Browsing Category: North America

Snapshot Memories of the Week: San Diego, CA

Snapshot memories is a new weekly series, giving a visual glimpse into different destinations and unique ways to view them. It’s also a way for me to look back on travels that occurred before and after I started this blog, and to give each place I’ve traveled the attention it deserves. 

This week my memories go back to San Diego. 

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San Diego is a hard place to represent just in snapshots. I spent 5 years living there, and often times didn’t take any pictures of the key aspects that meant the most to me.

Cactuses and desert like conditions in San Diego
Cactuses and desert like conditions in San Diego
Llamas in Oldtown San Diego
Llamas in Old Town San Diego
A walk to Blacks Cliffs
A Walk to Blacks Cliffs

It’s a place I went to college and received my degree in psychology and international studies, where I fell in love with my college boyfriend, where I joined a sorority (more on that later), and had countless sleepless nights going out on adventures with California burritos in hand and the beach within throwing distance.

Graduating seniors at UC San Diego
Graduating seniors at UC San Diego
UC San Diego Campus
UC San Diego Campus
Okay, not technically in San Diego - but a great road trip from the city to taste the best apple pie of your life - Julian Pie Company
Okay, not technically in San Diego – but a great road trip from the city to taste the best apple pie of your life – Julian Pie Company

There are many pictures I did capture, and that is what I bring you this week, but as I lived there for so long, I never viewed the place as a tourist.

Mount Woodson
Mount Woodson
Margaritas for my 21st in Del Mar, San Diego
Margaritas for my 21st in Del Mar, San Diego
San Diego Harbor
San Diego Harbor

I never made it to Sea World, never took pictures of the many suburbs I explored on my weekends, or the ornate and beautiful Balboa Park. I never took pictures of my favorite cafes and taquerias. I never captured on film how much I loved hanging out in Bird Rock on a hot summer’s day, iced green tea in hand, and how gorgeous the city looks at night while crossing the Coronado Bridge.

Bird Rock Coffee Roasters - The Best
Bird Rock Coffee Roasters – The Best
La Jolla, San Diego
La Jolla, San Diego
Pacific Beach for a night out on the town
Pacific Beach for a night out on the town

I never took photos of the many delicious craft beers I could find at any bar I went to, or how profound the friendships became that I made throughout college. How freeing it felt to go skinny dipping at Blacks Beach in the middle of the night in the dead of winter, how the best beach weather is in the dead of winter, and finally knowing the true meaning of hot and humid summer nights.

Stone Brewery
Stone Brewery
UC San Diego Campus
UC San Diego Campus
UC San Diego
UC San Diego

Instead, I have pictures that will do their best to convey to you a place that I can’t even begin to describe myself, a place I still get butterflies to go back to, I love it that much. I have pictures of sunsets/sunrises, beaches/cliffs, palm trees, and food/craft beer mainly (although I still don’t know how I never took a picture of a burrito, I consumed SO many while I was living there).

Bird Rock, San Diego
Bird Rock, San Diego
Cowles Mountain
Cowles Mountain
The World-Famous San Diego Zoo
The World-Famous San Diego Zoo

These four categories are how I would describe San Diego to an outsider, as well as maybe adding in an awesome live music scene, it’s a good introduction to one of my favorite cities in the world.

Blacks Cliffs
Blacks Cliffs
My Apartment for 2 years
My Apartment for 2 years

After what will be 2 years away, I look forward to starting off my West Coast USA Road Trip in San Diego, and finally taking the time to see it as a tourist.

Sunsets/Sunrises

San Diego

Beaches/Cliffs

Beaches and Cliffs

Palm Trees

Palm Trees

Food/Craft Beer

Food and Craft Beer

I can’t tell you how many songs remind me of this place, and how much it means to me that I can share a piece of it with you here.

I never knew a place named after a whale’s vagina could be so cool.

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Craft Beer 101

Craft Beer 101 - The Atlas Heart

It seems like everyone is talking about craft beer, hops, and malts these days. Or is that just me?  I first got into craft beer in college, a friend introduced me to big hop American IPAs via Stone Brewery and I was sold from my first sip. My Coors Light party days from freshman year were long gone by the time I started working as a bartender at the craft beer pub on campus my senior year.

I was blessed to go to school in San Diego, California. Not only does it have some of the best year around weather in the world, beaches, and people, but one of the best microbrewery scenes in the nation.

San Diego

Stone Brewery was the first brewery I ever visited, and it still holds dear memories for me of birthday drinks, getting lost in conversations in the rock gardens, and munching on the beer mac & cheese.

