhotoScan, the app they released back in November. At the time, I worked inside an office and conveniently sat next to a scanner. Since then, I’ve left that job and lost access to the fancy scanner. I skeptically downloaded the app this week when I had to scan in some documents to my health insurance provider and was pleasantly surprised. The app, available for both iOS and Android, is extremely easy to use. I just took a picture of my document and the app recognized the four corners of the page. It then asked me to scan my phone over the four corners and it stitched together the five overlapped images. With that being said, as I search through old boxes and photo albums, prepare yourself for epic #ThrowbackThursday gems like this one:
And this one:
Millennial Podcast: When I’m not binge-watching Netflix, I’m binge-listening (is that a thing?) podcasts. I recently stumbled upon the Millennial podcast and at first, I expected the worst. A podcast about “coming of age” and named after an age group that is constantly being ridiculed by older generations. I basically expected a podcast hosted by an entitled millennial with no depth to her words. Instead, I found myself traveling adulthood with Megan, its 20-something-year-old producer. She tackles current events, politics, even her parents’ separation and opens the doors to her personal life in a refreshing and lighthearted way. It almost feels like you’re talking to a friend (Megan, if you’re reading this, let’s be real friends).
After a week of kayaking, tree trekking and an excessive amount of bike riding you’d think I wouldn’t have the energy to crawl out of bed, but today is a special day because it is my final day at Experience Kissimmee. *gasp* I know you’re clutching your pearls, so let’s dive in to Fri(yay) Lovin’.
New job: It has been a whirlwind two years of lessons while traveling to international trade shows, media missions, hosting international press groups, getting pulled over on an airboat in the Boston Harbor (true story) and learning how to say pineapple in Portuguese (abacaxi). I’ve made countless memories and friendships in the tourism industry and hope to continue growing these relationships even after I’ve left my current position.
I will miss the hustle and bustle at the office but I’m sure I’ll be just as busy once I step into the role of Account Executive at a media agency in South Florida. And to answer your question, no, I won’t have to relocate but yes, I’ll still be traveling quite frequently.
I’ll be able to work from home and from a client’s office down the street from my current job. Which means that I could potentially wear outfits like this one during workdays from the comfort of my own home:
Making this career leap made a lot of sense to me, as I was quickly on the road to nowhere, becoming “stuck” in my position at the tourism bureau and saw no opportunities in my future. I’ll finally be working on real public relations initiatives rather than waiting for projects to fall on my lap on any given day. I’m so pumped and ready to hit the ground running next week.
Giving back: On Saturday, Halston and I will be headed to Yelp Orlando’s Yelp Help! volunteer event. We will be packaging and assembling school supplies for A Gift For Teaching (AGFT).
AGFT was founded to provide resources and surplus materials at no cost to teachers for their students in need. On average, most teachers spend $500 to $1,000 in school supplies per school year. I believe it. My mom is a high school teacher and back to school shopping wasn’t a yearly event focused on just my sister and I while growing up. In the past, we’ve volunteered as a family at the Hope Now International Back-To-School Bash and handed out backpacks and school supplies to over 10,000 children so volunteer work that deals with education is near and dear to my heart.
I’ve been wanting to find ways to give back to the community so this is a step in the right direction. I do want to get involved with organizations that seek to improve vision. My vision is pretty bad once I take my contacts and glasses off (I’m nearsighted in one eye and farsighted in the other!), so I can’t imagine what a pain it must be to lead a life without the appropriate eye care. But that’s just a matter of research. I’m sure I’ll find a great organization soon enough.
Facebook fact check: This week Facebook began to roll out a new feature which will visibly flag fake news stories that have been disputed by fact-checkers. To me, that only means that family members (you know who you are) and some people I have kept on Facebook purely for entertainment purposeswill finally have to think twice before sharing articles from garbage right-wing blogs like The Conservative Post, ILoveMyFreedom.org, TrueTrumpers.com, King 5, BizPacReview.com and more.
