Savannah, ooh-na-na

Happy New Year!

Wait… is saying “happy new year” 23 days into the new year still a thing? Asking for a friend.

How have you been? Not much has changed since we last spoke apart from breaking my toe. Oh, and I stopped biting my nails after 26 years so that’s a major milestone for me!

Between work-related trips to South Florida, out-of-state weddings, and visiting family in Puerto Rico, it’s felt like I’ve been living out of my suitcase for the past two months. But I’m here now and that’s all that matters!

Over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, Halston and I traveled to Savannah because we both had the immense pleasure of being in my brother’s bridal party. Let’s take a second to admire how adorable Alex and Stefanie were that weekend: (pics by Chelsea Renay)

 

We arrived on Saturday for the wedding rehearsal at Harper Fowlkes House and a delicious lunch at Collins Quarter, followed by a massage at Milan Day Spa with the bride, while the boys split off and went to Abe’s on Lincoln, an Abraham-Lincoln themed tavern where guests doodle pictures of the former president and tape them around the bar.

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Why are our husbands so artistically inclined?

Being back in Savannah reminded Halston and I of the fun we had in December, so we decided to share some of our favorite places with you!

Where we laid our heads to rest:

Our Airbnb was located on Tattnall Street, just a short walk from Forsyth Park. The loft had a queen bed, a day bed, a full kitchen, washer/dryer and internet.

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Parking situation:

In order to avoid exorbitant parking fees around town, we purchased a visitor parking pass during our trip.

Nomz:

Breakfast:

  • Coffee Fox
  • Back in the Day Bakery
  • Cafe M Savannah: I’d like to give this little French spot a shout-out for crafting the most delicious salmon quiche we’ve ever had in our lives. We went back in January, and I’m thinking breakfast at Cafe M needs to be a monthly thing from now on… hey, it’s only four hours away from Orlando! 

Lunch and Dinner:

  • Huc-A-Poos Bites & Booze
  • Savannah Seafood Shack
  • Flying Monk Noodle Bar
  • The Olde Pink House: The first time I visited Savannah with my friends, we couldn’t get a dinner reservation earlier than 9:00 p.m., so making a reservation weeks ahead was crucial. Serving delicious and inventive Southern food, the restaurant didn’t win me over because of their very, very mouthwatering flounder, but through their collared greens and grits — two sides I absolutely hate, but couldn’t get enough of at the Olde Pink House! I couldn’t believe it! We went back for lunch two days later without a reservation and walked right in.

Miscellaneous Nomz:

  • In Vino Veritas Wine Bar
  • Leopold’s Ice Cream
  • Six Pence Pub
  • Savannah Bee Company: While we already have a Savannah Bee Company location at Disney Springs and I’m already familiar with their products, our location doesn’t offer mead tastings, so we had to stop by! Previous to this experience,  I had no idea that there were so many varieties of mead, ranging from sparkling to semi-sweet to sweet, or that the ABV was so high!

Fun stuff:

  • Forsyth Park
  • Colonial Park Cemetery and Bonaventure Cemetery
  • Tybee Island Light Station and Museum 
  • Paris Market & Brocante: This store, and adjacent cafe, are basically what the inside of every girl’s head looks like. I wanted to live there.
  • City Market: While “touristy” and somewhere I’d avoid, we strolled around City Market early in the day and found a place to sit down and sketch (my sketches were atrocious), people watch and enjoy peach sangrias from Cafe at City Market.
  • E. Shaver, Bookseller: Savannah’s oldest (and cutest!) bookstore, and historic landmark commemorating Halston’s most severe sneeze attack, courtesy of the two cats who live in the shop.
  • Wormsloe Historic Site (Wormsloe Plantation): This state historic site was established by one of Georgia’s founders, Noble Jones. Here we saw the ruins of his family home, a museum and a demonstration area interpreting colonial life. Honestly, we would’ve paid just to drive down the oak tree “scenic tunnel.”
  • Haunted Pub Crawl with Ghost City Tours: I had previously gone on an incredibly fun haunted pub crawl in Savannah with Tara Haunted Tours, and Halston had recently gone on one in New Orleans during a bachelor party, so we had high hopes for this one. Unfortunately, the cold weather kept most of the would-be attendees away, so it ended up being us two, another couple, and the world’s corniest tour guide. I feared that Halston and I would have a permanent eye-roll following the tour.
  • Chippewa Square: Forrest Gump made Chippewa Square famous in the scene he is sitting on a bench, waiting for the bus. Unfortunately, the bench was a prop and has since been placed in the Savannah History Museum, so Halston and I moped around the square for a good five seconds and then took a picture sitting on the ground where the bench once sat. Forrest Gump fans can visit Debi’s Restaurant, the diner where “Jenny’s” character worked.