Getting lost in Stone Brewery

In Melbourne, I worked in a craft beer bar hidden away in the lawyer district of the CBD, and started my education of the best craft beers in Victoria and all of Australia.

Deja Vu Bar (Melbourne, Australia) Photo Cred: http://craftypint.com
Deja Vu Crew

In Sydney, again, I worked at a craft beer pub, one that was voted the best craft beer venue in all of Australia in 2013. A 3-story bar, with plenty of staff, and beer nerds galore, I fell even more in love with the craft beer scene in Australia.

The Local Taphouse - Sydney East - Sydney_original
The Local Taphouse (Sydney, Australia) Photo Cred: www.barsandnightclubs.com.au

As much as Kiwis like to say Australia has no good craft beer, I’d beg to differ. Although the craft beer scene in Australia isn’t as developed as what I’ve found in New Zealand, I found some of the most unique beers I’ve tried in my life in Australia, including one brewed with a whole chicken. Just look up Bacchus Brewing in Queensland and you’ll see what I mean.

Currently, I’m working as a manager at another great craft beer bar in New Zealand, and I couldn’t be happier to be progressing my knowledge in the never ending field of beer.

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Kendall, Sam, and I at the Bruhaus (Wellington, New Zealand) Photo Cred: http://jetsettingfools.com

I’ve become quite comfortable in American, Australian, and New Zealand beers, and can recommend and describe pretty much any style now and how it differs by country. For instance, the one thing I’m not a big fan of in terms of New Zealand beer is the big hop characteristics found in NZ Pale Ales. For me, if I want big hops, I’ll turn to an IPA, but that’s because I grew up with American style pale ales, which tend to be more subtle than their Kiwi counterpart.

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Liberty Citra Double IPA, drank in Bebemos. One of my favorite beers in New Zealand.

My beer journey in the past few years led me to take a Craft Beer 101 class last Saturday. I was able to attend the class for free in the name of “work”, and I loved it so much that I thought I would share what I learned. Although I know a lot about beer, I’m also lacking on a lot of the history behind how styles originated, this class taught me heaps about the background of beer culture.

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Getting ‘Murican with Behemoth’s APA

The class was held at a bar called Hashigo Zake, a place that calls itself a “cult beer bar”, and one of the best bars to get to know New Zealand craft beer if you happen to be in Wellington. The class was taught by Steph and Phil, who were friendly, knowledgable, and hilarious instructors that work at the bar. They have a whole series of classes about beer, including one on hops, yeast, and an advanced beer course. I would highly recommend even taking one of their classes if you have an interest in craft beer.

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Craft Beer College

Maybe you’re a beer nerd to the core, maybe just a casual beer drinker, or perhaps you just want to show your smarts at a party of hipsters. Here are a few basic facts to know and share about styles:

English Bitter

Essentially the birth of pale ales. The English bitter style came about through a change in malting techniques, which shied away from the intense roasting that used to be a part of brewing any beer. Beer used to be a sludgy, dirt black, thick liquid before a change in malting styles came along. This change allowed for a lighter beer in color to be produced. A more unique aroma and a better color boded well for the growing popularity of beer.

Wheat

A style that usually has more protein and yeast that is oftentimes left in the beer, especially for traditional German Hefeweizens, which is where wheat beers get their cloudy appearance. Wheat beers have a very unique aroma compared to most other styles because of the type of yeast used. The aromas you usually find are banana, clove, and even bubblegum. A Belgian style wit (wheat in Dutch) usually has less banana flavors and instead more spices of coriander, citrus and cloves. Wheat beer tends to be described as being the most refreshing, although the same can be said for Pilsners.

Pilsners

The default conception of what beer is. When most people think of the definition of a beer, they think of pilsners because that’s usually what they grow up with or what they’re first introduced to. The style itself is actually rather new, in fact, newer than the country of New Zealand. The style was created in the small town of Plzeň in the Czech Republic. The town wanted its own thing to bring the community together and make them stand out from other towns, so they decided to create their own beer style. My kind of town.

It’s a very deliberate style that was engineered to make the “perfect” beer in a lot of different ways. It’s a clean, focused beer, and a great step up from the murky dark beers that were popular at the time. It’s more pale than an English style, but much more aromatic and tends to have more hops.

Pilsners sometimes get a bad rap in the craft beer world, because a lot of big corporate beer companies use the style loosely to produce watered down beer that doesn’t have much of a flavor. Granted, pilsners can be seen as boring because they don’t have all the crazy flavors, malts, and hops that some of the other styles have, but it’s a great introductory style to get someone into craft beer, or if you just want a lighter style to drink for the night.

