VEGAS!

Mike turned 33 on Monday and we celebrated the weekend with a group of friends in Las Vegas. I’ve been to Vegas once before about 4 years ago so was due for a trip back; a trip that started luxuriously because we splurged and flew first class. Holy leg room!

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Glorious leg room!!!

We arrived in Vegas around 10:30am and took a Lyft to the Mandalay Bay. Our friends Ben and Sandra had arrived a few days before so we met in their room to drop off our stuff until we could check in. Our other friends Lauren and Ian had also flew in that morning and were already there waiting for us. The gang was together again.

After a few AM tequila shots (#vegas) we headed to the pool. I couldn’t believe how crowded it was! Luckily we had access to a private(ish) pool that didn’t have as many people. We dumped our stuff on a lounge chair, piled on sunscreen, and got in for a dip. Lunch wasn’t that great. We ordered chicken tenders, fries, chips, and guacamole. I tried to get at least one green, healthy food in there with the guac but was still disappointed overall.

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Catching waves 🤙

After some time spent in the wave pool (endless entertainment!), it was time to check in. One of my favorite parts of vacations are hotel rooms. I love them! Mandalay Bay has pretty nice rooms so I was happy to get there and unpack. Then it was a quick shower and NAP TIME! A little sleep was much needed …especially with how late we ended up staying out that night.

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We went off the strip for dinner to a place called Marrakech that Ben has been to a few times. They serve a fixed 6 course fusion of Moroccan, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern cuisines. The night started with washing our hands in warm rose water and ended with Moroccan mint tea and a decadent banana, chocolate, and walnut dessert; shrimp in garlic butter, plenty of bread, hummus, and belly dancing highlighting in-between. Highly recommended if you’re ever in Vegas!

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Mike and the belly dancer!

Stuffed and ready for more drinks, Mike and I spilt from the group and went to Fremont street, in downtown Las Vegas. Our first stop was Commonwealth for a round of cocktails. The bar had a pre-Prohibition feel with its dark ambiance and hidden nooks to sit in.

Something about Vegas made me uneasy at this point in the trip. Call it taking the “sin” in “sin city” too seriously but suddenly I wasn’t having the best time being there. Everything felt cheap and sad to me. I was having a bit of anxiety by the time we stopped at the next bar. We ordered beers and I tried to snap out of it but I was in a funk. I felt bad for being a drag during Mike’s birthday weekend but, luckily, Mike is the sweetest guy I know and took time to chat with me. I felt better after and was excited to meet back up with everyone to continue the night. Mike always makes me feel better.

We stayed at The LINQ for the next few hours; drinking, gambling (or, in my case, watching gambling), taking pictures, and laughing. So.many.good.laughs, especially between myself, Lauren, and Sandra (and a certain purple zebra #insidejoke). And the best part was everyone had won money by the end of the night!

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We left the casino around 3:30am (what!?) and I was like, I NEED FOOD NOW. Sadly, In n’ Out was closed (I was craving their grilled cheese on the secret menu) so we got food at the only place open in our hotel. Mike and I ordered potato skins to go, devoured them in our room, and went to right to bed (after I showered because, even drunk, I need to shower before bed!).

Everyone in our group slept in on Sunday and lazily met for coffee around 11:30am. Mike and I spilt banana bread that was more filling than I thought it would be. We all spilt up again after to do our own things before a fancy dinner that night. Mike and I ended up walking the strip down to The Venetian (a hot, long walk!) for a small lunch and round of $5 margaritas.

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The “Brooklyn Bridge” on our walk down the strip

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After that it was back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. The day flies when you sleep through the first half of it! Lauren made reservations at Bardor Brasserie for Mike’s birthday dinner. They had great cocktails (perfect for the birthday boy!), fresh baked bread to start, and really good food. Mike and I started with an endives, walnut, and blue cheese salad and each ordered a fish dish (rhyme) for our mains.

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Next up was BRITNEY, BITCH! Lauren and I walked to Planet Hollywood to see Britney Spears at The AXIS &omg I loved every second of it. (We all know Brit lip syncs but I don’t care!) Of course Lauren and I knew every word to all of her old songs – I have to admit I didn’t know a few newer ones – and danced on booties off. Our feet were killing us by the end of the show but it was worth it.

