a long weekend in san francisco

Travel

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I always kind of rolled my eyes whenever someone would reference “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” How original. But after spending a long weekend here, I can understand how it happens.

Bonus: The city is only 7 x 7 miles! Most areas are super walkable, but if you need to jaunt across town, you can Lyft seemingly anywhere within 15 minutes.

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I went to visit my college friend, Dana. She lives in SF and was my top-notch tour guide all weekend.

Also, you know a friendship is legit when you haven’t seen each other in years, but can pick back up like no time has passed!

Our first activity was a picnic in Alamo Square Park.

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…complete with wine, Greek salads from Souvla, plenty of laughs and some judgment.

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The park is bordered by this famous view of the Painted Ladies. (Full House, anyone?)

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Haight-Ashbury: I’ve wanted to visit this spot since I can remember! The neighborhood is home to the 1967 Summer of Love and essentially the birthplace of hippie life.

We spent the afternoon wandering in and out of the unique shops on Haight Street.

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As far as thrifting goes, you’ll be entertained inside any of the vintage shops on Haight. I found this dress ($48) at Wasteland and this bag ($5) at Piedmont Boutique, a flashy costume shop. If you’re looking for cheap, the Goodwill was full of hipster-y finds.

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For anything New Age, you must stop inside The Love of Ganesha. You’ll find plenty of crystals, plus an array of bohemian and Indian-inspired clothing, jewelry, and gifts. The vibes (and prices) are just right.

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The colors, the hills, the homes. I loved it all, but the sidewalks… kind of kicked my ass. Not used to those inclines!

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Brightly-hued Victorian homes are synonymous with San Francisco, and the colorful details are fun to admire on a leisurely walk to basically anywhere.

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I was rather delirious by dinner time (I worked the night before and was up for 40 hours!), but I do remember Nojo Ramen Taven was on. point. Before this dish, my ramen history was embarrassingly limited to the 99-cent kind, so my standards are suuuper high now.

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I slept for 12 hours, hit a hard restart on the Pacific time zone, and wandered over to Cafe du Soleil for a solo brunch.

It’s a French cafe, but I was delighted to see this special on the menu:

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A salad, not only with bacon, but SPANISH TORTILLA.

Why does this matter? I lived in Spain for a summer in high school, and haven’t had tortilla (egg + onion + super-thin potato omelette) done right in 12 years! This was an emotional experience, you guys.

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Another thing about SF: there are little doggies… everywhere! These bebes were up for adoption outside of a corner pet supply store.

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Next up was hiking Lands End, which hugs the coast and offers sweeping views of Ocean Beach, the Golden Gate Bridge, Sutro Baths, and cliffsides that drop into the ocean.

I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

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The trail dips out into a fancy neighborhood, with multi-million dollar homes like this one.

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And not too far away, these colorful tiled steps! Upon closer look… #girlpower

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Next, we were off to a house party, hosted by Dana’s boyfriend and his roommates.

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Not just any party, but a… gnome party.

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U gnome what I mean? luuulz

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There were a few stand-up comedy acts, and this band capped off the night.

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So my favorite meal in life is brunch, but dim sum was new to me! So many nomz at Hong Kong Lounge.

There are dozens of options for bite-sized apps served on small plates. (I trusted Dana on ordering everything.) This picture is only maybe half of what was delivered to our table!

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Chinatown was my final stop in San Fran, and I couldn’t get enough of it. So much culture in the shops and on the streets.

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I wish I had more time, but a long weekend was the perfect getaway I needed.

There’s still so much to see in San Francisco, which gives me an excuse to plan a return trip sometime.

Yay for friends who live in cool places!

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my first solo travel experience

Travel

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(photo: Courthouse Rock, Sedona, April 2018)

I’ve been afraid of doing this my entire life.

I wanted to travel alone — just to prove to myself that I could do it. So I booked a flight to Arizona, and spent several days wandering.

I didn’t need a friend. I didn’t need a man. Hell, I didn’t even need a stranger to take my photos. (I used a tripod the majority of the time.)

Yes, I still interacted with humans, but the point is — I relied on none of them.

I did whatever the hell I wanted, whenever I wanted — without feeling lonely. And that was more liberating and soul-enriching than I could’ve imagined.

