South America, Travel

Spring Breakerz: Startup Island Style

I've always been someone with an adventurous spirit. Maybe not the adventures that involve strenuous physical activity, risking safety, or 400 feet roller coasters, but the kind that involves the unknown and teaches something new about yourself. Not saying those other adventures don't do that as well, because I'm sure jumping out of an airplane would really stimulate some intense self reflection, but I'm just not the type...for now. 

I love creating, making, and trying new things, but focus has always been an issue. I have so many interests and I find trouble narrowing down the ones that I truly have a passion for. This entrepreneurs trip to Costa Rica helped me find my direction, and most importantly allowed me to meet so many other like-minded individuals. 

It was a week filled with great conversations, workshops under the sun, and exploring Costa Rica. 

The toughest part was bringing the energy and momentum from the week back to my daily routine in Boston. It's been difficult, but whenever I think of the lessons learned that week, I am more eager to keep grinding.   

The photos in the slideshow were all taken by the lovely and most talented, Maya Rafie!

Startup Island is for anyone searching for direction or purpose, or if you just want to have an incredible time with incredible people.

I've been on a lot of organized trips, but this was truly something else. The people I met are all going to do big things, and I can't wait to see what they get up to! 

 

Caribbean, Travel

Aruba, Jamaica...

"...Ooh I wana take you to." - The Beach Boys

Jokes, did not go to Jamaica... but I did go to Aruba!

This was the second stop on my boyfriend and I's weeklong trip, and I must say we liked it better than Curacao. 

Here's why. 

1. The Breakfast

Okay. We were only there for four days, but hear me out. This is the best breakfast you can find near the Renaissance, and probably Aruba. We came back here three times during our stay, and every time was the opposite of a disappointment. It's called The Dutch Pancake House, and it was awarded the best breakfast in Aruba in 2014 and 2015 (I know, what happened in 2016? No idea, but TRY THIS). 

What's funny is that we ended up seeing the same groups of tourists returning to the restaurant every morning as well. I'm telling you, it's goo0ood. 

2. The Vibe 

Yes, the vibe. After a couple days in Curacao, we were starting to get bored. There are only so many days you can spend just lounging on the beach. Once we got to our hotel in Aruba, we looked at each other and went "woah." The bar in the lobby was packed, music was playing loudly, people were getting ready to party or gamble, and best of all it was 10pm. 10pm in Curacao everyone was in bed. Aruba is definitely the place for ones who like a mix between paradise and the city.  

3. The Sights

The island itself is so beautiful. We rented an ATV for a day, and went around the island on the little thing. I would recommend renting a UTV instead if you're of age since the sun gave us major sunburns, but we had an insane time regardless. 
Places to visit: California Lighthouse, Arikok National Park, Palm Beach
Where to rent: Justin's ATVs — They give you a free cooler (you'll need it),  a cell phone, and will help you draw a route on a map of the island!

We ATV-ed through complete desert for an hour until we found this beauty. 

It was a small food shack in the middle of nowhere (seriously, we were in the middle of the desert), and it was LIT. 


The Quadirki Caves are inside the national park.

Remember to bring a flashlight on your way in because it's pitch black inside. I was freaked out because no one else was in sight, but I was so excited. Once you get past the darkness, and the bats flying around, you get to the cave opening where I assume all the bats come and go. 

4. The Town 

We stayed right next to the town center, Oranjestad. It's a cute couple of streets filled with shops and small shacks. There's also a free trolly you can take down the entire main street! Honestly not too much to do in town unless you're a souvenir fanatic. 

6.The Flamingos

Renassiance has it's own private island with restaurants and private beaches, all accessible free of charge for their guests. The private island is also home to a couple of flamingos that just hang around on their own. 

7. The West Deck

One thing we never fail to bring up even weeks after the trip is a little restaurant next to the beach. There were plenty of restaurants in the resort, but none that we thought had food worth the price. We stumbled across The West Deck one night, and was immediately intrigued. There was live music, plenty of cocktails, and a great Caribbean menu. 

