Havana, Cuba Without the Instagram Filter

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As many of you know, I accomplished one of my top travel dreams last November when I went to Havana. Before I go into the details of every plantain I ate, I wanted to break down a few of the things I see in nearly every Cuba travel post, many of which I believed, and what I came to learn during my time there.

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A Quick Pit Stop in Roma Norte: Mexico City

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Okay guys, so this is way overdue. I’m already cringing scrolling down and seeing my last blog date almost a year ago, but the beauty of DF aka Mexico City makes up for it.

If you know me, I’m someone that is constantly saying that I miss places. Sometimes, it’s somewhere I’ve only been once, even only for a few days. Mexico City is one of those places. Ever since Drew and I went in November, I’ve basically taken on a pro-bono job doing PR for the city encouraging anyone who will listen to me to go, and even helping some of my friends plan their trips.

While it took me 25 years to start to like LA, it honestly took me 3 days to fall in love with Mexico City. Though I’ve always wanted to go, what prompted this specific trip was our trip to Havana, Cuba. Despite some loosening of the travel embargo between the US and Cuba, flights out of the US to Cuba are very infrequent and non existent on the West Coast. Instead of fly from LA to NY or Miami and then to Havana, I decided why not book the whole thing a la carte (and way more confusing and complicated because, obviously) and fly LAX to Mexico City, then Mexico City to Havana, Havana to Mexico City, and Mexico City to LAX. Two separate round trip flights that I had to match the times up juuuuust that perfectly. Did I pull it off? Yes. Would I suggest it to everyone, eh, it depends how much you love organizing trips. Average price of a roundtrip flight LA to Mexico City ~$300. And of course- my Cuba blog is coming soon.

I wanted to stay longer, but as Drew put it, Mexico City isn’t going anywhere (give or take) while Havana is changing so fast that by the next time we go, we may have to deal with Carnival cruisers or McDonalds. So because of that, we spent only 3 days in Mexico City. Mostly eating… and exploring… and eating.

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Topanga Canyon for Drews Birthday

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My first impression of Topanga Canyon was that all the kids from there that went to my highschool were always barefoot. When Drew and I decided to do a stay-cation type adventure for his 26th birthday, I discovered that 7 years later, this is still an accurate impression. That being said, Topanga is awesome. I would 100% live there and never leave if that was a realistic option for me.

One thing I really do love about living in LA, is the insane range of terrain. You can drive a little bit and be in a city, beach, desert, forest, canyon, and like ten different types of each of those. Topanga is less than an hour from my house, but feels worlds away. In New York, this is also possible, like the Catskills, but thats 4 or so hours away, in a car you don’t have. Basically- if you’re into nature, as smoggy and traffic filled as LA is, it is a pretty decent place to access it.

We found a little house on a commune that produces essential oils on Air B&B. We read on the hammock, walked our dog Nora around the premises, and explored. We shopped in the Topanga town center. Had lunch at Abulitas, a little Mexican restaurant on the creek in an old house, and went to a nice birthday dinner at Inn of the Seventh Ray, one of the more beautiful places I’ve ever eaten. At night, we realized we weren’t sleepy and went to Calabasas and saw a horrible scary movie.

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Kyoto Photo Diary

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I got into the details about my Japan trip, especially Tokyo, here. But I wanted to show some more photos of Kyoto, where I took a day trip on the Bullet train to visit temples, rock gardens, walk along the Philosophers Path during the Sakura, or cherry blossom blooming.

We took a cab from the Kyoto train station towards the part of the city that is more historic and less urban. There’s also a bus but since we were on a day trip, we wanted to save time. We started at the Ginkaku-ji temple, where we wore slippers and drank green tea. We got to pour water over bamboo shoots to create this super calming noise. Then I was starving but food was actually not abundant, which was nice, because no one wants gross restaurants or shops in the middle of this beautiful serene atmosphere, but this tiny little cafe had Japanese curry! My favorite comfort food I had been on the prowl for. This adorable Grandma made us plates for basically $4 USD that looked exactly like the curry emoji.

The philosophers path was filled with about half cherry blossoms, and plenty of stray cats. Of course, since everything in Japan is cute. I was so happy to have made it (basically) in time to catch the annual cherry blossoming. Definitely prioritize this, it’s beautiful!

