vacations

Fall Trip, Booked: Buenos Aires

buenos aires

I am so excited to have a fall trip to look forward to: At the end of October, I’ll be going to Buenos Aires!

Like last year’s Guatemala adventure, this is another solo jaunt. But unlike last year, I only have one week off from work. I’ll be squeezing in as much as I can, without exhausting myself!

I can already tell that’s going to be tough. Thanks to fellow bloggers, my wish list of Buenos Aires activities keeps growing. So far, I’m hoping to:

  • wander around various neighborhoods and parks:В This itinerary has some appealing suggestions!
  • take a cooking class: Maybe thisВ empanada-making one?
  • eat at a puerta cerrada, a “closed-door” supper club
  • go tango dancing! (Of course!)
  • take a ballet class:В This is something I’d like to do in every city I visit, though it’s not always feasible—ballet studios with daily, open classes for adults don’t exist everywhere in the world. (I couldn’t find one in either city I visited in Guatemala, nor in La Paz, Bolivia.) But it looks like I won’t have too much trouble finding a studio in BA.
  • take a day-trip to Colonia, Uruguay. Just so I can say I’ve been to Uruguay, as well. It’s only an hour away by hydrofoil. (Montevideo isn’t all that far, either, but I know I won’t have time to go there.)
  • see the Iguazu Falls.В I need some nature while I’m on vacation! I can’t just go from one major city to another without a little green respite.

In the meantime, I’ll be brushing up on my Spanish and taking a few beginner tango classes, here in NYC.

If you have any recommendations about what I should see or do in Buenos Aires, please let me know—I’d love your suggestions! Especially if you know a good place for tango. 😉

(Photo by Taylor Moore via 500px.com’s Pinterest)

Off to Eleuthera!

glass window bridge

I’m not gonna lie—I’ve been counting down for a couple weeks!

This whole year, thus far, has been pretty insane. As you might have guessed from my earlier entries, I’ve desperately been trying to survive the Long Slog. To do so, my masterВ plan mostly consisted of performing in the spring dance showcase and running the half marathon relay. Those two events (and the weeks rehearsing/training for them!) were fun and exciting. But when I signed up for them, I’d conveniently forgotten that I was still getting adjusted to my new gig (which I’m loving, by the way)—and working on a huge project that launched right after the ballet show and before the race.

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to a few days of relaxing and recharging—especially with summer plans on deck and more work projects revving up. A few days of lounging in the sun, in a gorgeous place, is what I need, right now. (Seriously, how stunning is the photo above? That’s Eleuthera’s Glass Window Bridge, with the deep, blue Atlantic to the right and the soothing Caribbean to the left. Can’t wait to get there!)

(Photo via Pinterest)

A Resolution to Travel?

Loews Royal Pacific Resort

This weekend, I was in Orlando for a super-fun (and successful!) work event that my group put on. While chatting with one of my colleagues there, I learned of a very cool, year-long resolution she made: Last August, she decided that she would travel at least one time each month, for an entire year.

I thought that was a brilliant idea—and actually wondered why I hadn’t thought of it, myself! She told me she came up with it, last summer, when she realized she’d gone out of town every month for the past few. She decided that she’d keep the streak going for a full year. In the last several months, she’d been everywhere from NYC and Boston to Europe. (She’s based in Orlando.) As she spoke about the places she’d visited, it was clear how much she’s enjoying keeping this resolution!

I try to get out of town every few weeks—I get antsy, if I don’t! But I’d never thought about making that a goal that I’d have to stick to. I love the idea. In my book, any excuse to get away is a good one. And it would mean I’d always have something great to look forward to, every few weeks!

What do you think? Would you ever make a travel resolution?

(Photo: The Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Orlando—I managed to snag an hour in the sun, the day after the event, before heading back to chilly NYC!)

Which Cat Island Would You Prefer?

Even though it’s kind of last-minute, Mal, Peter and I are planning a quick getaway for mid-May. Since we’re only going for 4-5 days, we’re thinking of somewhere pretty close—like the Caribbean. While researching destinations, I stumbled upon Cat Island, one of the Bahamas’ Out Islands. Besides its appealing name, it’s also home to gorgeous, white sand beaches. Like this:

cat island beach

But this discovery also led me to another Cat Island—which is appealing in a very different way!