The tech giant announced their plan to crack down on fake news sites following claims that the ability to share fake news from questionable sources contributed to the presidential election results. Facebook partnered with Snopes, the Associated Press, Politifact and FactCheck.org to combat fake news.
As you can tell, Fox and Breitbart are not participating, so please help me stop making fun of you each time you share an article from one of these websites. I am begging you. Edit: If you’re a Trump supporter, by all means share news about him, I don’t hate you – just don’t do it from questionable sources.
New season of Frankie & Grace: I never thought I’d be so excited to watch something starring Jane Fonda (not that I have anything against her, she’s just never caught my attention) but here I am, three seasons deep into the Netflix original comedy Frankie & Grace.
In the first two seasons, we watch Fonda and Lily Tomlin’s character evolve from rivals and casual acquaintances to close friends after learning that their respective husbands (played by Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston) have fallen for one another. The two women learn to cope and navigate through life together as the two men plan how to inform the family, plan a wedding and start a new life.
Guys, this show is so good. Please join me in binge-watching the new season this weekend. Plus, now Netflix has that whole “skip recap/intro” feature!
I’ve been on a rollercoaster of emotions this week but these emotions have not been brought by This Is Us. I kept hearing that I was going to bawl my eyes out while watching each episode but I’m already on episode 4 and my tear ducts are still intact, tissue box still full. I’m also a robot, so that may be an explanation as to why I haven’t cried.
I’m really looking forward to this weekend. We will be going to the Orlando City Pub Crawl on Saturday, which I haven’t been able to be attend in years prior because I’ve been working in Colombia each time. On Sunday, we’ll be heading to church to continue the Tribe series and probably spend the rest of the day lounging around like two lazy house cats.
I hope you enjoy your weekend with your loved ones but for now, as you sit under the fluorescent lighting of your office, make sure you check out the things I’m loving this week!
Duck boots: Remember back in January, when I visited New York and pointed out everyone wearing duck boots and how expensive they were? Well, it turns out that there are more affordable options out there and you can avoid spending an arm and a leg at LL Bean or Sperry – although you may choose to invest in a good sturdy pair if you live up north. I only bought mine to travel to Boston this past month so I felt comfortable shopping on Amazon without trying them on. The pair I bought ran small so I ordered a size up and they fit perfectly (I usually wear a size 10). They kept my feet warm and dry from the snow. The only thing I did not like about the boots was that they made my feet too warm, to the point of sweating (although that may have had to do with my Alaska Knit Target socks). Despite my sweaty toes (I’m really painting a picture here for you, aren’t I?), I totally recommend these shoes if you’re expecting to walk around in snow sometime soon.
Asana: This is for the crazy ones. Asana is a web and mobile application designed to help teams and individuals track their work. I was introduced to it through work and while I personally love scribbling on my notebook and crossing things off of my checklist, I don’t always remember where I’ve left my notebook. However, my computer monitor is always there, therefore, my to-do list is always waiting on Asana.
On the app, you can create tasks for yourself (only visible to you) or for your team (visible to all). You can add sections, columns or sub-tasks, assign projects with due dates, attach documents, discuss projects via chat and there is a built-in Dropbox chooser which allows teams to add files directly to tasks.
I enjoy using it because it feels more organized than just using the Notes app on the iPhone. Plus, I feel amazing when I get something accomplished, I check it off and it just dissapppears.
Airbnb Experiences:I rarely read Airbnb email blasts but last week I opened one speaking about Airbnb Experiences and I was pleasantly surprised.
Through Airbnb Experiences, travelers will have the chance to meet local guides around the world who share their same interests. Whether it be sports, culinary, nature, social impact or entertainment, there is a guide for every area of interest. Experiences can last a few hours (like going on a bike ride around scenic trails or taking a salsa class) or a few days, so travelers have the option of choosing what they’re most comfortable with.
