Traveling constrains your time, luggage, and even energy. My skincare (and makeup) routine is cut in half when I travel. Read on to see what I prioritise!
In an ideal world, you have sample or travel sizes of all of your products, so you know your skin won't break out from it. Trying new products is always a risk as you're already in a new environment that your skin/body may not react well to.
Sephora's Facial Wipes - You're tired; you've been on your feet all day. I get so lazy with my skincare routine when traveling so using wipes are the easiest way to go.
A facial cleanser is a must. I love getting travel kits as they're so convenient. Belif's bestsellers On-The-Go Travel Kit has the basic essentials to keep your skin happy and healthy while you travel. Belif is one of my favourite brands but you can get whatever kit that makes your skin happy. I also recently got the Drunk Elephant birthday gift from Sephora, which includes their Jelly Cleanser and Protini Cream so I've been trying it out on my more recent trips.
- If you DO breakout, carry a sheet of acne patches to help alleviate it a bit.
Don't exfoliate on your trip. It's not worth the space nor the risk.
I believe toners are still worth bringing. I'm currently packing Son & Park's Beauty Water that I bought in Korea. They were selling the full size + a free travel size in a pack. Most if not all toners should be kind to all skin types so you shouldn't have to worry about breaking out from a new toner.
Unless you are in dire need of this, I think you can skip it.
SERUMS & AMPOULES
This one is very dependent on how you think your skin will react to where you're going. I've been bringing my marula oil(1oz) with me when I know it's going be dry and I have not regretted it.
Masks are definitely a luxury to bring, not an essential (in my opinion). They barely take up space so it should be fairly easy to pack. They're great for unwinding after a long day, or hydrating your skin on the plane, as Mama recommends.
I think this is one of the few things in the gray area. I love bringing eye cream to make sure I look refreshed when traveling but I realise it's more space and may not be essential. I think the best option for this is to bring sample sizes since eye creams are usually clean because they're made to moisturise an area that is more sensitive than the rest.
This is a MUST. Of course you need pack moisturiser. I'd argue to bring whatever size you want (as long as it's TSA compliant). You need a good moisturiser that will lock in the potent-yet-minimal amount of product you've just applied. It's not worth letting your skin suffer.
This is also a MUST!! UV protection is not essential, it's a requirement. Protect your skin- don't be a fool. Make sure you are applying sunscreen daily.
For hot or humid destinations: Blotterazzi by beautyblender. I personally don't like using the pack of blotting paper because it gets messy and I feel like my fingers get oily. Blotterazzi is a reusable blotting applicator that's easy to use and easy to travel with because it comes with a case and a mirror.
weather and accommodations
I really couldn't have asked for better weather! It felt so nice to be outside and walk around to get some Nashville sun (although it did get cold when you stayed in the shade).
Accommodations in Nashville are expensive... Not sure if it's a normal thing but it was also an eventful weekend for Nashville... but then again, all of my Lyft drivers said it's always packed in Nashville so maybe it's always expensive?
We ended up booking a private room at a lovely lady's place in North Nashville. It definitely felt far from Downtown but the cost to get to and fro wasn't actually all that bad.
We started with a slow morning, having brunch/lunch at Monell's. I don't have any photos because I was too busy eating, but here's how it works:
Once I had the courage and energy to stand up from all that food, we walked about a mile to Frothy Monkey for some caffeine. They have really unique and interesting drinks so worth trying.
We explored downtown starting with Broadway first, which was crazy even at 1pm! All the honky tonks and bars were filled up already. We explored the streets, visited all the touristy spots like Ryman Auditorium, Johnny Cash Museum, and the Country Music Hall of Fame.
We made our way to Third Man Records, which was super cool. The entrance leads to a storefront for visitors to listen and buy records, and then a recording studio in the back. They also have a recording booth for anyone to record for $20. We also ran into Jack White, no big deal.
My friend found this gem: Carter Vintage Guitars. Heaven for any guitar player; ironically, neither of us play decent guitar HAHA, but we can't go to Nashville without playing some music, right? They have acoustic, electric, banjos, new and used pedals, amps... They also have a few small amp rooms to plug in and play, which was really fun! Highly recommended for guitar players visiting.
Channeling our basic selves, we took photos at the Nashville #WhatLiftsYou mural. Having walked all day, we ordered a scooter and made our way back Downtown where we got drinks at Layla's. Let's get it out of the way right now: It's safe to assume that every bar/honky tonk we went to had live music. We also stopped by Luke Bryan's Honky Tonk for dinner. I love the multi-tiered honky tonks because every floor is different: casual bar + live music, dance floor + live music, bar + seating, rooftop bar + dining.
The most awkward part about me not knowing the words to sing along. It's more people watching for me than it is for my own enjoyment. I so appreciate the musicality and honestly, how they remember to play all these songs on command, but it was hard to sit through half an hour of this.
We ended the night at a restaurant called Sambuca, after The Station Inn was sold out. There was a soul/jazz band performing and I had the most fun! They were super good and playing all the songs I loved. We probably spent over 2 hours there watching them.
We started the day having Sunday service at Fellowship Bible Church where their services are held at an elementary school & celebrated afterwards with some decadent 100-layered donuts from Five Daughters Bakery.
Afterwards, we explored 12 South. The area is quite small but it's still super fun to check out for an hour or two.
We made reservations at the Belle Meade Mansion. The tour was really interesting; only one-hour and you get a wine tastings included at the end, which I thought was worth it. The mansion is kept to its original form or items that imitate the original look as best as they were able to, so it's really impressive the lengths they went to keep the integrity of the plantation. No photography inside so I don't have any photos to share.
