MIAMI MAMI

|| Travel Date || 27 July 2017 – 31 July 2017

Typically when I travel, the purpose is to experience exotic food, beautiful culture, and incredible architecture/nature, but my intentions for Miami was simply to help throw Halu (my best friend and sister-in-law) the best bachelorette party ever. There was six of us total and although most of the long weekend was spent heavily drinking, we did experience a lot of what Miami has to offer.

We landed Thursday afternoon and headed straight to Miami Beach. We stayed on Collins Ave. at The Confidante hotel, a boutique hotel perfectly located near South Beach and just across the highway from the mainland. We quickly got ready and headed out to Wynwood for the night. Wynwood is an iconic arts district covered with graffiti and murals on nearly every touchable surface, I highly recommend walking around and exploring, even if you’re just walking from bar to bar. We started off with dinner and drinks at Wynwood Kitchen & Bar, a tapas-style latin restaurant donned with a Shepard Fairey mural and mixed modern art creating a really cool, artsy vibe. We then walked over to Beaker & Gray for more drinks (late night happy hour there is great) before heading to Wood Tavern to drink and dance. The outdoor section of the tavern was really fun, it was packed all night with a live DJ and it was the best way to start our trip.

 

Friday we started off at the pool of our hotel, we rented a cabana and spent the day drinking shots of tequila and chasing with pitchers of Spicy Chinos (Mezcal, Tequila, Mango, Jalapeño, Lime, Cilantro, Agave), I’m honestly only incorporating the ingredients here so that I can remake this cocktail every summer for the rest of my life. Our hotel was located right on the beach, so we’d jump in the pool, run out to the ocean, drink some more, and repeat. Our server even got us a portable speaker so that we could play music by the pool, we essentially turned The Backyard into a full on day party. Now this was a bachelorette party, so after a quick nap and a few pink wigs later, we ended up at the strip club, LaBare… and that’s all I’m going to say about that 😉 Later that night we went to E11EVEN, a multi-level nightclub open 24/7 with burlesque dancers and bottle service. We  danced and drank until nearly four in the morning before we relocated to Heart, an after-hours nightclub just across the street. Miami does not stop. It was incredible that this was just our first full day and yet we were already having so much fun. 

  

On Saturday, the pouring rain changed our plans a bit, but it was much needed after the previous day of nonstop drinking. We took it easy through the afternoon and then headed down to Sweet Liberty for happy hour. If you’re a fan of oysters, then you should definitely stop there for happy hour with $0.75 oysters and $5 rosé. After 72 oysters and many glasses of rosé later, we (literally) waited out the storm before heading back to our hotel to get ready for the night. We went a little out of the way for dinner to Mignonette, but it was well worth it for the seafood towers and champagne, if you’re looking for great seafood without the pretentious bullshit, definitely check it out. We then headed to Do Not Sit On The Furniture in South Beach, it has a very locals-only vibe, it’s dimly-lit and all deep house music. Not going to lie, wasn’t really my scene, but it was cool for what it was!

Sunday morning we stopped at Orange Blossom for brunch before we headed out to Biscayne Bay for the day. We rented a chartered catamaran through boat.me, sort of like an airbnb service – but for yachts. The experience was incredibly seamless and our captain was awesome. We cruised through the lagoon, jumped into the ocean, and once again day-drank copious amounts of alcohol. It was truly well worth the money to do, especially split up between friends, I just wish they had something like this in LA! When we returned back to the mainland, we went to the legendary Versailles for cuban sandwiches, plantains, mojitos, and coconut flan. There’s always a crazy long line, but it moves quickly; we waited at most twenty-minutes for a table, and for a dinner under $20, I’m down. That night, the new club, Mr. Jones, opened. Although Sunday nights aren’t exactly ideal for going out, we decided to check it out as it was our last night in town. There were tray-passed hors d’oeuvres which were actually pretty tasty and vodka-infused gummies which were actually pretty disgusting. The music was fun and the crowd was chill, but by 3am, pizza and my bed sounded amazing.