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The guys and Sandra meet us after for a few last drinks and rounds of gambling. Unfortunately, everyone lost money this time around. And the tram closed before we thought so we walked back through 3 hotels. We were all in bed much earlier than the night before but still managed to stay out until 2am.

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Late night mirror selfies

Everyone left on Monday – Mike’s actual birthday* – expect for the two of us. We woke up around 9am and headed straight for the wave pool to kick of the day. After a few loops around the lazy river, we were back at the hotel getting ready and packing up. Post check-out, we walked to Mandarin Oriental for afternoon tea. Mike loves tea so I thought it would be a perfect birthday present for him. The tea lounge was relaxing but I thought our table was placed a little awkwardly right behind another table, which completely blocked the view of the strip.

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I ordered the Mandarin Orange Blend, a black tea, and it was really good! I’m typically more of a coffee drinker but this tea was bold enough to satisfy me. The food included freshly baked scones, tea sandwiches, and a pretty plate of desserts. Sadly, we didn’t eat a single dessert because we were too full (and, honestly anything sweet didn’t sound appetizing after so much drinking). We took them all to go but they melted quickly in the Vegas heat so we ended up throwing them away. 😦

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After tea, we walked to the Bellagio to check out the conservatory and botanical gardens, a display that seasonally changes. Next we walked through New York-New York for a slice of greasy pizza for me and a hotdog for Mike (hangover food!). Then it was  time to grab our stuff from our hotel and Lyft to the airport.

We recently both got TSA pre-check so security was a breeze. We also had first class status on the way home again. Extra legroom and free drinks, holler!

See ya next time, Vegas!

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Throwback picture of us at the Bellagio conservatory 4 years ago!

*Same as Beyonce’s, y’all

 

 

Bali: final days

Read about the rest of our trip here, here, and here.


Thursday started with more smoothie bowls and a surfing lesson! …A surfing lesson for Mike anyway. (I’m a nervous beach-goer and SUP in Australia a few years ago was my limit for ocean activities.) I sat on the beach with the intention to read while Mike was in the water. Instead I chatted the whole time with a mom whose daughter was also taking a lesson. I later learned that her daughter competed in the Rio Olympics as a swimmer for Australia. Pretty cool!


After about 1 1/2 in the water, Mike’s lesson was done and we went back to the house for a second breakfast of bacon, eggs, and toast. Since we were getting up so early, second breakfasts become a regular on this vacation.

A while later we collectively decided we could go for a massage (keeping with tradition from New Years Day when we were all in Santa Rosa). Spa treatments are cheap in Bali. We paid about $15 for a hour massage. After our relaxing massages, we were back in the pool to play volleyball. 

Sometimes I’m a bit of a joy kill when it comes to playing games… it’s not that I don’t like them but it takes me awhile to get into it.  I think because I much prefer conversation or reading, like the wise old soul that I am 😉 

I was going to tap out of playing because I had my contacts in and didn’t want to deal with taking them out to play. Instead Mike’s brother-in-law threw me a pair of googles to protect my eyes (lol) and started throwing the ball towards me. Of course it was a lot of fun! Almost too much fun as we stayed in the pool for a lot longer than expected.

We had planned to go to dinner at Old Man’s for Mike’s dads last night but we got there too late and it was crowded! (Which was a bummer because everyone had gone when we were in Ubud and really liked it.) Instead we ended up at the place next door which turned out to be great!

We sat up on a high deck, overlooking the beach. There were dimly lite orange and yellow lanterns everywhere, giving it a very whimsical feel. The place wasn’t crowded, which was surprising because the food was so good. I ordered the Australian cheeseburger with a side of corn and it was probably the best meal I had in Bali (aside from The Shady Shack).

The next day, our last full day in Bali, was filled with favorites from the trip. Mike and I woke up early and set out for first breakfast. I had avocado toast and an iced coffee with coconut milk. An ideal breakfast combination, in my opinion.

We had second breakfast back at the villa a while later. Then more pool time. I can’t remember exactly but I think a few Bintangs were consumed at this point too. Coffee chased with beer? Talk about vacation mode.

Lunch was at Taco Casa for more of their strawberry sangria and nachos! After drinking and eating, we all appropriately took a midday nap. Mike’s sister and company flew back to Australia that night but not before a last round at The Lawn. We went back in the afternoon for a drink, some apps, and a dip in their pool (how genius is it to have a pool at the restaurant?). Then we took our last family walk on the beach back to the villa.