By the end, we were hungry and ready for food. We went to Edley's BBQ, which was my favourite meal of the trip! My friend and I split a full rib plate with collard greens + grits casserole as our side, and an added side of fries. The collard greens were spicy and really salty so I wasn't a huge fan of that, but the ribs and fries were amazinggggggg!! They do have waves of long lines, and the food takes a while to come out, but I think it's still worth it.
We ended the night at a lowkey bar, borderline speakeasy called Attaboy. The interior is really retro, has summer night in the 60s vibes. There's no menu: you tell the bartender you choice of liqueur + taste preferences and they concoct you a drink so all the cocktails are priced the same. A really cool bar that I'd definitely want to visit again!
Our last day in Nashville. We decided to explore East Nashville. They have a great deal of thrift stores, including a second hand bookstore where Charlotte the cat resides.
We made our way to Hattie B's to try their famous fried chicken. I know it's not their star dish, but I got a sandwich, which was still delicious! I got their medium heat because I'm too chicken (ha) to try their 'damn hot.'
Lastly, we went to Cafe at Thistle Farm, which was attached to a storefront where they sell goods like essential oils, jewelry, bath salts, etc, all made by women survivors. They're actually an incredible brand that happens to be a social enterprise (and not a social enterprise with mediocre products). Please please check them out here and support them. Their cafe was also delicious and delightful! Highly recommended.
the bottom line...
There are, surprisingly, hipster parts of Nashville that you would have never found if you went for a bachelorette party. I enjoyed my time there. I wished I knew more country music to I could follow along (jk I don't really wish that). I'd probably come again for a special occasion (bachelorette, birthday, etc.) but probably not on my own accord.
This is my checklist on how to ensure that I'm prepared to have the best flight possible.
Huge disclaimer: This is most likely... scratch that... THIS IS more than you need to pack. I am an over-packer. It's my sin to bear.
Mama recently gave me a suggestion that I've been meaning to try that I'm sure I won't regret: pack a face mask and wear it halfway into your flight. It will hydrate and moisturise your skin, and make you feel more relaxed and cool during your flight. Can't wait to try it out!
So many vacation options, so many different occasions! Which bag is right to take to your next trip?
I wanted to break down the different types of travel bags to help you:
Having each of these bags will keep you covered for any and every adventure you choose to take on!
Suitcases are one of those things where it's always worth it to do lots of research since they're so expensive, you'll use it a lot, and they're meant to last you a long time! You want a suitcase that will be durable, functional, and stylish, of course.
Suitcases are my favourite bag of travel since I never have to worry about it not fitting as a carry on, nor do I worry about it getting dirty or ruined if the airline requires/requests for me to check in it for whatever reason. It's also very convenient since I can roll it- it's not hard on my shoulders like a duffel bag would be.
I can probably do an entire post on choosing the right suitcase, but for now, I will say two things are absolutely required when shopping for a suitcase:
Whether you're doing an overnight or a backpacking travel through Europe, it's important to have a ergonomic backpack that's durable and has enough compartments.
Wirecutter recommends the Osprey Packs Farpoint 70 Travel Backpack but it doesn't look like it's carry-on friendly (this model is OK for carry on though). For more recommendations, I recommend reading through the Pack Chronicles, a new lifestyle blog that features a lot of backpacks, written by one of my closest friends!
tom bihn AERONAUT 45
I believe this bag gets its own category since it's like a backpack and a duffel combined. I've never bought it but so many of my friends rave about it and can't say enough. It's spacious enough like a carry on suitcase, but carries and travels like a backpack and duffel. It's quite adjustable and seems really easy and light to pack with, so even though I've never used it, I'm going to still recommend it!
Check it out here.
Duffel bags are a great option for a weekend getaway where you don't want to look like you're packed for a full week of travel. Duffels are more formless opposed to suitcases, which give me the justification to not be so strategic when it comes to packing (AKA I feel justified to be messy). I also love the feeling of just opening up my duffel wide open when I arrive at my hotel/AirBnB and letting that be enough, versus feeling I need to unpack everything right then and there when I open my suitcase.
Last year, I bought a weekender duffel that's also carry on size compliant from an Australian brand called Country Road. I am obsessed with it. It's pretty, sold, durable, and way bigger than you'd expect.
My absolute favourite duffel in my closet is my Cath Kidston foldable duffel set. Read about it here!
*Another note about the foldable duffels, I brought it over to Korea in case I overshop, which I did, and now I have an extra duffel bag to bring back with me without having to buy a new suitcase! Cath Kidston is putting out more of the model I love, in new patterns! Find them here.
A weekender tote is essential for an overnight stay. Again, if you don't want to take a backpack but don't need to pack an entire duffel, this is a great option. It carries enough, carried on the shoulder, and simple. It doesn't make you feel like you're able to go on some trek. You can find cute and cheap options from Target!
One con about weekenders is the lack of pockets and compartments, just something to keep in mind!
the bottom line...
There are a ton of options when it comes to finding a travel bag; the question is: 'For what occasion?' Consider the length, location/season, intensity of the trip, and which bag might make the most sense to take!
Am I missing a category? Let me know!
To be completely candid, I've never stayed at a hostel. Call me high maintenance; call me whatever the heck you want but I couldn't get myself to stay at a hostel without paranoia creeping into my head about getting taken, getting mugged, or getting some STD. I'd rather have paid an extra $15 a night to stay in a private room at an AirBnB with a good local who just needed extra cash and doesn't speak any English.