Monday morning we simply laid by the pool, had breakfast at the hotel, and then relaxed before checking out. We cruised down to South Beach to get a late lunch at Sushi Song, did some touristy souvenir shopping, then headed to the airport. I was so sad to go, but my liver and my credit card were very happy we were leaving. This was my first bachelorette party and to be quite honest, I don’t know how anyone else is going to top it.

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Over to O’ahu

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|| Travel Date || 1 June 2015 – 23 June 2015

About a month prior to my departure, I was catching up with an old friend at a restaurant in Santa Barbara. At the time, she was working for a travel company that organized trips for recent high school graduates to various tropical destinations. Every summer they send their employees along for three weeks to help execute the program. Pretty amazing gig, right? It’s technically considered volunteering, therefore the chaperones aren’t paid hourly – but the flight, the hotel, and activities are covered on top of a generous weekly stipend. It seemed like the perfect situation while I was in between jobs and I grew evermore envious as she continued explaining the perks. I needed to know how I could get on board (literally). When she informed me that they still needed additional staff, I immediately leaped on the opportunity. Before I knew it, I was booking my trip back to the islands. Luckily the company was extremely flexible with the flights. As long as I was available on the day they needed me and the cost of my flight was comparable to what they anticipated paying, they didn’t mind when or where I departed to. Therefore, I managed to squeeze a vacation back to Kaua’i before working in O’ahu. All I had to pay for was my connecting flight between the two islands.

It’s impossible to summarize the days leading up to the program, the three weeks of “work”, and the final days before departing back home. There’s just way too many adventures and stories to tell. I hiked breathtaking trails, laid on every beach I could, splurged on amazing food, and I never stopped exploring. To try and simplify everything wouldn’t give proper justice to O’ahu. So rather than explaining the trip in it’s entirety, I’m going to highlight my favorite parts by category and leave the rest to your imagination.

Hikes

Although some of these hikes I did are now illegal, there are still many beautiful hikes that you can do legally! If you do choose an illegal trail, please be cautious and do your due diligence before exploring. For instance, The Haʻikū Stairs (Stairway to Heaven) and Sacred Falls are the two most popular illegal hikes, both of which are illegal because of multiple fatal incidents. While some hikes are illegal for safety reasons, many are illegal for preservation purposes and are actually legal for locals. Again, I don’t suggest breaking the law, but below are the hikes that I did:

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The Kalihi Ice Ponds are located within a small neighborhood off of the Likelike Hwy and the trail head is fairly difficult to find, but it’s a quick hike and worth every moment. After a short partially paved trail is a narrow muddy pathway down to the ice ponds. Grab hold onto the supported rope as you navigate your way down the slippery path. At the bottom of the pathway are multiple layers of ponds and waterfalls with massive cliffs and bone-chilling, cold water. Ok, it’s not that cold, but in comparison to how warm the ocean is, these ponds were really, really cold. Take a refreshing dip in the ponds and explore the various paths through the jungle, it’s nice to find a hidden gem not overrun with tourists.

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Makapu’u Tom Tom Trail, where to even begin? So this hike was one of the hardest and most emotional hikes I have ever been on. We got lost, I almost slipped off a three-thousand foot cliff, I got a second-degree sunburn, I was dehydrated, I had multiple cuts and bruises, everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong. With that said, it was one of the most beautiful hikes I have ever witnessed and I learned some amazing life lessons during my eight-hour trek. Do note, this hike is highly illegal for safety reasons, hence why I nearly died when I slipped at the cliff edge and held onto nothing but the mountain for dear life.

 

Lulumahu Falls, the neat thing about this hike is the amount of diversity it has to offer. You begin your voyage through a bamboo forest until you reach an open valley, within the valley are graffitied cement walls radiating an almost abandoned and untouched vibe. Just a little further is a muddy pathway along a narrow stream, surrounded by lush vegetation and massive rocks, and finally ending at a beautiful waterfall. It’s always rewarding to hike a long trail to a destination rather than just a loop. In my opinion, standing under the waterfall and letting the chilly water cool you down after climbing up a muddy trail is the best feeling ever.

