Sunday, January 25, 2015

New Platform!

Hi everyone! I've decided to switch over to a cleaner platform so check it out here:

I just posted on my 4th and final All Time Favorite Destination, so if you're curious to see if my final favorite destination is a worthy one, you can read about it here

Thanks!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

All Time Favorite Destinations Part 3: Porto, Portugal


Porto is a lovely city to walk around feeling like Dionysis himself, buzzed off the sweet yet strong port wine. To be completely honest, Portugal was never on my bucket list of travel destinations. I booked this trip the first time around because it was a cheap destination, so why the hell not? And guess what? I loved it so much, I went 2 times after that and every single time was a unique and absolutely wonderful experience.You can read about my first experience here.

Unfortunately, I only have photos from that trip and not the subsequent 2 trips, so I will leave you with a short post since I don't want to recycle photos.

Things To Do:
1. EAT, EAT, EAT and then eat some more. Food is extremely delicious and cheap, besides, you need to fill your stomach for the next thing on the list

 Pasteis de Nata - Portuguese Egg Custard


                       Francesinha - A Meat/Beer/Cheese Lover's Sandwich. Check out Santiago Cafe 


                                                                 Images via tripadvisor
                           Adega de Sau Nicolau - Restaurant for Traditional Portuguese Fare

Bolinhos de Bacalhau - shredded cod croquettes #tdf
Image via Link

2. DO A PORT WINE TOUR. This too is cheap (prices vary depending on the caliber of the port winery) and you get to learn a thing or two as well as have a wonderful tasting at the end; no complaints there! I think all 3 times I went to Sandeman - creature of habit that I am....



3. GET LOST and soak in the city. All 3 times I went, we just wandered around and discovered so many great places and all 3 times, my experience was totally different and unique because Porto just has so much to offer.
 I rode on one of these when I went with my parents.. and it was kinda boring to be honest.
Image via Google

Dom Luis Bridge
Yes we crossed this 146ft tall bridge by foot. Yes, the subway goes right along side you as you walk. Yes, my poor mother was so scared as the subway rushed by that she crouched down and gripped on to the rails for dear life. Yes, my dad and I laughed so hard our stomachs hurt.

The nightlife is also very fun and safe in Porto from my experience. We went to a bar that's located inside an old apartment. Beer was cheap and good (under 2EUR I think?) and if you save your glass, the refill is only like 1EUR. The place doesn't have a name visible from the street and I can't remember the name... but it's located in the same plaza as Livraria Lello & Irmao. I know that's a lame description but you will find it! There are people hanging out on the balcony with beers in hand so just go to that plaza and look up!

I loved Porto so much during my time in Europe. It was a tranquil escape from Madrid and had a European twist on the "chill Californian vibe" which was probably why I was so enchanted by this place.

Picture taken from Kirsten and the only photo I could find of us all from this trip.  From L to R: Sophia, Kathie, Kirsten, & Me!

Getting In:
Depending where in Europe you are (or elsewhere), it's probably cheapest and easiest to take one of the budget airlines to the Oporto airport and take public transportation or a taxi into the city.

Accommodation: 
My 1st Time: I booked a 6 bed female room with my friend, Terri for about 20EUR/night at Gallery Hostel. They do great group dinners where you pay a flat fee and get to experience homemade Portuguese cooking. So delicious! And Terri and I got to meet some awesome new friends. Staying at a clean and safe hostel is so important to me as a girl and this hostel truly exceeded my expectations. The idea of a hostel can be scary, but it's actually great for meeting like-minded and interesting fellow travelers!
My 2nd Time: I came with my parents so we decided to rent a private apartment and this was also such an excellent experience! The owner of the apartment was super friendly and even left us a carafe filled with port wine to drink. The apartment was clean, modern, and very comfortable. A private apartment is great because you can comfortably cook your own food and have some privacy.
My 3rd Time: This time, there were 4 of us girls so we booked another private apartment. Again, great experience with a great location. The owner told us about this fabulous dining experience where you go and they make you whatever they feel like that day and also provide wine and when you're done, you pay whatever you feel like the meal is worth. Isn't that crazy cool? I think that's called a supper club or closed door dining and to be completely honest.. I totally forgot about this until this exact moment! Anywho, you guys should try to search for supper clubs in your area because it's such a fun and unique dining experience.
(I can't find the name or links to either of these apartments I stayed at but you can look on airbnb.com, hostelworld.com, or hostels.com)

