Travel

Another Birthday

Monday I turned 32, and as my sweet godson pointed out, “wow, that’s old!”

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I actually spent my birthday in NC with my family, mostly my grandma, who recently got some unfortunate health news. Despite that she is still living her life with vitality and joy as always and that was the greatest gift for me to witness for my 32nd rotation on this planet. While there My family put together an epic bbq with so many delicious dishes and enough food to feed an army. I was also there for my grandmother the morning of my birthday when she had to put down her 19 year old dog suddenly after a couple of weeks of rapid decline. And then there were many grocery runs, cooking of meals, watching of HGTV shows, laughing at random things, and discussions of life that took place. All in all wonderful.

being home made me realize what a treasure it is to invest in time with the people you love. I mean we all know that, but this time I really felt that. It became even clearer that all the hard work I do is not for money, but for freedom to be with the people I want, when I want. That is the greatest luxury.

Venice in Pictures

I found this draft post, tagged with photos uploaded and the works scheduled for March 1st... 2017! What is even worse is that these photos were from my trip to Venice in 2013!!! So here they are 5 years later. and although they are not the best quality (yay for improving photography skills) let's just say this post is for closure.

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A Porto AirBnB for Three

The problem with blogging about my travels is that I take FOREVER to blog about my travels.

But better late than never right? I want to share more about my trip to Europe last summer, the trip that happened before my sudden move to Los Angeles. Lets start with my Porto Airbnb!

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My partner, his brother and I stayed in this cozy and eclectic apartment (Ai, Porto - Family & Friends) on the top floor of a typical residence near the University of Porto. Although the climb to the top is as grueling as the steepest of Porto's streets, the balcony and view from above was worth it.

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Our hosts obviously took a lot of time decorating, and I particularly appreciated the lush plants everywhere, gifts of port and chocolate, and the design magazines throughout the apartment. The only possible downside to this spot is that there is no kitchen, but considering how much amazing food Porto had to offer this was not a problem for us at all.

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All in all this was an place to write home about and made our time exploring Porto that much more memorable.

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Weekend Getaway: Palm Springs

This past weekend was my partner’s birthday and to celebrate I wanted to take our first weekend getaway to Palm Springs. As we have only been in LA for less than 2 months (and most of those months were packed with the apartment hunting, furnishing, buying a car, job starting, and end of year holidays shenanigans), my guy was a bit resistant to planning a trip for his special day. But after my insistence and incredible sale of a place I'd never been he gave in 😉.

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As part of the deal I promised him a super chilled out and easy weekend, and that’s where I delivered. We left our house around 9am with a short 2 hour drive a head of us. Given that in LA it takes 2 hours to get from our apartment to downtown during rush hour, I knew this would be a piece of cake. The drive was more scenic than expected, much of it you are nestled within mountains and vast empty landscapes as you approach the desert. We both absolutely adored it and cruised along in the carpool lane the whole way.  

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Our very first sight was a wind farm just outside of Palm Springs. For an easy vantage point you can stop by the Amtrack station (PSP) to take in all the spinning turbines. Beware, it is very windy when they are all on! After a bit of train spotting, windmill watching, and photo taking we headed to our hotel.  

STAY

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I booked a night for us at V Palm Springs Hotel. It was a toss up between the famous Sagauro, Ace and V hotels when deciding, but in the end I took a chance on the V hoping it would be the quieter of the three on this particular weekend. And it was just quiet enough without feeling desolate. Our room was super efficient, clean, and comfortable, equipped with cozy bath robes and a swinging chair on the balcony overlooking the pool and out onto the mountains beyond. Honestly, I could have skipped all activities and spent the entire weekend right here.

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Hands down the best part of the stay was lounging by the pool and relaxing in the hot tub. After checking in early we lounged here for hours, riding bar snacks and turning over every so often to get an even amount of sun!

EAT

There are quite a few restuarants I wanted to try out in Palm Springs, but there are but so many meals in one weekend! Fortunately I know I have many more weekends ahead here. These are a the few I will certainly return to... 