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Maunawili Valley, similar to the Lulumahu trail, Maunawili is a lush hike to a beautiful waterfall, but Maunawili also has breathtaking views of the valley from up above. It has a very Jurassic Park-esque vibe to it. Maunawili is also a much smaller waterfall and thus is one you can safely jump off of and into the cool water. I feel like this hike is pretty underrated for how amazing it is – I highly recommend this hike! Easy to access the trail head and tons of free neighborhood parking.

Beaches

Waikiki, the most obnoxiously touristy part of the island, but a must. The beach itself is overly populated and very small, but the shops, restaurants, and people watching along the boardwalk are worth checking out. Waikiki is also rich in history, rent a long board and ride the waves just like Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku.

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Waimea Bay, located up in the North Shore is a very popular, fairly crowded cove. Waimea is well known for the huge rocks to dive off of and plenty of room to bbq and make an entire day trip out of it.

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Banzai Pipeline, most people know of this beach simply because of the annual surf competition, but during the off months, it’s actually a rather quiet and very beautiful beach. Plus, the beachside mansions are pretty neat to look at too, #goals.

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Lanikai, hands down one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. There’s something magical about this place that I cannot explain, the sand is soft like cashmere and the ocean is crystal clear. Lanikai is located on the East Side of the island directly across from the Mokulua Islands or “Mokes.” Watching the sunrise over the islands is one of the most captivating, therapeutic, and potentially romantic sights ever. Gentleman, take note, a proposal here is basically a guaranteed yes.

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Papa’iloa Beach, tucked away behind some luxurious homes is the best spot for spotting sea turtles. They are everywhere. Extremely skittish, but they can be seen surfing all over the place. Palm trees lined the beach creating the perfect amount of shade to cool off under between swimming and tanning.

Food

With the exception of the occasional Ramen Bowl at the infamous Ramen Nakamura, my diet consisted mainly of fish and fruit. O’ahu is well known for their Food Trucks and understandably so – some of my best meals were served from a rusty old truck parked off the side of the highway. Fumi’s Kahuku Shrimp and The Elephant Truck are my absolute favorites.

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Of course, there’s the touristy musts of the Hawaiian Islands. If it’s your first time in Hawaii, I highly recommend going to a Luau. They’re a bit expensive, but it’s totally worth it for the amazing dinner, talented performers, and the entire experience. Germaine’s Luau serves up a traditional Kalua Pig slow roasted in the ground with hot rocks until cooked to perfection. There’s a full buffet with traditional Hawaiian dishes if pork isn’t your thing or if you just want to eat everything like me. Now, if you’re a pineapple fiend like myself, you’ll have to check out the Dole Plantation or at least find a store that serves Dole Whips, aka the greatest pineapple soft serve in the world. As tasty as Hawaiian Shaved Ice is, it’s got nothing on a Dole Whip.

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If you’re on the go and looking to grab something cheap and fast, stop by an ABC Store (they’re practically on every corner) for anything from sandwiches to drinks to fruit and all your basic convenient store needs. While you’re checking out the local markets, be sure to stop by Foodland and get some fresh poké! Also, a bit harder to find, but Honey Cream Pineapple is sometimes at the Whole Foods in Kailua near Lanikai. Honey Cream Pineapple from Frankie’s Nursery is one of the most amazingly sweet and juicy trademarked fruits that I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. I even brought a few back to the mainland for my friends and family to try.

Towns

While you can easily drive around the entire island in just a few hours, there’s a few places that you need to make sure you don’t just pass through. Obviously if I haven’t stressed enough how amazing the North Shore is, you must spend as much time as possible up there. Haleiwa is a small historic town within the North Shore, check out the Old Town and bring cash! I’m not much of a souvenir shopper but there’s some really neat shopping and tasty food over there. Plus, it’s a really cute town to see even if you don’t want to spend any money. The Westside of the island is unfortunately a bit too industrial for my liking; With the exception of Aulani, the Disney Hotel, there isn’t much to see over there. As I said before, Waikiki is a touristy must. There’s so much history in Waikiki and tons to do and see, although my favorite part of the island is the nature, it’s still fun to check out the city. The Eastside is where most of the locals live, it’s stunningly beautiful and very cozy. You’ll definitely get that small town vibe when you’re driving around the east. Last, but not least, you must check out the center of the island. Some of the best hikes are just off of the Likelike Hwy. The views alone as you cruise along the highway are worth the detour.

