do, eat, see: Hong Kong

I recently returned from a trip to Hong Kong – and what a trip it was. Hong Kong was an amazing city to spend time in, but since it was somewhere none of us had ever been before, there was a lot of guessing and researching before deciding what we wanted to do…which is where I come in for you! I wanted to make sure I remembered everything to share with you guys and hopefully help some of you out on your future travels.

We stayed in the Central district for four days, doing our fair share of exploring…and lots of dim-sum eating. The city itself reminded me a lot of Singapore – very urban and modern with lots of things to do and different cultures blended together – but had a lot of differences as well. We did and saw a lot over our four days, so I’ll break it down in our typical fashion into my favorite things to do, eat and see:

– do – 

Take the tram up to Victoria Peak

Hong Kong 1

This was the simplest thing we did but also maybe my favorite. The Peak Tram is the world’s steepest funicular railway (scary!) and takes you up to the top of Victoria Peak, where you can see arguably the best views of the Hong Kong skyline. The view is just beyond – I couldn’t have imagined that many buildings all in one place. We heard (and read) the queue for the tram could get insane (if Asia can do one thing well, it’s queuing) so we went first thing when it opened – I would HIGHLY suggest this. Get there early and you won’t have to wait. There are some food and merch shops at the top of mountain – even a Starbucks – so you can get your breakfast fix once they open.

Shop at Times Square

I thought we were used to big malls in Singapore, but whoa – Hong Kong’s very own Times Square was huge! The retail stores are spread over 9 floors and you can find everything from Zara to Louis Vuitton and even a Laduree when you’re trying to get your macaron on. It was a cool place to explore and we even found one of our favorite restaurants there (I’m getting to the food)!

Ride a speedboat to Macau

Hong Kong 2

Macau, considered “the Vegas of Asia,” is another special separate region of China that’s about an hour boat ride away from Hong Kong. The boats depart from Hong Kong harbor every 15 minutes throughout the day, so choose when you want to go and head to the Sheung Wan MTR station to get to the ferry terminal. It was super easy to get to Macau and it was honestly super bizarre to see it all – there is a Venetian that looks almost identical to the one in Vegas, along with a Wynn and even a replica Eiffel Tower! We moseyed around the Venetian for a while and even found our favorite snack, Lord Stow’s Bakery egg tarts – omg, get them – while wandering around. We just went for the night and it was a perfect amount of time to get to explore a little!

– eat –

Dim sum 

Dim sum is a popular type of Chinese-style cuisine traditionally prepared as smaller, bite-sized food served in steamer baskets or on plates. The food can range from things like steamed dumplings (my personal fave are xiao long bao), noodles, vegetables, rice dishes and more. It differs from place to place, but that’s pretty much the standard from where I’ve been. In Hong Kong, we ate at two places for dim sum: Tim Ho Wan and Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao.

Tim Ho Wan, famed as the world’s cheapest Michelin star restaurant, originated in Hong Kong and now has a few locations around the city. When I looked up online what to eat, the pork buns came up again and again (and again). We ordered these, a beef dish, some dumplings and vegetables. To be honest, I enjoyed the food, but it wasn’t the best I’ve had in HK/Asia – if there’s no wait, I’d definitely recommend checking it out, but I don’t think it’s worth the famed multi-hour queues. 🙂 The other restaurant we got dim sum style food at, Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao in Times Square Mall, was, in my opinion, much better. Get two orders of the xiao long bao, the homemade noodles (omg) and whatever else strikes your fancy and you’ll be good. This was my favorite meal in HK and I’d highly recommend it.

Burgers at Beef & Liberty

Okay, so when you think Hong Kong, your first thought probably isn’t about burgers. Me either – until Beef & Liberty came along. One of my mom’s friends recommended it to us and it was close to our hotel, so we decided to check it out. Upon arrival, you immediately know this is going to be a cool place. The inside has a very modern vibe and the servers were all super nice. There are tons of craft beers to try and even a skillet cookie (looking at you, sis). I’d suggest the black pepper burger – it was so different but SO good. We ate at the central location, but there’s also a pop up in the PMQ. They also have sweet potato fries, which is always my fry of choice, which were great. I’d highly recommend this place if you’re searching for a taste of home in HK.

– see –

Lantau Island

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Lantau was definitely one of my favorite things we saw while we were in Hong Kong. To get there, we took the MTR to the Tung Chung station and took the Ngong Ping 360 Cable car – an experience in itself! Pro tip: buy tickets for the “crystal” (glass bottom) cable car – it’s a little more expensive but the queue was non-existent compared to the hours-long one for the regular car. Worth the money for sure.

Once you get off the cable car (it’s about a 30 minute ride), you’ll be in Ngong Ping village, a cute-but-touristy walkway with shops and restaurants set up for visitors to the real attractions: Po Lin monastery and the Big Buddha. They’re both hidden away in lush mountains (such a contrast to central Hong Kong) and are great to see. It’s amazing to think about monks practicing in such a remote area – and the Big Buddha sure lives up to his name! Be ready to climb lots of steps to the top for a great view of the surrounding hills and the monastery.