IPA

India Pale Ales are big and bold. America has mastered the big hop IPA, and it has become popular again in New Zealand, especially in the last decade. There has been a lot of theories behind how the style began, but it’s safe to say that the style acquired its name from its beginning popularity with the East India Company traders.

Some theories say the brewers in England added extra hops so the beer would withstand the long voyage to India, others say that Indians and the traders simply had a fondness for the taste of new found big hops. Whatever theory is right, I’m glad that the IPA came about because it had a great impact in the craft beer world, and is probably my favorite style to date.

Fun fact: If you smell certain IPAs you may get a whiff of something you used to smoke in college (or maybe still do), because hops are closely related to Cannabis. The beer that has smelled the most like weed to me is Le Freak by Green Flash Brewing Company, you know those Californians…..

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Stouts & Porters

A black ale that doesn’t have a massive hop presence. Although a lot of people like to condone stouts and porters to all tasting like Guinness, there is just as wide a variety of black beers as there are of lighter ones.

The name for porters came about from the porters in London drinking a lot of black beers, which they would oftentimes drink instead of water. Stouts were generally thought of as a porter with higher alcohol, called stout porters. Guinness technically was the first stout because they were the first brewery to drop the name porter in the style.

Now the important part is the different between porters and stouts, which a lot of people get confused. Stouts have roasted barley, are generally more robust, slightly dryer, and tend to have a coffee bitterness in the aftertaste. Porters are slightly sweeter, and produce more of a chocolate flavor.

Belgian Strong

As my coworkers can vouch, it’s hard (for me) to drink a whole night on only Belgian beers, they’re called strong ales for a reason! And ridiculousness seems to ensue after a few too many of these babies.

Belgian strong ales are brewed with live yeast that eat up all the sugars and create a high in alcohol beer. The style started with monks and the popular Belgian brewery, Trappist, which was originally just a monastery. The Trappist monks would sell beer to rebuild monasteries after World War I. The monks quickly became very good brewers when they discovered the wealth they could gain for the monastery through beer.

Chimay Blue was originally brewed by a monk for a Christmas dinner. Clearly, they were serious about their good beer.

Barley Wine

Not all that common, but definitely a style that is incredibly unique and an adventure for the tastebuds. It’s usually very alcoholic, falling around 10-12%, the one we tried in the course was 18.9%. Wowza.

It was originally created by the English to compete with French wine. As with any ever present competition with the French and the English, barley wine was brewed to be bigger in everything compared to the French.

A generous amount of hops and sweetness (and ahem, ethanol) are considered to be the characteristics for this style. The Mikkeler Big Worster we tried in the course just tasted like straight alcoholic butter to me. I’m not a huge fan of barley wine, but to each his own.

Here’s the list of beers we tasted in the course:

Feel free to try these and let me know what you think, and if you think they follow the general guidelines of their style. I always love hearing another’s thoughts on interesting beer.

1. Fitzpatrick’s Fitzy’s Special – English Bitter – 4.0%

2. Mike’s Taranaki Hefeweizen – Wheat – 5.5%

3. Mata Hip Hop – Pilsner – 5.5%

4. Parrot Dog Bitter Bitch – IPA – 5.8&

5. Tuatara Black Stout: Toasted Malt – Stout – 7.0%

6. Chimay Blue – Belgian Strong – 9%

7. Mikkeller Big Worster – Barley Wine – 18.9%

These styles, of course, only brush the surface, but it’s a good place to start for classic beer styles that initiated the whole she-bang. Other favorites of mine include amber ales, American pale ales, and the odd Italian red ale.

Garage Project Brewery. yes.
Drinking American Pale Ales on 4th of July

Have you ever been beer tasting? What’s your favorite style of beer?

If you’d like to take one of Steph and Phil’s Craft Beer College courses in Wellington, head to www.craftbeercollege.co.nz. 

2013, a year to remember

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” – Miriam Adeney

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My favorite quote from 2013, and one that I find pretty relevant to my life these days as a hopeless wanderer. 2013 was a year of change, new beginnings, and a lot of falling headfirst outside of my comfort zone. I traveled to 7 new countries, attended 4 festivals, moved to two different cities, said more goodbyes than I’d like to remember, yet have made countless more friends and opened a variety of new doors in the process. 2013 was in a word, epic. I don’t think I’ve grown more in a year previously than I did in 2013, I have a feeling 2014 is going to be even better and more adventurous. Here’s a glance at what my year of travel and spontaneity included.