Activities

It’s an obvious must to rent a surfboard or snorkel gear and get out in the crystal clear ocean, but there are so many other water activities worth checking out too. If you’re feeling a little adventurous, check out H2O Water Sports, a few of my coworkers and I went parasailing and conquered the banana boat. Parasailing is as epic as I imagined, being up in the air and looking over the island with a birds-eye-view was really breathtaking. I could not stop smiling the entire time I was up there.

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On the other hand, the banana boat was the exact opposite of what I expected. I cannot even put in to words how much f**king fun that was. A large inflatable raft pulled by a high-speed jet ski seems like it could be a good time, but when Tony drove up with a cigar in his mouth and a huge smirk across his face, I immediately knew that we were in deep shit. Of course, I mean that in the best way possible. The goal as a rider is to hold on as tight as possible and to not fall off, but good ol’ Tony’s goal was to make sure we didn’t see the light of day. Usually the drivers are playful, drive safely, and will take the occasional sharp turn to knock off a rider, everyone laughs, the rider hops back on, and the fun continues. Instead it was a vicious high-speed battle of Tony whipping back and forth until each and every one of us eventually launched off into the water. Now, if you’re looking for something a bit more mellow than that, check out the sunset catamaran rides in Waikiki. The picturesque views and Friday Firework shows are worth every penny.

With that said – I must wrap this up. If you have any questions or want to hear more about anything above, please feel free to comment below! As always, have fun and happy traveling!

Mahalo Kauai

|| Travel Date || 6 June 2014 – 12 June 2014

I have traveled to a handful of places, but until Hawaii, I had never vacationed. The difference is really quite simple. Traveling is great, you experience more than words can explain while traveling, but it is physically (and sometimes emotionally) exhausting. On the other hand, vacationing is therapeutic and typically involves staying put and getting a nice tan. I’d like to say that our trip was a nice mixture of the two.

In a land where roosters overpopulate the roads like squirrels and coconut trees flourish all over the lush garden island, live approximately sixty-thousand lucky Hawaiian souls. As a graduation gifts to ourselves, Halu (my sister-in-law) and I flew straight to Lihue and began our tropical adventure. We waltzed into the rental car store with smiles ear-to-ear and after some smooth talking, we were upgraded to a convertible. We then drove straight to the Kauai Marriott Resort (aka heaven) to check-in and relax before our busy week ahead. We flew in late at night and we really couldn’t see much of anything. So the next morning we woke up to see the paradise in which we had landed. Slightly jet-lagged, I woke up at around 6am and walked straight to our balcony. I pushed away the curtains and my jaw dropped. Our room overlooked the courtyard located just steps away from the ocean. It was 75 degrees outside and at that moment I knew I never wanted to leave.

DCIM999GOPROTurtle GoProWe went out for breakfast at a local diner, Tip Top to try pineapple and macadamia nut pancakes with some fresh kona coffee. I wish that there was a better way to describe how good (and cheap) that breakfast was, if you ever find yourself in Kauai, go. We then headed back to our hotel to quickly change and meet up with our friend who happened to be on the island as well. The three of us drove up to the North Shore to go snorkeling at Tunnels Beach. After snorkeling, we casually wandered through some caves and then relaxed on the beach drinking freshly chopped coconut. We then headed in town for dinner and to watch the sunset at Hanalei Pier. I have watched hundreds of sunrises and sunsets, but because of the warm tropical rainforest-esque climate in Kauai, the sunsets were breathtaking. Bright indigo and fuchsia colors painted across the sky with fluffy charcoal and white clouds. As if the sky wasn’t colorful enough, multiple rainbows stretched across the horizon that evening.