Don’t mind me and my joyful heart. I’m just happy I don’t have to clock in until the afternoon and that I can actually run a few errands instead of using my lunch hour to be a functioning adult.
And now, in what should’ve been a weekly tradition but I am terrible at keeping up with this blog, the latest installment of Fri(yay) Lovin’, the blog posts in which I detail a few of the things that have made me smile as of late.
Primark: Sound the alarms! There is a Primark in Boston. I repeat, there is a Primark in Boston! Actually, as of December there are two, with a third on the way AND there are also locations in Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New Jersey. Who knew?
For those of you who do not understand my excitement, imagine H&M and Target had a baby that was way more affordable than both those stores and it had four stories to get lost in–except the store only exists in Europe so you can’t get lost in it…
I was able to visit one of the Irish retailer’s Boston locations in Downtown Crossing last week and it changed my life. For it being such a large store, everything was extremely tidy and easy to find. I initially only went inside searching for thick, opaque tights (got ’em! $4.50) but I came out with two pairs of pants ($14 each), a long-sleeved shirt and a blouse. Score!
The clothes run true to size, which worked out to my advantage as I didn’t try anything out at the store. I was wearing too many layers because it was freezing outside and, well… it basically came down to my laziness and unwillingness to get undressed.
The fourth floor was children’s clothing which was adorable and just as affordable! Since children grow out of their clothes so quickly, I can totally see myself shopping for $5 articles of clothing for a child who will probably not fit into those clothes in a few months.
Unfortunately, if you’re stateside and do not live in one of the states I mentioned above, you cannot shop online on their website. The retailer “is making its American debut without an e-commerce component. Moreover, the company has no plans to launch one, a spokesman said. Primark doesn’t have an online sales operation in its home market and works with a small marketing budget.”
Who wants to plan a trip to Boston with me?
Rifle Paper Co. x Keds collab: If you’ve ever been around me, you know I’m all about Rifle Paper Company–from stationary, to greeting cards, to notebooks, to my annual planner; my love for Rifle glows more than any basic white girl’s love for Lilly Pulitzer. And I would’ve posted about this last week when it was announced but I’m lazy and I don’t deserve to call myself a blogger and yadda, yadda, yadda…
Well, my dear friends, in case you haven’t heard, Rifle has collaborated with Keds to bring us a new line of floral sneakers just in time for spring! They’ve created three limited edition styles combining Anna Bond’s whimsical illustrations and Keds’s comfy, canvas sneaks.
The shoes range from $55 to $60 and they’re unfortunately already sold out (which I’m really bummed about because I forgot to pre-order mine even after I was reminded to). However, they’ll be making a comeback on March 9 at select retailers and you better believe I’ve already marked my Rifle planner to get my hand on these. I need a spring in my step!
Nujeen: One Girl’s Incredible Journey from War-torn Syria in a Wheelchair: I actually finished reading this book around the time that Trump introduced his Muslim travel ban (let’s just call it what it is/was). I saw so much hatred online, people being targeted for their religion, clothes, appearance, being told they would be deported… needless to say, my original post on this book was extremely emotional and had a few choice words so I can’t use it.
The story follows Nujeen, a teenager born with cerebral palsy who spent most of her young life confined to her wheelchair inside her family’s apartment in Aleppo. She spent her days reading and obsessing over the American soap Days of Our Lives and consequently learned how to speak English by listening to it.
When things began to get more and more violent she made the trek to safety in Germany where her brother lived, accompanied/pushed along by her sister Nasrine.
Together they covered over 3,500 miles by rubber dinghy, walking and being smuggled to safety. She made international headlines because no one had seen someone so young journey to asylum on a wheelchair before.
The story is moving and it hit international headlines. John Oliver a.k.a. The Voice Of Reason actually had the stars from Days pay tribute to Nujeen and they even had a small plot line about the refugee crisis.