January – New York, Oregon, California

I started this travel blog just before the New Year, my first posts consisted of my travels around the States for the holidays and reminiscent anecdotes from my summer in Tuscany. I started the New Year off with a bang partying under the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City for New Year’s Eve.

View of the Chrysler Building at night

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“Last June, I walked across the stage at my college graduation with the words the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams“ glued to my cap. I found the quote appropriate, not only because my college at UC San Diego is called Eleanor Roosevelt, but because those words are what I hope to live by as a recent graduate.” – The Future Belongs to those who Believe in the Beauty of their Dreams

February – California

The month of the most change for me in 2013, this was one of my final months in San Diego before moving to Oz. I pierced my belly button, donated most of my belongings, cut off a foot of my hair, and broke things off with my longterm boyfriend.

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me and aaron

“There has been a lot to think about with my departure date coming up so soon, and my whole trip itself becoming more real than it has ever felt before. I’m proud of myself for embarking on such an endeavor, one which I wouldn’t of had the confidence or the bravery to pull off as little as four years ago when I first started college. On the other hand, I can’t help feeling selfish and even guilty sometimes for leaving certain people behind to chase my own dreams of traveling, knowing that I’ll miss out on so much in the process of fulfilling what I want to do with my life.” – Walkabout: La Jolla Edition

March – California

My final month in San Diego, I left two jobs and an internship behind and said my final goodbyes to my friends and my life in the beloved place I called home. Even though bittersweet, I was also extremely excited to take on my Aussie adventure, knowing how much it would benefit me in the long run. I lived in the moment, appreciating all those who had touched my time in San Diego, and enjoyed all that the seaside city had to offer. I also made sure to eat as much Mexican food as possible, I even had a burrito on the way to the airport.

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flowers

“I’ve realized the only way to love the life I live is through passion, optimism, and spontaneity. So, this year my travel resolutions will revolve around just those things, letting go of the negative aspects in my life in the process.” – Travel Resolutions 2013

April – California, Melbourne

My big move to Melbourne and my first month in Australia was a whirlwind of new experiences, tram rides, footy games, new friends, the best coffee, and learning how to live like an Aussie and adapt to colder weather.

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“The sun is gleaming through the palm trees, I’m riding alongside the ocean, the orange sky as my canopy. What a way to say goodbye to this cherished place I’ve taken for my own, a place I call home even with these restless bones.” – On leaving everything behind to follow you dreams

May – Melbourne

I celebrated my 23rd birthday and bundled up to settle in for the long hall for my first Aussie winter and my second consecutive winter coming from California with opposite seasons. I explored what Melba had to offer during the winter months… it was heaps. From museums, to hidden coffee shops, to live gigs and warm dumplings, I loved spending winter in Melbourne.

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tram

“There are few things I love more than layering up in a warm sweater, finding a cozy cafe, and getting lost in a good book while sipping on my daily caffeine intake. Especially, when the coffee is as good as it is in Melbourne, and the cafe atmosphere just as phenomenal. I try and hit a different cafe every day because there are too many good ones to choose from.” – 7 ways to spend the winter months in the city

June – Melbourne

In June, I moved across the city to a new apartment and met my new roommate, someone who would become one of my best friends in Australia. I found a second job to help save for Southeast Asia, started volunteering at a yoga studio, and used my rusty culinary skills from my time in Florence to improve my cooking. I basically lived at the Queen Vic Market and the Carlton Gardens, my two favorite spots in the city.

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queen vic

“Moving abroad is something I’ve always dreamed of doing, and I’m actually doing exactly what I want to do with my life right now, which is a feeling I’ve never completely felt before with all the pressures of adolescence, and the “correct” path of going to a 4 year university instilled in my American mindset since I was little. It’s the first time I’ve broken off the path of what society deems to be the ‘American Dream’, expanded my perspective of what my life could encompass, besides just worrying about hitting all the generic milestones at the appropriate ages. That in itself is an invigorating realization. And as long as I keep living a balanced life, no matter where I might call home today or tomorrow, I’m going to be just fine.” – Be Free

July – Melbourne

My favorite month in Melbourne. I had been there long enough that it finally felt like home, I loved my job as a bartender in the city, one of my best friends from back home came to visit, I had a solid group of friends, and a couple winter romances as the cherry on top. Perhaps it’s proof that the most fleeting moments in life are usually the most beautiful as my departure to Southeast Asia in August was coming up soon.