IMG_0391The next day Halu and I drove back up to the North Shore to continue exploring the island. Just off the main highway, is a small lookout point overlooking the Taro Fields. We stopped to take some pictures, film some skittish wild roosters, and stage some ridiculous selfies. We continued onward back to the beach to layout and relax. Just as we were about to head back to town, we decided to instead head north to the very end of the road to see what was up there. We discovered a ton of people were parked anywhere they could, all waiting with beers in hand to watch the sunset on a secluded beach. Before we could even touch the sand, we were immediately handed beers and welcomed. We made some new friends and were invited back to one of the guys’ houses for dinner after sunset. We continued our spontaneous adventure and cruised just down the road for a ridiculously delicious homemade BBQ. A few more friends showed up with a few more beers and together we shared a few more memories over a game of Kings Cup.

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DCIM999GOPROUp bright and early, Halu and I took a kayak tour up the Wailua River. We hiked barefoot through a mile of mud, all the way up to the waterfalls. We went swimming and quickly became friends with our tour guide, Makana. Covered in mud and still damp from the falls, the three of us headed straight to Tiki Tacos for some absurdly massive, unbelievably delicious, fresh Mahi Tacos. It’s not even fair how good the food is in Kauai and that’s coming from a Los Angeles Native. Over lunch, Makana told us about this incredible hike in Nā Pali, a beer or two later, he agreed to take us the next day. We cruised about two hours past our hotel to the other side of the island to find this place. We drove all the way to the top of the mountain, and then hiked through machete-chopped terrain to make it to the lookout. Again, words cannot explain how surreal the view was. I’ve hiked to the top of Masada in Israel to watch the sunrise, I’ve hiked along the ridges of Cinque Terre in Italy, and this – this was the most breathtaking hike I had ever done. Period. There were even some parts that were just too dangerous to trek in shoes. Without a second thought, I kicked off my sneakers and crawled barefoot along the ridge line 4,000ft above sea level. Just as I was walking back, I accidentally nudged my sneaker off the edge of the cliff, and watched my shoe tumble down the mountain. I sat there defeated and could do nothing but laugh. I proceeded to walk the rest of the hike in my socks. It was completely worth it.

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The following few days flew by, we overloaded on pineapple and coconuts and spent all the time we could in the sun. We grabbed a few more poolside Mai Tai’s from our lovely waitress Cheryl and practiced yoga on the beach. Finally, for our last night, we got together with our friends that we had met earlier that week and we all got tapas and cocktails at BarAcuda. Just as we were about to head back to our hotel, one of our friends spontaneously proposed that we all go swimming at the beach just down the road. It was nearly midnight, but the ocean was warm and the sky was clear, so we figured it was the perfect way to end our trip in Kauai. We swam under the stars and I never wanted that night to end. Until next time, Mahalo Kauai.

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Intoxicated in Ibiza

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|| Travel Date || 15 August 2013 – 16 August 2013

One night in Ibiza. Everyone describes Ibiza as “Vegas on Crack” which is true because basically everything goes in Ibiza. We landed on the island in the early afternoon, checked-in to our hotel by the port, and then immediately went to the strip. Similar to Vegas, there is a main strip of clubs, hotels, and restaurants along the beach where a good portion of the debauchery occurs. We grabbed lunch, a couple drinks, and laid out on the beach while Electronic Dance Music (EDM) blared throughout the town. We wandered around, got a small taste of the insane culture, and then headed back to our hotel to get ready for the night.

“Ibiza’s modest population of 132,637 is swallowed whole by the six-million-odd tourists that descend on it each year.” – Lonely Planet

That night, we taxied over to Cream by Amnesia to see Calvin Harris, Above&Beyond, Mat Zo, Chris Lake, and various other DJs perform in the multistage, massive indoor arena. We squeezed our way upfront to the main stage and in typical sketchy Ibiza fashion, we paid off the bouncer to let us into the VIP section. From there we watched everything from the balconies above the stages. We stood up there for hours dancing and watching the amazing LED productions. I was just as entertained people watching as I was watching the actual performers. We partied until the early morning and it was ridiculously packed the entire time. I can’t even begin to explain the creatures who find their way to Ibiza, I honestly did not know that there were so many sixty-year-olds who love EDM.