Tashirojima is a tinyВ Japanese island that’s better known as Cat Island. It reputedly only has about 100 human residents—but hundreds of feline dwellers. Apparently, in the 1800s, the fishermen who lived on the island believed the cats would bring them good luck and fortune, and cared for them accordingly. Hence their population!

Today, the island has a number of cat-shaped buildings…

cat building

cat building

…in addition to their many real cats!

cat island 1
cat island 3
cat island 4
cat island 5
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cat island 7

For me, a trip to that Cat Island would be an allergy attack waiting to happen…but I’d still want to go, if only for a few hours!

Which Cat Island would you prefer?

(Top photo via My Out Islands, middle photos via Tofugu; bottom photos by Fubirai via Buzzfeed)

A Long Weekend in South Beach

south beach

Three days in South Beach was exactly what I needed before starting my new job. (Don’t get me wrong—I’m thrilled about it, but definitely needed some R&R, especially after the holidays!) I’d been to Miami once before, about a year and a half ago, for Mal’s bachelorette party. While that wasn’t exactly a wild and crazy time, this trip was even more chill—I’m sure I was in bed before the rest of South Beach was going out for the night!

Some highlights/favorites:

EATS

Yardbird

yardbird

butter lettuce and mango salad

On our first day, we ate lunch atВ Yardbird, a hopping, Southern food restaurant with hip decor, run by formerВ Top ChefВ contestant Jeff McInnis. I wanted to eat everything on theВ menuВ (which included deviled eggs, pulled pork and shrimp n’grits) but opted for the butter lettuce and mango salad topped with local swordfish. I also had a few bites of the signature fried chicken and biscuit—and can vouch for both being amazing.

Ola

ola

My mom’s birthday was on Thursday (happy bday, Meme <3!), so to celebrate, we went toВ Ola, a Latin American restaurant that happened to be inВ my hotel. (More about that below.) It was the perfect place for a special dinner—the food and service were superb. The corn empanadas were probably the best I’ve ever had, and the hamachi ceviche was delicious. And the deconstructed key lime pie? Just the right balance of sweet and tart.

Joe’s Stone Crab

jumbo stone crab claws

I left a day earlier than my parents, so they wanted to send me off with a good meal—and I couldn’t have been happier with their restaurant selection. We went to lunch atВ Joe’s Stone Crab, a perpetually crowded, wonderfully old school institution where waiters still wear jackets and bow ties. Stone crabs are in season from October through mid-May and we were in luck: A batch of jumbo crabs had come in that morning. I’m used to eating littleВ Maryland blue crabs, so I was shocked at how large and meaty these guys were. (I’m still dreaming of those claws!)

Other South Beach Eats I’d recommend (from this and the last trip):
Puerto Sagua:В Classic (and cheap!) Cuban food in a casual, diner-likeВ atmosphere. (Perfect for the morning after a night out!)
Dilido Beach Club:В Delicious cocktails and eats—plus impeccable service—at the Ritz-Carlton’s oceanfront bar; great for lunch when you don’t want to stray far from the beach.
BLT Steak:В True to its name, meat is the main event, but the gigantic Gruyere popovers, alone, are worth the trip.
Spris:В Al fresco Lincoln Road spot that serves thin-crust pizzas.
Sushi Samba:В I’ve never been to the NYC restaurant, but I really enjoyed my late-night rolls and cocktails at this outpost, also on Lincoln Road—plus, the people-watching was fantastic, at that hour!

SIGHTSВ 

The Beach

south beach

Obviously. When I’ve left behind freezing, cold NYC for a few precious days in the sun, there are not many things I’d rather do than lie onВ the beach.В And luckily, South Beach, itself, is really nice. The sand is soft and well-kept.В On sunny days, the water is calm and brilliant blue—I find it hard to believe it’s the same Atlantic we have up north! I spent most of every day chillaxin’ in a lounge chair, soaking in the warm weather and listening to the sound of the surf.

Lincoln Road

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It’s hard to go to South Beach and not end up onВ Lincoln Road, at some point. I love the idea of a pedestrian mall and wish more cities would adapt it; it’s a luxury to walk past shops, outdoor dining, public art and palm trees without the noise and chaos of cars. Lincoln Road isВ quintessentiallyВ Miami and nice anytime of day: in the morning, when you want to take a quiet stroll; in the late afternoon, when you want to shop after a day at the beach; or at night, when the restaurants and lounges fill up!