It is a short, easy read, but it is deeply moving. If you were a fan of I Am Malala, check it out. I encourage those who think “illegals” want to come into our country to bomb it or take over our jobs (massive eye roll from me) to check it out. Nujeen’ harrowing journey to safety does not convey any of that–she just wanted the chance to grow up and have a normal life.
you realize you’re doing the work of three for the price of one,
so you question your entire being and existence,
begin to feel terrible about yourself
and then your father calls you to tell you a family member is on their deathbed,
so then you start crying in your cubicle, trying to figure out when the next flight out of Orlando is (said family member is now in stable condition, thanks for your concern)?
Wait… and you’re telling me that it’s only Tuesday?
Happy Valentine’s Day, y’all. *rolls eyes and takes a swig from bottle*
As I continue to battle my self-diagnosed seasonal depression and continue grasping at straws, I invite you to join me in happier times–my summer road trip. And yes, I’m totally aware that I’m way behind on these blogs so bear with me!
After taking in the majestic views of The Grand Canyon, we set our sights on the land of Coachella–Palm Desert.
Where we laid our heads to rest:
My husband’s coworker and her husband were gracious enough to host us during our stay in their lovely home.
Salvation Mountain: My husband and I finally got around to watching “Into The Wild” last year. It is a 2007 American biographical drama adapted from Jon Krakauer’s 1996 non-fiction book of the same name. In the film, Christopher McCandless travels across North America and one of his stops was Salvation Mountain, Slab City.
Located about an hour from Palm Desert, Salvation Mountain is a hill made from adobe, straw and paint, encompassing messages of love, peace and Bible verses. It was created by local resident Leonard Knight (he appeared in the movie as himself!) and is considered “a folk art site worthy of preservation and protection” by the Folk Art Society of America. It really is a unique sight–a towering, colorful hill, displaying the message that “God Is Love,” in the middle of an empty landscape.
East Jesus: Also found in Slab City is East Jesus, an art installation that invites guests to imagine a world without waste. Empty bottles, discarded television sets and dolls missing their limbs are given a second life as mixed-media art at East Jesus. Since the Slab City residents are always adding to the installations, I plan on returning in May while I’m in town for the PRSA conference.
Mud Pot:Do any of you have the TripAdvisor app on your phone with the location settings turned on? While driving back to Palm Desert, a notification popped up on our friend’s phone, letting us know that we were only minutes away from the Salton Sea Mud Pots.
Past reviewers on TripAdvisor marveled at the uniqueness of this “off the beaten path adventure” and we thought, “we are already here, might as well, right?”
After driving down a dirt path for a few miles, we stopped by a massive field with a power plant and got out of the car. The smell of sulfur hit me the second I opened the car door and I began to gag, laugh and choke on my own spit. Why were we here?
We held our breath, walked over to some mud mountains and heard them gurgling… Mud slowly trickled down one of the mud volcanoes and we all looked at each other. It was time to leave.
Reservoir:We did brunch at Reservoir, the casual, outdoor restaurant at Arrive Hotel. My favorite part of the restaurant was that it faced the hotel pool and every California stereotype came alive before my eyes (California girls, they’re unforgettable!). If I had a dollar for every female trying to find the best angle for their Instagram picture, I would have been able to afford one California-priced cocktail. Hart Family Winery: Founded in 1980, the winery is the oldest continually owned and operated winery in Temecula Valley, producing boutique wines that include Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Roussanne, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Tempranillo. Halston and I were fans of their Roussane’s smooth and fruity flavor during our wine tasting and ended up buying a bottle to enjoy on the winery’s porch. The wine tasting at $12 for 6 wine tastings.
Although my workload has tripled, I’ve managed to have three consecutive short work weeks this month. I’m not bragging or anything but long weekends feel so good. 2017 is off to a great start (minus the whole Orange Muppet becoming our next President and all)!
I spent Monday at my favorite Florida beach, Anna Maria Island. I’ve never bothered to learn much about the barrier island or even explore it. All I know is that I fell in love with the beach in 2013 and I’ve been back countless of times since. *shrugs*
And it was the thought of returning to warm, sunny Anna Maria Island that kept me going while Halston and I walked the cold streets of New York last week.