Their ribs are incredible. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. If you're in the area, please go here instead of the seafood buffet at your hotel. I truly think it is far superior. 

8. Palm Beach

If you're looking for the stereotypical white sandy beach that stretches as far as your eyes can see, Aruba is the place for you. What was lacking in Curacao was exactly this. Palm Beach is the island's longest beach, and is where most of the high rise resorts are located. This was also where we boarded for our snorkeling tour!

Hopefully this post will be useful to those planning a trip to to the ABC islands! Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about getting around/other places to go.

I guess that wraps up my latest Caribbean adventure! The next couple months will be busy with me starting a new job, and moving apartments...but shhh, I'm already itching for another getaway. ;)  

Caribbean, Europe, Travel

ABC Island Getaway

I just got back from a much needed, all-around incredible vacation to the Caribbean islands! Not just any islands, but two of the islands that make up the ABC string of the Dutch Antilles (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao. Don't worry, I had no idea what this was until I discovered it while browsing my beloved Kayak explore map.

The islands are above Venezuela and are owned by the Netherlands. Let me show you what I got up to...

aruba1.gif

It was a looong journey from Boston, but the boyf and I were so excited. Morale was still high even when we landed in Aruba late at night after traveling for 7+ hours. We decided to stay in Aruba for a night before taking on Curacao first thing in the morning. 

We stayed at a rental apartment called Pega Pega Apartments for our first night in Aruba. It was our 'layover' so we were pretty frugal with our choice. We just wanted somewhere livable and somewhere close to the airport. It turned out okay! No AC in the living room which was killer, but the bedroom did so we hid in there for the night along with all the junk food we bought at a convenience store nearby. 

***Tip: Check out VRBO for AirBnb-like short term rentals!

We walked around the area before heading to the airport. A quick 45 minute plane ride later we were in Curacao! 

We had lunch at the hotel earlier that day and was not impressed for the price we paid. Thankfully, we made a reservation at Fishalicious for dinner, which was a short walk from the hotel. 

Amazing service! Get their seafood stew...I licked the plate clean. 
We relaxed next to the beach at Avila before snoozing for the night. 

We stayed in in the Pietermaai District, which a 20 minute walk to Willemstad, which (I believe) is the main city area of Curacao. 

The second night we chose to eat at another restaurant close by called Rozendaels. It's outdoors, and I loved the intimate setting. 

On our last day we decided to take a private tour around the island before or afternoon flight. A little risky? Yup. But, we managed! We booked through the booth in the hotel lobby. I think it was around $50 USD per person?
**Tip: Avila provides a private room to shower and freshen up even after you check out! Just ask the front desk. 

Our guide took us everywhere. And that's not an exaggeration. We hit all the tourist spots as well as drove by most of her favorite local beaches. We went to the Hato Caves, and the salt pans of Jan Thiel.

Our last spot was a mystery beach...okay it isn't that mysterious, I just forgot the name of it.

We made it back just in time to shower, have a drink, and catch our flight to our next destination. Aruba!

Travel, Tips&Tricks, Caribbean

Traveling Solo: Turks & Caicos

I didn't initially plan on going alone...

I had two days off work, and I knew I wanted to go somewhere. I'm the type of person who always welcomes a change of scenery. It helps me think, and it helps me put the whirlwind of things in my routine into perspective. I knew I wanted to go somewhere warm— somewhere with a beach and somewhere where shorts were appropriate attire. After weeks of trying to convince friends to go on this impulsive trip with me, I had no luck. The weekend was creeping closer, and I made the ultimate decision to go on my own!

Finding the perfect location 

I had several requirements that would help me narrow down all the possible destinations:

  • Hot and beachy
  • Reasonably priced (plane tickets + accommodations)
  • Scheduling feasibility 
  • SAFETY

I used a combination of KAYAK (utilize the explore tab when brainstorming where to go!), Google Flights, and Expedia to look at my options. Those are my top sites, and I generally exclusively use these three for every trip planning process.  

