lifetoast

Category: wanderlust

a weekend getaway from nyc: fire island

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With Labor Day weekend fast approaching, here’s a getaway to consider: Fire Island.

I spent a week there earlier this summer, staying in Fair Harbor. Fair Harbor is a sleepy town lined with boardwalks paths and dirt roads. This is my second time out and it’s great because there are no cars on the island so everyone bikes around or walks, toting little ones in red wagons.
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We spent our days lying out on the beach, kayaking in the bay and collecting these ebony black seashells drifting in on the tide. If we had forgotten an item for dinner, we’d walk to the local grocery store. There isn’t much else of note in the little town except for a seafood restaurant, corner store and ice cream shop.

Deer, unlike stores, are plentiful. They happen on you oh so casually. Rustling in the dense grassy patches. Ambling across the lawn with knobby kneed fawn in tow.

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In the evenings, we’d head to the dock and watch the sunset.

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It’s a perfect getaway from New York!

If you ever happen to visit, here are a few things to note:

  • Bring your own food and liquor. There aren’t many dining options and, although there is a grocery store, it’s not the largest. Also, prices can be significantly steeper.
  • Bring games and books. There is internet on the island but it’s weak: good for surfing the web but too slow for Netflix.
  • Don’t forget to check out the other towns! Ocean Beach, for example, is a walkable distance away. It is larger and has more bars and restaurants. However, the village is much stricter. There are rules like “you can’t be without shoes anywhere outside” and “you can’t ride your bike on weekends and holidays or in any commercial areas.”

How to get there from NYC: Take a LIRR train from Penn Station to Bay Shore. Walk/take a taxi to the ferry.

ALL THINGS PHILLY

Happy hour picks

Four years of dental school means four years wandering the grid of Center City. I have a little more time before I move to explore but here are the places I’ve come to love in this city:

THINGS TO DO

  • See the Liberty Bell.
  • Go to a beer garden. (PICKS BELOW)
  • Walk the Mural Mile.*
  • See Boat House Row.
  • Ride a bike along Kelly Drive.
  • Run up the Art Museum/Rocky steps.
  • Get local produce deals at the Italian Market.
  • Bring your puppy to the Schuylkill River Dog Run.
  • Ooh over medical oddities at the Mutter Museum.*
  • Bring out your inner kid at the Please Touch Museum.*
  • Look up at tigers walking above you at the Philadelphia Zoo.
  • Check out the Rittenhouse Square farmers’ market on a Saturday.
  • Visit Reading Terminal Wednesday-Saturday when the Amish are there. (PICKS BELOW)
  • Visit the Eastern State Penitentiary for a look into Al Capone’s first prison sentence.*

BEER GARDEN PICKS

  • Drury Beer Garden at Opa (Center City)
  • Frankford Hall (Fishtown)
  • Independence Beer Garden (Old City)
  • Spruce Street Harbor Park (Old City)

READING TERMINAL PICKS

  • Beiler’s Bakery- My favorites are the blueberry fritter + maple bacon.
  • DiNic’s- Everyone goes for the roast pork with broccoli rabe + provolone but I’m all about the sausage.
  • Downtown Cheese- The cheese can be a bit pricy but the cheesemonger! He is so sweet and passionate about the cheese! Because of him alone, I would choose here over Salumeria, a cheesemonger down the aisle.
  • Famous 4th Street Cookie Co.- NOTE: Towards the end of the day, all cookies are $1! Huge. Love the black and whites.
  • Iovine Brothers’ Produce- Discounts for students Wednesdays and Sundays. Best for a variety.
  • Kamal’s Middle Eastern Specialties- I come here for my dolmas fix. Also for smoothies.
  • Miller’s Twist- Best. pretzels. ever.
  • O.K. Produce- They sell bags of random produce for $1. AND have senior/student discounts everyday! Just make sure to pick out your produce carefully if you get the $1 ones!
  • The Head Nut- For all those spices you need

HAPPY HOUR PICKS

  • Nomad- M-F 4:30-6:30 PM; F + Sat 10PM-12AM
    • Order the Trenton pie
  • Sampan- Everyday 4-7PM
    • Order the kim chi fried rice, crispy brussel sprout, pork bahn mi, kobe slider, spicy chicken wing (in that order)

FOOD PICKS

  • Capogiro Gelato- for unique gelato flavors; the citrus ones are my favorite
  • DiBruno Brothers- my FAVORITE place to go for cheese; ALSO my favorite cheesemonger is Samantha
  • Dim Sum Garden- for soup dumplings
  • Dizengoff- for hummus
  • Famous 4th Street Deli- This is my go-to. Huge deli sandwiches, best free rye studded bread + vinegar slaw, and free mini chocolate chip cookies at the end of your meal! They cinched my love with all the free things but they are also really freaking good.
  • Kim’s Restaurant- for authentic Korean BBQ
  • Knead Bagels- They’ve got your traditional and non-traditional bagels.
    • My go-to is an everything bagel with sausage, egg and cheese.
    • My second favorite bagel is the togarashi bagel.
  • Nam Phoung- for Vietnamese food
  • Paseano’s- for Philly style sandwiches
  • Sabrina’s- for a classic brunch; tip: call to be placed on the waiting list and arrive in half the time (aka waiting time of 1 hour? call ahead, place your name and come 30 minutes beforehand)
  • Tavern on Camac- for a chill night
    • Order the grilled cheese sandwich or the burger
  • Tria- for apps and beer
    • Order the truffled egg toast