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Big in Japan- Tokyo & Kyoto 2015

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I know I’ve said this before, my Paris and Tokyo have always been my dream cities to travel to. I honestly don’t even remember where the fascination began, before age 5 definitely, and it’s stuck. I had a trip in the works senior year of highschool to Japan, but things fell through and since then, I’ve been dying to go.

After visiting Hong Kong, Drew and I hopped on a flight to Tokyo for five days of eating, shopping, and exploring (read: getting lost and not that mad about it.) I think I can safely say Tokyo is my favorite place I’ve ever traveled to, and I cannot wait to go back.

Below are some tips and tricks I picked up if you’re planning to go, or just like planning fake vacations in your imagination like I do.

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Adventures in Hong Kong with Drew, Kathy, and Sam

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Sam moved to Hong Kong for a FIT program was ultimately motivated me to take this Asia trip. Drew and I flew to Hong Kong to visit him, and our friend Kathy, who I met in NY, but is currently living in London, made the trek too.

We ate, went to the tallest bar in the world, gambled in Macau, hiked to The Peak to see the Hong Kong skyline, rode around in double decker busses, and got insanely lost going to the beach. Click read more for more photos and details!

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How I Plan a Budget Friendly Vacation

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I leave for Hong Kong and Tokyo in about a week and a half and before I start flooding my feed with travel pics, I wanted to share some insight into what goes on in my brain while planning a trip and figuring out how to make a seemingly unrealistic multi-country trip fit in my budget.

This upcoming trip, like all the ones I have planned in my last two or so years of being travel obsessed started from random browsing. I was staying at my Grandma’s house in December when I first moved to LA as I waited for my stuff to get shipped from NY. One night I just started planning a fake vacation in my head to visit my friend Sam who is living in Hong Kong and then going to Tokyo, which I thought was nearby but is actually 4 hours away. I picked a range of possible dates I was into, and started plugging them into Kayak. I was pretty open since I would be taking my vacation days at work and have paid vacation days that don’t roll over, so what could be more motivation. Below I break down how I plan where to go, when to go, where to stay, and how to fly.

Please leave any of your tips and tricks in the comments! Both about saving money, taking trips, and vacation ideas! 

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My Favorite NYC Restaurants

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Ok ok I am adjusting to LA. I’ll shut up about NY for a little bit after this. But I’ve been meaning to do a post about some of my favorite NYC restaurants. I’ve already done a post about my favorite Bushwick eats, as well as a bunch of other cities (San Francisco, Donuts in NY, Atlanta, Toronto)

I’ve found myself always chiming into conversations online, and in person, about where to go to eat in NY. I lived in Brooklyn so I have a few suggestions there, as well as in Lower Manhattan.

Writing this I realized I tend to like places that have lines. Maybe this means I’m boring and trendy, or NY made me tolerate a lot of B.S. like horrible weather, expensive rent, and waits longer than the actual meal, but take it or leave it. Trust me, they’re worth it. And anyone who spends their time waiting for a restaurant being bored and not exploring or drinking next door isn’t doing it right.

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Why I Rent My Apartment on Air BnB

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Money.

Just kidding, kind of. But I got a few requests to talk about why I love Air BnB the service as both a guest and now a host. I have rented my new apartment in LA four times (yah, four weekends in a row.) And I’ve rented apartments in Amsterdam, Colombia, and San Francisco.

So I’ll tell you a little bit about using it as a guest, but focus on why I choose to let strangers into my house and go stay with my mom on the weekend.

If you don’t have an account, sign up here and incase you do book in the future, it will give you $25 your first booking with my referral.

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Keep Tijuana Tasty – A Weekend in TJ

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Tijuana, like Vegas, is one of those places I somehow had not been to despite being a Southern California native. Though now I’m hooked, I’m glad I didn’t go in my party days and saved it for now. Valentines day weekend also happened to land on a three day weekend, so my savvy self rented out my apartment on Air B&B, (If you haven’t used it, its amazing for both renting places or renting your own place- get $25 off your first time )

OK so back to it- Tijuana is a 2.5-3 hour drive South of LA, so Drew (and I- I actually got my drivers permit and helped!) headed down there early Saturday morning and came back midday Monday. To quote Drew who I overheard saying this as I swooned “we came here for the food.” The motto.

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