Although I've actually never stayed at a hostel, I've heard both good and bad stories. Some of the better ones about people who've made friends such instant connections that they ended up traveling elsewhere together and continue to stay in touch to this day... and some of the worse ones being that the quality of the hostels were so bad that they came back with endless bed bugs and having to cancel certain plans on their trip to deal with it.
I think hostels are a decent option for people who are young, love backpacking, on a budget, and love meeting new people while traveling.
My biggest tip when it comes to hostels, is read through reviews to get a gist of the hostel's policy, vibes, and experiences. You can read through reviews on TripAdvisor or HostelWorld.
There are such things as a 5-star Hostel- they do exist! And based on the city or country, the standards of a given hostel can vary tremendously, as can the price of an AirBnB or hotel there, so I recommend looking at all of your options for that city before going straight to book a hostel.
Beware of bed bugs at hostels
Couchsurfing is a social networking website that connects travelers with local residents. Local residents can put up their couch, space, or room up for travelers to rest their head at night. It's always free, although it's etiquette for you to get your host a little something to say thank you.
Both guests and hosts verify their identity through personal information and Facebook, and reviewed as layers of safety. You create a profile for your trip (dates, what you'll be doing, etc.) for the host to read and know more about you. You can also see host's profiles and filter them (gender, languages spoken, pets, etc.) so both parties can be selective and even communicate with one another to see if the match would be a good fit.
the bottom line
You're choosing a budget option for travel so you can't be picky. Don't expect much privacy, space, or luxury when it comes to these options.
Better alternative option is finding to stay with, even if it's like a friend of a friend, at least you have that mutual connection, and free housing.
if you have the money, just stay at an airbnb or hotel. Find my comparison post here.
Disagree with me? Add comments below. :)
weather and accomodations
I was super excited that I had the opportunity to return to this city sooner than expected, thanks to work! I think with any work trip, your expectations of your trip very much differ from that of a personal trip. Minding that I came for work, most of my experiences will revolve around food.
I stayed at the Virgin Hotel in Downtown Chicago during the days I was there for work, and stayed with a friend in Bronzeville over the weekend, which apparently is too far south for anyone to want to go.
The weather was pretty rainy and hot for most of the time I was there. Not Chicago's finest, especially after the weather had been excellent the first time I went.
Fun fact: A lot of companies in Chicago observe "summer Fridays" where they allow their employees to leave early on Fridays so they can enjoy all of Chicago's summer festivals.
I flew in the early PM and was situated in my hotel by dinnertime. I learned my lesson the hard way last time with reserving dinner in advance, so I made sure to make my reservations for Girl and the Goat weeeeks ahead this time for myself and some friends! I will say that this time was very good, but it wasn't like my first time there, but glad I went again since I was craving it like crazy after my first time.
For dessert, we walked over to BomboBar, which was just a small take-out window outside of a bar. Seeing how decadent and Instagram-worthy these desserts looked, it's no wonder there was a long line! They had an assortment of gelato, bombolonis, etc.
After work, our group headed to Sushi-San. A Japanese-American fusion restaurant with an playful yet elevated atmosphere. We ordered a bunch of appetizers to share and everyone got their own entree. It was all pretty fancy and fusiony but nothing really got my attention. It all seemed really expensive for what is.
The best thing consumed this day must have been a beer that my colleagues surprised me with when I checked into the hotel. After dinner, I cracked opened my Sun Crusher (Hoppy Wheat Ale) by Revolution Brewery. Oh gosh, it was delicious. Everything I love in a beer: crisp and hopper, full bodied, and citrusy. Highly, highly recommended.
Our work group went to Beatrix for lunch, which was excellent! I ordered off their prix-fixe menu, which came with shared salads and desserts, while we chose our entree. I got their Chili & Chocolate Glazed Salmon, which was basically "Salmon Mole" but they refused to call it Mole. Their menu was great all around, especially their salads and desserts! It's one of those places you'd go for lunch on a workday you take off as a 'personal day.'
Now that I was officially done with work stuff for the week, my friend and I met up for dinner and drinks @ Longman & Eagle, which is like a pub/restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating. The wait was about 20-30 minutes so we grabbed a drink at the bar, which was chill. I honestly don't remember what we ordered since their menu changes daily and I wasn't able to eat much (I was still full from Beatrix), but remember the food being pretty good!
We spent the rest of the evening walking around Logan Square and found ourselves at the Emporium, which is a huge space with bars, arcade games, air hockey, ski-ball, and picnic tables for you to BYOFood with your friends. I kept wishing we had something like this in the Bay area... lo and behold: Emporium SF. I have yet to check it out but it's definitely on my list!
I started off my weekend at the Chicken and Waffle House in Grand Boulevard. It reminded me of Roscoe's, which I dearly miss. It was a solid southern chicken and waffle house. If you go, order chicken and waffles. Not much more so say than that.
Spent some time around Chinatown. Tous les Jours opened up a new storefront so there was a line out the door. It was actually the best bread from Tous les Jours I've had.
Made my way to 3 Arts Cafe during the mid afternoon). The wait was still 30 minutes, but better than the usual 2 hour wait during peak hours. I killed time walking through all the floors, guessing how many hundreds of dollars a simple mirror and sink would cost, and dreaming of the bedrooms I'll never have. The cafe is really as beautiful as all the photos show. It lights up the basic bish within, but my oh my, their food is costly for a cafe. I ordered the cheapest things on the menu and mostly used the time to enjoy the atmosphere. A great suggestion for the cafe (if you're reading this): Open up an afternoon tea menu during midday! ;)
For dinner, we ate at Mini Mott, started by Mott St.
(Fun fact: Most of the big food players in Chicago are all part of a larger restaurant group.)