DELIVERY PICKS

  • I-TEA – Order the korean fried chicken
  • Ratchada- Order the pad thai

IF YOU HAVE A CAR, CHECK OUT

  • Falling Water– if you like architecture*
  • Linvilla Orchards- for fruit picking
  • Longwood Gardens- if you like plants
  • Morris Arboreteum- if you like plants
  • Sesame Place- if you have kids*
  • Wave Hill (New York)- free on Tuesdays, Saturdays (9AM-12PM)- if you like plants
  • Wissahickon Valley Park- if you like nature

COFFEEHOUSES TO STUDY IN
These reviews are focused on a place for a student to study at. The ideal location includes: moderate noise levels, available-and comfortable- seating, availability of outlets, wifi quality and, for a hardcore study session, food and drink options. I also notate pet friendly places that have been okay with me bringing Chibi in with me because I feel like a guilty dog mom when I abandon her at home for long periods of time! 

  • Bodhi Coffee- Spacious, spotty wifi, back garden with seating
  • Cake & The Beanstalk- a kooky cute cafe cozied next to a garden; small outdoor seating area; pet friendly
  • Chapterhouse- Spacious, good wifi, provide food + drinks; pet friendly
  • Elixr- communal + individual seating; free wifi
  • Greenstreet- Best dirty chai (housemade!), friendly baristas, free wifi, limited seating, great for sitting outside to people watch
  • Good Karma- Spacious, good wifi, provide food + drinks; back garden with seating; pet friendly
  • La Colombe (Penn Square)- low tables, few outlets; come early for your pick of croissants
  • Plenty- provides food + drink, free wifi; limited seating
    • Order the pancetta hash
  • Rival Bros- limited seating
  • Saxby’s (Center City)- plenty of outlets, low tables
  • Square One- good for studying; lattes are best; not a fan of the iced coffees

FOR EXERCISE

  • Maha Yoga- My favorite instructor is Jen; Tip: Try out a Community Hour class. It’s pay as much as you can. The suggested amount is $5. Classes are smaller and you feel more personalized attention.

If you have any places you recommend I try before I move, please let me know! I’ll continue to add to this list as I find more places I love.

*Indicates places on my own personal to do list that have come highly recommended!

Pictured above is a Scorpion Bowl from Graffiti Bar. 

road to prince edwards island travel guide

BOSTON TO PRINCE EDWARDS ISLANDROAD TRIP TRAVEL GUIDE 2

Raised on the words of Anne of Green Gables, I was absolutely THRILLED when my sister and I finally planned a trip to Prince Edwards Island. We would finally see those verdant hills with our own eyes. Perhaps I would even get the chance to dismally sigh whilst in the depths of despair, weeping into the Lake of Shining Water, only to be comforted by my own sweet Gilbert Blythe… But I’m getting ahead of myself. There was a long road ahead and we began our journey with a late night drive from Boston, Massachusetts to Bar Harbor, Maine.

BAR HARBOR, MAINE

  • Bar Harbor Hotel// for lodging (3 out of 5)
    • Clean but sparse;
    • Provides an excellent free breakfast including yogurt and hard-boiled eggs!
  • Acadia National Park// for gorgeous views
    Key spots to hit: Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Otter Point, Jordan Pond, Cadillac Mountain

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  • Lazy Lobster// for seafood (3 out of 5)
    We had: lobster roll, boiled lobster, grilled chicken pesto flatbread, tarragon chicken salad
  • Adelmann’s Bar & Grill// for custard

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20150912 PEI 68 of 467After lunch, we drove to St. John’s for the night.

ST. JOHN’S, NEW BRUNSWICK

  • Chateau St. John’s// for lodging (hotel) (3 out of 5)
  • Billy’s Seafood Company// for seafood (2.5 out of 5)
    • We weren’t particularly hungry and dined tapas style
  • To get from New Brunswick to Nova Scotia, we took the Fundy Rose ferry and LOVED IT. It was clean and spacious, offering a kid’s play area, and two movie areas (one for kids!) as well as a computer room and food options. It also gave our primary driver to take a well-deserved nap.

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NOVA SCOTIA// Digsby – Lunenburg – Halifax – Noel

LUNENBURG, NS

What a charming port town! Things do close relatively early so plan accordingly.