While traveling alone, I found myself more open to genuinely connecting with strangers — and trusting them. (That’s a big deal.)

But I also felt a raw (re)connection to myself. There was nothing to hide, nothing to lose, and that felt so… free.

It feels good to conquer a fear. It also feels good to recognize growth.

So buy the ticket, take the ride — and don’t wait for someone else to “buy in” on your life. Live for yourself!

Anyway, most of the trip will be documented in the next post. So keep reading… I’m excited to share this experience with you!

5 days in arizona

Style, Travel

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Oh, the desert. So open, old, barren, and beautiful. It was my first time experiencing this part of the country, and I felt a deep connection to it.

I’m a fan of places that make me feel small. But there was something more magical at work here.

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I split my time between Phoenix and Sedona. I rented a car. And I stayed in a different airbnb every night.

My flight to Phoenix was delayed several hours, so I lost most of my first day. That being said, I knew authentic Mexican tacos would still be waiting for me.

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Oh yeah. Tacos Chiwas is where it’s at for fresh, delicious, and cheeeeap tacos. Get the carnitas.

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Surprise! This is my little (21yo) brother, Evan. He goes to school in Phoenix and blogs for The Suns. It had been several months since we’d seen each other, and were able to catch up over dinner.

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This was my first airbnb host, JayArr, and his daughter. He was super chill. It was nice to have thought-provoking conversations with a stranger, especially when you’re staying in their house.

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I questioned if I should include a photo of my breakfast the next day, but damn, this acai bowl was just so good. Berry Divine – Tempe was the perfect place to fuel up before making the two-hour drive to Sedona.

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First of all, I highly recommend visiting Sedona. If you go, I also recommend taking SR179, or the Red Rock Scenic Byway, into town. You’ll get views like these at each wind in the road.

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All of these photos were taken by me! I bought a mini iPhone tripod on Amazon, which came with a tiny remote. It was kind of awkward at some points, because there were a few people who pointed and laughed. But to be honest, I was more concerned with getting sick pics for the blog, so I didn’t care.

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Skip the tourist shops and buy jewelry straight from the maker! Vendors like Denise travel from the Navajo Reservation and set up shop outside the Dairy Queen.

The Navajo make everything on the reservation. Every material, shape, color, animal, etc. carries a meaning, so I was given an explainer on the symbolism behind each piece! (I left with a couple necklaces for myself and a silver arrowhead for my bf.)

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Here’s my airbnb. It was a single room, detached from the main house. And as you can see, it was impeccably decorated. The city of Sedona has strict rules to prevent light pollution, so the property was a great place for stargazing. (I actually cried.)

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This was the very first time I’d ever eaten alone in a nice restaurant… and I didn’t have any anxiety! At Cafe Paleo Brio, all the ingredients are fresh, local, and organic. I decided to #treatmuhself with a steak, quinoa, and veggies.

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Sedona is known as a metaphysical place with special “vortex energy” in the red rocks, and there are plenty of shops that tap into those vibes. Which leads me to…

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My aura photo! My aura is orange, which stands for a creative adventurer. The green halo means I am a communicator who loves animals. ACCURATE? I think so! 🙂 I enjoyed my experience at Mystical Bazaar for aura photography, crystal shopping, and a psychic reading.

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Here’s my tarot spread. My reading felt more personalized, as it combined a couple kinds of tarot decks, astrology, and even a chakra cleansing. (My heart chakra is the strongest!) I was able to record audio of my reading, but interpret it as you wish…

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As for mystical gifts, go to Crystal Magic! This is a little dog collar pendant for Saki. The blue lapis lazuli stone stands for harmony and friendship!

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Here’s a shot of the famous Chapel of the Holy Cross, a Catholic church built into the red rocks back in the 1950s. It was way too crowded for me to go in, but the architecture alone was worth admiring.

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The Local Juicery: killer smoothies and bomb avocado toast. The employees helped me pick the best smoothie for the kind of day I had planned, which was a hike.

It’s also where I met a dog, that introduced me to his human, who happened to be a local tour guide.

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I asked for tips on Brins Mesa, and Jim offered to take me on a free guided hike.

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The dog’s name is White Paw. He’s half wolf and such a good boy.

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The desert was bright and blooming with wildflowers in mid-April! These were my favorite. They’re called Indian’s Paintbrush.