In terms of safety, it is super super important to make sure that the place you are planning to go is somewhere ideal for a single traveler. Being a young female, I was careful with my research and disregarded places that I knew may cause trouble when walking around solo. I'd say trust your instincts. If you aren't comfortable with the idea even before getting there, you most likely won't be when you do. I checked opinions on TripAdvisor and Reddit as well! Many have travelled solo before you, and there are lots of tips/advice online for you to utilize. 

feeling like a loser

There is no need to feel like one!!! Despite the fact that there may be people mocking your decision to travel alone – such as suggesting you have no friends to go with, you're the one traveling the world while they're at home on Netflix. Most of the feedback I got during the trip were along the lines of "you're so brave!" or "That's awesome, I could never do that," which means, if you are serious about this, you're actually getting crazy gold stars. 

Here are just some reasons why traveling alone appealed to me and have to many others:

  • You can see, eat, sleep, and do whatever you want whenever you want
  • Generally cheaper
  • Meeting new friends!
  • Time to truly leave your life back home for a couple days 

Dipping my toes in the solo-ness 

My trip was a total of four days with two half days reserved for travel. Traveling solo meant quite a bit of alone time, and I was really ready for that. I remember jumping on my bed after checking in, and feeling super free and happy. The possibilities were endless and it was incredible. I could take a nap right there, hog a bowl of fries to myself at the bar, or curl up reading on the beach till dinner. 

It was only when it was time to get my first sit down meal did I feel a bit awkward. The thing about ClubMed is that the resort encourages guests to interact with one another. They have large dinner tables at the restaurant where multiple parties can sit down and get to know each other. I kept to myself the entire day, so I was nervous to see if I'd be okay striking up conversation with a group of strangers. Turns out I was worried for nothing, because it turned out completely fine! I met a couple that came for their honeymoon, and later that night partied with a group of recent Canadian grads. 

Selfish Traveling

Having so much time to relax without having to coordinate plans with someone else was therapeutic. Like I mentioned above, I had no one telling me they wanted to eat something else, or sleep for longer. It was a trip completely for myself. I learned that I prefer not to stay out too late, that day drinking under the sun isn't my thing, and that I was only okay waking up super early if it meant snorkeling. Traveling alone forces you to become more self-aware, and I feel like it's something everyone should try at least once.  

again or no?

As much as I enjoyed having the freedom to do anything I wanted, there were definitely times where I missed having company. I watched a guy do a full face plant on the sand, and I really wish I had one of my best friends to share that moment with. Despite those short moments, I don't regret going alone at all. It was a much needed trip, and I wanted to experience what solo travel felt like. Would I do it again? Definitely. But, after I take some trips with some of my favorite people first ;) 

Europe, Berlin, Travel, Restaurants

A Moroccan Dinner In Berlin

After another five hour drive from Cologne, we were in the city of Berlin! We arrived quite late, which gave us a tiny bit of time to settle into our Air B&B and find a spot for dinner. 

Luckily, we were living on a street that was lined with bars and nice-looking restaurants. Right below us was Maghreb. It was a very well decorated restaurant that gave off strong Moroccan, North African vibes.  

How pretty is the decor!

The menu had me so excited. I peeked at what the people sitting outside were having and it all looked delicious and very authentic. 

I ordered a bitter lemon thinking I'd like it since I tend to like anything that resembles lemonade, but I really didn't like the taste of this. 

There was only one server tending to all the tables, which made the wait for food and a bit slow. She was incredibly sweet and made sure we had everything we needed despite having to run around everywhere. 

All was well once our food started to arrive!

The fennel and apple salad tasted so raw and refreshing.

Our main courses looked (and tasted) intense. We learned that tagine is a dish named after the pot it is cooked in.

It's a kind of stew made from different kinds of vegetables and meats. 