Upon my arrival to Florida from Puerto Rico, I traded my bathing suit for a coat, sandals for boots and four days later Halston and I were headed into unfamiliar territory: the snow-covered streets of New York City. We’ve both traveled to the city before (I personally have only traveled in passing so wasn’t able to see much during my first visit) but we’ve never seen actual piles of snow actually covering every inch of the ground we walked on.
But before we dive in, I have a few questions for New Yorkers. I noticed a lot of you own Canada Goose coats. A quick online search shows that the coats retail from $700 to $1,400. You are also extremely fond of L.L. Bean’s duck boots which retail at $150. My question is, how can you afford the coats and shoes? I understand the cost of living is higher and you might be getting paid a lot more than I am (although isn’t everyone getting paid more than I am?) but still! That’s about $1,200 in winter accessories.
Are they worth it? Do you just receive the coat and shoes the moment you decide to make New York your permanent home? Is it sort of like a birthright program–you just receive the items when you turn 18? Do you save up $100 each month for a year and then treat yourself come January? Please feel free to email me the answers to these questions.
Where we laid our heads to rest:
We stayed at the Row NYC Hotel, just a few blocks from Times Square. Our bedroom was on the 23 floor and it was quite small, but it was perfect for the two of us since we didn’t plan on hanging around the hotel for too long. The price was reasonable (cheaper than an Airbnb and even some hotels in Orlando!) and when you book online, it’ll prompt you to post about your stay on social media in exchange for two drinks at the hotel bar–which we did (anything for free drinks). We heard that City Kitchen, located inside the hotel, has amazing donuts but we didn’t get a chance to try them.
How we got around:
The subway system, walking (hello, ten-mile days!) and the occasional Uber. We are not subway savvy but Google Maps walking directions tells you which subway to take and it is accurate, for the most part.
Central Park: I’ve always wanted to stroll along the winding paths of Central Park, gaze at horse-drawn carriages, people-watch from a bench on the Literary Walk shielded from the sun under a huge tree…
Unfortunately, it was 24-28 degrees during our visit, it was snowing heavily, there were piles of snow on every bench and it was too cold to stop and admire nature. We walked around for about an hour stopping by Belvedere Castle, the ice skating rink and the Literary Mall before finding shelter and thawing out.
30 Rock: We simply stopped by to check out the towering Christmas tree and the festive ice skating rink. No Tina Fey or Seth Meyers sightings.
MoMA: I love visiting museums but the Museum of Modern Art left me underwhelmed. Now, I do not know a lot about art and there are only a handful of artist that I will ever recognize which include: van Gogh, Dali, Frida Kahlo, Monet, Warhol and Botero. I consider these artists that actually, you know, tried. So when Halston and I found out we had paid to see works of art (and I use this word lightly) that included Piero Manzoni’s Merda d’artista (this is literally POOP IN A CAN), Jasper Johns’ Painting Bitten by Man (IT IS JUST A BITE MARK) and the attic full of garbage that is Kai Althoff’s collection (IT IS LITERALLY AN ATTIC FULL OF GARBAGE), we were less than impressed. I’m sorry Althoff, but you lost me at the stained couch and doodles that you call art. I’ve never worked harder at keeping a straight face.
Staten Island Ferry: Before the bridges that connect New York City boroughs were built, ferry operators braved the busy waters of the New York Harbor to transport people. The Staten Island Ferry is one of the few remaining vestiges of the ferry system. The ferry runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week and it is free! On the 5 mile, 25 minute ride, we had a perfect view of the Manhattan skyline, The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
One World Trade Center’s One World Observatory and 9/11 Museum: The One World Trade Center soars to 1,776 feet with 104 stories. It opened on October 2014 and it’s the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.
The tickets were $34 each (same price as the Empire State Building). There is a TSA-style checkpoint before entering the observatory, so be prepared to take off many layers of winter clothing!