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“Comparing where I was when I arrived and only had two friends in the city, to where I am today just a few months later, the changes are extraordinary. I’ve somehow built up my own friend base, a support system from scratch in a completely foreign place. I must say, that is one of the most reassuring realizations you can make in life; that you can start over anywhere and be more than okay, you can be genuinely happy.” – Life is a journey, not a destination

August – Melbourne, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam

My last couple weeks in Melbourne before heading over to Southeast Asia. I drove the Great Ocean Road, went wine tasting in the Yarra Valley, said my round of goodbyes for the second time this year to a city that I had begun to call home, and visited Sydney for the first time. In Southeast Asia, I traveled around to Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam with my British friend I met in Europe a couple summers ago. We had our feet cleaned by fish in Malaysia, laid on the beaches of Bali for a week, explored modern Singapore, and fell into the hectic pace of Ho Chi Minh City.

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“It was one of those surprisingly sunny days in Winter that Melbourne is fond of having every now and then. My friend and I decided to spend the day exploring more of the Royal Botanic Gardens in the city, because it was just one of those days you had to be outside for. We had a picnic at a place I deemed my own ‘500 Days of Summer’ spot, it was truly a perfect day in Aussie land.” – The Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, a way to spend an afternoon

September – Cambodia, Thailand

In September I fell in love with Cambodia and the Khmer way of life, went through scuba certification on a deserted island in Cambodia, ate some bugs in Bangkok, rode an elephant, played with baby tigers, learned how to cook authentic Thai food, and had an amazing time in the southern Thai Islands at the Full Moon Party.

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“It’s the people I meet on my travels that keep me trekking on and grounded when I feel lost, disillusioned with what I find in certain places. A chance connection on a night bus with a Welsh guy, having an enlightening conversation at midnight about our lives on the opposite sides of the world we grew up on. A friendly English girl who became our roommate in Chiang Mai. The fun groups of guys we met at the Full Moon Party. And of course my travel companion and partner in crime who has been with me since the beginning of Asia.” – Moments from the road

October – Vietnam, Melbourne, Sydney

The last stretch of Southeast Asia consisted of traveling down the coast of Vietnam. I loved the old way of life in Hanoi, immersed myself in the beauty of the limestone cliffs in Halong Bay, traveled to Hue, and lovely Hoi An, and found myself in Ho Chi Minh city again before flying back to Melbourne.

I spent a bittersweet week in Melbourne, doing all of my favorite things in the city and seeing all the friends I had missed for the past two months, before I moved for the 2nd time to a new city. My first couple weeks in Sydney weren’t the easiest and I didn’t feel quite at home as quickly as I did when I first arrived in Melbourne, but I found a job my first day, made heaps of new friends, and have since meshed much better into the Sydneysider way of life.

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“There’s no magic place where all the bad aspects of life go away, but, of course, there can’t be the good without the bad as comparison. That’s what makes life so complex and interesting, the hurdles you come across, make your best days just that much sweeter. There is no such thing as a new beginning. Even when you start over in a new place, you’re still going to be you, you’re still going to have the same baggage that has made you into the person you are today, there is no escaping who you are to your core. I’m finally understanding who I am as a person, and what I want out of my life now, and even that alone has made my time in Australia worth it.” – Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy

November – Sydney

I took this month to explore Sydney as much as possible on my days off, going to a lot of festivals and art exhibits around the city, and simply enjoying the raw beauty Sydney has to offer on any given day.

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“There are two things I’ve noticed about Sydney since moving here: There are a lot of people jogging everywhere and doing group exercises in one of the many parks, and there’s always some sort of festival or event going on in the city. In other words, it’s basically LA without the famous people. I’ve particularly been enjoying the latter – although I’m hoping to join the former with the communal exercise (yoga!) as I’m settling into my life here and now have a more manageable work schedule.” – Celebrating inspiration at Sculpture by the Sea

December – Sydney, Byron Bay

December whizzed by in a matter of minutes it seems. Between countless out-of-town music festivals I was volunteering at, to the realization that my time in Australia may be coming to a close in April, sooner than I’d like to think, I kept myself overly busy with work, creativity, and hanging out with as many friends as possible. It was perfect to end the month disconnecting from all things social media and camping in Byron Bay to ring in the New Year at Falls Fest.

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“When I was walking across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, I thought back to when I was 13 and walking across the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time with my dad at one of my many basketball tournaments in San Francisco. When I think back to where I was at that age, a decade ago now, it’s remarkable the changes I have gone through. From an anxious, hesitant little girl who had no idea what was ahead of her, to where I am today, I hardly recognize that person anymore.” – Walkabout across the Sydney Harbour Bridge

I’m still brewing up some solid goals for 2014, but I do know that I want to travel to at least 3 new countries: New Zealand, Fiji, and probably either Canada, Japan or Mexico…(suggestions welcome). I also want to see Hawaii this year to sleep on the beach, hike a volcano, and surf at sunrise.