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After the hike, it was back to Phoenix for my next airbnb, which was advertised as a private resort experience…

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And it was.

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One of the hosts, Emma, is a retired French chef. Dinner was waiting for me when I checked in: Caribbean chicken, breaded squash, and fresh pita with various dips.

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Swimsuit from Target. (Sold out, but I like this one, too!)

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The backyard was like a mini botanical garden.

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AND there were doggies! For $65/night, this can’t be beat, so I’m linking the property here.

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Holy saguaro! I planned a hike for the next morning, but accidentally ended up in the wrong park. The McDowell Mountain Regional Park is pictured above. (Who knew there was more than one park baring McDowell’s name?) Point is, it was a mistake I didn’t regret. The park was empty, and just look at these views…

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Desert plant life is fascinating. So many different kinds of cacti were on the side of this hill. And yes, it is very sharp.

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Sibling photo for Mom! Real talk though, I’m glad I wasn’t alone on this hike. Because this particular park was so totally remote, scorching hot, and we veered onto the wrong trail —  it was nice having a hiking buddy.

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Final day! This is part of Roosevelt Row. It’s basically an arts district in Central Phoenix where the businesses are emblazoned with murals.

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There was enough time for breakfast on the patio at Ollie Vaughn’s (biscuits and gravy on point) and quick localAF souvenir shopping at Frances before having to head back to the airport.

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Arizona will always be special to me because it was my first solo travel experience.

I know I’ll be back…

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A weekend in New Orleans

Travel

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Famous cemeteries, voodoo, and ghosts? Yep, I can get down with that!

I visited New Orleans the first weekend of October. It was the perfect way to kick off my favorite (haunted) season, but the spirits of NOLA live year-round.

My friend Kara was down for the trip, and we fit in a ton of stuff over a long weekend.

Day 1: French Quarter

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We ditched our suitcases at the hotel, Hilton Homewood Suites – Rampart St. and immediately started walking around the French Quarter. We meandered through the streets, admiring the architecture and wandering in and out of shops.

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Our first official stop was (seemingly appropriate) Pat O’Brien’s for a notoriously boozy hurricane. Be sure to check out the dueling piano bar inside. Feeling tipsy and confident, Bourbon Street was next.

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To be honest, I don’t even know the name of this karaoke bar on Bourbon Street. I just know we went inside, and made a beeline for the stairs to the balcony to look out to the people below.

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It was the middle of the afternoon, so Bourbon Street was still pretty tame. However, the general public’s sobriety visibly started to disappear with the setting sun. Take this twerking old man, for example.

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That’s when we strolled down to Jackson Square. It was filled with fortune tellers and local artists. Before I purchased a print, I was able to talk to the artist about the piece — her inspiration and my interpretation — which made the #supportlocal buy feel more special.

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Another staple: Cafe du Monde. Beignets and iced coffee. Sooooo good. As we were eating, the street in front of us shut down for a random parade, complete with colorful floats, jazz bands, and beads. It felt very quintessential NOLA.

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Dinner was at Napoleon House. The atmosphere inside the historic building (read more about it here!) is dark and feels quite European. It’s also pretty affordable. We kept it signature with Muffuletta sandwiches and Pimm’s cup cocktails.

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How could you not stop and pay tribute to the infamous voodoo priestess? Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo is a requirement, out of principle. However, my favorite and seemingly most authentic shop was The Voodoo Bone Lady’s Voodoo Shop on Royal Street.

As far as psychic readings go, you can get one inside any mystic shop or on the street. We made a reservation at Earth Odyssey because of their variety of options.

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Day 2: Garden District (& more!)

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You could say Lafayette Cemetery #1 was my own strange and unusual version of heaven. Call me creepy, but I am totally fascinated by cemeteries, and there was something rather spellbinding about this famous, above-ground “City of the Dead.” Our walking tour of the Garden District included a stop here, along with a rundown of burial practices — and why going “six feet under” isn’t much of an option.

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A two-hour tour of the Garden District, put on by Two Chicks Walking Tours, might have been my favorite part of the trip. On top of the cemetery, we weaved through neighborhood streets, admired historic homes (Anne Rice’s former home pictured above!) and learned about the famous people who lived, currently live, and supposedly still haunt the neighborhood.