Have you been to Savannah before? Did we miss anything? 

xx

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Family Trip to Columbus, Georgia

Happy Hump Day!

Hope your week has been productive so far. Mine has involved a lot of working out, shoveling kale into my mouth and wondering why I’m still 157 pounds despite my effort to lose weight so that I don’t have to buy new clothes. Same old, same old!

Over the weekend, Halston and I visited my sister and her husband  for their daughter’s first birthday. The drive wasn’t terrible and thankfully, Scout slept the whole way. Because we assumed their house in Fort Benning would be swarming with people, coming in and out all weekend, we decided to stay at an Airbnb.

Now, I’ve only ever had one terrible Airbnb experience in Los Angeles, so I’m very trusting when I️ book accommodations. The one I️ chose was pet-friendly and looked eclectic from the pictures. The host waived the pet fee for the weekend and it was also minutes from uptown Columbus, which my sister said was a cute area so there was no question about it. I️ booked it.

When we arrived at 1:30 a.m., we were greeted by a run-down duplex which would be our home for the weekend. We swung open squeaky the chain link gate and unlocked the door…

O.M.G.

The room we walked in to happened to be the owner’s bedroom, which is where we were going to sleep, however, it wasn’t the normal clean, neutral Airbnb bedroom. The owner’s clothes and shoes were hung up on the wall on his makeshift closet and every shelf was coated in a thick layer of dust. His personal belongings, including pills, bills and a glass cup holding various pairs of sex dice, were all over the home, which made it seem as if he currently lived at the duplex and had stepped out for us to stay there over the weekend.

Don’t worry. I thoroughly washed my hands after taking this picture.

The shower wasn’t the cleanest, the tub was too close to the toilet and I’m pretty sure our bed sheets hadn’t been washed, but at that point we were too tired to care.

If you were lucky enough to watch my Snapchat story about the Airbnb, you’re welcome. If you weren’t, I’m sorry but I️ forgot to save the videos. You’ll just have to imagine the state of disarray that this house was in. I have to give our host props though, for angling the pictures on Airbnb well enough that his mess was hidden from view. Very slick.

The next morning we ventured out with Scout and wandered around uptown Columbus.

 

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FALLLLLLLLLLLLLL COLORS!
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Check out this majestic picture Halston took of Scout!

We walked around the Chattahoochee RiverWalk, a 22-mile walking and biking trail.

For those who love the outdoors, there’s a white water rafting tour company right off of the river, as well as zip-lines over the riverWe eventually veered off the trail and ended up at Market Days on Broadway, a weekly crafts, home goods and produce market, and a massive crowd anxiously waiting a parade to go by. We stopped at Iron Bank Coffee Companya coffee shop located in the historic Iron Bank Building, for a quick pick-me-up before heading back to the Airbnb.

We quickly changed and headed out to Fort Benning for my niece’s birthday and had a great time hanging out with family!

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The funniest picture I took all weekend.
Second funniest picture I took all weekend.