Silliness at The Lawn

A few hours later, everyone was packed and ready to go home. With all of the company we had that week – not to mention, the giant house we were staying in that was now quiet – it felt pretty lonely for just Mike and I to be left.

So, we quickly reapplied bug spray and headed back to The Lawn for dinner (The Lawn isn’t paying me for this post, I swear hah). We ordered cocktails but probably should have skipped them because we were both already so tired. It was approaching 9pm, which was around our Bali bedtime. lol

After dinner, we walked back to our empty villa and went straight to bed. We woke up the next morning with the intent to enjoy all of our Bali favorites one last time. After smoothie bowls on the beach, we walked around the main strip before it got unbearably hot. Which wasn’t long after…

We wanted our last meal to be at The Shady Shake but, unfortunately, they were closed. Instead, we got avocado toast to-go and ate it back at our villa by the pool. We still had a ton of Bintangs left and thought, why not? We popped two open and the second they got warm, we opened another bottle. What else are you supposed to do with 2 people and half dozen beers? 😉

We finished the last of our packing, drank the last of the beer, and then it was time to go. Our transport picked us up and a hour later, we were at the airport, ready to embark on the 18 hour journey back home.

Airport adventures…

Our Hello Kitty themed airplane 😂

 

 

Ubud: an overnight trip

You can read about our first few days in Bali here and our day trip to Potato Head Beach Club here.


Mike and I spent the night in Ubud midway through our stay in Bali. Ubud is where the “love” happened in Eat, Pray, Love and where the movie was filmed.  It is about only about 50 miles from Canggu – where our villa was located – but word on the street was that traffic getting there would be terrible. So we wanted to leave early; which wasn’t a problem since we were waking up around 7am every morning. 

After a quick banana bread and smoothie bowl “brekky” (as many Australian tourists call it), we were en route. As it turned out, it was the full moon ceremony that day and we were to Ubud exactly a hour. I’ve always loved a full moon…

The scooter ride there was fun! I had relaxed into being on the back of the bike and tried to enjoy the scenery more. It was also a nice relief from the heat because of the breeze. In Udud we stayed at the Organic Farm Villa at the Moksha. Check in wasn’t until 3pm or 4pm but we arrived around 11am. I thought we would just leave our stuff at the front desk and go explore the city but they surprised us and said our room would be ready in half hour. 

While we were waiting by the pool, someone brought us out some sort of basil drink (we dubbed it the Basil Refresher) that I believe was just basil and ice blended together with maybe some honey and lime? Delicious! I’ll have to work on recreating it now that it is warmer in California.

These blessings are everywhere in Bali and we saw one being placed while we were waiting for our room

Once we were unpacked, we hit the streets of Ubud. We quickly realized Ubud is where the shopping is at. There were so many stores with so many cute things! It was actually a little overwhelming… If you’re going to Bali and plan on shopping, I would do some research before or, if you’re anything like me, you’ll abandon ship pretty quickly. I didn’t do much shopping but, out of necessity, I bought a few shorts (and a dress and a romper, if I’m being 100% honest…) because it was so damn hot there and I had regrettably packed a long, flow-y dress for the next day. I’m not kidding, this California summer dress is a winter Bali dress. You DO NOT need layers in Bali.

We stopped for a lunch of salads and beer and then continued down Jl. Monkey Forest (the main street in Ubud). Along the way, we popped in for gelato. We stocked up on more bottled water and sunscreen at a connivence store. And finally, the allure of a mister drew us to stop at a street side cafe for mojitos and a side of French fries.

Sweaty babes!
After a lot of walking, we opted to go chill by the pool instead of visiting the Tegalalang Rice Terrace, like we originally planned. Although while we were swimming, we started to regret the decision. Don’t get me wrong, the pool was nice (especially in the heat!) but part of the reason we came to Ubud was to see these epic rice fields everyone kept talking about. (When asking for recommendations before our trip, multiple people told me I had to visit Tegalalang.) We had a cooking class scheduled for the next morning at 9:30am but, not wanting to miss out, decided to go to the rice field before.