Tai O

Hong Kong 6

Tai O was a smaller destination on our journey, a quaint fishing town on Lantau Island. After finishing up at the Big Buddha, we decided to take a local bus here to see what life would have been like before the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong arrived. They’re famous for their dried fish markets (see: the worst thing I ever smelled), but even if you aren’t planning on buying a dried pufferfish, it’s a nice place to spend an hour or so.

Take one of the small fishing boats out to try and catch a glimpse of the famed “pink dolphins” – the Chinese White Dolphin, as they’re scientifically called, are known to swim around the island and make appearances every once in a while. We didn’t have the good luck of seeing any, but if you plan your times right and do a bit of research, you should have a good shot!

Rooftop bars

Rooftop bars are popular in most big cities nowadays, but with Hong Kong’s impressive skyline, they’re a sight not to be missed. Ozone, the bar at the top of the Ritz Carlton, takes the title of the highest bar in the world. We wanted to stay more in the Central district, so we decided to try out Sevva, a restaurant and bar with a great view of the surrounding area. Their drink list was absurd – pages upon pages of every sort of cocktail you could imagine. We enjoyed taking in the sights from a great couch and had more than enough room to move around – a luxury in Asia! There was no cover, either, which is helpful to know if you’re trying to save a little $$.

Nan Lian Garden

Hong Kong 7

I couldn’t conclude my post about Hong Kong without mentioning the Nan Lian garden. One of our last stops in the city, the garden is a great place to relax, walk around and take in beautiful scenery in the middle of a hectic metropolis. Entry is free, it’s easy to get to on the MTR and you can even get a great meal at the restaurant or cafe inside = win.

While there’s countless things to do, eat and see while visiting Hong Kong, those were my favorites from this trip – I hope they serve you all well and definitely would suggest a visit if you’re in the area…or even if you’re not. What else should I add to my list for next time?

xx, H+R

do, eat, see: Bangkok

Can I get a YAAAAAAS for finally being on vacation? *raises hand emoji, confetti emoji, margarita emoji*

We’ve just returned from Thailand and what a wonderful week it was. We (we being the six of us: the fam unit including one of my cousins who has been interning in SG this summer + the beau) started out with a few days in Bangkok, exploring city life and learning more about Buddhist culture and finished our holiday in Phuket resting and enjoying the beautiful beaches. More to come on island life later!

Bangkok was totally new for me: my first time in Asia out of Singapore and my first time in a place here I couldn’t understand the language…at all. Having a working knowledge of English and French got me around most places in Europe just fine and Singapore is an English-speaking country, so seeing writing in different characters and hearing people speak in an entirely undecipherable language was something totally new. It was definitely a shock! Bangkok, however, is pretty urban – luckily for us, most people in the city center speak at least a bit of English.

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Wat Paknam Bangkok

Wat Paknam

Wat Paknam Bangkok

Wat Paknam

As we only had two days/three nights in each city, we wanted to make the most of our short time. If you’re ever planning a visit, here are my recommendations on what to do, eat and see:

– do –

Bangkok canal tours – For our first day in Bangkok, we arranged a tour of the famous canals (also know as klongs) in the city. Sometimes referred to as the “Venice of the East”, Bangkok has an extensive network of canals through more rural parts of the city to access floating markets, temples and homes. We hired a longtail boat, Thailand’s famous cruisers, to get us around. The boats are basically super-long, skinny boats powered by some type of engine that they may or may not have taken out of a truck. The boat took us to two temples, a local weekend market, a Thai orchid garden and an artist’s house for a traditional Thai puppet show. It was a super neat way to see around more of the more rural parts of the city.

Our tour guide, Nui, was absolutely fabulous and was a great guide around our sights – if you’re ever heading to Bangkok, I’d recommend checking out their company, Pandan Tours!

Longtail boat Bangkok

Longtail boat

Floating vendors Bangkok

Floating vendors

Noodle boat Bangkok

Noodle boat!

Chatuchak weekend market – The largest market in all of Thailand, Chatuchak is definitely worth a visit if you’ll be in Bangkok over a weekend. The market has over 8,000 stalls selling everything from plants and antiques to clothes and electronics. You can’t see it all, so pick and choose a few alleyways to wander down and be ready to bargain! You can bring the price down a few hundred baht or so if you a. go in with a price you want to pay (ex: don’t pay more than 200-300 baht for clothing), b. walk away (or act like you will) – there will always be another stall with the exact same item – and c. carry small bills to pay with. We picked up some cute elephant pillowcases, loose pants for plane rides, lots of soccer jerseys and a knockoff Beats pill (Dad…). There are literally thousands of stalls to see, so it’s a perfect place to get inexpensive, cool gifts for your friends and family back home.