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  • Smugglers’ Cove Inn// for lodging (2.5 out of 5)
    • The inn was on the bare necessities side and a wee bit snug.
  • Savvy Sailor// for food (3.5 out of 5)
    • We had: seafood appetizer, haddock chowder, scallop club po-boy, smoked salmon panini.
    • We liked everything and the waitress was so sweet!

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  • Salt Shaker Deli// for dinner (2.5 out of 5)

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  • Sweet Indulgences// for baked goods (3 out of 5)

HALIFAX, NS

  • Peggy’s Cove// for sightseeing
    Beware of the “black water” which is where the water hits the rocks. It’s very dangerous and many a person has been lost to sea this way!

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  • Maritime Museum of the Atlantic// for Titanic history

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  • Shangri-La// for lodging (5 out of 5!)
    We LOVED Noel. Our place was large and spacious. I would recommend picking up food prior to arriving so you can make dinner at home since there isn’t much nearby.

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PRINCE EDWARDS ISLAND// New London – Park Corner – Cavendish – Charlottetown – Red Point – Point Prim 

Finally we arrive in PEI!! So begins our L.M. Montgomery/Anne of Green Gables tour.

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EAT AT:

  • Sou’West Bar & Grill// for seafood (4 out of 5)
    • Best oysters on the trip
    • Disappointed in the oyster o’boy BUT this is coming from native Louisianians.
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CAVENDISH, PEI// for Anne of Green Gables Museum
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CHARLOTTETOWN, PEI

  • Fairholm Historic Inn in Charlottetown// for lodging- a B+B! (5 out of 5)
    • Modern updated rooms
    • Kitchen available
    • GREAT free breakfast, including bagel + lox option!

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  • Terre Rouge (4.5 out of 5)
    • A local favorite, the restaurant had great staff and good food.

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Places to go:
  • Anne of Green Gables Store
  • Cows Creamery// for amazing cow puns + ice cream

Consider:

  • Eating at Water Prince// for lobster
  • Going to see the Anne + Gilbert the Musical (It was SOLD OUT on the day we could go; Amy and I had to make do with getting the soundtrack.)

RED POINT, PEI

  • Basin Head// for walking on a beach

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POINT PRIM, PEI

  • Point Prim Lighthouse

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  • Point Prim Chowder House (4.5 out of 5)
    • I’m rating this the same as Terre Rouge BUT we really liked this spot. The rugged Canadian who took our orders was also a bonus.
    • We ordered: tomato seafood chowder, steamer pot, deluxe lobster roll, oysters and a bread pudding
    • We HIGHLY recommend the steamer pot. Then I would recommend the chowder.

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NEW BRUNSWICK// Hopewell Cape – Barn Marsh Island – Alma

HOPEWELL CAPE, NEW BRUNSWICK

  • Hopewell Rocks// for rock formations sculpted by the tides

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BARN MARSH ISLAND, NEW BRUNSWICK

  • Cape House Restaurant
    • We ordered: twisted caesar, raging chowder, lobster poutine, lobster tacos, sausage and peppers and seafood fettucini
    • We recommend: sausage and peppers. The hand rolled pasta was delicious and the sauce was worthy of being licked off the plate!

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  • Cape Enrage Lighthouse

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ALMA, NEW BRUNSWICK

  • Captain’s Inn// for lodging (4.5 out of 5)
    • Very cute and cozy
    • Breakfast was made to order and lovely!

BAR HARBOR, MAINE
On our journey back, we stopped again in Bar Harbor. I didn’t mind at all because we got to enjoy more beyond the striking woodlands of Acadia National Park. This time around we got to enjoy the town. We began by browsing through the town’s boutiques. When we got hungry, we grabbed a bite of luxurious lobster mac and cheese at Side Street Cafe. We laid on the grassy knoll overlooking the harbor and lazily watching boats dock. On the way home, we stopped by Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium for a blueberry ice cream cone. Perfection.

  • Grand Hotel// for lodging
    • Great location
    • Free breakfast

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PORTLAND, MAINE

  • Press Hotel// for lodging (5 out of 5)
  • Standard Baking// for brioche
  • Arabica// for coffee
    • NOT recommended- I hate saying that but the coffee was okay and the server placed a bagel that someone returned back with the other bagels. EEK.

Consider eating at: Union Bagel. It was closed when we were there!

iceland travel guide

TRAVEL

In a week, it’ll be MARCH. For those of us lucky enough to have a spring break, it’s way past due for you to start planning your vacation! For most spring breakers, they head south to the balmy weather of tropical islands. My family opts instead to head from overcast London to the wind-biting wild land Beyond the Wall. Yes, Iceland.

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When we last left off, my family was stranded in the Heathrow Airport due to delays in Iceland. We arrived in Iceland bleary-eyed. Still, there was a drive to Hotel Ranga, located in Hella. We had chosen Hotel Ranga in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights. We were on the tail end of the season but Hotel Ranga would have given us the best shot to see them. Bonus: the hotel has staff keep watch for the lights and buzz anyone who is interested.