Balinese chicken and rice for dinner

The following morning we woke up before the sun and took our scooter to the Tegalalang Rice Terrace. This was probably my single favorite hour of our time spent in Bali. The ride there was cool and traffic free. We read online that the field opened at 7am and that it is a nice place to have a coffee. We arrived at 7am sharp but none of the cafes were open. Oh, well, we thought as we trucked down the steps hidden within the cafe paths. You can see Tegalalang from the road but nothing prepares you for it’s beauty until you get down those cafe steps.

I can only describe the rice terrace as a dream. It’s so gorgeous, it almost doesn’t seem real. I felt like I had fallen asleep and was magically transported to this lush, green oasis. I was practically euphoric. The delicate blades were about knee high and still had dew on them. Mike and I giddily walked down into the belly of the terrace and then up to the other side, in awe the whole time. The scenery was breathtaking and a romantic place to be with your love. Especially because, aside from a man in a speedo, chopping away at some of the blades (assuming he lived or worked there) and a man jogging up and down the fields (talk about a scenic run!), we were happily the only visitors there.

Putting off going to the rice terrance until the morning turned out to be the best decision because it wasn’t scorching hot yet. There isn’t really shade and you’ll want to walk around. I definitely recommend hitting this gem up in the early hours!

We made it back in time for a quick but indulgent breakfast on our patio. 

Next on the agenda was our cooking class at Casa Luna. My former dance teacher, Sarah (founder of Bali Body Pilates), recommended taking a cooking class here and I jumped at the opportunity. We went on Wednesday so the menu included:

  • Balinese chicken satay
  • Beans in coconut milk
  • Lawar
  • Corn fritters
  • Gado-Gado
  • Fragrant yellow rice

The class was great; it was interactive and informative. Our instructor was friendly, funny, and knowledgable (pretty much everything you want in a teacher!). The food was, of course, NOM. Although we used shrimp paste, which I wasn’t the biggest fan of but Mike didn’t mind. They also served a refreshing homemade hibiscus iced tea, made in house with nothing but hibiscus flowers and lime. #allaboutit

The cooking class lasted the majority of the day but we made a point to quickly stop by Monkey Forest (self explanatory!) before leaving. We were probably the worst visitors though, deciding that the monkeys were actually frightening. You could buy bananas to give to the monkeys (which we did) but they get aggressive when they see you with one. Instead of letting them crawl up us, Mike and I developed a tactic of just chucking the banana away from us (mine usually paired with a squeal, let’s be real). Anything to keep the monkeys away! 🙈

We scooted home after and luckily, again, arrived back in about one hour. It was nice to get away for a mini adventure but I was happy to see Mike’s family again. We joined them for happy hour on the beach and, over Mai Tais and bottles of Bintang, told them about our Ubud adventures.


Check back for a final recap of our last days on paradise island, coming soon!

Bali!

“Morning!” He said, with his mouth half full of breakfast bites. The older Balinese man was sitting outside a small convenient store we’d passed dozens of times already that week on our walk into town.

“Morning!” We replied, matching his enthusiastic greeting.

He gave us a thumbs up and a toothy grin in return. I smiled back.

It was our last morning in Bali and the heat hadn’t become unbearable yet. We were on our way to get smoothie bowls – a nice morning ritual we developed there – to take to the beach.

We arrived in Bali one week and one day prior. The island of black sand beaches and warm ocean waves. Congested streets with scooters and small cars beep-beeping everywhere. Kombucha tea and stray dogs on every corner. Seemingly endless organic food and tap water you’re warned not to drink. Hot. Humid. Lush.

After over a hour in rush hour traffic (which takes on a whole new meaning in Bali but more on that later), we finally arrived at the villa we were staying with Mike’s family. We dumped our suitcases in the living room and drenched our skin in bug spray. I changed from LuLu leggings to shorts and we were out the door to dinner.

The entrance to our villa

The humidity in Bali is no joke. The short walk to restaurant was sticky as my body tried to adjust to the new climate. But when we arrived at The Lawn, an open beachfront eatery, I finally felt like I was on vacation.

We caught up with Mike’s family over cocktails and dinner. Then, later we all sat outside near the pool for a nightcap. It was the perfect start to our holiday!

The next morning we woke up earlier than expected but jet lag has no rules. The villa we were staying in had staff who graciously cooked us breakfast every morning. But first, coffee.



