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!
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. :)
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!
I took a solo trip to Chicago, although I did get to spend a chunk of my time with my friend, who also hosted me! I remember the weather being cold and windy in the morning, and warm during the day (but still a bit windy) so the best way to cope is to come prepared in layers so you can + or - a layer throughout the day. Then very cold in the night again.
I got to spend about 2 full days in Chicago, which isn't much. I ended up not going to places that would cost money and decided to go to free stuff + roam around the city on my own. I purchased a transit day pass to make it easier on myself. I've always found it less stressful for myself to buy a day pass for a new city vs per ride.
I started my trip by taking the Chicago Architecture Tour via boat. It was a great experience, informative, and it's always fun to be on a boat as long as you don't get boatsick. I will say that the ticket price was a heftier than I expected, and it was freeeeeezing.
I mostly spent the rest of the day walking around the city, getting to see the sights, and just being able to experience Chicago.
Of course I visited the Bean in Millennium Park, as well as the Chicago Cultural Center, which was pretty stunning. It's open to the public and it looks like they have rotating social art/education installations, and some events.
Portillo's gave me the chance to try an authentic Chicago hot dog, but I didn't like it. Call me Californian, but it wasn't my cup of tea. To be fair, I'm not a huge fan of hot dogs in general, so, there's that, too.
For dinner, my friend and I made reservations for Girl & The Goat, which ended up better than I expected! Their dishes are meant to be shared so we got their Roasted Cauliflower off of their veggie list, the Wood Oven Roasted Pig Face from their meat list, and the Confit Goat Belly from their goat list. Three dishes was for sure enough for the three of us. All three dishes were incredibly delicious, but to our surprise, the cauliflower was our favourite!
I expected it to be super pricy because it's a pretty high end restaurant with an impossible reservation calendar. We ended up paying about $100 for all three dishes + a glass of wine each, and tax and tip.
My friend and I took the bus to Lincoln Park and visited the Lincoln Park Conservatory. They have really wonderful volunteers to give free tours, which was a special treat. It's a great place to spend a half day since the conservatory is part of a park, and at the other end, they have a farmers market (at least on Saturdays).
The best part of the greenhouse was a room full of hydrangeas, which are my favourite flowers! <3_<3
We for sure spent the most time inside that room taking pictures and taking it all in.
I was really set on trying Au Cheval but was very quickly discouraged by friends about how long their lines were. I compromised and went to Small Cheval instead in Wicker Park. I ordered the burger as is and it was GOOD. Solid burger. Probably not the best burger I've ever had but really solid and thoroughly enjoyed my experience eating it.
Walking through Wicker Park was really pleasant. It's a hip with a bit of grungy in it, but you can tell a lot of newer and hipper stores are coming in to replace the old. It reminds me a lot of Melrose Ave. in LA if you've ever been.
Later in the evening, I went to watch a show at Second City(we watched Best Of, which is a hybrid of written sketches + improv). The experience itself was really nice. It's first come first serve in terms of seating, and you can order food and drinks at your seat with your server. It's definitely worth going to, but to be completely honest, I think I enjoyed Second City shows in LA & NY better, but I believe it's because the shows I watched in other cities were pure improv the entire time.
Dinner was saved for an authentic taste of some Chicago deep dish @Lou Malnati's. We probably waited a solid 45 minutes (spent most of that time at a McDonalds about half a mile away, which was super bougie by the way). A lot of Bay area friends warned me that I'd be disappointed. I don't think I was necessarily disappointed per say, but I will say Bay area has pretty comparable deep dish, which is more of a compliment to these pizzerias, than a diss on Chicago.
Afterwards, we went up to the top floor of the John Hancock building and went to the restroom (apparently that's the best place to take photos and enjoy the view). It was really a beautiful nightview and I'm glad I made myself go even though I was tired and freezing.
Fair warning: there is a sizable line going up and especially going down.
I for sure did not have enough time to do everything I should've done! Here are some things I have on my list for next time:
Here's my Google Map of Chicago if you wanted some suggestions (thanks for my friends who gave me suggestions as I put this together)!
For some, AirBnBs have become the default option of housing when traveling. I wanted to add some considerations since I see certain trips where hotels might be a more convenient and desirable option. This post is only to help you decide if you should book a hotel or AirBnB when you travel. I'll also be doing a future post on Couchsurfing vs. Hostels, as well as things to consider when you're looking to book a Hotel or AirBnB.
We picked up our rental car at the airport (both times I went to Portland I got a rental car so I'm unsure of the experience taking public transportation). Generally, it was pretty easy for us to find parking in Portland and actually only paid for parking when we went Downtown. Other places had like 1-2 hour free parking or it was past the meter operations times so it was free.
Heart Coffee SW - Super cute and aesthetic, huge windows to bring in natural light, consistent coffee. They also had personal tables outside. Ideal place to spend some alone time or to do some light reading.
We walked about half a mile to a Blue Star to get some pre-breakfast donuts (very normal). One Blueberry Basil because it's a classic and we basic, and one Buttermilk Old Fashion because, old fashion donuts are the best. I don't mean to hype it up, but the Buttermilk Old Fashion is the best old fashion I've ever had.
