Sunshine, parasols, blue sky, palm trees, beaches… Miami was a paradise!
I flew into Miami International Airport on Thursday morning for the very special wedding celebrations of M & R. Everything was perfect. Oh how He provides.. Every. Time. The weekend was a whirlwind! I took the red eye from Seattle to Chicago and then had a layover in Chitown (unexpectedly) for five plus hours. During those long hours of anxiety and frustration I met the kindest souls who eased those negative feelings and kept me sane.
I got a taste of the beaches and Cuban foods from my short trip and cannot wait to visit again for its beaches and… Cuban foods! I had the best Ropa Vieja (shredded beef with rice and fried plantain) and Cuban iced coffee at Puerto Sagua Restaurant on South Beach. See pic which doesn’t do any justice but you get the picture. ;)
Some pictures from our day at the beach:
Greetings from the San Francisco Bay Area, my home!
This is a long overdue post which will be short and sweet. I found a cheat sheet for SF tourists: http://www.thebolditalic.com/articles/5112-a-cheat-sheet-for-san-francisco-tourists-
Check it out! For other SF recommendations, check out my old posts: http://hellospaceworld.com/category/pacific-coast/san-francisco/
Hello from the Windy City!
Summer is the perfect time to visit Chicago and yes! I got to enjoy the good days of the city – thanks to A to the E. ;) I had an incredible opportunity to be a faculty member at my company’s training school. It’s surreal to acknowledge that I’ve been with my company for over four years and I am an instructor for the entry-level analysts. The visit started on Tuesday night – I landed at the O’Hare airport in the evening from a long flight from London. Tired I was but thrilled to meet fellow faculty members the next morning. Long story short, teaching was a very special experience and the one of the most rewarding things I’ve done (so far) in my career.
Given my three-week stay, I went out to Downtown Chicago for fun on two weekends. My training facility is in a quaint town called St. Charles which is 30 miles away from downtown. During the week, I spend my time taking a stroll on a local trail, biking and hanging out with my lovely colleagues (oh, not to mention I spent many hours preparing for the next day’s lessons. Teaching is so much more work than I anticipated. Nevertheless, I had such a great time learning the content myself and also thinking about ways to keep my students engaged). On the second weekend, my friend M from San Francisco flew in and we got to spend the weekend together at a flat we rented, exploring the city and grubbing delicious foods.
Chicago has a fantastic public transportation system and is fairly walker friendly as the city is flat. Here are some of my recommendations on what to check out – updated since the 2012 entry. Enjoy!
Architecture River Tour: This is a must. You can find a few booths set up on Magnificent Mile right by the water. 401 Michigan Ave is the building where you can spot the tour agencies.
- Millennium Park: Must see the iconic bean at this park. On Summer evenings, there are free performances at the park.
- Willis Tower: Standing on the skydeck overlooking the ground from high up. It’s a tourist attraction. For a reason.
- Hancock Tower: There’s a bar on the top floor where you can get a panoramic view of Chicago. Go here only when the weather is clear. There’s always a wait so I recommend making a reservation.
- Navy Pier/ Ohio Street Beach: Navy Pier reminds me of Pier 39 in San Francisco, where you see heaps of tourists, a ferris wheel (actually – SF has a carousel instead) and food joints where you can easily find Chicago hot dogs and other casual foods.
- The Art Institute of Chicago: Do you like impressionism paints? If you do, then you will like this museum. Seurat’s Sunday afternoon. Heart.
Giordano’s: Chicago deep-dish pizza is a must. Of all the popular joints (Lou Malati’s, Gino’s East, Pizzeria Uno, Pizzeria Due and Giordano’s), my favorite is Giordano’s. BBQ Chicken pizza is just a dish to starve for. ;)
- Any of Rick Bayless’s restaurants: Xoco, Frontera Grill, Frontera Fresco to name a few. This master chef is known for flavorful Mexican foods with twists. If you go to Xoco, you cannot not order its freshly made churros with a side of vanilla custard. #useddoublenegative #foremphasis One more – I found out Bayless has opened a restaurant at the ORD airport!
- Garrett’s Popcorn: Some may argue this is a tourist trap, but I say no it is not. You see locals waiting in line to get a bagful of just-popped and seasoned Chicago Mix (a mix of cheesecorn and caramel popcorn). You can smell the pungent, cheesy, sweet, buttery, just amazingly nose-catching aroma permeating within a block radius around the store.
- Argo Tea: This Chicago based tea cafe is by far my favorite cafe. I am a huge fan of drinks that have strong tea flavors. AT’s got it.
Tips for first-timers:
- Pack layers. This applies all seasons. It’s called Windy City for a reason.
- Bring walking/ shoes. Chicago’s a beautiful city where there are canals everywhere. Cherish them while saving a few bucks on tranpo.
- The Art Institute of Chicago offers free admissions to all Bank of America cardholders every first weekend of the month.
- Go to the bean on weekdays or early/ late on weekend to avoid a large crowd.
- Buy a weekend/ multiple-day CTA pass (Chicago Transit Authority) if you’re spending a few days in the city. One way bus ride is ~$2 while one day pass (unlimited bus/ train/ subway) is $10.
I visited London over the Memorial day weekend. It was a short trip. Nevertheless, I had a fantastic time packed in mere four days. Its vibrant city vibe, ethnically diverse crowds, abundant parks and museums and beautiful landmarks get me excited every time. I got to catch up with a few old friends and had ample time to myself.
This trip was special for a few reasons. One of my resolutions for the year was to do something extraordinary on a whim. Happy to report that it has been fulfilled. :) More importantly and excitingly, it was special because of a wonderful teacher whom I met. They say people come into your life to teach you a lesson. Looking at people I meet and experiences I gain, I realize life is so exciting and full of surprises. This professor reminded me that there are many serendipitous encounters in life and the ability to connect the dots in retrospect is a gift. Ah, I am such a lucky gal.