Mike, his dad and I walked up the street to Mangsi where I ordered an iced coffee. There was’t anyone in there but us and it was taking ages to make. I mentioned to Mike that maybe I should have ordered something on the menu instead of asking for an iced coffee. The two guys working there seemed a little confused about my order. I saw them take out a cocktail shaker and gave Mike a worried glance… Little did I know I had nothing to be worried about! My iced coffee turned out to be one of the best I’d had. 

After breakfast, Mike, his sister and I headed to a Hatha yoga class at a studio nearby called The Practice. We thought the class was only a hour but realized after it was a hour and a half. It went by so quickly though and the studio was gorgeous! I loved practicing there. The instructor did a nice job of mixing movement with mediation. In my opinion, she didn’t overly concentrating on only breathing and just siting there. I’ll admit it, I am a bit of a vain yogi and care more about my flow (and toning aspects!) than the mediation.

“yoga accepts and yoga gives”
Post yoga pic
After yoga, Mike and I went for lunch at Little Flinders. Mike’s family had been there the day before for lunch and everyone liked it. There were so many cafes to try, recommendations are key! We both ordered salads and Mike loved his but mine was just okay. I still think it’s worth going and checking out though.

We met everyone back at The Lawn a little later for a round of drinks. This is the only day we had rain while we were in Bali. I have to say, I actually didn’t mind it but I’m almost always a sucker for rain.


After drinks we opted for a casual dinner at a pizza place near where we were staying. Surprisingly (idk why I assumed pizza in Bali would be different than pizza in the US; neither are Italy!), the pizza here was really good. Sitting outside and munching on slices while sipping beers was a nice end to our first full day in Bali.

The next morning there wasn’t a rain drop in sight and it was HOT. After breakfast, we all walked to a local market nearby.  On the way there Mike and I spotted a kombucha place and stopped to buy a guava booch. It was so good and a much needed refreshment! By the time we got to the market, I was sweating like I’d just finished an intense workout. I bought a couple bracelets and a cheap, cute dress while we were there but it was too hot to stay for long.

Instead we opted to go back to the house and get in the pool! Sweet relief from the heat. After splashing around for a while, a few of us walked up the street for a mid-afternoon snack at Taco Casa. Here we ordered the best sangria and nachos to split.


Dinner that night was at The Shady Shack, by far my favorite place we went to in Bali. The Shady Shack was a quick walk from where we were staying as well (a huge benefit of our airbnb was the location!). They serve only vegetarian food. Nom. We sat outside among the trees (and shade during the day) at a big wooden table. Mike and I split an appetizer that had different dips (including hummus, a carrot dip, and another that I can’t remember), crackers, and a variety a vegetables. For my main, I ordered zucchini noodles with spinach – although, truth be told, the appetizer would have been plenty of food.

The desserts all looked drool worthy but we were stuffed. All the more reason to return to The Shady Shake before we left; which we did, multiple times…! After dinner, it was time for bed. The sun went down around 6pm there and we found this often made it seem a lot later than it actually was. It become a routine to be in bed by 9pm and up around 7am. Although, because there was so much beauty to see in Bali, I didn’t mind one bit!


Check back to read about our day at Potato Head Beach club. 

 

A little Danish town down south

We had a double whammy with weekends away this month from Mexico to a mini family vacation just north of Santa Barbara! A few weekends ago, Mike and I met my grandparents, my mom and Andy, my stepdad, down in Solvang, CA. We took a half day off of work on Friday to beat the traffic and headed down around 1pm. The drive was mostly boring except when we were driving along side the ocean and I was reminded how beautiful California is.

Mike and I arrived at the airbnb we were staying at shortly after my grandparents had. We took a quick tour of the house and I was obsessed!

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When I booked our accommodations a few months ago when I had read reviews about chickens living on the property and – more importantly – the fresh eggs that were supplied. Being a health nut, I couldn’t wait to try organic, free range (backyard?) eggs AND meet the chickens who produced them. Sure enough, there were about 2 dozen fresh eggs waiting for us in the refrigerator; plus, organic milk, almond creamer, bagels, cream cheese, orange juice, and organic coffee. Peter and Beverly (the owners of the house) were clearly my kind of people!

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Since my mom and Andy were still a few hours away and the four of us were hungry, we decided to check out the Firestone Walker Brewery. Mike and I love trying news beers and this place did not disappoint! I ordered the Easy Jack IPA (yum, yum IPAs!) and Mike got a seasonal sour. For food, my grandma and I spilt the ribs (with mashed potatoes and veggies) and a small plate of mac n’ cheese. Mike ordered the flank steak and my grandpa got a burger with fries. The meal was decadent, delicious, and A LOT of food. (I think it’s fair to say Mike helped us eat a good amount of the ribs and mac.)