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The next day we went to Bora Bora Beach Club, positioned centrally along the strip. We discovered some random bars, raunchy foam pits, and other various places to kick back since our flight out wasn’t until midnight. At some point we rented a paddle boat with a slide and attempted to steer that in the ocean. It was a lot like Kayaking, you neglect to remember the workout aspect of the activity, and are terribly sore within ten-minutes. Luckily, a little liquid courage and some strong currents eventually helped us back to shore.

To sum up Ibiza, just imagine walking down the strip where all you can hear is “Yay, Moll-ay, MDM-ay?” escaping the mouths of slightly worrisome, but typically harmless promoters dangling bags of cocaine in your face. Meanwhile, cops are too busy dealing with epileptic tourists on the beach to care. From a legal perspective, Ibiza is essentially a free-for-all since I can guarantee someone else is doing something much worse at any given moment. Ibiza was definitely out of control and after less than 36hours, I was more than ready to begin my adventures in France.

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Making it to Madrid

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|| Travel Date || 13 August 2013 – 15 August 2013

Aesthetically Madrid was absolutely amazing, but I actually did not have the best experience there. I hate to seem negative, but realistically, traveling has it’s ups and downs. The museums were extraordinary and the parks were stunningly beautiful, but beyond that my friends and I did not find Madrid to be too welcoming. Traveling can be tough, you’re dealing with different people with different perspectives and that can lead to misjudgment and prejudice. I know plenty of people who have experienced otherwise while traveling in Madrid, so hopefully someday if I do return, I will enjoy my returning trip. But until then, here’s my take on Madrid, Europe has an abundance of beautiful scenery and many great people, so unless you have a specific passion for rollerbladers eating $%&* on pavement or aggressive “headless” beggars, I would skip Madrid.

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We began our touristic adventures in the courtyard of Plaza Mayor before heading to Mercado de San Miguel. We regrettably did not eat there, but it was simply mesmerizing to watch the rapid foreign commerce. We then walked to the Palacio Real De Madrid. The Palacio was complete with lush gardens and a nice panoramic view of the city. Since we were traveling at the peak of summer, we truly enjoyed relaxing in the shade of the garden for a moment before our continued exploration. Afterwards we continued wandering all over the city, we found some nice shops, and further immersed ourselves in the city. We quickly stopped for dinner at a small, family owned restaurant for tapas, and then we hurried on over to San Gines Chocolateria for freshly baked churros dipped in warm melted chocolate. Needless to say, San Gines was probably the best part of Madrid.

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Later that night, we sat around the fountain in the center of Puerta del Sol, where we watched a competitive rollerblading team practice and “perform” their tricks. My knees hurt just thinking about that train wreck… I can appreciate the fearless stunts, but I still cringe at the idea of all of the shattered bones and abrasions. The next day we went to Museo Nacional Del Prado before returning to Puerta del Sol to visit the symbol of Madrid, the Bear and the Madroño Tree.

After our touristic adventures, we stopped for a bottle of wine and decided to have a quiet night in. Suddenly, all of the walking and rapid traveling was beginning to catch up to us. We crawled into bed, watched a movie, and just relaxed before our long next few days ahead in Ibiza.

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Embark to Barça!

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|| Travel Date || 11 August 2013 – 13 August 2013

After an amazing summer studying abroad, I left Roma for Barcelona. Two of my friends from back home landed in Barcelona that same morning and were patiently waiting outside of my terminal. A bit delusional, the three of us eagerly rushed to our hotel on La Rambla street in the heart of Barcelona. We checked in, explored the town for a bit, and then stopped for some fish-bowl sized sangrias before a much needed siesta.