ACCOMMODATIONS

sanctuary south beach
South Beach has a ton of amazing hotels but, in my experience, it’s not easy to find deals. I booked this trip at the very last minute (just two days before) and it took me about four hours to find a good hotel in my price range, which was around $200/night. (Since I wasn’t splitting the cost with anyone.) I ended up at the Sanctuary, a small, quiet all-suite hotel one block removed from the fancy beachfront properties. The service was friendly—though not particularly polished—and the place had a bit of a motel-vibe, since all the rooms face into a courtyard. Still, I had beach and pool access via its sister hotel, the Shelborne, and my suite was very clean and spacious.

betsy hotel

My parents, on the other hand, stayed at the Betsy, a swank boutique hotel with a retro vibe and gorgeous rooftop. Rooms are small, but have lots of sweet extras, like Frette linens and Malin + Goetz products. (I had a little hotel envy over that!)

loews miami

For Mal’s bachelorette, we stayed at the Loews, which I’d highly recommend. It’s pricey, yet more affordable than many of its beachfront neighbors—and the service was on par or with what you’d get at a W or Ritz.

Have you been to South Beach recently? What are your favorite restaurants and hotels? (I’d love to know for my next trip!)

(Sanctuary photo via SanctuarySoBe.com, Loews photo via their Facebook page; the Betsy photo via TheBetsyHotel.com)

Which Passport Stamp Are You Most Proud Of?

 

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Speaking of Budget Travel, the site just published another slideshow that got me thinking. The editors asked readers which passport stamp they were most proud of and compiled their answers into a slideshow. Looking through the responses was fascinating–and it gave me travel envy! People had been to Burma, Tunisia, Cuba, Nepal…even Pyongyang!

While reading the slideshow, I debated which of my passport stamps I was most proud of. My China visa has a special place in my heart. Both of my parents were born in NYC, but all my grandparents are from China. I’d always dreamed of going there, and was thrilled when I finally had the chance to visit Beijing and Shenzhen, three years ago. (Plus, I had a hard time getting that visa. I foolishly listed my occupation as a writer and I had to convince–beg–the visa office that I wouldn’t write anything bad about the country before they granted me one.)

I also love my Bolivia stamp for a few reasons. Before spending two weeks there in 2010, I really worked to learn basic Spanish phrases. English isn’t widely spoken there and I was sick of feeling like a dumb American in Latin America. (Previously, I’d bumbled my way through Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Colombia, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.) But by the time I got to Bolivia, I felt comfortable ordering in restaurants, bargaining in markets and taking micros (passenger vans) by myself. Also: the Salar de Uuyni and Bolivia’s southwestern deserts are among the most gorgeous, surreal places I’ve ever seen.

But I finally decided that I’m most proud of my Australia visa from 2003. I went to the Land Down Under as a 20-year-old college senior. It was my first time out of the country and, to this day, I’m amazed I had the balls to do that. I went from dorming with my best friends and never being farther than a few hours from my family to living halfway around the world where I knew no one. While in Australia, I experienced things completely foreign to me–like camping in the Outback, seeing stars, hiking canyons, sailing and snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef. (Reminder: I grew up in Queens.) That trip also instilled a deep wanderlust in me–which I clearly haven’t shaken!

What’s your favorite passport stamp?

(Image via Pinterest)

Strange and Beautiful Beaches

It’s grey and rainy in NYC today. And after a great weekend of running and basking in fabulous weather (more about that later this week!), I’m dreaming of sunny days at the beach.

So it’s quite appropriate (and a bit of a tease!) that a slideshow I wrote for TravelandLeisure.com came out today. It’s a round-up of the world’s strangest and most beautiful beaches. I had a great time writing the piece and a hard time choosing which beaches to include–I’m always amazed at how many natural wonders exist. Check out some of the gorgeous photos below and read the full story here.

Pink Sands Beach, Harbour Island, Bahamas

Thunder Cove, Prince Edward Island

Zlatni Rat Beach, Brac Island, Croatia

Punalu’u Beach, Hawaii

What’s the strangest and most beautiful beach you’ve ever visited? I’d have to say mine is Punalu’u Beach (photo above) on Hawaii’s Big Island. The sand really is jet black and I saw several giant sea turtles!

(All photos via TravelandLeisure.com)