In this post, I want to share some tidbits of London (if you have any to add, then comment porfa):
Sightseeing/musts – I grouped some places by location/ distance:
- Big Ben/ House of Parliament/ Westminster Abbey/ London Eye (I’ve been on theLondon Eye only once. It’s quite pricey to get up there, but worth the price on a clear day)
- St. James’s Park (this park’s pleasant)/ Buckingham Palace (changing of guard ceremony is at 11:30AM on certain days – check and go!)
- Trafalgar Square/ National Gallery (one of my favorite museums. Museums in Londonare all free to go.)
- Borough Market & Monmouth Coffee on Park Road J (a must)
- Regents Park (there’s a big pond where people can ride boats)/ Queen Mary’s Garden (I’ve never seen that many roses before – so beautiful)
- Tower Bridge/ Thames river
- The Table – A brunch spot. The Vegan Borough breakfast was divine. (see my IG picJ)
- Jamie’s Italian – I love Italian foods. It’s owned by British chef Jamie Oliver – I’m sure you’ve heard of him. Very affordable yet delicious. this place is full of energy! Highly recommend.
- Bread Street Kitchen – Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant. Great, vibrant vibe and foods! You can make a reservation on OpenTable.
- PipsDish– you have to make a reservation. It’s a very charming restaurant that serves home-styled British foods. You can purchase a la carte (which is what I did) or a course meal.
- St. John’s Bread and Wine – Townsend recommended and I still have not tried. I looked up on yelp and they’re known for their Bacon Sandwich. They open early. Maybe for breakfast? You can stop by Old Spitasfield Market which is right across the street.
Descriptions of Areas in London:
- Bloomsbury- Vibrant historic district made famous by a group of turn-of-the-century writers and for being the location of the British Museum and numerous historic homes, parks, and buildings. Part of the Borough of Camden.
- City of London- The City is the area of London that originally lay within the ancient city walls and is now a major world financial centre.
- Covent Garden- One of the main shopping and entertainment districts. Incorporates some of London’s theatreland. Part of the City of Westminster and Borough of Camden.
- Holborn-Clerkenwell- Buffer zone between London’s West End and the City ofLondon financial district, home to the Inns of Court
- Leicester Square- West End district comprising Leicester Square, Chinatown, Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus and the centre of London’s cinema and theatre land
- Mayfair-Marylebone- Some extremely well-heeled districts of west central Londonand most of the city’s premier shopping street
- Notting Hill-North Kensington- Lively market, interesting history, the world famous carnival and diverse population
- Paddington-Maida Vale- Largely residential district of northwest central London with lots of mid-range accommodation
- Soho- Dense concentration of highly fashionable restaurants, cafés, clubs and bars, as well as London’s gay village
- South Bank- South side of the river Thames with good views of the city, several theatres and the London Eye
- South Kensington-Chelsea – An extremely well-heeled inner London district with famous department stores, Hyde Park, many museums and the King’s Road
- Westminster- A city in its own right, the seat of government and an almost endless list of historical and cultural sights, such as Buckingham Palace, The Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey.
A few other things…
- You should definitely do high tea. I went with a girlfriend to the Rose Lounge in Sofitel hotel near National Gallery. She had made a reservation, so check their website.
- Shopping – Regent St, Oxford St, Harrods, etc. Bicester Village is one of seven? Eight? Premium outlets in Europe. You can take a shuttle or train. If you/ your parents are interested, check out their website. You can also find a promo code for the shuttle bus ticket so you pay 14 pounds round trip. The bus leaves from a few hotels in central London.
- If you’re using public transportation (which I recommend), get an oyster card. You pay 5 pound deposit for a card that you can refill.
- You can exchange currency at the airport and there are many cambio stations in the city. I recommend exchanging $ in the US (BofA or some other bank) to avoid unnecessary fees. :)
As always, ending the post with some pictures.
I swam in the Mexico water and got stung by a jellyfish. No joke.
This was my first time visiting Mexico! A day or two before my departure, I spoke to a coworker who has lived in Mexico City for two years. She told me many horror stories and gave me enough cautions that got me totally alert and timid about going to Cabo. Regardless, I had a terrific time. The crystal clear blue water, ocean waves, abundant sunshine, romantic night lights, and mouthwatering Mexican foods pushed Cabo up in the list of favorites in my book.
Backtracking a bit, I went to Cabo this past weekend for a bachelorette party in celebration of my dear friend M. Based on weeks of research and firsthand experience, I recommend a few must’s:
- Sunset Cruise leaving from the Marina
- Snorkeling/ boat ride to the Arch (El Arco de Los Cabos)
- Get a traditional Mexican meal at the Office/ Mi Casa/ La Golondria
- Relax on Nikki Beach at Hotel ME Cabo by Melia
- Get chicken at El Pollo de Oro (a.k.a. Golden chicken) – three out of three cab drivers recommended this place. Get the roasted chicken. With a side of macaroni salad, it melts in your mouth.
Good to know/ lessons learned:
- Do not catch a cab on a whim (go through your hotel/ resort/ restaurant… basically a reliable source)
- Avoid using credit cards (exchange money at the airport or before departure), as your card information can leak and you may get random charges made in Mexico. I had not realized that you can use dollar bills in Mexico. They do have pretty unfair conversion rate, so, I recommend
- Always bargain. Always.
- Avoid any grey/ dirty colored foam floating in the ocean. That may indicate jellyfish beneath it.
- Drink bottled water only/ don’t be too adventurous with what goes inside (of your system) :)
- Bring a hand sanitizer
As always, a post isn’t complete without a photo gallery. Enjoy world!