The meat was tender for all of us and it was really yummy. The side of couscous was a nice addition as well. 

Larry and my mom were defeated by their tagine dish, so of course I was the only one up for dessert.

A sugar-topped, creamy orange blossom creme brule just for me. I'm kidding, I shared. Come on. 

Belgium, Travel, Restaurants, Germany

Stopping in Belgium for Tin Tin

My brother has been reading Tin Tin comics as far back as I can remember. I would constantly tease him about it just to get him annoyed and flustered, but little did he know I've always admired the simple illustrations in the comics as well. 
We had the opportunity to make a pit stop at the Hergé museum in Belgium to see the Tin Tin comic collections and Hergé's other work. 

Larry was beaming on the drive from Paris and as you can see, he was well-prepared for the visit. 

They didn't allow cameras into the exhibit so I had to sneak...

It was a really nice museum. We had an hour and a half before closing time and it was just the right amount of time to check out all the illustrations. 

We jumped back into the car and continued to our next destination; Cologne, Germany. 

Those I've been on road trips with know that I love sleeping in the car. Something about the vibrations and the warm temperature makes me so comfortable. I was snuggled up in the backseat and passed out for almost the entire ride until we arrived in front of a huge cathedral.  

I used a wide angle clip-on lens for these. It's exactly like an olloclip, but I got them for around $20 HKD. Super cool and the set comes with three different lenses! 

Being quite hungry having been on the road for hours, we chose a place to eat nearby. My mom wanted some traditional German bratswurst (sausages), and we found the perfect place. 

We had no clue what we were reading even with the english captions, so we had the chef give us whatever he recommended. 

The cabbage and potatoes were so incredibly flavourful I wish I could have that dish every single day. Really simple ingredients, but SO good. The sausages were also crazy long, but we managed to finish all of it.

Major claps for this restaurant! We were the only ones there when we sat down, but don't let crowds deceive you. The place filled up right after our food came. I'm convinced it was because they caught a glimpse of our meal while walking by. 

We got the check and not even five minutes after leaving the restaurant I wanted food. 

Well, I just wanted these jam-filled donuts called Berlingers because why not? Six hour car rides make me hungry. 

Restaurants, Travel, Paris

How To Spend 48 Hours In Paris

Over the summer I went on an 18 day road-trip around Europe. My mom, brother, and I managed to visit 7 different countries in less than three weeks and had the best time in the world. 

I had just adjusted back to the time zone and I was about to head off again. Another round of procrastinated packing, a trip to an all-too-familiar airport, and we were off to Paris.

There's always time for a quick flat-lay of my essentials instead of actually packing my things. And then all the procrastination leads to 3am selfie videos of me finishing up...

Pretty sure I was out cold under my covers right after that. 

13 hours of sleep and static-filled hair later, we were in Paris! 

Day One

I'm proud at how alive we look in this photo. Claps that we were able to keep it together after an overnight flight. 
We chose to stay at Hôtel des Comédie — not too fancy, but really cute, elegant, and incredibly convenient. Everyone who rotated shifts at the front desk were so friendly and helpful. They also had these hard candies at the counter that I might have taken full advantage of every time I passed. 

I was so impressed with the detail of the wallpaper that I have more than 10 photos of just the wall saved on my camera. Maybe because it''s pink and anything pink tends to make me giddy. 

After a quick change from our airplane clothes to something better suited to the weather (it was boiling and my lulu's were not helping), we hopped out for a Parisian afternoon.

I forgot how it felt to be in Paris. There's a vibe you get when walking through the city that is very difficult to explain. It's both slow and fast. No matter how busy the day may be, it seems like there is always time to grab a drink and people watch at a sidewalk cafe.

Paris is also intimidating. It's huge and there are countless things demanding your attention. Whether it is a patisserie you pass that has the most mouthwatering pastries on display, the many hidden sidewalks or alleyways, or the street artist in front of the Palais Garnier, there's always things to see and not strong enough multi-tasking skills to do it. 