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AND they have an awesome breakfast buffet.

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Drank a shot of cod liver oil every morning! It was so smooth!

Day 1.

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Thingvellir National Park// for Almannagja, a canyon formed between two tectonic plates!

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Geysir// for the first geyser described in a printed source

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Gullfoss//for a gorgeous waterfall

Dinner at Hotel Ranga//
We had dinner at Hotel Ranga both nights. Honestly, there isn’t much food in the area. The overall food was okay.
Must try: smoked puffin, reindeer carpaccio

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Things to do: Take pictures with Icelandic horses by the road!

Other places to consider visiting:

Day 2.

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Black Sand Beach// in Vik

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Jokulsarlon aka Glacier Lagoon// for a large glacial lake

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Skaftafell National Park// for a gorgeous waterfall (+ hiking)

Day 3.

We head back to Reykjavik! On the way we stop by Alafloss to check out wool sweaters. We were all dying for an adorable Nordic sweater but reality check: wool is SO itchy. Yikes.

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Pylsur// for a hot dog with everything (onions + ketchup + mustard + mayo + gravy)

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Rex Hostel// One of the best places we ate and drank! We whetted our appetite with bread and then polished off our orders: burger, lamb, and smorrebrod. Everything was delicious. I loved our apartment in Reykjavik but this hostel seemed like it would have been a nice choice!

We checked out The Sun Voyager before heading to Kringan (for shopping) and Hagkaup (for groceries).

Other activities to consider:

  • Visit Laugardalur Pool for swimming (kid-friendly!).
  • Check out geothermal baking.

Day 4.

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Reykjavik Roasters// for coffee

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Hallgrimskirkja// go up the tower for a great view of Reykjavik

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Einar Jonsson Museum// for a sculptural museum which was fascinating and my favorite in Iceland

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Sundhollin// for a local swimming pool

3 Frakkar// for dinner

Day 5.

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Kaloportid Flea Market// The flea market wasn’t quite what I was expecting.. I wouldn’t particularly put it on your things to do list.

National Museum of Iceland// for history about Iceland

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Sjavargrillid// for dinner

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Icelandic Horse Tour// for a 2.5 hour horse riding; These horses are adorable and the guides were very sweet and animated. It was also great because a shuttle came and picked us up from our AirBnB so we got a chance to nap!

Day 6.

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Blue Lagoon// NOTE: buy your tickets ahead of time!!! This was our last stop before leaving for home BUT we didn’t buy our tickets ahead of time and the place was BOOKED. Learn from our mistakes.

I hope you enjoyed the guide! Visiting Iceland was such an unique experience. I wished we got the chance to do ice walking but it was a bit risky with a squirmy toddler. My biggest advice is to pack well. You will need multiple layers. I usually wore a tank, long sleeve, sweater and then a jacket over it. For bottoms, I would do fur-lined leggings and jeans over it. I would highly recommend a waterproof jacket.  I would love the opportunity to visit again in warmer weather. It is a gorgeous place.

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massachusetts travel guide

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Boston, famous for its rich history, distinctive accent and seafood, is also the current home of my nearest and dearest. As the ever-doting aunt, I visit about every few months SO below are a few of my favorite things to do/eat in Massachusetts.

Background: My family lives in Brookline so we mainly stay there. However, we do like to explore on the weekends!

Things To Do

  • Walk the Freedom Trail
  • Walk along the Charles River
  • Check out the Waterfront
  • Visit Harvard Yard
  • Go to the New England Aquarium
  • Enjoy a baseball game at Fenway Park
  • Visit a nearby beach, like Crane Beach (Ipswich, MA)

Eat at

  • Neptune Oysters// for seafood
  • Flour Bakery// for delicious pastries
  • Mike’s Pastry// for HUGE desserts
  • Taiwan Cafe (Chinatown)// for stinky tofu + other yummy Taiwanese food

IN Brookline, MA (From Boston- 0.5 hours)

  • 4A Coffee// for a damn good latte
  • Kupel’s Bakery// for bagels (and the Miami lox!)
  • Tatte// for huge, flaky croissants
  • J.P. Licks// for ice cream
  • Super 88 Market// for Asian food (go to Lollicup for bubble tea  + the place next door for banh mi)
  • FuGaKyu// for Korean-style BBQ
  • Brookline Booksmith// for new + used books

IN Cape Cod, MA (From Boston- 1.5 hours)

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  • Provincetown, MA (From Boston- 2.5 hours)
    Note: We took Route 6A on the way there which is supposed to be scenic but was really more woodsy than anything else. I would recommend just taking Route 6.