We rolled out of bed and walked to the infamous, Espit Chupitos. Chupitos is a tightly-packed bar with a massive menu, over five-hundred variations of shots all for just two euro each. The bar was dark and crowded with young locals and tourist from all over the world, alcohol was lined wall to wall with various mixes, fresh fruits, pringles, and gummy candies.
IMG_5311The bartenders were blindfolding their victims, lighting drinks on fire, and everyone was screaming and laughing. Without hesitation, we squeezed our way up to the bar and began drinking. We started with the devils game – five people, five shots, two of the five shots are mixed with absinthe, everyone grabs a shot and you hope for the best. I luckily avoided the absinthe both times that we played so finally the bartender just poured me an entire shot of absinthe and would not continue until I drank. My “luck” was debatable at that point. We then tried the Harry Potter shot, which was surprisingly delicious… and also on fire. I really shouldn’t discuss further what else happened at Chupitos, but if you do find yourself stumbling across a Chupitos, do not order the Monica Lowinski, do everything you can to get a friend to order one instead.

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The next day we crawled out of bed, managed to find one of those obnoxiously large double decker tour buses, and proceeded to cruise all over the city. First, we visited La Sagra Familia, the extraordinary architecture and enormous stained glass murals inside were breathtaking. We jumped back onto the next bus and headed over to Park Güell, hundreds of colorful painted tiles lined the walls, grounds, and various characters along every step. We checked out all of the different pieces and then walked up to the courtyard donning a beautiful panoramic view of the city. After some more exploring, we trekked across town to the Museu Nacional D’Art De Catalunia, with again, another gorgeous panoramic view of the city. At this point I knew I really loved Barcelona, the nightlife, the city, the culture, everything about it was so much fun and completely unique. We made one last stop at the FCB Stadium. Sadly there were no fútbol games during our time in Barcelona, but I did meet a player outside of the stadium… and by meet, I mean that he said, “Hi” and smiled and could hardly muster enough courage to smile and say, “Hey” back. Close enough.

IMG_4298 After our day long bus tour we had dinner at a charming rooftop restaurant on La Rambla. I tried my first seafood paella and a lemon margarita… Honestly, I couldn’t recommend either, but after a long day of tourism, I could have eaten a piece of cardboard and been satisfied. Since Europeans are nocturnal, we napped until midnight, got ready, and then went to the beach club, Opium. We got there at about 1:30am and stayed until around 6am. Opium is one of many amazing nightclubs on the beach, just past the port. We met some new friends, danced, drank, danced some more, and drank a lot more. This night was definitely one of the best nights of my trip. I still cannot believe how much fun it was. We stumbled out of Opium and found a late night pizza shop lined with familiar drunken smiles. We chowed down on some greasy pizza and finally went back to our hotel. Two hours later, we somehow managed to wake up, make a quick stop at Zara, and then head off to Madrid.

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Sono innamorato di Venezia

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|| Travel Date || 3 August 2013

Ever since I was twelve years old,
 I have dreamed about going to Venice, Italy. I saw the movie The Italian Job and I absolutely fell in love with the city. The Italian Job is still one of my favorite movies – Charlize Theron, Aston Martins, and Venezia – What more could you ask for? I saved my favorite Italian trip for last and finally made the trek up north. My friend and I took the fast train straight to the island and immediately began exploring.We probably should have just followed the Canal Grande to Piazza S. Marco, but it was truly amazing getting lost along the smaller canals. We eventually found our way to an adorable restaurant along the Canal Grande just steps away from the Rialto Bridge. The owner flagged us down and insisted we dined there, we were a bit skeptical and almost declined, but some free champagne got us to stay. I’m glad we did stay because the view, the food, and experience was well worth it. After lunch we continued our journey to Piazza S. Marco where we met another friend from Firenze. We strolled around the square and eventually stumbled upon Caffè Florian, the oldest coffee house in all of Europe. This very Disneyland-esque coffee house opened in 1720 and still operates in the same location today. Being a big espresso fan, I had the pleasure of enjoying the absurdly priced, 9,50€ iced coffee while listening to a live band playing in the courtyard.

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We then began shopping, which was a lovely escape from the humidity and scorching heat (100°+). The shops were extremely unique and beautifully amazing. There were such intricate and elaborate masks, and you could find hand blown Murano glass in every shop. I wish I had stayed there longer than just a day, but unfortunately we had to catch an early train back home. Just writing this post makes me wish I was already back, it was such a perfect day. Someday soon, I’ll be back for a sunset gondola ride and a chance to see Venice at night.

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