After dinner we stopped at a local store for a sweet treat. Armed with 3 different cookies, we headed back to the house and waited for my mom and Andy. My grandpa and Mike are both engineers and get along well. It is always nice for me to sit around with my family and Mike and simply just chat. Some of my best adult memories so far are having my grandparents over for the weekend and spending lazy mornings around my kitchen table, drinking coffee (for me and my grandpa) and tea (for Mike and my grandma) while talking politics (luckily we all generally agree with each other!).

Shortly after my mom and Andy arrived we all went to bed, full from cookies and conversation.

On Saturday morning, between cups of coffee and getting ready, my grandma and I went outside to meet the chickens on the property. Then it was time for some FRESH EGGS (that only Mike, Andy, and I felt comfortable eating). I buy “cage free” eggs at home and hate to admit that – at ~$5 a dozen – organic eggs just seem too expensive… I think this was my first time having an actual organic egg where the chicken was free-roaming. (There was even a little feather leftover on one of the eggs as a reminder!)

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Spot the feather!?

After breakfast, we drove into downtown Solvang. Solvang is a cute little Danish town that – in Mike’s words – resembles the ride It’s a Small World at Disneyland. We popped into a small nature museum to start the day. The museum had a scavenge hunt for certain paintings and facts about California’s national parks. To be honest, the scavenge hunt was the only thing that kept me engaged during our museum trip. It was fun to run around the room with Mike, looking for answers, while trying to hide our findings from my mom and Andy.

After the museum, my mom was hungry but – having had a later breakfast – Mike and I were no where near ready for lunch. So, instead, while everyone got a bite to eat, Mike and I went exploring. A few streets away we found Copenhagen Sausage Garden and spilt a grapefruit beer (and a few sweets) while sitting outside on the patio. This beer tasted more like juice than a brew and was perfect for a before noon drink.

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We met back with my family to go on a trolly tour of Solvang next. The trolly was $14 a person for a 25 minute tour in a trolly car lead by 2 horses. At first I thought the price was a bit expensive but we learned on the tour how well the horses were treated and I was glad to support that. We also saw a building with a roof made of grass (that, if done properly should last 200 years) and, legend goes that when it rains, outdoor pets will climb to the top of these roofs and start digging and digging to get inside where it is dry. If they were successful in digging, it would be “raining cats and dogs.”

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After the tour, Mike and I were ready for lunch. We went back to the sausage garden and spilt a grilled pølse (a red sausage) and a charcuterie board. The board had our favorite cheese, humboldt fog, and different salamis and sausages to dip into mustards. It was a lot of meat and dairy for one meal but worth the splurge!

Next, my grandma, mom, and I hit up a few thrift stores, which is one of the most environmentally friendly things you can do(!), while the guys went to check out a motorcycle museum. We were all pretty tired after so went back to the house for some quick power naps before dinner.

We were celebrating my grandpa’s birthday so went to a nice Italian place nearby the house called Trattoria Grappolo. My grandma and I spilt a Cesar salad and the spaghetti and meatballs (can you tell I love to spilt things?!). The food was good but after eating my first meatball, I realized how much meat I’d had that day. I couldn’t stomach another meatball and stuck to the noodles instead.

The rest of our evening was mellow back at the house, turning in again for another early bedtime.

On Sunday morning, Beverly (our airbnb host), taught us all about the chickens on the property. We were able to feed and massage them too. (Who knew chickens love a good back rub?) After our lesson, we packed up and headed to OstrichLand.

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OstrichLand has both ostriches and emus. You are given a bowl of food to feed the birds. The bowl is glued to a metal dustpan and you hold it out, with your arms all the way extended, so the ostriches and emus can stick their beaks in and munch. The ostriches are way more aggressive when eating than I thought so I stuck to feeding the smaller emus. We were only here for about 20 minutes but I recommend going. It’s cheap and cool to see those massive birds up close.