Happy 2014, I’m ready for you.

Watch me –> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDSazU1fvsg

Postcard from Santa Cruz, CA

I visited my hometown this past weekend for the last time before my travels, and to say a temporary goodbye to my family and friends. In order to celebrate my last views of Santa Cruz and to serve as a reminder to why I love this place so much, here are a few photos of what home means to me.

“What a life I lead when the sun breaks free, as a giant torn from the clouds. What a life indeed when that ancient seed is a-buried, watered, and plowed.” – Fleet Foxes

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What’s your favorite photo from Santa Cruz?

Exploring my own backyard in Julian

Last weekend, I convinced my roommate to take a road trip with me to Julian, CA. I invited a few other friends, and next thing you know we had a full car and were cruising along on a beautiful Southern California day up to Julian to indulge in everything apple related.

I’m talking about the apple pie capital of the world, and it has been an hour and a half away from me this whole time I’ve lived in San Diego! I’ve been wanting to visit Julian since I heard the words apple and pie in the same sentence, and even more so in the last few months of checking off my San Diego bucket list. Unfortunately it’s hard to take those kind of road trips by yourself when you don’t have a car, and even harder to convince college students to spend their precious study time and money on gas when the words Vegas or Big Bear aren’t included.

It was one of those quintessential perfect days, it almost felt like summer until we got up to the snowy parts. Julian is an unassuming tiny town tucked away in the mountains that has the best apple pie I’ve ever tasted, and I’m not exaggerating when I say the best I’ve ever tasted, and I’ve tried a lot of apple pie. If you love apple pie as I do, or just want to feel like an American for a day, this is a must visit destination for you.

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We stopped by the Julian Pie Company, and I had the original apple pie with cinnamon ice cream. It was one of the best moments of my life when I took that first bite. Afterwards, we walked around downtown Julian which consisted of a couple blocks of old western-style stores, and eventually made our way down the street to Julian Hard Cider. We talked with the owner, bought and shared some cider tasters, and I eventually decided on the cider with blackberry and blueberry infusions (“the black and blue”), it was delicious.

As we made our way home, with the sun shining its last rays, I realized that this was one of my favorite days I’ve had in 2013 so far. I also realized how many more days I want to spend this year simply exploring new towns and indulging my taste buds, the simple life of travel and exhilaration of experiencing new things. In my opinion, the secret to happiness.

To listen to our soundtrack for our road trip and exploration of Julian, click here

Walkabout: La Jolla Edition

I love walking. I walk everywhere because I don’t own a car, but even more than that, I walk because it brings me moments of clarity and simple bliss. Sometimes I walk with no destination, just for the purpose of fresh air, exercise, gorgeous views, good music, and a way to clear my head and maybe even figure some things out. I call these particular walks my  “walkabouts”, the irony of which has not escaped me with my upcoming trip to Australia.

There has been a lot to think about with my departure date coming up so soon, and my whole trip itself becoming more real than it has ever felt before. I’m proud of myself for embarking on such an endeavor, one which I wouldn’t of had the confidence or the bravery to pull off as little as four years ago when I first started college. On the other hand, I can’t help feeling selfish and even guilty sometimes for leaving certain people behind to chase my own dreams of traveling, knowing that I’ll miss out on so much in the process of fulfilling what I want to do with my life.

My walkabout around La Jolla this afternoon was meant for me gain some insight into all these thoughts that keep rambling around in my head, yet also to quell my incessant need to always overanalyze everything. To just find peace and happiness in the present moment.

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Meet me there, bundles of flowers, we wait through the hours of cold. Winter shall howl at the walls, tearing down doors of time, shelter as we go.”

I’ve been on a huge Ben Howard kick lately, and he made up the soundtrack to my walkabout today, listen to it here.

6 free things to do in Santa Cruz, CA

6 Free Things to Do in Santa Cruz, California

Okay, so maybe Santa Cruz doesn’t have as much going on as Los Angeles, San Francisco, or San Diego, and maybe I’m a little biased being that I was born and raised here, but I do believe that Santa Cruz is a place that you should visit at least once in your life. Sure, it’s a small beach town like many that exist on the West Coast, but Santa Cruz has its own little unique charm that I have yet to come across anywhere else.