Their burgers were good, and they also have alcoholic milkshakes and craft beer, which makes for a great meal, and upset stomachache. They also happened to serve Malort. A friend asks "have you ever had Malort?" I respond "What's that?" The next thing I knew I had a shot of this mysterious liqueur in front of me with people counting down until I was expected to down this sucker.
The shot itself wasn't all that bad. The aftertaste is what slowly killed me. It left a bad taste in my mouth, literally. The dry, bitter taste creeps in and never leaves, like your nomad friend who "visits" you with but a one-way ticket. It was bad, y'all.
I had to get that aftertaste out of my mouth, so we all went to Revolution Brewery for a drink. They have their own bar setup, but also table booths for their restaurant side. I ordered the Under Protest APA, which was also really really good. This brewery was 2 for 2 for me so I decided I absolutely love this brewery and highly recommend it. Two thumbs up.
I ended the night at Second City to watch their Sangria Popsicle show. I love improv, whether amateur or professional- it's always funny to me. Thank you, improvisers, who always bring smiles to faces like mine. Your humour is appreciated.
The morning was spent at church 🙌🏼.
I was taken to La Michocana to try Mangonada, a definite first for me. It was sweet and salty and spicy and all the reasons why Koreans love Mexican food. I can't say I loved it at first (and still even now) but I can absolutely see the appeal and obsession over it! It's also great for the summertime, so why not?
Before heading to the airport, my meal supper in Chicago was at Tank Noodle in Argyle for some authentic pho. I'm really bad at rating pho. It was good pho.
Funny enough, all of the things on my bucket list for next time on my first Chicago blog were not achieved. I shall save them for next time, haha. Blessed to have had friends to show me around and to experience Chicago with. Until next time...
I'm a little crazy and like to plan my trips a year in advance because I'll know how I'm tracking in terms of my travel goals. This also helps me keep an early eye out for cheap flights if I know where I want to be when.
Is it off your Bucket LisT?
Hopefully you have a bucket list of places you want to visit sometime in your life. Look to that list as a starting point for possible options. Depending on what you have on your list, and how much time you have, you might be able to do 3 weeks hitting 5 cities (ie European cities) or spend a whole week in just one city (ie NYC).
Don't be so concerned about checking all of these places off, but put patient and strategic of which you want to check off first, and when. It's not about how many you can visit and check off, but about experiencing different places, opening yourself up to new cultures, and enjoying great food.
have good company
I ask myself out of these places, where is good for what occasion. I'll just real life examples for myself:
Depending on the location and the specific people you go with, your trip is bound to be different! You don't need to be that specific and picky with every single location, but I think it's good to be mindful of who'd you want to share experiences with based on the different locations. Easy example: going to Vegas with your crew vs. going to Vegas with your family...
Another thing to consider is if you are traveling with family or children, does the destination have family-friendly activities and accommodations?
If you're traveling, make sure it's safe! Check the Travel Advisory website to check the safety level of your destination. I also enroll myself in STEP: Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, which will basically alert you of emergencies happening around you. See my blog about traveling smart for additional tips! Otherwise, here is a list of the best countries for solo travelers!
Timing is everything
Once I've decided where I want to go, I look at my calendar to see when the best time to go is.
What time of the year does it make sense to visit this place? AKA What time of the year is the best weather? I generally save my #1 draft pick for October since you can make a safe bet anywhere will have amazing weather in October, and it's generally cheaper since it's off peak.
I'd also consider peak events and seasons of your destination: you probably don't want to go to Miami in April when every college student will be there for Spring Break, or Austin in March when everyone will be there for SxSW. Or maybe you do, who I am to assume?
I try to avoid peak seasons and cities when I know there will be an increase in population density. They also tend to be more expensive in flights and accommodations, and airports tend to be more crowded that usual.
I've finally decided...
So once you have an idea of the place(s) you want to go at a certain time of the year, go ahead and look up flights to get a gist of how much it would cost. Then, track your flights and subscribe to alerts for any fare drops so you can sense fare patterns and trends to help you purchase flights at the best time.
How to find the cheapest flights, is a separate post... to come soon.
Taking a red eye or international flight is always really difficult on the body, especially if you're flying on that poor man's budget on basic economy. You want to make sure your body is well rested during the flight so you're not paying for it when you're traveling. I've heard of too many horror stories of my friends not having good flights and jet lag ruining their trips, or other friends who didn't take care of themselves on a 11 hour flight that got them sick for days.
Here are my tricks when it comes to mastering these flights:
Do what makes sense for you! Maybe you're not so sensitive to your surroundings and just need a good pair of headphones and good music. Whatever those things are, figure out what makes you comfortable to that your body is well-rested, and ultimately that you make the most out of your travels!
A few weeks ago I had the amazing opportunity to go to Miami, FL for a work trip! It was my first time there and got to spend 4 days there but felt like I barely did anything. Granted, 2 of those days were just work but I already can't wait to go back!
Weather and Accommodations
Mind that I end at very beginning of May so I already knew and expected the weather to be sunny. However, I was told weeks leading up to the trip that it was rainy and that I could even expect some thunder and rain when I got there. It probably rained 3 times, and every time i did, it rained for 5 minutes and then the sun came back up even brighter than before. The weather absolutely gorgeous- I couldn't have asked for better: Sunny, a bit of heat, a bit of humidity, but the fact that it was so different from this SF weather we get here, it felt amazing to switch it up and be in the sun.