– eat –

Everything – Is this an appropriate answer? We tried to get our hands on local cuisine while we were there, as it’s an experience in itself to try different Thai foods. We ate noodles out of a boat that passed us on the canal (cooking right on their boat!), lots of noodles at a weekend market and tried other snacks like homemade ice cream and mango sticky rice.

Pad thai – This seems like the obvious choice, but every time we got pad thai, it was amazing. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who’s looking to have great local food that isn’t tooo adventurous. Just don’t forget to add lots of spice! 🙂

An extra travel tip: since the hotel we stayed at had a stellar concierge lounge, we ate here often. Look to see if the hotel you’re staying in has one and if you can get access – for six people, it saved us a ton of money and we got some great food in the comfort of the hotel!

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Noodle boat noodles

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Pad thai

– see –

Lots of Buddhist temples – While we were there, we got to visit four temples: Wat Paknam, Wat Pa Chaeng Lane, Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Pho. Each was very different, with varying degrees of ornate decorations or a focus on different representations of Buddha. Wat Paknam’s green pagoda was really something – you can see in the photo above that the ceiling was covered with Swarovski crystals. Wat Pho was my other favorite – this is the temple of the leaning Buddha – it’s 46 meters long (HUGE)!

The views from a rooftop bar – Bangkok has tons of awesome rooftop bars to enjoy a few drinks and get an unmatched view of the city. Sky Bar is the most famous now, as it was featured in The Hangover 2, but we tried out one near our hotel called Above Eleven at the suggestion of one of my friends. It was awesome! The view was well worth the excursion.

Soi Cowboy – You didn’t think I was going to write a post about what to see in Bangkok without including Soi Cowboy, did you? Soi Cowboy is a little street in Bangkok that’s famous for its nightlife and bars – mostly gogos – that caters mostly to tourists. Most of the bars have patios to sit outside and take in the sights…or you can go inside and be prepared to see lots of scantily-clad girls dancing. Not the least awkward thing to do with my parents and baby sister, but it’s a popular part of Bangkok culture that you should try to check out while you’re there.

Wat Pho Bangkok

Wat Pho

Tuk Tuk rides Bangkok

Tuk Tuk rides

Wat Paknam Bangkok

Wat Paknam

Wat Paknam Bangkok

Wat Paknam

Above Eleven Bangkok

Above Eleven

Soi Cowboy Bangkok

Soi Cowboy

I would say we definitely made the most of our 2.5 days in Bangkok – lots of exploring, adventuring and trying new things. It was a big change from Singapore, but a cool place to visit nonetheless and somewhere new for me to check off the bucket list. Next post: living the island life in Phuket. There was lots to do, eat and see there too…so check back soon!

singapore adventures

Well, you all may have noticed I’ve been a little off the blogging grid lately – I promise it’s worth it though, as I’ve been soaking up every last memory of Singapore I can get my hands (okay, fork) on.

For those of you who don’t know me, my parents moved to Singapore for work last year. Over the last 10 months, it has been a big adjustment (more on that later), but we’ve made it through. The four of us are super close, so there’s been lots of FaceTiming at crazy hours, tired emails and too many Snapchats for our own good – it’s a 12 hour time difference, so imagine only being able to chat early in the morning or late at night and you can start to get the picture.

The bright side of this, though, is having a crazy awesome place to visit and explore (not to mention a great jumping-off hub for visiting most of Asia and beyond). We came for a week last year over Thanksgiving, but this time I’m here for a month, so I’m getting to experience so much more of city life. I’m spending two weeks working in my agency’s office here – perks of having a super sweet global agency network to work out of – and two weeks on holiday. Now that I’ve got a week of work under my belt, I’ve finally gotten the hang of the basics: transportation, customs, etc., but there’s still a lot to learn.

I started work bright and early Monday morning after landing earlier that day (took off from Atlanta at noon on Saturday, so it’s a long haul! Read my tips for lengthy travel here). My colleagues have been so welcoming and great, helping me get set up and making sure I’ve had friends to eat lunch with each day. So far, they’ve taken me to a few local eats to get Japanese, Chinese and Indian cuisine (and helped me order because I’m the foreigner who can’t pronounce anything). My favorite was the Muslim Indian food at Akbar 24hrs Indian Muslim Food – a place I wouldn’t have given a second look if I had passed it on the street. We got some roti prata (OMG, where has this been all my life) and I had bee hoon goreng (noodles), while trying some of their roti john and murtabak. I was also introduced to the Milo Dinosaur, a local drink that’s like their version of Ovaltine or Hershey’s powder and is super delicious. On Friday, we all went for coconut ice cream, which was served in a coconut and perfect for a hot day (well…they’re all hot days here).

While everyone always talks about how expensive Singapore is (and don’t get me wrong, it can be), some of the best food can be found at the cheapest stalls and basement cafes I would never have known about on my own. Hawker fare is a little tougher to figure out as a foreigner, but it’s worth the effort for the taste + the price tag! Most people are more than willing to help you figure it out if you don’t know what something is, not to mention that most of the stalls in Singapore include photos of their food, which makes it much easier to decide. It’s true when they say you can spend $200 or $3 on a meal and be just as happy with either.