After the party, we hung out at my sister’s house watching movies and the last episode of Stranger Things 2 because my brother-in-law is a slacker (this will be the third time I’ve watched Stranger Things 2…).

On Sunday, we went on another walk around the RiverWalk and enjoyed breakfast at My Boulange, a cute French bakery and cafe in uptown Columbus. If you ever find yourself in the area, make this cafe a stop on your trip. It was delicious! They might’ve won me over before I even ate because they were playing Christmas music by the outside tables. It was magical.

We checked out of our sketchy Airbnb and grabbed lunch with everyone at Ruth Anne’s Restaurant, a diner known for it’s incredibly unhealthy all-day breakfast options like Cap’n Crunch French Toast and breakfast burgers. I opted for a BLT.

We bid adieu to the fam and headed back to Orlando.

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Scout, the back seat driver.

Can’t wait for all of us to be reunited in Savannah for my brother’s wedding!

Have a great rest of the week! 

xx

Buenos Aires, The Land of the Tango

Buenos dias from Buenos Aires!

Just kidding. Thanks to Timehop, I’ve just now realized that it’s been a year since I went to Buenos Aires, which reminded me that I’ve had this blog post saved as a draft for months.

I’m never going to become a popular blogger, am I? Eh, I’ll live.

Last November I flew down to Buenos Aires to work with a public relations agency that would help connect me with media outlets there. I met with valuable media throughout my week there and blah, blah, blah you’re not interested in the boring aspects of my life. Moving on!

I had the rare opportunity to extend my trip some additional days so I booked an Airbnb and was able to explore the city over the weekend.

Where I laid my head down to rest: 

During the work week, I stayed at the Esplendor Palermo Soho, a trendy, contemporary boutique hotel in the Palermo, the largest neighborhood in Buenos Aires. The hotel reviews are pretty much hit or miss. I had no issues with my room except not being able to sleep well at night because of the commotion in the street. I quickly learned that Argentinians love their car horns and have no regard for my sanity. My stay included Wi-Fi (which was terrible) and breakfast, which is where I discovered how delicious a factura con dulce de leche is.

Like I previously mentioned, I stayed at an Airbnb close to the US Embassy in Argentina, also in the Palermo area. The hosts were incredibly sweet and made my stay spectacular with amazing Wi-Fi, recommendations for things to do around the area and complimentary champagne. I was completely enamored with the apartment and would definitely return.


I stayed in Palermo, visited Recoleta (which is gorgeous) and Retiro (which is like Times Square and I hated it).

How I got around: 

1. Walking.

2. Uber Argentina: While I was there, Uber was only open to people with foreign credit cards, like myself while people who actually live in Argentina couldn’t sync their credit cards to the app. It was very weird, but all of my Uber experiences were enjoyable, even the one I took at 1:00 a.m. from a tango show.

3. Radio Taxi: I only took this on my way to the airport because Uber drivers are wary of driving there. The ride wasn’t terrible but it was expensive.

4. I took the bus one day with the agency I hired because we couldn’t get a taxi or an Uber and the experience was bearable. They also have a underground subway (the Subte) which I did not use because subways freak me out.

Weather: 

The weather was in the 90s for the most part although it rained one night, and for two days straight the temperature dropped to the 50s and I was not adequately packed/dressed for that.

Money: 

You tip 10% and it has to be in cash because you cannot add it to your final bill. I found that debit and credit cards with chips had issues working there; my debit card didn’t even work at the supermarket. I ran out of cash very quickly and walked to every single bank in Recoleta, trying to withdraw cash. The bank that ended up working for me was HSBC and the ATM at the Four Seasons. International banks in the area include Santander and Citibank.

Communication: 

I always use WhatsApp for international travel and for speaking with international clients. If you’re saving an Argentinian’s cellphone number to message them through WhatsApp, make sure to input the country code which is +54 and then add the number.