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Next we went to Anderson’s Spilt Pea for lunch. Mike and I weren’t hungry this early again so we sat and enjoyed the company instead. (Though I did snag a bowl of Anderson’s famous spilt pea soup!) After lunch it was time to say goodbye and get on the road. 😦

Since Mike and I hadn’t eaten lunch we decided to stop at the other Firestone Walker Brewing Co location in Paso Robles (different location, more north). I ordered the Pivo (and liked it so much we bought a 6 pack to take home) and we spilt a chicken burger and the mac n cheese (again).

The weekend was a huge success with a great place to stay, some of my favorite company, and really good noshes. What else could a girl ask for?!

New York, NY

11949405_10155941507080414_7614260174292724889_nAs  mentioned in my post about our weekend in Washington, I came home less impressed with the food when I traveled to New York City over the summer.

Towards the end of August, my mom, grandma and I took a girls’ trip to the Big Apple. We flew east on a Wednesday and came home that Sunday. My mom and I went to New York a few years ago but it was a short trip so I was excited to be there longer and to show my grandma around.

As to be expected, the food at SFO and on the flight to New York weren’t anything to write home (or blog!) about. We arrived at our hotel in Tribeca around 11pmET and, being that we were in New York (the city that supposedly never sleeps!), I didn’t think it would be much trouble to find a place to eat so late. Sadly, I was mistaken. After a walk around the block we realized there weren’t many eateries in the area. We also had a suspicion that our hotel wasn’t located in best neighborhood and it was probably better to stay in for the night* – however, despite the sketchy location, our hotel was actually really nice. We had access to the VIP lounge, which was conveniently located right across the hall from us. The lounge had rooftop access, snazzy chairs and tables to dine (or social media lurk) at, free snacks, waters and sodas throughout the day, plus complimentary breakfast in the morning and fresh baked cookies in the afternoon.

On our first night, since we couldn’t find anywhere to eat, we ended up ordering room service and eating it right there in the lounge. In theory, I can end this post here because this was actually (disappointingly!) the best meal we had in NYC. We ordered a salad and spaghetti to split 3 ways with a side of bread. Full, but mildly disappointed in our first night of the trip, we went to bed right after in anticipation of the next day ahead.

On Thursday we woke up early, grabbed a quick breakfast at the lounge (again nothing worth blogging about!) and headed out into the crowded, congested, annoying, amazing streets of New York City.

Our first stop was Gramercy Park but it was too hot and humid not to hit up a Starbucks on the way for iced teas. We walked to Chelsea Market after for some exploring (and more iced tea!) and then to Tortilla Flats for lunch. All three of us love Mexican food so I thought Tortilla Flats would be a hit. The restaurant was cool and I’m glad we went but I think living in California and having access to  authentic Mexican food sets a standard that the east coast just can’t compete with. I got the cheese enchiladas with rice and beans; it was too greasy for my taste and lacked flavor but we chatted with the owner and got free shots of tequila so, an overall acceptable lunch.

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Outside of Gramercy Park
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All of the shops in Chelsea Market
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Tortilla Flats!
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Free shots of tequilaaaa

Next we did a bunch of touristy stuff including finding Carrie Bradshaw’s “apartment” and the Friends building. Then, it was time for a cupcake at Magnolia’s Bakery, as featured on Sex in the City.  I’ve been to NYC three times and every time**, I’ve gotten a cupcake here! Though this time I opted for a mini because I was still full from lunch.

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The “Friends” building
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Magnolia’s
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Outside Carrie Bradshaw’s

After enjoying our cupcakes in a nearby park, we stopped at The Spotted Pig for a drink. Our drinks were insanely overpriced (as to be expected in New York) and, in my opinion, horrible (!) but we were still in Greenwich Village, which is by far my favorite NYC neighborhood so the location (location, location, location!) made up for it.

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Girls’ (walking) tour of Greenwich Village!

After lunch, cupcakes and drinks it was time for a walk to work off all of those calories. We walked the 1.5 miles back to our hotel where we relaxed for a while before going to a Broadway show. We saw BEAUTIFUL The Carole King Musical and it was ah-mazing! Before the show we split a margarita pizza in Times Square (which was surprisingly good despite it’s touristy location) and after, we met the star of the show, Chilina Kennedy.