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I’ve also gotten to do a bit of exploring with the family since being here. My parents live in a pretty busy area, so it’s easy to walk to the MRT (public transportation/subway) and lots of fun restaurants and shops. I’m also guilty of making them go to all of the places I bookmarked on Yelp to visit and try the best local food – so far, so good! Ramen, thai noodles, chicken rice and more local eats have been some of our best adventures so far. While you can get almost any cuisine imaginable in SG (there’s a California Pizza Kitchen and a Chili’s right down the road), I’m trying to eat the best of what’s local and learn some new favorites.

This weekend, we conquered some old and new sites: the Singapore Food Festival, a celebration of some of the best chefs whipping up modern spins on local fare, the Chinatown market and food street and the ArtScience museum, which featured exhibits on Singapore over the years, Dreamworks animation and Sea Creatures of the Deep (NOPE). It’s Singapore’s 50th anniversary of their independence, so there’s a LOT going on surrounding their heritage and pride for their country. The Golden Jubilee weekend is in August and I’m so excited we’ll get to be here for it!

Overall, the first week has been a bit of an adjustment, with my work schedule being 12 hours ahead of my team, overcoming a bit of jet lag and trying to decide what to see/eat next. We leave for Thailand later this week, so I’ll try to update on my favorite things I saw there, but check us out on Instagram and Twitter to keep up with my day to day!

Signing off from the future,
K

summer bag essentials

Though it definitely already feels like it in Atlanta, this weekend officially marks the start of summer. (Sunday also happens to be Father’s Day AND the summer solstice, so be sure to make plans to soak up the longest day of the year with dad!)

To both of us, a perfect summer means one thing – travel. Weekend trips, week-long vacations and even month-long adventures (more on this later!) are in the works and we couldn’t be more excited. It’s safe to say that we both inherited the wanderlust gene and are always scheming + dreaming about our next places to cross off our lists.

E just got back from Yosemite, an amazing trip that I’m sure couldn’t be done justice through lots of snapchats but still looked oh-so-incredible and is prepping for a Fourth of July vacation to San Diego, while I’m gearing up for a weekend in Chicago and then a month of working + visiting my family in Asia which I still can’tevenbelieveishappening. With so many trips in order, the fun has to wait until you can get done with the dreaded preparation, also known as packing (or more commonly referred to as every girl’s worst nightmare). While I’m always going to remember things like socks, shirts and black jeans (obviously), I always seem to forget the fun stuff. It’s the last thing on my mind, but the first thing to make a trip super fun. Luckily, we’ve got you covered – here are our essentials to the perfect summer bag:

Summer Bag Essentials

 

ONE // the perfect suit. With as much time as we (and hopefully you) plan to spend at the water this year, it’s a no-brainer that having a bathing suit that’s A. fashionable and B. comfortable is a necessity. I recently bought a new one from overseas at Triangl, the creators of the color-blocked neoprene suit trend and am absolutely in love – however, if you’re looking to pay a little less and avoid the high international taxes, you can try this one from Rotita or this one from VS.

TWO // a bag to get through it all. You can’t have the perfect summer bag essentials post without the perfect bag, right? For us, simplicity and versatility are key. You want something you can use throughout the summer that can transition from the beach to daytime errands to taking work to the coffee shop. We love this one from Nordstrom and this bright choice from J. Crew.

THREE // lip products with spf. Did we emphasize that enough? If you’ve ever gone out in the sun for a while and NOT used a product with SPF on your lips, you know where we’re coming from. Trust me: lip. sunburns. are. the. worst. I wish them on none of you and only on your worst enemies. This Sugar Lip Treatment with SPF 15 is my absolute favorite, sun or no sun – a hint of color and super moisturizing. I recommend it in rosé!

FOUR // dry shampoo. What did we do in the days before dry shampoo? (Well, baby powder, but #ratchet, so) I’ve been on the hunt for a while for a good one and fell in love after I got this Klorane one in my Birchbox. It’s a winner in my book (plus it snagged the Allure Best of Beauty award, so I trust it). It contains oat milk extracts and never leaves any yucky color or residue behind. I’ve never been one to get that super awesome beachy hair, so this is a lifesaver.

FIVE // good sunnies. I’m sure we all have 50 pairs of sunglasses laying around, but this season, I’m really loving the new color mirrored trend. The ones pictured above are the ones I’m currently lusting after – Ray-Bans, of course. For a cheaper find, these ones from LOFT are only $24.50 and are 40% off right now!

SIX // a captivating read. Last but certainly not least, you’re going to need a good book (or a few) to get through the summer, whether you’re at the pool or hanging out in the park. We’re just working on starting a monthly book club with a few friends and our first choice is The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. I haven’t started yet (sorry guys), but have heard it’s a great one. If you have any other suggestions for good summer reads, please let me know – gonna need quite a few on two 24-hour plane rides!