  • Elmer’s Reastuarant; a classic diner well worth the wait. The German pancake may look wierd but it is not to be missed.
  • Evzin; a Mediterranean spot that feels more like a chic gallery than a restaurant. And save room for their only dessert, it was better than expected. 
  • Lappart’s Ice Cream Shop; try the date and caramel ice cream and thank me later...
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DO

Aside from lying pool side and eating, we were able to squeeze in a few other activities. On the way into town we checked out the wind farm. After checking out of the hotel on Sunday we made our way downtown to see the Palm Springs Art Museum. First stop the architecture and design center which was in between exhibits, but the docent was kind enough to give us a history of the building. We walked 15 minutes to the main museum which has two lovely sculpture gardens. And then we popped in and out of shops along the main drag until we decided to check out some mid century home in the residential area. On our next visit I'd like to do more of this beacuse the houses are just so inspiring. Never have I wanted to own property more than after seeing these super efficient and minimalist homes. Ginally, just as we were leave town we stopped off to check out the great Cabazon Dinosaurs. They are such a quirky attraction (the world's biggest dinosaurs!) but a must see for us nonetheless.

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Before we knew it we were home just after sundown getting ready for the workweek ahead and with just enough time to unpack and Netflix and chill on the couch. All in all a perfect first getaway and lovely weekend! 

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5 Restaurants to Try in Barcelona

I have become pretty good at planning vacations. I scour the internet for the best neighborhoods, museums, shopping and the like. But one thing I tend to struggle with is food. I am the type that can go from having a blast to being hangry in the matter of an hour so being around good food options while traveling is a must. But at the same time I HATE eating at tourist traps. It is the saddest things for me to spend on of my few meals on vacation at a place that over charges you for the poor imitation or watered down version of a local cuisine. That is why I have to share some of the best place I at at on this trip to Barcelona.

For a full foodie day start off with a coffee here. Satan's coffee corner is small, quasi-hidden spot in the gothic quarter serving up rich brunch dishes, pastries, and excellent coffee. Hipster vibes are abound, and they're only compounded by the super slow and apathetic service. But despite this you can't help but feel a little cooler leisurely drinking your coffee here, and the food certainly makes up for it. 

For a proper breakfast head to Bubó Bar, right next door to world renown Bubó patisserie. If you are an eggs and bacon kind of person (like I often am!) you might be hard pressed to find it at other places in Barcelona. Especially if you are looking to avoid the very touristy places. Luckily there is Bubó Bar, situated right in from to Santa Maria del Mar Cathedral. Tables are limited, but their farm fresh eggs and incredible breads and pastries are worth the wait.

If you love a good donut then definitely pop into Chök, located in the heart of Las Ramblas. If you don't love donuts, who are you? No but in all seriousness, there are goodies for everyone here including truffles, churros, and other beautiful and artisanal pastries. Beware though, choosing just one is nearly impossible.

For cocktail hour and tapas you must go to El National. It is located in Eixample neighborhood (read more about Barcelona's various neighborhoods in this post) on the main stretch of Passeig de Gràcia. This parking garage turned high end "gastronomic experience" is beautifully designed and won't break the bank. There are several areas and bars to choose from including a tapas bar, oyster bars, cured meats bar and more.

For dinner you'll need to head to the beach for authentic paella that is rumored to be the best in Barcelona. Xiringuito Escribà is a spot on the boardwalk serving up seafood and sangria like none other I've had before. You can even watch your paella get cooked up in their open kitchen, but likely you'll be more focused on the seaside views or whatever delicious appetizer is in front of you.

Special shout out to Sal for being our foodie guru throughout this trip and leading us to many delicious meals!