Once inside, we walked through a room with a video montage of the people who helped build OWTC, then we encountered the Manhattan bedrock upon which the building was built. Following that, we rode 100 stories on the Sky Pod elevator which shows you 500 years of New York’s evolution in 60 seconds through floor-to-ceiling LED technology, so you’re not actually looking outside as you ascend. We walked out of the elevator, watched another presentation and were allowed to walk into the observatory which gave us fantastic views of New York and New Jersey.
Guests can also add the One World Explorer iPad rental to their visit. The view-enhancing experience offers a helicopter view of the city and all the guest has to do is point the iPad at the skyline, click on a building and the program will zoom in and give fun facts about it.
Similar to our visit to OWTC, our visit to the 9/11 Museum began with another checkpoint. Tickets were $24 each.
The museum in located within and surrounded by remnants of the original site. On the museum floor we found the slurry wall, the original wall that held back the Hudson River, the Last Column, pieces of the North Tower’s antenna, crushed fire engines and more. Standing next to the antenna really put things into perspective with how small I am in comparison to it.
Inside the museum, visitors will learn the stories of the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives that day and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Photography is not allowed once inside the actual museum, which is great because people can concentrate on what is in front of them. In some rooms you heard recordings of family members trying to reach their loved ones, in others you heard the survival stories of those who managed to escape the towers. There are multiple displays showcasing the destruction the terrorist attack left behind, the personal belongings of the passengers on the plane that hit the western wall of the Pentagon, the timeline of the attacks. There is also a dedicated area of the museum exclusively for the loved ones of those killed in the attacks. I was overcome with emotion at every turn.
Chelsea Market: We walked around the Chelsea Market, an indoor urban food court, shopping mall and television production facility. We found everything from wine studios, to a sushi bar, a seafood market, thai food, Indian food, a sandwich shop, a bakery and an Anthropologie because it wouldn’t be an official hipster destination without one.
New York Comedy Club: While walking back to our hotel, we ran into someone from the club’s street team and bought tickets from him. Tickets vary in price from $15 to $35. I would suggest to buy the tickets online so that you don’t feel as pressured as we did to buy the tickets. We paid $30 each plus a two drink minimum but I have a feeling that night’s show was a bit cheaper.
However, we did have a great time. The comedy club is located near the Flatiron building and it small, dark and intimate and about 8-10 comics performed, including Mark Normand who I’m pretty sure I’ve seen perform somewhere. Tons of Donald Trump jokes. Tons of laughter. We had a great time.
Calle Dao: Intimate Cuban-Chinese restaurant (and when I say intimate, I mean we could hear every word coming from the table next to us and we really hope that girl was able to get her herpes breakout checked out…).
Standard Biergarten: Beer, sausages, pretzels and ping-pong offered in a fun setting under the High Line. Walking in felt like we were at Oktoberfest and all the picnic tables were occupied by 20-somethings. Instead of paying with cash, you have to buy $9 tickets for the food and drinks you plan to consume. Cool concept so that the bartenders aren’t dealing with having to cash people out, but I wouldn’t pay $9 for a pretzel or sausage ever again.
Eataly: There are two Eataly locations in New York. I’m pretty sure we went to the one near the New York Stock Exchange, but don’t quote me on that. Eataly is the largest Italian marketplace in the world, comprising a variety of restaurants, food and beverage counters, bakery, retail items, and a cooking school. We enjoyed a delicious flatbread, wine and glorified beans on toast. The food was great, minus the glorified beans on toast. I wasn’t a fan.
Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream:You’d think that two people that can barely withstand the cold would seek out hot chocolate and coffee on every corner. Wrong. A year ago I saw a Buzzfeed feature on Morgenstern’s black coconut ash ice cream and I was determined to find it. The ice cream had a subtle coconut taste, not to overpowering and YES, it did stain our teeth and YES we did laugh about it for ages. Totally worth it.