What else do you guys always keep in your summer bag? Tell us below – there’s always room for more!

P.S. – Wanted to put the selfie stick in here, but avoided it for you guys. You’re welcome.

 

do, eat, see: Santa Barbara

I recently visited Santa Barbara for a weekend getaway (my Christmas present courtesy of the boy) and instantly fell in love with the charm, architecture and feel of this California staple. Just a short two hours north of LA up the Pacific Coast Highway makes Santa Barbara the perfect escape from hustle and bustle of the city. Our visit wasn’t long enough (what vacation ever is?), but we managed to pack a lot into the weekend and I’ve made a list of my favorite things to do, eat and see while in Santa Barbara.

– do –

Wine Tasting Rooms

Santa Barbara = the epitome of wine country. While there are many vineyards in the surrounding mountains and valleys, look no further than the numerous wine tasting rooms in the heart of town. Similar to a brewery, you taste flights of local wine and enjoy the quaint open-air tasting rooms with friendly bartenders + people to meet. My three favorites were Municipal Winemakers (pictured above), Oreana Winery and Corks n’ Crowns. The best part? Most of the wine tasting rooms are all within the same few blocks of each other which makes for a fun afternoon stumble stroll.

State Street

State Street is runs through the heart of Santa Barbara and a good place to reference when you’re looking for a place to stay – the closer to State Street and the water, the better. It’s a great place to start your day and shop, eat, peek in galleries, people watch and just enjoy the pretty Spanish architecture and palm tree lined street.  

– eat –

The Lark

Santa Barbara, California; The Lark

[http://www.thelarksb.com/]

Our first meal in Santa Barbara set the bar high. The Lark is located in the same part of the city as the wine tasting rooms and is beautifully designed with the perfect ambience. Our meal went as follows: Pimento Cheese Fritters with schrimshaw beer aioli + pickled chiles, Grilled Spanish Octopus with Israeli​ couscous, guajillo chile + avocado and Crispy Lamb Papardelle with butternut squash puree, goat cheese + rosemary. Need I say more?

Santa Barbara Public Market 

SBPM2

[http://wanderandwine.com/]

A mix between Chelsea Market and Krog Street Market, the Santa Barbara Public Market combines the wonders of a food hall and a supermarket complete with a bakery, an artisanal ice cream shop, a ramen bar and more. It was the perfect place to have a meal or pack a picnic which is exactly what we did for the next stop on our list which brings me to…

– see – 

Douglas Family Preserve 

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I don’t know about you, but before I moved to California I envisioned all of the beaches with cliffs, breaking waves and surfers, which is exactly the picturesque scene you get at the Douglas Family Preserve. Seventy acres of undeveloped land, trails and views make this a must-see when you visit Santa Barbara.

PCH

This is sort of a given seeing as you drive this scenic highway when you come and go from Santa Barbara. I’m not saying I played California by Phantom Planet while we drove down this highway, but I’m not going to say I didn’t.

Have any of you ever taken a trip here? What were your favorite spots? Let us know in the comments!

tips for long-haul flights

I’m baaaack from my overseas adventure! If you didn’t catch my many tweets or instagrams, I traveled to Singapore over the Thanksgiving holiday to visit my parents’ new place of residence (I know, crazy, right?). It was lovely, perfect and more than I could have expected, but more on that later – first, we had to get there.

To get to Singapore (map below, because tbh I couldn’t have pointed it out to you a few months ago), it requires a 15 hour flight to Tokyo followed by a 2-hour layover and 6.5 hour flight from Tokyo to Singapore. Needless to say, it’s no walk in the park.

Now, I’ve flown to Europe before. I’ve made the 8-9 hour flights and traveled around, but this was something on another level. Spending an entire day on a plane and crossing the international date line requires planning, smarts and expertise – lucky for you, as a product of my still-lingering jet-lag, I’ve compiled my best tips for long-haul flights to keep you ahead of the game and enjoying your trip:

1. Prepare your body.

As important as it is to be stocked up with new music and handy supplies for the flight (hello new T.Swift album), it is even more important to work to prepare your body for the travel ahead of time. In the days leading up to the flight, make an extra effort to drink more water and definitely avoid alcohol – unbeknownst to me, sitting through 22 hours of flying will drain you of every last ounce of hydration in your body, so this will save you lots of trouble on the long flight. Also, try to adjust your sleep schedule gradually towards what your new time zone will be like – making a 13 hour change is not something that should be done overnight!

2. Dress for the ride.

This seems like a no-brainer, but I swear, if I had a dollar for every person I saw in heels on those flights, I could have bought a first-class ticket. I couldn’t believe the amount of effort people went to try to dress to the nines when we were about to sit on a plane for a solid day. Trust me, wear the sweatpants. You won’t see anyone you know, and you’ll thank me 8 hours in.