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Our tour guide, Loki, grew up in the Garden District. He was a compelling storyteller who incorporated the perfect balance of real history and folklore.

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Does this sidewalk mosaic look familiar?!

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It’s outside Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies! …Well, technically, it’s the beautiful and historic Buckner Mansion, but I also refer to it the AHS: Coven house. It was the final stop on our tour.

Just around the corner was District Donuts, which our Lyft driver suggested. It’s worth mentioning because of a Monte Cristo donut sandwich, topped with raspberry preserves and powdered sugar, that kind of changed my life. I didn’t take a picture, but trust me on this one.

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A photo can’t quite capture the vibes at Bacchanal’s, but it’s basically a big backyard party in the Ninth Ward. You pick out your own bottle of wine, meat, and cheese. The staff then creates a charcuterie board with complementary pairings, so you can snack and drink while watching live music in an outdoor courtyard.

We capped off the night on Frenchmen Street, several blocks dedicated to live music. (Again, I didn’t take pictures here. I was doing this weird thing called “trying to live in the moment.” ) We only went into bars that didn’t charge cover.

 

Near the end of Frenchmen Street was a small, open-air art market with local vendors, including a “poet for hire.” We told him what we were in town for; he asked a few questions and started typing away. For a $10 donation, it was a perfect, one-of-a-kind keepsake to commemorate the trip.

Day 3: Last Day

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We wanted to scope out the options before going crazy on impulse buys, so shopping was saved for the final day.

Souvenir shops in the city are literally everywhere, but I liked Voodoo Mart on Canal Street. It’s nothing special, but it did seem to have the widest selection of gifts priced a little cheaper than the same items in the French Quarter.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention our last meal in New Orleans. Mother’s Restaurant is an old-school, no-frills diner in the Central Business district. And holy shit. I’m still thinking about the jambalaya.

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How I saved money: As far as getaways go, this mini vaca was very affordable. I used my Hilton Honors discount to book a hotel with free breakfast. We walked pretty much everywhere, and only took Lyfts when needed. I also packed snacks in my suitcase to keep in my purse while out exploring. Taking in the culture of New Orleans costs nothing, but the next time I go, I’ll mostly budget for more food!

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Trial By Fire

Life, Style, Travel

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There’s this universal piece of advice when it comes to personal growth. Do something that scares you.

Well, I find this to be absolutely terrifying: traveling alone.

I consider myself pretty independent. But as much as I enjoy my alone time, I’m sometimes too intimidated to be in public by myself. It’s something that’s kind of embarrassing to openly admit, but I typically need someone to motivate me to get ready and get out of the house.

Call it anxiety. Call it depression. Call it laziness. But I’ll shrink away from experiencing something cool if it means doing it solo. I’ve skipped out on meals, concerts, events, certain hikes — and vacations.

News alert: Fuck. That.

So I’m putting myself up to a massive personal challenge this year (and no, it is not joining a gym).

I will travel alone in 2018.

Because I am done with feeling like I’m missing out. And I’m especially done waiting on other people.

This applies to family members, partners, or friends. Reality check: Of course we all operate on limited time, money, and vacation days. (A perk of modern American living, isn’t it? Ugh.) But in some cases, I’ve suggested various excursions for years — only to be consistently shut down. So I guess I just won’t go.

But hold up. Why should someone else’s bullshit excuses suddenly become mine? What’s the point of sacrificing hurt feelings when I can just… do it myself?

As a woman, traveling alone can seem vulnerable, and scary, or maybe not so smart. But it can also be an exhilarating life experience that stretches one’s perceived capabilities. I’ll go with the latter.

So whether it’s a weekend or a week. Domestic or international. This year, I will travel somewhere alone. And it will likely scare me. But I will document it on this blog. Hopefully, you’ll hold me to it… but I’m already researching destinations.

Here’s to girls doing whatever the fuck they want in 2018. Either join or be left behind.

PS — To my adventurous friends, where do you want to travel this year? (Let’s plan something?!) To the solo travelers, shoot me a line with your advice!

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Sweater: Gifted (Thanks, Mom!), but this one looks super comfy. Jeans: Kohl’s. Boots: Kohl’s (major bonus: ortholite comfort insoles), similar here. Hat: Target. Bag: Thrifted, Goodwill.