Nomz:

Before I list off the places that I ate at, I’d like to share with you some of the things I learned while dining out:

1. There are no fast food restaurants in Buenos Aires and if there are, I missed all of them. As a solo traveler on the go, it was very inconvenient having to go to a sit down restaurant each time I got hungry. I actually found ONE McDonald’s after a very tiring day and gave in. At the time, those were the most glorious fries I had ever tasted.

2. Restaurants charge you for your eating utensils! All of my receipts had a small service charge for them. Would they have charged me had I brought my own fork and knife? Could I have kept the utensils after my meal? So many unanswered questions!

3. Restaurants often close after the lunch rush and reopen at 8:00 p.m. and if you show up to dinner at that time, you’ll find yourself to be the only person at the restaurant, like I was on more than one occasion (ahem, loser). Argentinians can go out to dinner anytime between 10 p.m. and midnight and follow that up with bar hopping and surprisingly, bowling until 7 a.m. New York isn’t the “city that never sleeps.” It is Buenos Aires.

In comparison to other food I’ve had in Latin America, I found Argentinian cuisine to be quite bland. But the restaurants that I went to were decentnough that I would return if I ever found myself in Buenos Aires:

1. La Pescadorita

2. La Dorita

3. Miranda Cafe

4. Grill Dandy

5. Mooi

6. Sushi Pop – (Pad Thai was really good!)

7. Pizza Gresca – (Their flatbreads are quite tasty)

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8. The Four Seasons – (I hosted a media lunch here, the food was AMAZING.)

9. Boulan Bakery – (Do yourself a favor and order everything in sight. My Airbnb’s building had a Boulan on the lower level and it was the best/worst thing that could’ve happened to me)

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10. Santísima Cervecería

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Fun stuff: 

You can’t go to Argentina and not go to a tango show at a tangueria. I went to two, one with a coworker who happened to be in the same city as me that night and one with the PR agency I was working with.

The first, La Ventana was located in a small, intimate venue. The price of admission included wine, a three-course meal and the show. Since most of the guests visiting tanguerias are tourists, La Ventana picks the guests up at their hotel, so we did not have to worry about transportation (the hotel my coworker was staying at was one of their partner hotels; they don’t pick you up from any hotel). Dinner was at 8:30 p.m. and the show began around 10:00 p.m. and ran until midnight. I had never seen a live tango performance and quickly fell in love with the dance, the intimacy between the dancers and their gorgeous costumes. The night culminated with a powerful performance of “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” in Spanish and with images of Maria Eva Duarte De Peron (known as Eva or Evita) projected in the background.

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The second, La Piazzola Tango, was a similar dinner-show concept except the venue was a huge theater in the basement of a shopping center.

I’ve watched Evita once and have belted out the Madonna song countless of times, but I had never thought about Eva as a real person before. So of course, one of my first stops on my time off was to visit the Evita Museum. Turns out Eva was sort of a bad-ass, a pioneer for women’s rights in Argentina and through her efforts, women were granted the power to vote. The museum is located inside a building that Eva had turned into a rehabilitation shelter for women and children with no resources.

I then made the trek to the Recoleta Cemetery to find Eva’s tomb. The cemetery is huge, spanning at 14 acres and it contains many elaborate mausoleums. I had never seen anything like it and spent about two hours wandering around admiring the architecture.


Like a typical tourist, I visited the MALBA (I came for the art but stayed for the excellent Wi-Fi) and saw a Frida Khalo painting, stopped at the Buenos Aires Japanese Gardens (which were relaxing but kind of underwhelming) and walked around the Eco-Park which used to be a zoo. From what I read, the zoo was to be turned into an ecological park and the animals to be relocated to sanctuaries, but when I visited, there were still plenty of animals there, not exactly pleased with the 90 degree weather. I saw bears, drenched in sweat with no water to swim or play in and elephants who looked distressed. I’m not a Blackfish-Close-Down-The-Zoo type of person but that eco-park should be closed down. The conditions those animals were in were inhumane and it broke my heart.