Transportation in Porto:
I always recommend my favorite mode of transportation - walking! You get to see things you normally might miss in a car, bus or subway. If course if the place you are trying to get to is too far, subway or taxi is the best option. All of these are extremely easy to find and use. There are also vintage trams that are still running to take you from one place to another (there are kind of a lot of hills in Porto X.X)

Have you guys been to Porto? And if so, what are your thoughts on the city?

Friday, January 16, 2015

All Time Favorite Destinations Part 2: Madrid, Spain

Madrid is like an elementary school "boyfriend". You tease him, you make fun of him, you act like you hate him, but deep down inside, you have a major crush on him.

I know I might be biased, but what can I say? I spent the most time there than in any foreign country, experienced the many ups and downs of living in unfamiliar country with vastly different social and cultural norms. It was like a roller coaster love affair that is forever emblazoned in my heart.

It wasn't easy living in Madrid and I spent a lot of time complaining about how different things were from what I was comfortable with, but eventually when I just let go and embraced it for what it was, it's natural charm and understated beauty swept me off my feet. I met so many wonderful friends who I know I can pick up from where I left off even though we don't see each other often and that to me is something supremely special. I will never forget my time there and as much as annoy my boyfriend about how awesome Spain is, I can't help it! But I guess the only way to truly find out if I'm right, is to go see it for yourself!






 When I took this picture I thought I was a genius who had captured the essence of Spain...lol #humility

 Beautiful Madrileño dusk.


 My FAVORITE gelateria ever that I've been to anywhere. I know Italy is supposed to be known for its gelato and in all fairness, I've mostly only been to the touristy parts of Italy... but I guarantee this place will give Italian gelato a run for its money. 
Location: Plaza del Dos de Mayo in Malasaña, Madrid.

 Smooching my Spanish boyfriend. He was always the rock that I could count on :P

  El Escorial: a beautiful historical residence of the king built right outside of Madrid. If you have extra time and are wondering what to do, it;s a peaceful escape from the city. You can easily take the train or a bus.

 Mafia Family 

 Ugh! The beautiful Santiago de Bernabeu Stadium


One of my favorite places to frequent: Mercado San Miguel. It's like an indoor farmer's market with tapas stalls of all varieties. It is a little on the pricier side for tapas but it's a beautiful atmosphere and a great place to go try tapas for the first time because you can actually see the tapas (especially helpful if you're Spanish skills are limited to "hola, me llamo..."). You can also grab some beautiful wine to sip on while you try various tapas. 
Location: Adjacent to Plaza Mayor, Madrid

Did you know that the Spanish take extreme pride and joy in their jamón? I know it may seem weird and slightly scary with that hoof still on there but the cured meat on those luscious legs TO DIE FOR! Try and spend a little more money if you can to eat the jamón ibérico. It's unique to Spanish cuisine and the pigs are fed an acorn diet throughout their lifetime; the end result? Beautifully dark meat with a clean and nutty taste.


More pork!






Parque del Retiro is Madrid's equivalent to Central Park in New York.

The Palacio de Cristal in Parque del Retiro




The Palacio Real de Madrid aka my vacation home when I'm in Madrid.
Location: Calle Bailén, Madrid

Equally as beautiful at night

The dead center of Spain

I was never a big chocolate person but this chocolate croissant opened the floodgates of my chocolate croissant obsession

Everywhere is such a beautiful backdrop

The Ayuntamiento de Madrid during Christmas lights up different colors at night.

Putting on costumes for Carnaval. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be...

Pulpo a la Gallega at Terra Mundi. Again, scary looking but oh so delicious! You can check out my post about this restaurant here.