    • Kohi Coffee Company// for Blue Bottle Coffee
    • Pop+Dutch// for sandwiches
    • Race Point Beach// for seal and whale watching
    • Other places to consider visiting: Herring CoveCape Cod 4 of 4
  • Wellfleet, MA
    • Beachcomber// for a college vibe
      Note: there is a $20 fee for parking in the lot

a wild ride

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I AM HOME. If only for a hot second.

At the end of September, I packed my bags and headed to Negril, Jamaica to put my dental skills to work. We did everything from cleanings to extractions. It was great experiencing a chance for our dental fingers to fly from that school nest. A fine layer of sweat was ever present but we were pumped and the days flew by too quickly. If you’re interested in participating in a dental service trip, I would recommend Great Smile! Inc 1000 Smiles Dental Project. The team was warm, welcoming and just overall fantastic. It also helped that we stayed in an all-inclusive resort. I miss those endless frozen pina coladas..

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After I got back from Jamaica, it was time to head down to New Orleans for Melissa’s big day! This girl and I have been hanging out since I was drooling over pensive Chad Michael Murray in One Tree Hill. I was so happy to be part of her wedding party, especially since all the food was ah-may-zing! Seriously, it was a never ending stream of Cajun goodness. I’m still sad I never got to try those mini muffalettas..

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A week later, I headed to Boston to see my family. We wanted to end the summer with a bang by heading to…PRINCE EDWARDS ISLAND! YES, LAND OF ANNE OF GREEN GABLES. Amy and I grew up reading so many of L.M. Montgomery’s books. (Truth: I began a novel when I was twelve with a heroine named Kit that was inspired by Anne Shirley.) We were over the moon we would finally get to enjoy the mystical land of PEI. I will most definitely be posting a Boston to PEI travel guide, including all our stops.

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So, yeah, it’s been a wild ride this month. 

And, yes, despite the fact that I am never home, I am still in school. After this weekend’s escape from Pope-calypse, I will be staying put because ohmylanta the NERB and NBDE Part II are COMING. And let’s not forget finishing my PASS application and seeing patients so I can actually graduate on time… Time to get crack-a-lacking.

newport, ri travel guide

NEWPORTRHODE ISLANDTRAVEL GUIDENewport, with your bougie mansions and slow living, can I stay here forever? Let me live in this land where nautical stripes and anchor dotted shorts are always in. This seaside city stole my heart when I went with my family in mid-June.  It got me good with its sparkling waters, gorgeous sunsets and fresh seafood.  Here’s a breakdown of what we did on our three day trip:

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Day One.

  • Mission// for burgers
  • Newport Flower Show
  • Castle Hill Inn// for food + relaxation
    We did the three course prix fixe in the dining room. You can also dine al fresco on the lawn, lounging in your Adirondack chair. It’s the perfect place to catch the sunset. Reservation recommended.
    Loved: scallops + beef tartare, boar loin + ribeye, chocolate chip cookie dough souffle

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Day Two.

  • Empire Tea and Coffee// for a london fog
  • Rosemary & Thyme // for stuffed croissants and coffee (the terminator!)
  • Cliff Walks//
    Note: the walk is manageable for a wide range of ages but some parts are not stroller friendly (pictured above!)
  • Ocean Drive/Ten Mile Drive// for a scenic drive
  • Fort Adams
    Note: tickets needed for entrance
  • Del’s Lemonade// for delicious icy lemonade
  • Trip to Narragansett Bay, Jamestown, RI*
  • The Mooring// for seafood
    Loved: the Walrus & the Carpenter oysters for apps + scallops for entree + Take Five Pie for dessert

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  • Breakers Mansion Tour// for some Vanderbilt history (the mansion to visit!)
  • Easton’s Beach
    • Fabulously cheap carousel
    • Easton’s Beach Snack Bar// for cheap lobster rolls ($13 for two lobster rolls and fries)
  • Trip to Middletown, RI**
  • Midtown Oyster Bar// for seafood
    Loved: chargrilled octopus (+ everything else we ordered was great!)

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*Narragansett Bay, Jamestown, RI 

  • Point Judith Lighthouse (closed for construction at the time!)
  • Iggy’s//for doughboys + chowder + fried seafood
    Loved: the red (manhattan) chowder
    Note: the clam rolls and doughboys are HUGE

** Middletown, RI 

  • Frosty Freez// for dessert
    Loved: frozen coffee drink + chocolate dipped coffee soft serve
    Note: apparently Autocrat coffee syrup can be added to your soft serve here!

austin, texas weekend travel guide

 
I left Philadelphia with two Northeasterners in tow, ready to show them a little slice of Texas heaven. To start off, we needed to eat BBQ. 

 My go-to for BBQ is Rudy’s. I KNOW that Franklin’s BBQ is delicious and there’s nothing like looking at the fabulous smoke pit of meat at Salt Lick. For more BBQ love, there’s always roadtripping to Lockhart for a BBQ tour. BUT if you want good without the crazy line (Franklin’s) or the drive (Salt Lick + Lockhart BBQ), then I would recommend a visit to BBQ by Rudy’s Country Store where they sell gas out front and serve you on the fanciest butcher paper. I would recommend the brisket (of course), baby back ribs, and sausage, in that order. For sides, you MUST get the creamed corn. (There are a few locations in Austin but the one we went to was at 2451 S Capital of Texas Hwy.)