 

Minimalist Packing: Summer in Europe

I have wanted to do a minimalist wardrobe packing post of ages! And I am finally organized (with enough photos) to do one. This post is essentially a what I made, what I wore, and how to pack light (one of my travel resolutions!) all in one. Although, it doesn't include the few electronics or toiletries I brought along with me, and for the sake of not droning on forever those will have to wait for another time.

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Clothing

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For my 2 weeks in Europe this September, easy day dresses (that are easy to wash if needed) were my go to. I prefer simple silhouettes that can be worn with any shoe like the ones pictured above and below. The black one on the top left is a tencel number from Zara's Join Life collection, and the one on the right is a just a striped t-shirt dress.

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Again with the easy dresses, and these two I made! If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know I love to get my sew on (this girl over here is really getting to her slow fashion). And this summer I challenged myself to make as many garments as I needed to take along with me to Europe instead of buying new stuff. In total, I made 2 dresses, a skirt, 2 tops, a necklace and a bag for this trip! On the left, you'll see I am wearing a me-made grey and white striped linen shift dress with a v-neck, and on the right a boxy cotton number that ended up being perfect for the beach.

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When packing for longer trips I stick to what I love to wear, that generally means denim, stripes, linen, and tees. Some of my most worn tops were a self-made navy striped breton top tee, a self-made black linen top, my Everlane white linen tank and navy boxy tee. I also packed 2 more striped items, one a shirt dress and the other a t-shirt dress, because I can never have enough stripes. On the bottom, I kept it super minimal with a pair of black high waisted jeans, denim cut-off shorts, and a black linen wrap skirt that I drafted and made myself!

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outerwear

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Outerwear can take up a lot of precious real-estate in your carry on so I bring items that are layerable on the plane and can work with every outfit I pack. This year my denim trucker jacket was the savior of cooler mornings and evenings. And an item I never leave at home is my 4-year-old Uniqlo Ultra Light puffer jacket. This thing is light enough to fit under any jacket for added warmth but thin and light enough to get tucked away in the smallest of handbags. When all else fails and I just couldn't bear to wear either of those layers, I would just steal my boyfriends grey cardi, because after all sharing is caring.

Shoes

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Shoes, much like outerwear, is bulky and if you are like me you probably have a very hard time keeping this category to a minimum. But now I have a pretty tried and true method of packing footwear when I am planning a variety of activities. I forget about heels, I may wear them once for a few hours but the nuisance of packing isn't worth it. Instead, I opt for a simple, versatile and comfortable sandal that can be dressed up like my broken in Madewell leather sandals on the left. I also always pack my rubber Havaianas that double as a house slipper and beach sandal. And finally I have a walking/travel sneaker like my Supergas on the right, this is the shoe that will bail you our when your dogs are barking after days on days of exploring.

accessories & bags

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Last but not least the accessories! This is the key to variety in my outfits when I pack light. I usually have a pair of earrings or two, a bracelet and a couple of necklaces tucked away. A scarf, and belt that can be work at the hip or natural waits is always useful. And then a pair (or two) of sunglasses.

As for bags, I am not much of a minimalist, but fortunately, the bags I take can fit within one another and take up very little space. I use a Fjallraven backpack as my hand luggage while traveling. I find that the wrap around zipper just makes accessing all the stuff in my bag so much easier when on the go, and it fits a lot without being heavy or bulky. I also always have simple tote bag squirreled away for those moments when I need to stash a layer or pack up a beach blanket. But for nicer dinners or slightly dressier outfits, I take a small black leather cross body bag. It is simple enough to wear during the day but looks nice enough for a night out. And finally, this year I took a special beach bag I made from a clothesline. Normally I would probably skip this item but since I made it and love it I brought it with me and did get a bit of use out of it on our beach days.

And that is everything! All of this (plus my toiletries) fit comfortably into my lovely Away carry on. I will be writing a review on this suitcase soon, I wanted to use a few times first before posting, and now I finally have seen both the good and the bad and can give a comprehensive review.

I hope this packing summary helps anyone who is trying to pack a bit lighter. Let me know if you have any packing hacks or holy grail items!