My company put me at the Gates Hotel in South Beach/City Centre, which felt really nice when I walked in, but at the end of my stay, just felt really ripped off. I WILL say the best part of the hotel is that the concierge welcomes you with a warm cookies at check in. The rooms are nice but I just had bad experiences with missing chargers, the maintenance staff walked into my room in the early morning once a day without asking, and stupid 'resort fees.' It's also dog-friendly so I woke up to a barking dog next door so I asked to be moved to another room. It was a pretty pricy hotel, but hotels in Miami are expensive in general so I heard AirBnBs are the way to go.
The location of the hotel was pretty good though. It's north of the central 'South Beach' area but not too far from it. South Beach is where all the tourists go to get the Miami experience + beach experience. My coworkers had an AirBnB across the street from the beach and that was super nice- I'll definitely be doing that next time.
I LOVE that Miami's neighbourhoods are so diverse: everything from South Beach to Little Havana to Brickell to Coconut Grove. They all have their own personalities and spices. I unfortunately didn't get to check out all of the neighborhoods but I did visit: South Beach, Downtown, Brickell, Wynwood, and the Design District. I can't wait to go back and see everything I didn't this time around!
Wynwood is the new upcoming, hip, neighbourhood that all the young people + transplants are raving about. I've described it to be the 'Brooklyn' of Miami. It used to be this run-down couple of blocks that people would avoid but now is filled with cool restaurants and bars, boutiques, and graffiti murals and cement, and anything else worthy of being on Instagram. They even have a destination called 'Wynwood Walls' where you basically walkthrough various graffiti murals. It feels like you're walking through a museum of graffiti.
There are so many bars in Wynwood but one of the more notable ones is 1-800-LUCKY. It's this great indoor and outdoor space that is Asian themed. When you walk through their indoor entrance, there is a tiny, tiny store with Japanese goodies and vinyls. If you walk past the store, you'll enter to a co-op of Asian restaurants and seating. At the very end is their bar, which continues outdoors (so technically 2 bars but the bar table looks attached both indoors and outdoors).
Their bar was excellent. Most people got a mint mojito, which was fitting for the weather. I ordered a Pimms cup and probably one of the Pimms cups I've had! Also outdoors they had lots of extra seating + Taiyaki NYC. I ordered the Straight Outta Japan and it was straight up delicious and beautiful.
I also had dinner at Wynwood Kitchen + Bar. It's tapas so we shared everything family style. Everything was solid but I can't remember anything that stood out to me as being excellent.
My last meal in Miami was at Kush, which was high recommended by a friend. They're known for their chicken + waffles, and their burgers. I went back and forth trying to decide which one I wanted, and ended up ordering the chicken and waffles. When I got my plate, I cut through and noticed my chicken was not cooked all the way through, so I notified them and asked them to just replace only the chicken and then I kept eating. My impression was that isn't wasn't the best chicken and waffles I've had so I was left pretty disappointed. I was halfway through my meal when the manager came out of the kitchen with a completely new plate and apologised for the lack of quality the first time around. I accepted their apologise and dug into the new plate, and let me tell you: this plate tasted COMPLETELY different. The chicken was fried to perfection; the seasoning of the chicken was delicious; the waffles were cooked slightly longer so it had that perfect crunch but softness at the same time. Not sure how differently they cooked the plate, or if it was just the TLC I tasted, but it made a lasting impression. I'll be sure to visit back next time around, and sure to order a beer next time (they have a ton of beers on tap!).
Had lunch at Casa Tua Cucina which is another one of those co-op spaces with various restaurants: everything from salad, pasta, pizza, deli, etc. I ordered fettuccini from the pasta station and omg the pasta noodles were as good as the ones in Italy. I'm obsessed.
Pubbelly Sushi is a restaurant part of a larger restaurant group. A Miami twist on Japanese sushi. Most of the people I was with loved this place, but to be completely honest, I didn't wasn't a huge fan of it. The uni pasta was good (but expensive), and all of the rolls tasted like rice and lemon. Everything had like a full lemon on it. Their best dishes by far were their Miso Black Cod and Japanese Bravas.
More than the food, I enjoyed their drinks much more. Everyone got second and third refills on their drinks. The have a unique, fusion-y drinks menu that incorporates local favourites + a Japanese twist to it (lots of sake cocktails). I ordered their Sangria which had popping bubbles (like of like boba but not).
Puerto Sagua Restaurant is a block from the beach so it's really easy to access. It has a diner feel with a Cuban twist. I was recommended here by a friend for a good Cuban sandwich, and it's also listed on Conde Nast Traveler's list of 10 Best Cuban Food in Miami. The Cuban was glorious- perfectly cut, golden and crispy.
Broken Shaker is a hostel that was continually recommended to me as the spot to be at night. And it sounded super unappealing by its description, like why would I want to spend a Friday night at a hostel bar? But I was thoroughly surprised by what it actually was. It has a tiki, poolside bar feel to it.
CVCHE 105 is one of those classic spots in Miami. There's no shortage of seafood in Miami and obviously, because of it's rich Latin American culture, you have to get some ceviche! I ordered the daily special of the ceviche trio and all of them were delicious. I really tried to remember all three flavors but I really don't. I'm sure any of their ceviches on the menu are great! It They were also served with tostones, which were amazing. We also ordered the Causa de Camarones con Palta (shrimp potato cake) and another daily special, which was a grilled fish + lobster with some kind of puree. The fish+lobster dish was actually not very good, and the puree tasted like curry. Overall really good, and I'd suggest just sticking to their ceviche and causa.
The Standard is my favourite bar, and it made me want to live there forever, except I saw the prices for actual hotel guests and then I went back home, haha. This place is a hotel, space, bar, restaurant, pool, everything. Everything. It's like what you would want for the ultimate hangout: pool with a waterfall, pool chairs, and bar alongside the beach; cabanas and a fire pit; and hammock chairs. It's surprisingly lowkey for such an awesome place. Will for sure be going back!