Satisfied, we went mural hopping.Greetings From Austin (1720 S. First Street)

 I Love You So Much (1300 S Congress- next to Jo’s Coffee

At Jo’s, I would recommend the Iced Turbo to cool you down. It has coffee, espresso, hazelnut, chocolate and cream. It is YUMMY. While you’re here, make sure to explore South Congress Street! It’s filled with tons of eclectic shops, restaurants, and a variety of food trucks. Recommendations on S. Congress food-wise: Hopdoddy Burger Bar, Amy’s Ice Cream and Hey Cupcake.

  Baylor Street Art Wall (11th + Baylor) 

  You’re My Butter Half (MLK + Alamo- next to United Way for Greater Austin; across from Bennu)

It was nearing sunset so I took the girls to a nice romantic spot: Mount Bonnell!  

  Mount  Bonnell is a gorgeous look out point over the Lake Austin portion of the Colorado River. Note: There are a decent amount of steps to get to the top but there’s a railing. It’s nothing too strenuous! 

Want to relax by the water with a coffee and perhaps a massive slice of cake? Check out Mozart’s Coffee Roasters. You’ll see lots of students with laptops here because of the free WiFi and big tables but there’s plenty of seating indoors and outdoors. Perfect for soaking rays, people watching and listening to live music (Thursday-Sunday). 

Other great lookout points:                                                                                                                                                    

The Pennyback/360 Bridge is located at Loop 360 and Lake Austin and has a lookout point adjacent to it. Note: If you’re traveling north, the parking area is before you drive onto the bridge on the right. To get to the top of the cliff, there’s a short but somewhat steep hike. 

My favorite view to date is the drive to Oasis, a restaurant adjacent to Lake Travis. The food is okay but the view is amazing. 

After all that driving around,  it was time for dinner at East Side King. (There are a few locations but we went to the one on South Lamar because of location and ease of parking.)       Our favorites were the brussel sprouts salad and the thai kara-age chicken. Note: Crystal had gotten the bento box but since Keyla and I had wanted the same bento box we got it done family style, which was cheaper! 

We sat outside to enjoy the nice weather. Not only was there outdoor seating but there was also cornhole and hammocks! Loved it.  

With our super early flight, we wanted a chill night out so we headed to Rainey Street. It’s a block or two lined with the cutest bars and a food trailer park in the middle. (If you like donuts, check out Little Lucy’s!)  Banger’s, I want to return to you and have the most rustic Texas wedding reception here. But no tattoo, even if it is free. 

Day 2

First breakfast was at Kolache Factory because.. the girls had never heard of kolaches!!! And they approved! Who can hate fluffy rolls filled with deliciousness?! I would recommend the Ranchero. 

Second breakfast was at Max’s Wine Dive.  Sadly, they didn’t have brunch on Friday (only Saturday and Sunday)! Womp womp. It’s okay because the lunch menu looked goood.    Keyla and I had the fried egg sandwich with truffled chips while Crystal had the frito chili pie. I loved both dishes BUT I do have to say that they are a bit heavy. I was only able to eat half of my sandwich. Don’t worry though; I finished it later that evening! 

Other brunch options: Taverna ($1 mimosas and bellinis-on weekends-are always a winner; I recommend the hash); Contigo (I love the ranch-style of this restaurant; I recommend the beef tongue hash)

We liked altering activity and food so next up was a little hike at Hamilton Pool!  It was a 30 minute drive and a wait once we arrived. (With the weather so nice, the parking lot was full and cars were admitted as ones left.) Note: There is a charge for admissions to the pool. It was $15 per car. 

The trail is straightforward and wasn’t too rough. I saw people wearing sandals do it but I would still recommend something more sturdy. NOTE: THERE ARE SNAKES IN THE AREA. Crystal and I MOST DEFINITELY saw a snake in a patch of high grass. And then we ran away screaming. Before you enter the reserve there is a bulletin board about the types of snakes in the area and we think we saw a cottonmouth. It doesn’t matter. It was terrifying. 

To the pool!    

The water was chilly but nice when we went. The waterfall is absolutely gorgeous and a man laid spread eagle on there for quite a while! 

Other fun outdoor trips to consider: Longhorn Caverns (look AWESOME but I’ve never been; 1.5 hours northwest of Austin), Enchanted Rock (a Texas classic; 1.5 hours from Austin)

Dinner on day two was at Torchy’s Tacos.    Sorry, my picture was fuzzy from excitement. I LOVE TORCHY’S.  Our tacos were awesome but definitely get the green chile queso.  It is the best queso ever.