I love that there are plenty of beaches within walking distance, yet also hiking trails through the beautiful redwoods right there as well. I love that there are so many locally owned stores and coffee shops, organic produce, hippies and street musicians. I love that I can get decent food in pretty much any cuisine even though it’s a relatively small town. I love that we’re so close to the big cities in the Bay Area for concerts or weekend getaways, but still tucked away in our own little community. I love that I grew up going on field trips to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. As much as I sometimes resent the fact that everything closes up by 9, I really do love Santa Cruz. As a local, here are some of my favorite free things to do, other than spending your money at the Beach Boardwalk (my first job at 16!) or the Mystery Spot, which is what most tourists do.

1. Watch the surfers from West Cliff and drive along East Cliff

West Cliff is one of my favorite places to go in Santa Cruz, it’s an absolutely gorgeous place to walk or just sit and watch the ocean. In my opinion, this is the best place to watch the sunset and the surfers down below the cliffs. It’s also a pretty drive at night, listening to good music with the windows rolled down (or heater full blast depending on the season) with the twinkling lights across the bay as your background. East cliff is also worth checking out, it’s less popular than West Cliff and thus less touristy, but it has beautiful views of the ocean as well.

2. Window Shop on Pacific Avenue

I love just walking down Pacific Avenue, basically the street that makes up most of our downtown. There are so many locally owned boutiques and coffee shops that I spend whole afternoons browsing through Bookshop Santa Cruz, finding eclectic pieces of jewelry at Bunny’s, or sipping a cappuccino at Santa Cruz Coffee Roasters. The coffee in Santa Cruz is some of the best I’ve tasted in my life, try as many of the locally owned coffee shops as you can, they all have their own vibe and delicious coffee.

Best places to grab food on Pacific Avenue: El Palomar, Chocolate, Taqueria Vallarta, Hoffman’s Bistro

3. Hike the DeLaveaga trails 

A great place to go on a light or strenuous hike, there are so many different trails you can go on. Also, a great place to walk your dog or have a nice morning jog with just you and the beautiful redwoods. Some of the trails overlook the disc golf course if you want to check out the game and maybe find some frisbees. Find a spot called “The Top of the World”, if you can, the view will be worth the hike, but you’ll probably come across some of the local stoners at the top since it’s a popular spot to smoke. Every time I explore more of the DeLaveaga trails, I fall a little more in love with the beauty of my hometown. For more hiking spots, check out the UC Santa Cruz trails. They offer some of the best views of Santa Cruz, and you may even come across the famous limestone kilns. Henry Cowell State Park is great place to come up and close with the giant redwood trees, but it also has a $10 entrance fee.

4. Sunny Cove Beach

One of the local secret spots that the tourists haven’t taken over yet. It’s a small beach and a little hidden and hard to get to, but it’s one of only beaches that isn’t overrun in the summer, and it’s a perfect place to lay on the beach and feel like a local. If you’re traveling with a dog, 20th Ave beach is a great dog beach with friendly owners that will strike up an easy conversation with you.

5. Walk along the Santa Cruz Wharf

Compared to a lot of wharfs I’ve visited in California, the Santa Cruz Wharf doesn’t have much to it, but if you walk to the end you get a great view of the skyline of the Beach Boardwalk and you get to see and hear the seals up close. If you’re feeling like a nice seafood dinner, go to Rivas on the Wharf, it’s one of my favorite restaurants in Santa Cruz and allows you to sit alongside huge windows overlooking the ocean.

6. Natural Bridges and the Monarch Butterflies 

If you want to see the beautiful Monarch butterflies up close, visit the Natural Bridges State Park. If you don’t park your car in their lot, there’s free parking on the street and free butterfly tours. The butterflies arrive in October and migrate in February. The best time to come is in November when thousands of butterflies call the Eucalyptus trees at Natural Bridges their home.

Winter Break 2008 131

Other notable places to visit:

  • For live music, go to a concert at the Kuumbwa Jazz center
  • Attend a Shakespeare Santa Cruz production. The season occurs at the end of summer, from July to August, and you get to watch Shakespeare plays in the middle of the forest up at UC Santa Cruz. It’s beautiful, the acting is phenomenal, and it’s definitely worth the $20-$40 ticket price. Make sure to bring warm clothes, blankets and a picnic since it’s outside.
  • And if you’re in the area, make the short drive to Monterey to check out the world famous aquarium and a beautiful city on the bay.

Postcard from Veneta

When my dad told me that he was moving out of the house I was raised in Santa Cruz, CA and relocating to Oregon, I was nostalgic and sad to let go of so many memories from my childhood and adolescence. Well, I had the opportunity to see his new place just outside of Eugene, in Veneta, Oregon, and I fell in love with my new home to come back to. I’ve been to Oregon a few times before, but I had forgotten just how incredibly beautiful a state it is. I can see why so many people are relocating there, it’s a one of a kind place.