I wasn't sure what the Design District was, but it's basically a bougie neighborhood full of upscale designer stores, like you'd see in Beverly Hills. There wasn't much for me to do, except to try AUBI & RAMSA, which is a new ice cream shop with a unique twist. It's a bar-styled liquor infused ice cream store. I got the Chocolate Hazelnut Martini, which contained gin and 4.5% ABV.
The one cool thing about the design district is that they do have cool art and design installments around the neighborhood, which gives a bit more glory to its name.
the bottom line...
Notice I didn't go clubbing or go really hard at night life. Due to limited time, and the fact that I was there alone for a work trip, wasn't very conducive to that type of outing, but I would definitely visit Miami again with a group of girl friends to experience more of what Miami has to offer!
Here is my map of all the pinned places friends have recommended to me!
SEE YOU SOON, MIAMI!
Tips on how not to look like a complete tourist in England.
If you care at all about packing and maximising space, whether that be for more of your stuff, or empty space for souvenirs on the way back, you MUST get packing cubes.
I bought these packing cubes on Prime Day and got to use them for a handful of trips now. Click on the photo to purchase, and continue reading below for my review!
Packing Cubes are great because all of the folding and rolling you do, you can force compacts them in these bags to really maximise space, and to better organise your items! Personally I hate when I need to pull something out from the bottom of the stack and then all of my rollings for other clothes come undone. It makes a mess and I end up having to reroll everything because that's how I am. It saves you the hassle and the space.
Packing cubes come in different sizes, colours, and are made by a bunch of companies. AmazonBasics are a solid seller for a decent price. Plus, they were cheaper on Prime Day so I decided to give them a try. Since they were my first pair, I bought an assorted set of 2 medium and 2 large sizes. This isn't a huge deal, but I also love that they have side handles to easily maneuver them when need be.
I definitely use the medium sized ones more since they fit perfectly in my carry on suitcase and I use that suitcase for most of my trips. The two mediums fit perfectly stacked on top of each other, turned wide-ways, horizontally; fits like a glove. I'll put all of my tops/outerwear in one bag, and all of my bottoms/undergarments in the other. I'm left with about a third of the space to put in shoes and misc. items (since toiletries will go in my inner compartments).
I really don't think you need to get a fancy packing cube unless you really want to. Keep it simple. You want the bags to be a size that's going to fit your suitcase and fit your clothes; made of sturdy material; and has a reliable zipper that won't break on you. That's about it when it comes to a packing cube. You'll see that they're well-worth the money.
To reiterate, 2 mediums will fit perfectly on top of each other in my suitcase, as well as leaving me about 1/3 left for misc. items in the main compartment. Two larges will fit my larger, international suitcase, leaving me about 1/3 space as well.
AmazonBasics carries a variety of sizes and colours so go ahead and buy the one that works for you! Whether you purchase from Amazon or another manufacturer, they are super worth it and I highly recommend them!
Happy travels (:
Tips on how not to look like a complete tourist in England.
Brunch @ St. Ali Roasters. First time having coffee in Australia and probably in a good six months! Coffee was splendid. For food, I ordered buttermilk pancake. Two pancakes with fudge, berries compote, and hardened brown sugar. Super good but super filling.
Spent the rest of the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne. Kind of like a farmers market, tons of craft and good stands, sectioned off by category. I was also treated with a cool performance from a band called Amistat, made up of two talented twin brothers. Find them on Spotify and give them a listen!
I lunched alone at Wonderbao where I ordered the pork belly + fried chicken. The pork belly was really underwhelming but the fried chicken was good.
Then took the tram to the Royal Botanical Gardens to visit the Shrine of Remembrance, which was stunning. Beautiful architecture and beautiful view. It reminded me of the memorials in DC (and I mean that in the best way possible). If I had more time, I would have loved to walk through more of the botanical gardens.
I headed back north into the main city centre to meet friends at Rooftop Cinema. No movie the night I went so there was no cover charge, which was nice. It's a super hip rooftop bar with seating, and bleachers covered in turf, with the type of music kids in their early 20s would listen to. I should've hated it, but I loved it. Tough luck that it rained about 5 minutes after I got my drink so I had to down it and run over to dinner in the rain. It's definitely on my places to go for next time though. Unfortunately I don't have any good photos to share, but take a look at their Yelp page. Highly recommended!
Dinner was at Burma Lane, obviously Burmese food. I saw good reviews online but there weren't that many people in the restaurant so it got me nervous. We ordered the tea salad, which was probably the best dish (but not the best tea salad I've had); the cheeseburger dumplings, were basically dumplings filled with beef and cheese, but really did taste like a cheeseburger haha; the noir noodles which were solid; and the beef brisket bao, which was salty and probably too much for us. It was okay, not the best meal in Melbourne but I suppose it was worth a try and my friends enjoyed it enough.
We started our day early with a breakfast stop at Baker D.Chirico. Every pastry and bread on the menu was phenomenal. My friends claimed it was the best bakery. It indeed was one of the best. It's a hidden gem of Melbourne that not too many people know about, thank goodness. I ordered a chocolate croissant and bombolini. You wouldn't think there isn't much of a quality different in chocolate croissants, but there is. It was perfection. The bombolini is basically like a filled donut, but fancy. It was filled with lemon zest and vanilla and the flavors were perfect, too. I probably enjoyed the bombolini much more just because of the flavors.
Then spent some time walking around the South Melbourne Market, where I walked around the stalls and stores, and ate yummy oysters.