Oh, and we shared a peg leg.  Look at the little Corona! So cute!

This night we partied like 21 year olds, which means a visit to Dirty Sixth. We started out the night at Cheers per my college days. (Although I’m told, Shot Bar is the new Cheers? I don’t know. That knowledge makes me feel old.)       To begin, FLAMING DR. PEPPERS. 

  

How have people not known of this party favorite?!

There was also the BJ.          Delicious and must be taken with no hands. No incriminating pictures shall be posted. 

And the night never ends without Best Wurst.    My personal favorite is the Italian sausage with everything on it (extra sauerkraut and curry mustard yess). 

  Other good late night eats: Chi’lantro (for kimchi fries and bulgogi tacos), Kerbey Lane (for All-American breakfast food), and, of course, What-A-Burger (for that Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit)

Day 3

We begin the day with El Chilito.   I opt for the Cherrywood burrito and the Ojo Rojo (horchata + espresso).

After lunch, we changed and headed to Congress Kayaks. TIP: Park near Rainey Street/the Mexican Cultural Center (600 River Street) and walk to Congress Kayaks. It’s about 0.5 miles and you follow the trail next to the lake. Congress Kayaks is located underneath a restaurant. For $20 an hour, we did stand-up paddleboarding on Lady Bird Lake!

Other outdoor things to do: Zilker Park (tandem biking, kayaking, swimming at Barton Springs Pool), Hippie Hollow (for you nudists); see the Congress Avenue Bridge bats

To refuel, we went to Tea Haus.  It was a little bit of a drive to Tea Haus but it was GOOD. The basil chicken- one of my favorite Taiwanese snacks!- was tender and the brick toast just sweet enough. I got the boba tea; Keyla,the ginger lemonade and Crystal, the sea salt creme coffee. All good but I have to say that the coffee was stand out yummy. 

Tea Haus tided us over as we drove to Baguette House for spring rolls and banh mi.   

 I’ll be real here: I wasn’t in love with the banh mi at Baguette House. My one true banh mi love is Don Cafe in Houston. Toasted French baguette, a nice spread of butter and lots of that pickled daikon and radish.. No other has compared yet. 

Now it was time to take the girls to the Drag.    

The Drag is what we Longhorns call the part of Guadalupe adjacent to campus. It’s a strip of restaurants and shops. I brought the girls to the University Co-op to check out UT swag and to profess their love to Bevo. Then we headed to Tyler’s where I have purchased many Nike shorts.  (If you’re interested in Austin specific souvenirs, check out Sixth Street during the day!)

If you’re hungry near campus, I would go into West Campus and eat at Plucker’s. I would most definitely recommend fried pickles and a Texas Tea with your wings. 

We didn’t do any more tourist-y things, but I would say if you’re near campus wander around! If you are interested in tours, I’ve heard great things about the ones for the Capitol and the UT Tower

Dinner was a mash up of our favorites: Crystal got queso from Torchy’s, Keyla got brisket from Rudy’s and I ordered Pad Thai and Yum Guay Teaw from Madam Mam’s, a Thai place on the Drag. I was a little sad it didn’t taste the same. I would recommend dining in if you go.

One thing we didn’t get to do was find bluebonnets! Usually, you’ll spot a patch driving around in Texas during April/May. If you like flowers, I would say check out Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

As for where we stayed, we used AirBnB, which was awesome! Our host Isaiah was very responsive throughout our entire stay. The place was centrally located, clean and comfortable. I think for the entire trip we used only a half tank of gas! 

Overall, our trip was low key and relaxed. We wanted to keep it affordable but fun. It was a great break post-finals and I’m so glad I got to show my favorite city to my girlfriends!

london. day 4 + 5.

4

DAY 4.
ATTRACTIONS
St. Paul’s Cathedral (St. Paul’s)
Changing of the Guard (Knightsbridge)

FOOD + DRINK
The Pantechnicon Room
Harrods
Tukdin

ST.PAUL’S CATHEDRAL_20150105.London Day 2.27Tickets were purchased in advance for St. Paul’s Cathedral. It came with an audio tour (I love these London churches and their audio tours!) and gave access to the underground crypt as well as the galleries in the dome. Go to all the galleries!

Whispering Gallery//_20150105.London Day 2.29The Whispering Gallery gives you a bird’s eye view of the cathedral. Plus it’s said that, if you and a friend stand on opposite sides of the gallery, you can whisper facing the wall and the sound of your voice will travel around the wall and reach your friend!

It’s 376 steps more to the Stone Gallery and another 528 steps to the Golden Gallery! Think skinny and walk carefully because the staircases can get pretty narrow. But the view is worth it.

From the Dome Gallery//_20150105.London Day 2.35

Changing of the Guards//
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Need a little British pomp and ceremony? Check out the changing of the guard in front of Buckingham Palace. Pro tip: Go early-say 45 minutes?- or you’ll be watching the ceremony from an iPad like I did. Womp womp.