3. Take care of your feet.

This was one of my biggest mistakes on the flight over. I don’t mind sitting/sleeping for a while, especially when I’m curled up watching movies, which was fine with me. However, after arriving, I found my ankles were swollen to the point of pretty rough discomfort. You should try to stand up and walk around at least once every hour, even if it’s just up and down the aisle, and invest in some good compression socks. They’re not cheap, but I know I’ll be getting some for our next trip across the Pacific – I’m thinking these LL Bean ones look pretty solid. If you can’t get up because of a sleeping rowmate, try flexing your ankles for a minute to alleviate some of the tension – this worked for me on the way back.

4. Charge up.

While most flights these days have USB outlets to charge your phone or other devices, you can’t always count on ’em – mine happened to be broken on one of the flights. I don’t travel anywhere without my external charger: I use the Anker 2nd Gen 6400 mAh, which comes in cute colors and holds three charges for an iPhone 5. It’s seriously a lifesaver – I’m never worried about not being able to contact someone in a sticky situation or capture a great photo from crazy travels!

5. Don’t lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel…er, flight.

Fam Selfie!

If anything, a marathon flight is a mental battle even more than a physical one – that feeling when you wake up from a nap to see you’ve only been sleeping for an hour can be pretty disheartening when you’ve got so many to go. Luckily, keeping the end destination in mind can make it a little sweeter. I was so excited to see my family and explore their new home in Singapore that the journey was just a small step along the way. 🙂

Hope these tips for long-haul flights help you out for your next one – what’s your dream world-away destination? Tell us in the comments below!

california pt. 2

I am slowly yet surely becoming one of those people who abandons their blog for the sole reason of being too busy. Eek! Don’t let it happen, H & R! You are far too cute to abandon because of work.

That being said, I still owe you all a little catch-up on the second half of our trip to California (and I promise, after this, we’ll get back to things that enhance your lives instead of the story of mine). There were just too many amazing sights not to document them all in the travel folder we’re building up here.

//monday//

We’ll go ahead and call this what it was: tourist day. As Emily and Drew had to go back to the real world of work, Andrew and I headed up to Hollywood to see the sights and see if we could catch a celeb sighting to cap off our quintessential Cali experience.

One of the things I had wanted to do while we were there was hike at one of the many outdoor areas in town to get a view of the city and the Hollywood Sign. Emily had suggested the trails around Griffith Observatory which turned out to be amazing advice. If y’all ever make it out there, I highly recommend it for a fun walk-around with amazing views. We walked around the outside of the observatory and ventured up the hilly trails for a while before snapping a selfie in front of the Hollywood Sign, because obviously, and getting ready to down head down into Hollywood.

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After Griffith, we drove through the Hollywood Hills down to the center of the action to see the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Andrew found his favorite star for #mcm (Kevin Spacey) and I made sure to find Meryl Streep’s during our adventures. We saw the Chinese Theatre, walked up and down the stars (they stretch for miles on both sides of the street) and eventually decided to take the touristing to a whole new level with a tour of stars’ homes (when in Rome, right?). It turned out to be a great investment, as we saw tons of really neat celeb homes, including Madonna, the Beckhams, Ellen Degeneres, Michael Jackson’s last residence, the Playboy Mansion, Steven Spielberg, Morgan Freeman, Justin Timberlake and, obviously, Lindsay Lohan (among others). It was a fun way to spend the afternoon on another beautiful day in Los Angeles.

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Justin Timberlake’s house. Yep.

For dinner, we headed back to Venice and checked out the infamous Whole Foods that Emily has described to me as the most amazing thing…which was not an exaggeration. This thing’s hot bar put my Whole Foods to shame! We picked up assorted meats and cheeses and snacked on the lifeguard stand as we watched the sunset – a true Venice dinner.

Venice Sunset

And yes, that’s #nofilter.

//tuesday//

Not really much to report on here as I sat on the beach all day – which is perfectly fine with me! Emily and I grabbed lunch, I got to see her office, try her favorite snack at Sunny Blue (omg, omusubi, google it) and drink a few beers at Venice Ale House before bidding goodbye to our friends after a wonderful, amazing time in Los Angeles. Everything was wonderful (how could it not be), but the best part was getting to put a picture to so many places I had heard Emily describe in their lives and feeling like I could picture her life now instead of just imagining it.

//wednesday – friday//

Early Wednesday, we left L.A. for a small vacation from vacation off the coast at a place called Catalina Island. Guys…I don’t even have words for this place. Quaint, beautiful, peaceful…all of the wonderful things. We stayed in the main town on the island (there are only two), Avalon, all of which is walkable. Everyone on the island knows each other and was so friendly to us during our stay. Catalina is a popular stop for cruise ships during the week as well – we saw a boat docked off the coast on our last day.

We stayed downtown at a small hotel, Hotel Vista del Mar. I’d recommend this place over and over again, as the staff was so nice and helpful – and look at the view from that lobby! The lobby/hallway is all open-air and the rooms are beautiful, complete with fireplaces. I’m going on and on, I know, but seriously y’all – yes.