We made our way towards the Great Ocean Road, which is basically like the PCH with the ocean on one side and a great forest on the other. It's an absolutely beautiful drive! I got to see the 12 Apostles, Loch and George, and the London Arch. We reserved an AirBnB in Torquay. On the road, I got to see a wild pademelon(I think) crossing the street, and signs for kangaroos (like the ones we have for deer). You'd have to get a hire car, unless you go with a tour company, but it's so worth the drive and seeing the more nature-y, beautiful side of Australia!
Melbourne Transportation Card: myki. My most common method of transportation using this card was tram. Be careful when getting off! Some of the trams let you off in the middle of the street near lanes cars can come in. By law, they need to yield to you but it's also good to look both ways. PS Australia drive on the other side of the street, like the UK.
Weather was HOT! I definitely wore my most summery items in my suitcase. Like Sydney, it wasn't humid which was nice. I feel like it was dry, if anything.
Find my Map here!
My wonderful hosts, Grace and Martin, used to host guests at their place via AirBnB + they're designers so it looks super hip.
I spent my first morning at a juicery called Urban Projuice and ordered an acai bowl. Met a lovely lady, a new mother, who gave some additional recommendations and shared some insight on motherhood.
Since I was in South Melbourne, I took the tram into the city centre and started my tour at Federation Square. Went through St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Treasury Gardens, the Old Treasury Building, and through some of the larger streets of Melbourne. I found a cute shop called Melbournalia that was full of local crafts and goodies! I bought these hilarious greeting cards that featured puns made from the various Melbourne train stops.
Lunch was at Chin Chin, probably the most anticipated restaurant on my trip. It's mostly Thai fusion, although I did see more Asian influences. I had seen it featured on tons of websites, and was recommended by multiple friends. Confirmed by three people that "everyone on their menu is good." I can honestly say: confirmed. We ordered the pat see ew, the crab fried rice, and barramundi salad. To my surprise, the barramundi salad was my fav. It was incredibly flavorful and delicious and I'm craving it now that I'm thinking about it.
I continued my self guided walking tour through Swanson St, Bourke St, Block Arcade, Royal Arcade, Walk Arcade... basically just a bunch of "arcades" AKA shopping centres haha.
One thing I love doing before I travel is looking for local events to the place I'll be visiting. To my luck, there was a night noodle market happening (free admission, woot woot). I've realised early on in my travels is that traveling alone doesn't give you the benefit of ordering multiple things on a menu and sharing it. Thus, I was limited to ordering just one item at the market. There were three different sections of the market, and I probably walked through each section at least twice to make sure my decision was the right one. I ended up getting the Oz Special Yakisoba(which means it had egg on it) from a Teppanyaki place. The portions were so big I ended up refrying it the next morning for brunch.
I spent half the day wandering around Fitzroy, which was supposed to be the hip, grungy neighbourhood of Melbourne. I visited a great deal of stores, but to be honest, I didn't find Fitzroy to be as amazing as people made it sound. Some of my friends went back because they didn't get to see everything, but I ended up finishing earlier than expected, which was kind of a bummer.
I did get to eat at a restaurant in Fitzroy called Alimentari. We ordered a small salad (which is basically a sampler because you're able to choose 3 salads from the menu) to share. The veal and pork meatballs over polenta seems to be the most popular dish on the menu, so we ordered that, of course. I also ordered the meatball wrap(panini pressed), which was freaking bomb. It was actually my favourite from everything. For dessert, we ordered a few items off the bakery menu and they were delicious! I highly recommend this restaurant, particularly the meatball wrap!
Since I finished Fitzroy early, I decided to go back to the city centre. I got to visit the State Library of Victoria, which was gorgeous. There were plenty of tourists and as well as people actually trying to read and study. The state library had plenty of beautiful reading rooms, a museum, air conditioning, and free wifi.
Next was exploring the shopping malls of Melbourne: Emporium + Melbourne Central. One of the items on my bucket list for Australia was to buy myself some jewelry. To my luck, I found a shop with jewelry that I might like. Looked around and fell in love with their items. I ended up buying myself a ring and gifted a dainty necklace for a friend. By the way, the store's name is Francesca if anyone is looking for some new nice jewelry!
I made a pitstop at Shortshop Donuts and got their Australian honey and Sea Salt. It was good, but too soft for my liking. It looked like a churro so I thought it’d be crunchy but it wasn’t... I would, however, go back to try another donut next time.
Later that night, I walked along the boardwalk of St. Kilda and made my way to il Casio ii for dinner, a very authentically Italian restaurant. We ordered the quattro formaggi pizza, and the mushroom pizza, a salad, and their house wine. I'm the type of person that will happily eat mushroom pizza but never really order it on my own will so I was worried about what the mushroom pizza would taste like. But to my surprise, it was spectacular. Easily the best mushroom pizza I've ever tasted.
We made it back to St. Kilda Pier in time for penguin watching. I've seen penguins at the zoo, but never in the wild so I was curious to see what this experience would be like. The penguins go out during the day to feed and come back around sunset. I saw a few of them coming in but they were pretty hard to spot at first. Once the sun went down, a bunch came riding in to the sand and would hid in the rocks. Some of the more confused ones would actually end up on the pier where people were so we got to see them upclose. There were some volunteers there with red flashlights to spotlight penguins, as well as sharing useful important regarding the penguins. I thought it a miracle that Melbourne even lets us see them so close, without putting up stricter borders, though I'm sure that would change if someone were to do something very foolish... My opinion is that it was mating season because I heard a lot of... noises from the penguins, and would see the male penguins running up against the back of a female penguin and then running away. It was quite entertaining. My friends said they've been a few times but never saw this many penguins so I count myself lucky. It was definitely a memorable experience and so happy to see this live for free!
