SPAIN Travel Diary

Fourth and final in the Europe Travel Diary series is beautiful BARCELONA! It was the last stop on our magical Mediterranean adventure and I am so excited to share a more of this beautiful, vibrant city with you.

DOWNTOWN

The city center/downtown area of Barcelona is sprawling and full of things to do (and by things to do I mean places to shop). It’s such a fun area with a really cool vibe. It’s pretty easy to walk around (but be prepared to walk a lot!) and the public transportation, especially the bus system is pretty easy to navigate as well. We figured out how to use the bus the second half of the trip and it was so convenient to get around to all the places we were wanting to visit. We kept on finding little side streets to walk down which took us to little hidden gems of the city. A bunch of the cool restaurants we found were placed we stumbled upon while walking around. I also LOVE European stores, they’re just the best. I found so many cute tops, bikinis and little pieces of jewelry (and makeup!) at all the stores. The Gothic Quarter is a really fun area to spend a chill afternoon shopping and grabbing some yum food. Honestly, I could have just spent the whole time walking around the cute little side-streets, but there’s so much more to this crazy city!

MONTJUIC

One of the places we visited that I loved was Montjuic, an iconic hill with multiple monuments up top. It’s absolutely gorgeous and castle-like as it overlooks the Mediterranean. There have been a lot of archaeological discoveries there in the last few years which gives it a really cool medieval vibe while still being really natural and green (with a stunning view of the ocean). From the top you also have a cool birds eye view of the city center which seems so distant even thought it’s only about 20 minutes from the city. It was just a beautifully serene place to spend a few hours in the morning. There’s a mall right across from the bottom of the hill that has some great restaurants (we ate at Enrique Tomas and it was incredible) to grab a bite to eat at.

SAGRADA FAMILIA

When in Barcelona… Of course we had to spend a few hours at the iconic Sagrada Familia. There’s something so special about a building that has been worked on for decades and decades and will be worked on for decades to come. Even though it’s not technically fully built, it’s still incredibly beautiful. Since it’s so crowded, we made sure to book our tickets online to avoid long lines (but we still had to wait in a 10 minute line). But the lines and waiting in the heat was all worth it. Once you get inside you are hit by the sun shining through the multi colored stained glass windows. They line the walls all the way up to the ceiling creating an ominous yet beautiful glow inside. We spent almost an hour just in awe of the beauty and spent a few minutes in the silent prayer area, such a special moment. We went at 4pm, which was perfect because the sun was beginning to set by 5 creating the most amazing golden hour you’ve ever seen. It is by far one of the most beautiful moments I’ve ever experienced in my life. [Sidenote- if you do go, please dress respectfully, cover your shoulders and avoid exposing too much of your legs since it is a place of religious practice.]

LA BOQUERIA

The place I was most excited to visit (haha of course) while in Barcelona was Mercado de la Boqueria. The famous public market full of fruit, vegetable, seafood, nuts, spices and everything else vendors and loaded with fun little bars to grab a bite to eat at. I’m not going to lie, we visited the market three times during our stay which I have no regrets about. Each time we got lost in the chaos walking around for hours in awe of all the fresh produce and fun food items they had. I would stop from time to time to get a box of calamari, a cup of fresh cherries to nibble on or to try some cheeses and meats. The third time we went, we decided we would bite the bullet and line up (for 40 minutes!) at one of the tapas bars for lunch. While I was a little antsy waiting for that long, we finally got a few seats at the bar counter and got our food ordered. Calamari, fried peppers, croquettes and sangria were a few of the things on the menu for the day. Our food came out pretty quickly and I don’t think I can say this enough, it was DELICIOUS. And the calamari was hands down the best calamari I’d ever had in my life. And I love me some good fried squid. It was so fresh and crunch but not oily at all with very light seasoning and the best aioli ever. SO GOOD. It was such a fun lunch, followed by another hour of walking around the stalls, chatting with some of the owners and making a few purchases. Hands down a must visit place in Barcelona.