_20150105.London Day 2.38

The Pantechnicon Room// _20150105.london.day3...3_20150105.london.day3...4 _20150105.london.day3...5_20150105.london.day3...7
We walked from Buckingham Palace to this classy gastropub for lunch. I especially liked my vegetarian dish but I can’t remember the name of it! The butternut squash was also delicioso. It’s not a cheap eat but the food was fresh and seasonal.
 
Harrods//
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_20150105.london.day3...11There are hot cross buns and puffy cronuts! There is biltong and anchovy pastes! But that’s just a part of the ground floor! There’s gourmet teas and packages of truffles to buy and oh so many floors of luxury shopping! And the Toy Kingdom is a must.

_20150105.london.day3...12

Human-sized stuffed animals!

Tukdin//
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We ended our day with Malaysian fare at Tukdin. Sooo…service was absolutely atrocious here! There were surcharges for things not written on the menu, the rice paired with the entrée came out so late that we just shared our rice and there was no apology for it. Just “we are very busy.” Service aside, the food was decent and the teh tarik, or Malyasian milky tea, was quite tasty.

DAY 5.
ATTRACTION
Hyde Park
// Italian Gardens

FOOD + DRINK
Giraffe

Hyde Park//
_20150106.London Day 2.53_20150106.London Day 2.55

This park! We were worried about having enough time to make it to the airport so we only made it to the Italian Gardens but it was a gorgeous, well planned park. We really wished we got to see more of it.

Heathrow Airport//
_20150106.Iceland 1.2
When we got to Heathrow Airport, we were told that our flight to Iceland was delayed SEVEN hours. Aiya. Since we were already there with our bags, we decided to lounge around on some nice comfy sofas like these fellow travelers.

Giraffe//_20150106.Iceland 1.1
The perk of our delay was FOOD VOUCHERS. (Will I ever be old enough to not appreciate free food?) We ended up spending alll our food voucher money at Giraffe where I had a real English breakfast. Everywhere we went I saw signs for breakfast plates that included a tomato and beans so I took my last chance to get it here. Breakfast is my favorite meal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FINALLY, after hours lounging in the airport, we hopped onto the plane for ICELAND. To be continued..

london. day 3.

3

ATTRACTIONS
British Museum (free admissions)
Trafalgar Square

FOOD + DRINK
The Pasty Shop (Paddington Station)
Upper Crust Bakery (Paddington Station)
Scoop (Picadilly Circus)
Ham Yard Hotel (Picadilly Circus)
Nordic Bakery (Picadilly Circus)

BREAKFAST
The Pasty Shop
// Sandwiches and lattes
Upper Crust Bakery// Pain au chocolat, baguette sandwiches and lattes

What can I say? We are a family that likes carbs and coffee.

British Museum// _20150104.london.day3..1The museum is huge! Must sees include the Rosetta Stone and the Parthenon Sculptures. We purchased a map for £2 but it wasn’t really needed. The museum has maps everywhere.

_20150104.London Day 2.6We rode a double decker bus to our next destination! I could see how tours would be really fun in these.

Scoop//
_20150104.london.day3..5If you’re craving sweets, check out Scoop! One lick brought us back to our stroll across Ponte Vecchicio. We tried the salted caramel, pistachio, extra dark chocolate and a raspberry sorbet.

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Nordic Bakery//_20150104.london.day3..6There was high praise for this bakery, which was a short jaunt from Scoop. We purchased a cinnamon roll, honey pancake, and rice pie. They were all  highly underwhelming but perhaps it’s because we had them for breakfast the next day?

Chinatown/_20150104.london.day3..10I just wanted to include this picture of Zooey and this panda. Teehee. Chinatown is just a few blocks from Ham Yard Hotel! Speaking of…

Ham Yard Hotel//_20150104.london.day3..11Make a reservation. No matter where you want to go for afternoon tea, make a reservation. We tried to find a place for tea the day of and were hard pressed to get a table. Luckily, Ham Yard Hotel had an open spot with an hour’s wait. As a result, we missed out on making it to the National Museum and National Portrait Gallery. But afternoon tea! It was a must.

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_20150104.london.day3..13          _20150104.london.day3..14

Each of us got a pot of tea and shared a tier of treats and basket of scones. My favorites were the anchovy pie, frittata, earl grey cupcake, and passion fruit macaron. At £19.50 per person, afternoon tea seemed a bit steep but we were all stuffed afterwards.

Note: If you do come to Ham Yard Hotel, request a seating in the sun room. It’s absolutely adorable!_20150104.london.day3..17

Trafalgar Square//_20150104.london.day3..18

We weren’t going to make it to the museums, but we still decided to go check out Trafalgar Square.

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So lovely! Remember to check out the southern end of the square where you’ll get great views of the city. The first picture in the post was taken there and you can see Big Ben in the distance. There’s a plaque there that tells you what everything is as well!