Staying cheap in New York City

My first week in New York City was a learning process of what and what not to do. Here’s the short list of what I found out.

Don’t

1. Don’t pay for one of the pricey bus tours around the city. They cost anywhere from $50-$70 for the least expensive ones and they are not worth it. Although reluctant to spend that much for a tour, my sister talked me into it by saying that we would get a better feel for the layout of the city if we were chauffeured around on a bus for one of our first days there. First of all, this is not true. You don’t really get a sense of the layout when you’re whizzing by on a bus, with barely a few seconds between attractions to snap a couple generic pics before the light turns green again. Secondly, even though we bought our tickets ahead of time online, we still had to go in person to the office and wait in a line that was winding out the door for a couple hours to pick them up. After that ordeal, we had to wait in another 45 minute line at the pickup spot to actually get on the bus . Once on the bus, it was hard to hear the tour guide, especially since his mic kept going in and out. Overall, it was overpriced and time consuming to say the least.

The view of the UN building from the downtown loop of a Gray Line bus tour

2. Don’t wait in line at the Empire State Building. Maybe it’s a lot different when it’s not the holidays, but this was the most torturous part of my trip to New York. They’ll ask you multiple times throughout your doldrums of waiting in line if you want to buy the express pass. I am telling you now, buy the express pass. It sucks shelling out more money than you already have to in order to get to the top, but if I had known how many different lines there were going to be and just how long it was going to take to get to the lookout, I would’ve bought it instantly. The wait for the Empire State Building is a tricky one. There were probably seven different lines I stood in, and you can’t see the next one from where you’re waiting, so you think you’re almost to the front until they lead you to another room with hundreds of more tired and listless people who are just as annoyed and angry as you. The total wait time to get to the top without an express pass, over 3 hours.

The beginning of a very long wait to the top

3. Don’t pay full price for Broadway tickets. If you’re a student, take advantage of your status. If you go directly to the box office of where the show is playing and show your student ID, you will not only get tickets for around $20, but also 4th row seats. Broadway is very big on making sure young intellectuals have the opportunity to enjoy Broadway as much as anyone else, so they always set aside a percentage of tickets just for this purpose. Go early in the day and see what they have left for the show you wish to see. If you’re not a student, use the TKTS tickets booths and get discounts for the day of, or for a matinee the next day. My sister and I had been told that most of the decent Broadway shows sell out quickly during the holidays, so we chose to buy our tickets ahead of time, paying full price for nose bleed seats. Apparently, they always say that tickets are sold out or are about to sell out, but more often then not they still have some the day of. The one exception is for the extremely popular ones, this year those were The Lion King and Book of Morman. Broadway was still such an amazing experience, but I’ll definitely know the right way to buy tickets next time.

Do

1. Use the local metro. The NYC metro system is actually very easy to use and will take you anywhere you need to go for super cheap. There is even an iphone app for it! And as a bonus, it runs 24/7 so you can even take it home once the bars close up at 4am or anytime before. Not even in Paris does the metro run all night. The New York Metro system is truly a blessing for being so accessible.

2. Take advantage of the Free Tours by Foot. The Greenwich and Holiday Lights walking tours were some of my favorite memories from the trip. Both tour guides I had were witty, funny, and extremely knowledgable about the city. They not only made the historical facts behind the monuments and famous sights interesting, but gave you additional tips on the best places to go, things to do, and how to truly stay cheap in the city. I’m sure the tours are even better when it’s not winter, below freezing and when you can actually feel your feet and hands. If there is one thing I regret about this trip, it was not doing more of the tours offered by this company. The wealth of information you attain is well worth the amount of exercise you put in by going on one of these tours.

The Greenwich free walking tour, view of the Friends apartment

Holiday Lights free walking tour

3. Use airbnb for accommodations. Hotels in the city are one of the biggest drains on your wallet..and the hostels are a little more on the sketch side than most cities. To find a happy medium check out the airbnb site. Recommended by a friend, it is similar to an upscale couch surfing site. Somehow my sister and I were able to find affordable accommodations a few weeks before our trip during the holidays in New York City. One of my favorite aspects of where we stayed in Brooklyn was the fact that there were no hotels around us, it was all local coffee shops, pizza places, and within walking distance to downtown Williamsburg.

Near our apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

What are some of your favorite tips for staying cheap in NYC?