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Our main outing on Catalina was to take their island zipline, a course of long lines that goes through the high hills of the island and provides unreal views of the ocean and scenery. We’re both a little scared of heights, but it was absolutely worth it! Such a cool experience.

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Overall, we beached it, walked around and enjoyed time together – a perfect, lovely few days in paradise.

//friday – monday//

While this doesn’t technically fall under the title, we did visit another state on our vacation – Texas! One of our good friends from college moved out to Ft. Worth after graduation, so it was only fitting that we stopped and saw his life, too, on the way back home.

In true Texas fashion, we did everything big: a Billy Currington concert at an absurdly large megabar called Billy Bob’s (yes, it’s a thing.), a sleepy breakfast at the Ol’ South Pancake House and, of course, a big W by our Dawgs on Saturday.

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So there it is – you did it! If you’ve made it this far, congratulations – you can now relay Kristen’s vacation to anyone who asks. Like I said, we’ll be getting back to useful things soon, but wanted to document our amazing time. Traveling is such a wonderful, fulfilling thing, isn’t it? I’d rather spend all my money on a plane ticket than anything I can touch and hold. The memories from exploring new parts of the world are truly things that, to me, are priceless.

california pt. 1

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks, guys! 10 days of amazing travel, amazing sights and amazing friends is over and I’m writing from back in the ATL (sigh, real life). I’m finally in the swing of things again and luckily for us, back to life means back to blogging!

I had never been to California before and everything was new to me. Hopped off the plane at LAX (yep) to be picked up by my three vacationers and off to a perfect few days of sunny weather and beautiful beaches that cemented my love for L.A. through and through.

//friday//

Emily, Drew and Andrew picked me up at the airport and we headed down to Venice to see a little bit of how the other half of this blog lives. It was hard to see everything at night, but walking around Venice was just how I pictured – beach houses, beach people and new, quirky things on every corner. The four of us dined at Superba Snack Bar, a trendy place with a nice covered patio for us to sit and enjoy our first night in California. The food was super tasty – a good introduction to Venice.

//saturday//

Saturday started, first and foremost, with sleeping in. The first best thing about California was that sleeping in to noon for me was only to 9 there – early enough to get an entire day in! We ate breakfast at Flake in Venice (right next to Superba) and apparently “saw someone famous” but Drew couldn’t get a good enough look at him. I had my first acai bowl, which sounds super healthy (and is) but is basically like berry ice cream for breakfast, so – if anyone knows where I can get one in Atlanta, let me know!

It’s no surprise that the first thing I wanted to see other than my friends and food was the beach, so Drew and Emily took us down the Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu. We had really wanted to try to see as much of the city as we could while we were there, so it was awesome to get to explore a new part. Drew’s brother had told them about a great beach a little trek aways, so we parked on a random side street (in front of a house for sale with a price tag beyond my wildest dreams) and headed down a short walk over some rocks to Point Dume beach. It was amazing – we were almost the only people there besides some other beachgoers and a few surfers, left to soak in the best views Malibu has to offer.

Dume Beach, Malibu CADume Beach

After getting back to Venice, we were all starving and knew we wouldn’t make it to dinner without some eats, so we stopped at E & D’s favorite taco track, La Isla Bonita. Y’all…seriously, so good. It doesn’t get much better than sitting on a curb eating tacos with my best friends.

That night, we headed to West Hollywood (told you guys, we were gonna see it all) for dinner and drinks. The most fancied-up we got all trip, the four of us enjoyed really really enjoyed a nice dinner at BOA Steakhouse. Everything was awesome – including Emily and I discovering there is a such thing as feta mousse, and it’s amazing. For lack of room, we’ll leave it at that, but if you’re ever looking for a nice dinner in a cool part of West Hollywood, I think we would all highly suggest it. Post-dinner-extravaganza, we made our way down the road to Skybar at the Mondrian. An outdoor club with amazing views of the city, it was perfect – Andrew made fun of me, but it was totally straight out of Gossip Girl, pool and all. We stayed for a bit, enjoyed the scene and the view and headed back to Venice for a long night’s sleep.

Skybar - Photo from the Mondrian

Skybar – Photo from the Mondrian

 

//sunday//

Sunday had been in the works for a while — I think this is the first thing Emily & I had planned on doing from the moment I knew we were coming to California. The perfect day: brunch, bikes, bar crawl.

We started our day waking up late and having brunch at Sunny Spot in Venice. I’ve heard about this place loads of time from Emily because of their drinks — bottomless mimosas, bloody marys and punch, rotating between the three. There’s no better way to start a #SundayFunday than with a boozy brunch, amirite?

 After brunch, we went over to the boardwalk and rented bikes, the first step on our bike bar crawl of the day. We rode through Venice and up to the canals – obviously I knew of the area’s namesake, but had no idea there were actual canals in the city! There are a few rows of them in the middle of town with houses lining the canal – it was really bizarre and cool to see in the middle of an otherwise urban area.