Breakfast @ Maurice. I had no idea what to expect. We got their open faced sandwich (daily special) that included shrimp in a white sauce, greens, grapes, and roe. Even when I got the food I didn't know what to expect, but when I took a bite, I was thoroughly impressed and pleased with the taste of it. We didn't get a chance to try anything else but their desserts and pastries looked really good so I'd recommend trying that!
We walked around SW until it was time to check into our AirBnB in NE where we knocked out for a bit before we were so tired, not to mention that the weather was high-80s.
Once we freshened up we made our way to Stanich's where we had Nick's cheeseburger with grilled onions as our pre-dinner. I'd seen them featured as the #1 best burger Thrillist's quest for the best burger article. It took a while for us to get our food since multiple parties had sat down the same time we did and there was one server for the entire establishment. We finally got our food and it didn't look all that special, but it indeed was good. My friend described it as a lesser version of In-N-Out, which is quite agreeable.
On our way to dinner, we made a spontaneous pitstop at Hollywood Vintage. It ended up being such a cool place to explore- I'm so happy we found it even though I didn't buy anything. They have a room dedicated to sunglasses, and a huge space dedicated to costumes!
Dinner was at an up-and-coming, new and trendy, 'hot and new,' Korean fusion restaurant called Han Oak. It's the house of the chef, converted into an open-kitchen, open space restaurant where half of the seating is indoors and half outdoors. We had to make reservations a month before we got to Portland. The space was nicely done, considering it's also a house for a family of 4. We had their prix fixe Chef's dinner for $45 pp. A good amount of the dishes had a twist to its traditional counterpart, so it forced me to be open to new tastes.
We spent the evening at a super local music festival called PDX Pop Now. We got to see 3 bands throughout our event there. A very eclectic group of people, I will say. But I don't think we would've gotten a more authentic Portland experience have we not gone. The picture below was taken in some guy's van, which sounds very shady HAHA, but he's trying to upgrade his van to make it one of those event photobooths.
The night ended with a 30 minute line to Salt & Straw, naturally.
Brunch @ Helser's on Alberta. We got their Bacon & Cheese Hash + French Toast. I thought the hash was super on point and delicious. I was so full by the time I had my first bite of the French Toast but thought it was way too sweet for my liking anyways. I think it's so easy to get multiple dishes when in Portland because the food is generally cheaper than the Bay Area, but you forget how much darn food they give you. We probably had leftover at least half the time we ate out, and could never finish our leftovers.
Sunday service was spent at Bridgetown Church. It was such a great experience- the pastor and community all seem so solid and we were really blessed during our time there. Highly recommended!
The evening was spent on SE side. We put our names down for Pok Pok, and walked around the neighborhood for an hour. Had pre-dinner at OP Wurst. I could totally see myself going there often if I lived in PDX. Indoor and outdoor seating, sausage and beer, corn hole and a ping pong table. Looks like a potential Friday night spot for me. We finally got our table at Pok Pok and immediately ordered their famous wings + a papaya salad. Maybe I'm a wimp but I thought their papaya salad was so spicy (my friend begs to differ); but their wings were amazinggggg. Did not expect them to be so freaking good... Two thumbs up.
We picked up some coffee + a quick breakfast sandwich before making our drive to Multnomah Falls. We made a pitstop at Vista House and probably spent almost half an hour there, enjoying the view, taking photos, looking through the house, and restroom break (because Multnomah Falls usually have longer restroom lines). We got to Multnomah around 10:30am, and waited only a few minutes for parking. We went up to the bridge, and hiked a little more up. By the time we were walking back to the car, there were two cars fighting for our spot, and a never ending crazy long line of cars trying to get into this small parking lot... We were relieved to have gone early enough not to struggle. If you have a car, I highly recommend going to the Falls!
Once we got back to Downtown PDX, we put our names down for Tasty & Alder, which took about an hour. We spent that time exploring Powell's City of Books. It's a magical place filled with... well, books. I was personally disappointed by my meal at Tasty & Alder because the food was so salty and unfamiliar. Tasty Hangtown Fry was an open faced omelette, fried oysters, bacon lardons, cheddar, and a buttermilk biscuit. Just thinking about this dish gives me food coma. We also got potato bravas as an appetiser and that was pretty yummy.
As if that wasn't enough food, we got dessert at Waffle Window. We went home and I immediately took a nap. The evening was spent at the Rose Test Garden, which was obviously gorgeous. It was my second time there but still as stunning as the first.
We got pre-dinner at Anna Thai Basil food cart in downtown Portland. It was crazy cheap and I'm definitely going there again. Actual dinner was at Nudi Noodle, which was a mainly Thai restaurant with other Asian fusion influences. I got their kimchi udon which was pretty good! We picked up a bottle of beer each from a local craft beer store and called it a night.
Since this was both of our second times in Portland, I think both of us were a lot more lax and also wanted a taste of the local experience. There are still so so many places I didn't get to go that I have on my list for next time! I'm sharing MY PDX MAP in case anyone needs suggestions but I'd love to hear if anyone has been to places off this list so I can add more places.