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Meet and greet with the cast

The next day we had a carriage ride through central park scheduled first thing in the morning, so after a quick breakfast at the hotel we were on our way. The carriage ride was (also) expensive but I think worth doing if you’re in New York City. We explored Central Park  after, seeing the memorial for John Lennon and a few other things while walking to the upper east side for lunch. Word to the wise, do NOT go to Madison Avenue hungry and without a designated eating spot. We ended up at a place called EAT  and I should have Yelped it before because all of the one star reviews are spot on. I ended up ordering a $20 Cesar salad that came with romaine lettuce and dressing. That’s it! Not even a single crouton or sliver of parm…

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Us and our horse, Cody
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At EAT
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Redic prices!

Unimpressed with lunch, we moved on to the museums. We explored the Metropolitan Museum and The Guggenheim (and when I say “explored” I mean walk by and take a few pictures) with more iced beverages in hand! It was so hot, having something to drink was a necessity while walking around. I splurged for an iced mocha (usually sticking with iced coffee) while my grandma and mom got lemonades. We also bought a few bags of those famous NYC roasted nuts to snack on while walking and, let me just say, they are famous for a reason! Well worth the $9 (and the guy gave us a “bargain!”) spent.

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Exploring Central Park and neighboring areas

I had made reservations at Serendipity months before our trip for dinner on Friday night and regretted it! The food was sub par and their legendary frozen hot chocolate wasn’t anything special. Beyond that, the restaurant is tacky (in my opinion) and the service was terrible.

Day two turned out to be another disappointing day, food wise. (If you don’t count the roasted nuts!)

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HUGE menus
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The “famous” frozen hot chocolate

On our final day in New York, we had essentially done everything we planned to do so, last minute, decided to take a harbor tour. (I had previously taken this same tour when I went to New York years ago with my best friend, Leslie, but we boarded the boat after a red-eye flight and ended up falling asleep  half way around the island.)

My mom, grandma and I woke up, had breakfast at the hotel, and got on the subway to Times Square with the intention to walk to the harbor from there to catch the 12pm tour. We were doing great on timing until I realized I had accidentally lead us in the exact opposite direction of where we needed to be going. We could have quickly turned around and hustled to the harbor but there was another tour leaving at 2pm so we took our time righting the wrong.

Which turned out to be a good decision because we were able to visit the New York City Public Library, something that I wanted to see but didn’t want to go out of the way for it (on purpose). The library is as beautiful and grand as you expect. The security guard gave us a map (a map of the library!) and pointed out where Carrie B. was supposed to get married in the SATC movie (can you tell I’m a fan?). Interesting side note: he also had to check my backpack and my grandma’s purse as we were leaving to be sure we didn’t take any books! I guess there is a demand for NYC library books online… who would have thought?

After exploring the library we walked to the harbor where we had a quick lunch before the tour. I didn’t expect this meal to be anything special, which could be why it didn’t disappoint. (Expectations! …they’ll get ya every time.) We ate at a small concession stand nearby that basically sold “theme park food;” burgers, chicken tenders, fries, etc. You know? unhealthy fried stuff. I ordered a veggie burger (because I much rather not know where my soy beans are coming from than my meat!) and split an order of fries with my grandma and mom. As mentioned, my burger wasn’t that bad and kept me full during the 3 hour harbor tour.

The tour was a great last day activity for us. It was nice to get a history of Manhattan and see the Statue of Liberty – plus some other cool sights that we likely wouldn’t have seen – all the while sitting down and enjoying the breeze! We walked back to Times Square to get on the subway to go to the hotel but, by this point, we were hungry again. Having had bad luck with NYC eateries so far, we decided to eat dinner at Chevy’s in Time Square. Typically I much rather dine at a hole in the wall than a chain restaurant, especially when traveling, but honestly, I just wanted something I knew I was going to like at that point. So, another round of cheese enchiladas it was!

We got back to our hotel and a friend from college met me for a drink on the rooftop of our hotel (#NYCmoment or what!?). It was so good to see her and another great thing about traveling; having the opportunity to see old friends and make new memories.

Overall, our trip was great but not because of the food! It was so much fun to experience New York City again with my mom and grandma. I truly do love that city and recommend going if you ever get the chance to, just don’t expect every meal to be as amazing as the city.

#VegOut

♡ Ashley

*Later, my friend who lives in NYC confirmed that we definitely should not have been walking around that area late at night.

1930629_67472515413_382_n**For your viewing pleasure, a picture of the first time I visited New York/Magnolia’s …Back when bleached blonde hair, fake nails, and dangling earrings were all.the.range.