I also find Parisians incredibly intimidating. They all look effortlessly put-together, leaving me feeling like a slob if I am not dressed like a girl from a Saint Laurent ad. But, oh well. I'll find my own touch of je ne se quoi to rock. 

It was time for a late lunch. We were jet lagged and not feeling very adventurous, so we settled for one right in the middle of the tourist area called Le Grand Cafe.  

I'm almost positive I ate here years ago as well. Like many restaurants that are tailored for tourists instead of locals, the food was eh. Not bad, but not too great either. 

The spinach that came with my salmon was really nice, but I wouldn't recommend this place if you're looking for authentic or exceptional food. It's more of a "too tired and don't care where we eat" kind of place.

The first day in Paris was quickly over. Our drowsiness brought us back to the hotel quite early so we could get some well deserved rest. 

Day Two

Next morning we got up bright and early. This happens when you all snooze before 9pm. 

First stop was for some breakfast at the Brasserie Cafe Folliet.

Quick, easy, and so yummy. I had a fresh strawberry and banana smoothie with basic crepes. 

Instead of Ubering to our next destination my mom suggested we walk so we could check out some of the stores nearby. Unfortunately for me the one store that caught our eye was this one.

My vision was telling my stomach to suck it up and have one, but my two smoothies (yes, I ordered two) were way too filling to allow space. 

I said bye to the brightly colored desserts and we were back on the Google Maps route. 

We made it to the Lourve Museum! 

Mom and I took some pictures and sent Larry on his way to visit Mona Lisa. We spent an entire day at the Lourve last time we were here. With only one day to spare this time around we were going to do some shopping instead. Heh. 

Tip: Get your tickets online the day before because the ticketing line is insanely long even early in the morning. It's horrible waiting for more than an hour in such harsh sun. OR if you forget to do that, check out the nearby souvenir shops. A lot of them sell museum passes (if you're planning to go to more than one museum) for no line at all. 

That day was extraordinarily hot. The mom daughter cooled down with drinks before hitting up the Galeries Lafayette shopping mall.

Check out the crazy interior. Not a bad place to shop all day in amiright? 

Psst, here's a secret that's not really a secret: Go up to the roof of Lafayette if you want a place to sit or chill. The view is gorgeous and overlooks the city. 

I was feeling a bit under the weather halfway through the afternoon, so we got a sushi fix at Paris Tokyo in hopes of energizing my mood. 

Not feeling a drive to shop for clothes, Mom suggested we go to the Galeries Lafayete Gourmet across the street instead. She always manages to read my mind even when I'm not sure what I want. Food shopping is the best kind of shopping. 

We went home after snagging some of the peaches and berries for home.

I took a quick nap while waiting for Larry to come back for dinner.

Wanting to stay close, we roaamed around the hotel and spotted La Criee. We had a much better time than the night before. 

It was not crowded and was really cozy. Their menu also looked delicious.  

I would really recommend this place if you are staying in the area. The service was fantastic and the customers all looked like locals. The seafood we ordered was pretty bomb as well. 

Five years ago we spent a night in Paris after a week at the Angoulême International Comics Convention in the South of France. We only arrived in time for a quick dinner and trip to the Eiffel Tower.

It was in the middle of December, super cold, and a bit dizzly, so there were only two or three other people at the base when we arrived. Suddenly, out of nowhere the Eiffel Tower starts glittering like something out of Disneyland. Mind you my brother and I are obsessed with all things DIsneyland, so we were both in awe. Even better, the rain started dissipating and snow started to fall instead. 

My brother and I made sure that we were going to see it again. This time was a bit different.  When we got arrived there was no snow and there were six times the amount of people.

It was still freezing. 

We stood there waiting for it to light up, not entirely sure if we missed it or not. 

And then it happened. 

And it was beautiful. 

The next morning we would get up and drive out towards Germany. Our two days in Paris ended in a pretty magical evening. I'm happy we were able to fit this city in our travel itinerary once again.