This was the most normal photo of us.... I was so happy that my friend Christine came to visit me during Christmas. Grateful to have had a piece of home during this time and to have made so many fun memories. 

Southern Madrid

Friends I met at in my Political Science classes at Complutense

With friends drinking a bucket filled with beer that it too heavy to carry and too cheap to only go through 1(hehehe..)

With my high school friends who were during a Euro-trip post college. Who would've thought we'd reunite in Madrid!

Welcome to Madrid!

Madrid, I love you!

Now that I look back, my pictures do not do justice to all of the beautiful moments I had in Madrid. Through all of my travels, I've come to realize one important thing (out of many..) and that is to just enjoy the ride. There are conversations and emotions and things I saw that can never be adequately captured by a photo or even video. They will be forever treasured in my heart and in my memories but that is the one of the many beauties of traveling. You get to experience certain things that you might not experience in the comforts of "home". 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year, New Post: All Time Favorite Destinations Part 1

It's been a looooooong time since I've posted, but I've decided as part of my New Year's resolution, to keep chronicling my little life and to utilize this to push me to new adventures and challenges.
I'm not really one to make New Year's resolutions; not because I think I'm above it, but just because I've just never really made them? Yeah I'm a little late to the game I guess but, it's better late than never.

As I start a new chapter in my life, I'm heading into 2015 with a lot of changes happening really quickly. I know I will be pushed out of my comfort zone and challenged every single day, but I hope that in the end, I will be a better person for it.

I want to start this new year with a post of my favorite destinations I have been to so far in hopes that in the coming year, I will get to continue to have amazing experiences with equally if not more amazing company!

1. Sardegna, Italy: A great place to lay out in the sun & turn so dark your teeth will glow in the dark.

Although I was born in the East Coast, I was raised in Southern California, right along some of the best beaches in the U.S.. So I'll admit, I am a bit of a beach snob.... but Sardegna has been one of the most memorable places I've visited. It's a beautiful little island off the coast of Western Italy, and most of it is still very rural (to my knowledge). There are a couple of major towns; however, they are just what you would imagine a quaint little Italian village to look like - cobblestones and all.

This trip was wonderfully relaxing peppered with stimulating conversation and whole Italian wood-fired pizzas 3 times the size of my face.. I mean, what more can a girl ask for? Windows desktop background of a tropical island please! I know... as if I wasn't spoiled already...

What is it with doors?

Weather forecast gloomy & rainy.. nbd I'm in Sardegna!

 Welcome to my yacht, my friends

 En route to a cave we didn't want to pay to see... #cheapcollegekids #iprobablystillwouldntpay

 La Pelosa Beach in Stintino, Sardegna 


 With my beautiful cat-eye sunnies partner-in-crime


 The 3 (very tan) Stooges

 A view from one of the forts we visited... I mean, is this real life?

 Ancient Roman ruins in Tharros

 In love with the architecture!

....because who doesn't love wine in cute rustic glass bottles?

Getting In: You can fly into Cagliari, Alghero, or Costa Smeralda Airports. We flew into Alghero and of course, even though I have a love/hate relationship with budget airlines, there's no better (a.k.a. cheaper) way to get into Sardegna than via RYANAIR or easyJet (imho). There also are ports that you can sail into, but as I have not done so, I have no idea how this works.

Getting Around: Although there are buses that you can use, it is very limited and runs only about every hour due to the low population of people that actually live there. The best and pretty economical mode of transportation you can use to see the whole, relatively small island is to rent a car. If you are staying in one area, you can also rent bikes but I highly recommend renting a car or moped to see the whole island since it is small and can be seen in one day.

Food: Some of the best recommendations I've gotten for restaurants/eateries are from locals rather than TripAdvisor/Yelp/Travel Books. So don't be afraid to ask the person in charge of where you're staying whether it's a concierge, owner of the vacation home you're renting, etc.


I can't say how unbelievably thankful I am that people have told me that they miss my blog... I mostly write so I can remember the experiences I had and hope that others can glean some useful information, but I'm happy to know that there actually are people who read my blog :)