Sydney transportation card: Opal card, prepaid loading card. Top up at any station, most convenient stores, or even online!
Sydney has lots of buses but a train system that has no name.
The weather was hot, but at least not humid. The sun really was scorching- I could feel my shoulders burn. It would randomly sprinkle from time to time, just enough to make you feel uncomfortable but not enough to put in effort to prep yourself for both weathers.
Random tidbit: Lots of places seemed to be closed on Mondays, and close early in general, so do check hours before making a trek someplace.
Find my Map here!
Arrived @ SYD in the early morning. Shout out to Nancy who woke up super early to meet me at the airport. We took the train with a car full of students on their way to school in all of their cute uniforms.
For brekkie, Nancy made me toast with Vegemite. It was not what I imagined. Going in, I knew people usually love it or hate it. Nancy describes it as burnt soy sauce. She is accurate. Needless to say, I wasn't a huge fan and I didn't take any home with me.
We went about our day to explore the grand city of Sydney. Stopped by The Australian Heritage Hotel for some Australian pizza. We ordered half kangaroo meat and half emu meat. I've had a Kangaroo burger in the past (in London) and remember it being quite juicy and delicious, but the kangaroo on the pizza was unexpectedly gamy, although the emu did taste flavorful and well.
We continued our tour through CBD, ate some dessert at Gelato Messina. I always do the same thing at any gelateria: sample like 4 flavors and end up getting nocciola (hazelnut). Gelato Messina is a popular (well-deservingly so) chain, with plenty in Sydney and Melbourne, both.
Inside QVB, a sign caught my attention: 40% off. I walked into the store, and just about everything inside was cute. I took a few more steps in and a wall of beautiful colours and patterns caught my attention; signature duffels with the store's logo on both sides, and perfectly sized to fit in an oversized bin. Of course I bought it, and I'm so happy I did. Apparently, the Country Road logo tote is a staple for Australian women. I ended up seeing a handful more at the airport, just like the retail associate said. Here's a link to the bag! I was able to find one photo I took of my bag for y'all to see. (:
Next we walked through the most popular sites, like the rocks, Circular Quay, Opera House, Botanical Gardens, etc. Of course I brought Hugo along with me!
Dinner was at a restaurant called Mappen (ramen/udon bar). You can choose your noodles, type of soup (they have both hot and cold), meat, and toppings. It was great for the price too. I got plain udon while Nancy got a fancy udon and hers was much better than mine haha.
Most of our day was spent at the Featherdale Wilderness Park. A wonderful place about 40 minutes northwest of central Sydney. Check my separate post on it here! Sneak peek: KOALAS AND KANGAROOS.
For dinner we went to this random pho place in Cabramatta. Some people told me Sydney was the place to eat Vietnamese food, but to be honest, it was just as good as the Bay. I didn't think it was phenomenally better, but again, I'm not a foodie so what do I know. The night ended with boba from Gong Cha because, it was right there in front of us so why not? :)
Brunch @ Three Williams in a lovely hipster neighbourhood. The wait was about 10-15 minutes for 2 as the place was awfully crowded. We ordered the Joe and the Spanish Omelette, photographed below. Both were really good. I probably preferred the omelette over the Joe from my recollection. However, I do regret not getting the Prawn Toast. It seems like their most famous dish on the menu and I failed to order it.
After brunch, we good Christian girls made our way to Hillsong (Waterloo campus). [If you want to know how it was, ask me in person.]
Post service became one of my favourite parts of my time in Australia: BONDI BEACH. Mind that I'm not much of a beach person, but Bondi was gorgeous and well worth the trip. The weather was expected to be cold and gloomy but for the 3 hours we were there: sun, wind, and perfection. And then as soon as we left the beach, rain. HAHA.
There were plenty of people on the sand sunbathing, playing volleyball, playing in the water, listening to music. It seemed like such a chill weekend activity! There's also a pool nearby called the Iceberg Pool that makes for a great photo juxtaposed to the beach, which I do not have. I compensate by showing you two photos I've taken and are quite proud to share. Ask me for more and you may regret the flood of photos I share (or not because this place is so freaking beautiful).
My flight was for the evening so I had a free morning of wandering alone. I dropped my bags off at the baggage storage inside Central station. It was about $15 for 2-3 hours?
Once that was all sorted, I brunched alone at Bills, a modern Australian restaurant. I ordered the Prawn Burger but immediately regretted it as soon as I got it. It was messy, not as good as I thought, and just not really my appetite. Those much wiser than me, ordered the ricotta pancakes. My reasoning for not ordering them was I ate brunch past noon, which is more like a lunch for me, plus the order looked huge and I wanted something smaller.
After brunch, I walked around Surrey Hills for about an hour. It would've been more but most of the stores were closed as I went on a Monday. I did get a chance to stop by and grab some goodies from Bourke Street Bakery. I got myself a pain au chocolat and a ginger brulee tart. The tart, pictured below, was freaking exquisite.
I wish my time in Surrey Hills was longer and that stores were opened. Lots of blogs and friends hyped it up saying it was the coolest hipster neighbourhood of Sydney, but I'll be sure to visit back!
the bottom line
All in all, my first trip to Sydney was a success and absolutely lovely all thanks to Nancy, who housed me, fed me, drove me, and entertained me. Also a huge shout out to her roommate Jess who was such a treat and who thoughtfully bought me Australian chocolate biscuits that I got to share with friends back home.
Thank you friends, and Sydney, for your hospitality, and I will be back!