One of my favorite places to visit was the Rosedal De Palermo, the most famous park in the Palermo neighborhood with a collection of over 18,000 roses of diverse color. I couldn’t get over how beautiful everything looked and smelled!


Speaking of flowers, I visited the Floralis Generica, a giant flower sculpture made of steel and aluminum which “blossoms” each morning and closes its petals at sunset.

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Thanks to a Buzzfeed list of bookstores, I found myself walking one afternoon to El Ateneo Grand Splendid, a theater turned bookstore.


On my last day there, I headed to the San Telmo Fair which takes place every Sunday. San Telmo is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Buenos Aires and the fair features unique artisans and antiques. There were hundreds of booths at every turn and had my feet not been killing me for walking on cobblestone all afternoon, I would’ve stayed until closing time. I ended up buying origami cranes on strings and origami earrings (don’t ask me why, I’ve never been into origami but the paper she used was gorgeous). I was told by my Uber driver to watch for pick-pockets there but I found the experience relatively safe.

I enjoyed visiting Buenos Aires and hope to return to Argentina soon. The people were so friendly and the architecture dreamy!

Have you been to Argentina? What did you do? 

xx

Road Trippin’: Los Angeles 

This is a little embarrassing to admit but it has been a year since I’ve been on my road trip and I never finished my road trip blog posts. Maybe it was because I was busy living my best life or maybe it was because I’m lazy. It is a toss-up between the two.

We last left off somewhere between a winery in Temecula and East Jesus.

Our next stop was Los Angeles, California, America’s parking lot! Note: Halston and I were not fans of L.A. You have been warned. 
Halston and I headed straight to our Airbnb in Downtown Los Angeles, a charming little studio apartment with exposed brick walls, a lot of natural light and weed all over the carpet. But the weed was the least of our problems as the building was actually kicking us out the next morning because it did not allow for Airbnb rentals (they were graciously allowing us to stay the night). Ah, the joys of road tripping!

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Our first Airbnb above; the second Airbnb below.

 


Our host was able to immediately put us up at another one of his properties which hadn’t been listed yet so we didn’t have to worry about finding ourselves homeless. It was modern, clean, across from the Staples Center and five minutes from the spooky and possibly haunted Hotel Cecil (look it up!).

Nomz:


Grand Central Market
was overwhelming — think of it as a hotter Chelsea Market. We hit up an Asian spot there and for the life of me I cannot remember the name of it (maybe because it’s been a year since I was there), but the food was decent and we only had to stare down a couple for a few minutes before finally sitting down.

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After our visit to the Griffith Observatory and our failed attempt to hike all the way up to the Hollywood sign, Halston and I visited Figaro Bistrot, a little cafe with a relaxed atmosphere featuring classic French fare. We shared a few dishes including crab croquettes, a cheese board and delicious, creamy potatoes au gratin.
During our trip we also ate at Tony P’s, Luna’s in San Gabriel and In-N-Out (yes, it exceeded my expectations!).

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The view from Tony P’s.


Fun Stuff (and not so fun stuff): 

It goes without saying that the Griffith Observatory and the hike up to the Hollywood sign are popular tourist spots that should be avoided at all costs. So. Many. People. So. Many. Cars. Not. Enough. Parking. Space.
Walking around the observatory and using the telescopes is free and open to the public so we strolled around the grounds, museum  and people-watched (there is a cost to see the planetarium shows). We visited around dusk and the amount of people at the observatory was overwhelming so we decided to walk towards the Hollywood sign, unbeknownst to us how far it truly was. We attempted the hike but never made it seeing as how the weather was unbearable and uncooperative. We did, however, take in the spectacular view during our hike.

 


Another rookie mistake we committed was visiting the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Why didn’t anyone warn us? I was over it pretty quickly after seeing 18 obese Spider-Men (?) and a poor man’s Mickey Mouse. I did see the footprints of the Harry Potter cast at the Chinese Theater so that and eating gelato from GROM were the only highlights to my visit. That’s all you need to know.