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We rode through the canals, up and down Venice and Santa Monica, stopped at a few places for beers along the way, explored the pier and ended up at The Bungalow, a sort-of club in Santa Monica that Drew described as “your rich friend’s beach house.” It was totally different from anything I’ve ever seen in Atlanta or anywhere else and was a nice place to check out to get a real California vibe. We ate dinner, watched the sunset and hurried home on our bikes before it was too late to check them back in. 🙂

So there we have it, the first weekend in LA, exactly as I pictured: full of beaches, friends, good food and beautiful weather. It’s making me upset to write about how much I already miss it! Monday and Tuesday were whole new experiences in LA, but more to come soon…

october mood board // welcoming fall

As much of a cliche it is, I just LOVE fall. And no it’s not all the Pumpkin Spice Lattes on every corner (fyi, how I feel about the coveted #PSL). This is my first fall on the west coast, and while the temperatures are slower to drop here and the palms trees are evergreen, there is still a crispness in the air that reminds me of the changing season. Bring on the seasonal eats (um, butternut squash everyday), sweaters and apple cider!

Here’s my mood board with some of the things I’m loving/dreaming of this month.

 

[1/Not Without Salt] [2/Cereal Magazine] [3/My Name is Yeh] [4/Style Me Pretty]

[5/My Ideal Home] [6/Pinterest] [7/The Fresh Exchange] [8/Pinterest]

 

That apple cider rum punch looks like the quintessential fall libation, am I right?  I’m thinking about taking a special trip to Big Sur in late November, but may be putting it on hold; I have been dreaming of driving that PCH route forever and am looking forward to it someday. Speaking of rum punch, that bar cart is perfectly styled for hosting a fall get together – I can’t wait to have a backyard to host outdoor dinner parties. A book and coffee in bed is exactly what I need to relax and fall style is all about staying comfortable – I’ll be rocking some combo of a big sweater, skinnies and booties all season long.

What are some things you’re loving this month?

Austin to LA

Between road-tripping across the country, moving to a new city and starting a new job I have been a little (ok, a lot) MIA on the H&R-sphere.

It’s officially starting to hit me that L.A. is now my city and I couldn’t be happier about this new chapter. But before I start down all-things LA on here, I wanted to share a few highlights from the rest of my road trip.

AUSTIN, TX

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I was so excited to get to Austin not only because it’s such a great city, but because two of my best friends lived there. Alexis is an ATX-native and was in the same sorority as me and K at UGA. Laura was another UGA-bestie and she moved to Austin in January this year.

Saturday morning Alexis and I started the day off with a little kick-boxing action at Fight Club – a gym that she opened in Austin. We did it all through college, and when graduation came and Alexis moved back to Austin she brought her passion with her and we are so proud of her. Check it out if you’re ever there and are in need of a serious work out!

After our late breakfast we headed over to Town Lake and went paddle boarding, and it was awesome. I had wanted to try paddle boarding for a long time now, but it’s usually done in the ocean or a bay and I’m terrified of the ocean (aka sharks). I thought the hard part of paddle boarding would be trying to balance on the board, but I got the hang of it pretty quickly. Turns out the hard part isn’t balancing, but the paddling that turns it into a real workout. There was something so serene about being in the middle of a busy city while also being outside and enjoying nature.

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Paddle-boarding on Town Lake!

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The next adventure of the day: Lick. Guys – the ice cream here is amazing. Between Lex and I, I’m pretty sure we tried nine different flavors before we each narrowed it down. I had the dark chocolate olive oil & sea salt and the tangy toasted coconut, while Lex had peach thyme & goat cheese and land of milk & honey. Definitely an instant Austin-fave.

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I was too busy enjoying my ice cream to actually get a picture of it.

That evening I met up with Laura and we ventured over to Rainey Street – more of a hip, ‘trendy’ neighborhood. We ate dinner at Banger’s which was an outdoor biergarten and gourmet hot dog restaurant. I’m not a huge hot dog or sausage person and Laura is a vegetarian, but both of our meals were excellent. We started with Wisconsin cheese curds, which I had never had but Laura raved about them, and they did not disappoint. 

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Can you tell I like food yet?

The ambiance of this place was so fun and laid back. I could spend hours out there under the string lights with a Austin-brewed beer and listening to music. We had an eventful night out at the bars on the famous sixth street and we said our (sad) goodbyes because early the next day, my parents and I hit the road once again headed to Arizona. 

The rest of the roadtrip consisted of a lot of this:

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Walt and Jesse – are you out there?

Miles and miles… and miles later this was a happy site:

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When we crossed the California state line it started to hit me that we were headed to my new home, in my new state. We eventually exited the 10, pulled into the apartment and Drew and I were finally reunited in our new home 🙂 We rapidly unloaded the car and fled to the nearest sports bar to watch team USA. 

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#ibelieve

Next post: my L.A. bucket list for the remainder of the summer. But let’s be honest – does summer in LA ever actually end? Stay tuned!

xo,

E