During our stay, we traveled to Astoria to visit one of my college friends and hit up Judy & Punch, Dominie’s Astoriaand Sweet Afton Bar. All three bars were very intimate, neighborhood pubs and I didn’t feel like I stuck out like a giant Floridian thumb.
In three days I didn’t even see a fraction of what the city has to offer, so I’ll definitively have to return in the future. Preferably in the fall so that I don’t freeze to death or melt into a puddle.
After successfully destroying all my fingernails by biting them and only getting a small fraction of my major to-do list done, it’s safe to say that my days back at the office did not go quite as planned.
Honestly, I’m still daydreaming about Puerto Rico, swaying palm trees, piña coladas and spending time with my loud family.
There is nothing like spending the holidays with your loved ones, seeing a stampede of children racing for presents underneath the Christmas tree, enjoying double servings of your stepmom’s asopaoand listening to “Mi Burrito de Belen” on repeat everywhere you go– literally everywhere, the beach, the mall, the car and even while walking through winding roads looking for Taverna Lupulo (my favorite bar in Old San Juan).
…and now I’m homesick again. Do you want to take a trip down memory lane with me and relive my vacation? Let’s go!
Where we laid our heads to rest:
Halston and I stayed at the luxurious Wessendorf Manor, a quiet and private retreat a top a hill in Guaynabo. Our room was modern but modest and included an in-suite bathroom and A/C. A mouthwatering breakfast of fresh fruits, waffles and freshly-squeezed orange juice greeted us each morning under a terrace by the pool. Other amenities included complimentary car rental, no resort fees, housekeeping, snacks and free Wi-Fi.
…but don’t bother looking it up as it doesn’t exist. It’s actually my dad’s house and my stepmom (whose last name is Wessendorf) was actually the (best) cook. I had you going though!
I don’t usually have an itinerary when I travel to Puerto Rico alone because I just want to spend time with my family. Nowadays, I’m usually accompanied by my husband whose insatiable curiosity about the island just won’t die, so I’m forced to go *shudders* outside. All joking aside, it is interesting to travel with him and see the motherland through different eyes.
Inspired by a river trekking blog post, we found ourselves driving an hour and a half from Guaynabo to Utuado, a city I’ve never had a desire to visit. As luck would have it, we took a wrong turn and ended up driving about 40 minutes up-and-down a twisty, narrow road on a mountain with no cell service. Thankfully, Halston had downloaded the Google Map of the area and we eventually found our way.
Our first stop was Rio Caonillas and parked our car by a bridge. Since we were ill-prepared for this adventure, we took our shoes off and walked down the trickling, shallow river until it began getting deeper and faster.
Our second stop was stopping by Lago Dos Bocas, a man-made lake constructed in 1942 by the island’s electric company by blocking the Arecibo and Caonillas Rivers where they meet. They later built a dam and installed a hydroelectric power plant. I’m unsure if it is still in use.
[edit: husband has just texted me saying that we visited Lago Caonillas not Lago Dos Bocas which is nearby. I’m an idiot. Proceed.]
As we were leaving the lake, we came across a hilarious “recycled garden” and I had to get out of the car to take pictures. Tires and garbage were painted and assembled to look like characters from Disney movies, Despicable Me, The Simpson and El Chavo del Ocho. Positive messages and Bible verses adorned the wild bamboo growing along the path.
We paid a $2 parking fee for our car and walked around admiring the flowers. We bought four flowers for my stepmom for $10 and bought sunflower seeds for $2. Unfortunately, the seeds were unsalted and no one ate them.
I’ve been to Cabo Rojo multiple times; either to stay at small beach resorts or to visit La Parguera, one of the island’s bioluminescent bays. The municipality received its name (Cape Red) because of the reddish color of its salt-flats and cliffs.
On this trip, we visited the Los Morillos Lighthouse, which stands on white limestone cliffs surrounded by water lagoons and marshes. The lighthouse itself was kind of “meh…” but the views surrounding the lighthouse were spectacular.