 


But don’t feel bad for us. Los Angeles wasn’t completely terrible. While Halston went on a fun electric bicycle tour of Santa Monica and Venice Beach with his family (they had joined us toward the end of our trip), I went to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (yes! The museum with the street light installation! No! I don’t have any cute pictures there!). The museum is the largest museum in the western U.S., so I’ve crossed THAT off of my list (it was never on a list). It was surprisingly empty during my visit, but I didn’t mind. Who wants to visit a crowded museum anyway? I quickly booked it back to Santa Monica to meet up with Halston and his family and I officially dipped my toes in the Pacific Ocean.

 

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Halston’s bike tour above; the beach below.
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Streetlights at LACMA.


The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens
was a breath of fresh air. I loved walking around the different types of gardens with my favorites being the Chinese Garden, the Japanese Garden, the Rose Garden and the Desert Garden. The Chinese and the Japanese were particularly memorable because of the architecture and water features.

 



The Last Bookstore
is California’s largest used and new book and record store. My favorite part of the bookstore was the Arts and Rare Books Annex which displays a selection of rare and vintage books of all kinds like first editions of Franny & Zooey and In Cold Blood.

 

So there you have it — the good, the bad and the ugly. Would I go back to LA? After experiencing the traffic, I can’t say I would go back willingly but I’d love to return to the beach and neighboring areas.

Have you been to L.A. before? Should I give it a second chance? 

xx

Fri(yay) Lovin’ #11

Happy, happy Friday!

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.

I do not have any pictures of myself from the entire time I was in Boston which shows these boots. However, gaze upon the feet of my Bostonian lady friends and see that they too were wearing duck boots.

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.

I can’t share my task list because it has things for my eyes only, so here’s a generic website image. Enjoy.

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.

And if you’re looking to make some extra cash on the side, you can sign up to become a local expert in your area.

I’m telling you, had this been an option when I was in Colombia last year, I probably wouldn’t have dragged my driver to go sightseeing with me or had a lonely beer in Argentina (I’m such a loser).

dgh

xx

Weekend Trip to New York

Good morning and happy short week!

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*

It was overcast so the view wasn’t quite as impressive as usual.
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.

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Check out those cool earmuffs, yo.
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.

Fun stuff:

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.

They did have one powerful exhibit titled “Insecurities: Tracing Displacement and Shelter” which focuses on the conditions surrounding forced displacement and the global refugee emergencies. The exhibit will be running until January 22.

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.

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I took this creeper shot of a lady… Sorry, lady.
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.

Nomz:

Bourbon Street Bar & Grille: Big Easy-inspired pub, a few blocks from Times Square.


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 Astoria and Sweet Afton BarAll 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.

What are your favorite places in New York?

xx

Holidays in Puerto Rico

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 asopao and 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!

My stepmom coming in clutch with the last breakfast of 2016.

Fun Stuff:

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.

Utuado: 

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.


Guanica:

On our way to Playa Tamarindo, a tranquil and quiet beach near the Guanica Dry Forest, we stopped by La Finca De Girasoles, which translates to “the sunflower farm.”

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.


Cabo Rojo:

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.


Aguadilla: 

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.

Nomz:

Waffle-era:

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.

Mist:

While lounging around Isla Verde beach, hunger struck so we headed over to Mist Rooftop Bar + Kitchen.

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.


El Mercado de Paseo Caribe: 

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.

Picture c/o El Nuevo Día

Picture c/o Fremain Andujar
Lote 23:

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.

Accurate portrayal of how packed Wok It was when I visited. (Picture c/o Wok It PR)

Yum! (Picture c/o Wok It PR)
El Metropol:

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.

Life-changing ceviche. (Picture c/o El Metropol)
Instanbul:

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? 

xx