In Aguadilla, we visited Crash Boat Beach and were surprised at the number of American tourists that had found their way to that side of the island. The beach occupies the site of a former military port and still has some of the original structures, like boat slips, which people use to jump from. You’ll find food vendors on every corner at this beach–Halston and I ate two chicken kabobs and a piña colada each (don’t judge us, we were starving!). Parking is a bit complicated so we paid someone three dollars to park by their house.
For YEARS (I am not even exaggerating), I’ve been meaning to go to Waffle-era Tea Room (La Waflera)in Old San Juan and I was finally able to do so.
The restaurant is known for its teas, gourmet waffles and it is located in a tourist spot, so you can already imagine the sky-high price of our breakfast. Halston’s waffle alone was $17.50, but totally worth it.
I ordered a sweet waffle with fruits, maple syrup and cinnamon and Halston ordered a “salty” waffle with prosciutto, cheese and poached eggs. Both were delicious and but were glad to have ordered one of each because at one point the salty waffle’s flavor got a bit too overpowering, so we ended up sharing more than intended.
The service was slow and the food left much to be desired. The shrimp we ordered literally looked like the bulk cocktail shrimp you buy at Costco and the wings weren’t impressive. We finally got our drinks when we were done eating, even though the restaurant was dead and we were the only customers waiting on drinks.
The drinks were decent and the view breathtaking, so I’ll give them that.
The trendy new food hall, which opened its doors back in October, houses over 15 restaurants and bars and can fit up to 600 people. El Mercado was extremely busy when we went on a weeknight and we had to watch for tables and chairs like hawks–my suggestion is to secure a table before ordering your food so that you’re not left wandering around for a spot to sit.
Inside you’ll find over vendors offering culinary delights such as Italian food, Mediterranean, Puerto Rican, Caribbean, Vietnamese, breads and pastries and craft beers and cocktails.
The food at Nonna, the Italian restaurant we settled on, was okay–nothing out of this world. I was told that the squid ink linguini that I ordered would be spicy, but the only thing that left an after taste was the $20 charge for linguini at a food hall.
In a cross between a food hall and a food truck rally, Lote 23 opened right in time for my trip in Santurce, the sketchy but trendy municipality where all the cool kids hang out at night.
Lote 23 is divided in four terraces with 16 vendors bringing gastronomic offerings such as pizza, Puerto Rican-Chinese fusion, South American food, burgers, noodle joints, Popsicles and sweet, sweet libations.
We created our own noodle dishes at Wok It which were relatively inexpensive. As you continue adding to the dish, the price increases.
It goes without saying that every trip back home involves a visit to one of my brother-in-law’s Metropol restaurants. Hey, we have to keep the money within the family and provide for my nieces and nephew, right?
They’re currently working on opening a new location at a hotel across of the new Convention Center but my ultimate dream is for them to open in Orlando so that I don’t have to go to ugly, hole-in-the-wall restaurants for Puerto Rican and Cuban food.
I was really craving Mediterranean and/or Turkish food during my trip so we ended up in Istanbul, a teeny, tiny Turkish restaurant in Old San Juan. I ordered the Chicken Ottoman Casserole, stir-fried chicken with mushrooms and garlic. It was packed with flavor and I wish I had taken the leftovers with me, but we were headed to Los 3 Cuernos with my friends and I didn’t want to look like a loser…
We brought in the New Year with my family at Vivo Beach Club‘s New Years Eve bash, dancing along to the live band and DJ and everyone had a great time… well, everyone but my niece who was dying of boredom, but maybe that’ll change when she’s 18 and is allowed to drink (drinking age is lower on the island).
And just like that, another whirlwind Puerto Rican adventure ended, leaving me wondering when I’d be back. Hopefully sooner rather than later.
How did you spend your holidays?
Also, I’m headed to New York over the weekend. Any recommendations?