PARK GUELL

One of the last places we visited on our trip was Park Guell, one of Gaudi’s masterpieces. This was the place I had seen the most photos of (gotta get that perfect Insta) so I was so excited to be able to see it in person. We made our bookings for 5pm which was a gorgeous time to go. It wasn’t too hot, but the sun still kept the sky lit and lay a beautiful blanket of light over all the architecture. The first part of the park was the iconic colorful, mosaic tile-work. With the city and the deep blue sky behind it, the colors stood out and contrasted so beautifully. We spent some time at the first part taking photos and taking in all the beauty before starting to walk down the path to the bottom of Park Guell. Towards the exit, there are two more Gaudi buildings that are filled with rooms and gift stores that you can walk into and take the stairs up to the top. There was a cool Disneyland-ish vibe about the park (and I’m saying that in the best way possible) that made me feel like a happy little kid. Gaudi’s structures and designs are so distinct and simply stunning to look at.

FOOD

And how can I not include a whole section on food in this post. My family’s been really into Spanish food and tapas this year so we were so excited to get to spend time eating our way through Barcelona. Thinking back on it all, there really wasn’t a meal that wasn’t anything less than amazing. None of the meals were blah or even just okay, they were all great. One thing I fell in love with was pan con tomate, basically the Spanish version of garlic bread served with almost every meal. I also am such a grilled octopus girl and had a decade’s worth of good octopus this trip. They were all so tender and fresh with the best seasoning. A lot of meats and cheeses were also eaten during this trip, which I will never complain about. We also ended up buying TONS of meat to bring home which we are slowly savoring. We also found a few tapas places and just tried a bunch of things during those meals like patatas bravas, chorizo, tortilla and so many other yummy things. On our last day, we also stumbled across the cutest little store called Le Cava Cakery which did cava (Spanish champagne) and cupcake pairings while I of course had to pop into. We did cava and rose cava pairings with salted caramel, raspberry and dulce de lece cupcakes and I don’t think I’ve ever been as happy as I was in that moment (anyone who knows me knows that bubbly and cupcakes are the most me thing ever). And to finish off my food bucket list, we stopped for some churros and chocolate at a cute little street side cafe, with a perfect view of the Sagrada Familia, and I will never look at churros the same again (infinite amount of heart eyes). The food in Barcelona was just so good and I feel very lucky to have gotten to spend time eating around the city.

So that’s all for this Europe series! My incredible trip of a lifetime around the Mediterranean; Greece, Montenegro, Italy and Spain. I do want to end this post by saying how grateful I am for the life I live. I never take for granted all that my life has allowed me to do, and I never want anyone to think that I’m not grateful, because I am. I’ve spent so much time thinking about how my life has been the last 20 years, and I am truly the luckiest girl in the world. Whatever else happens in my life, no matter how dark the days, I have to remember that I am blessed. Traveling the world has truly changed my life and I’ve found so much pure joy, passion and love in exploring all these amazing corners of the world. And with that, thank you for following along on this adventure, I’m so glad I got to share it with you.

Lots of love, Aime xx

 

 

 

 

ITALY Travel Diary

SICILY, MESSINA

The next stop of our magical European adventure was ITALY! What a dream. The second we stepped into the streets of Messina, I was struck by all of the quaint, cobblestone streets lined with colorful, rustic buildings with balconies filled with plants. We spent a bit of time walking around a little square complete with a beautifully sculptured fountain and a grand church over-looking the streets. Turn each corner to find a cute little corner general store, a coffee shop with plenty of outdoor seating and little bistro-style restaurants. The city center of Messina has an incredibly old yet comforting style of architecture with ratty buildings that are just so charming.

After a full morning of walking around and relishing in the beauty of Italy, we decided it was time to find somewhere for lunch. Leading up to Italy, I only had one request: I needed to find the best seafood pasta. So this was my chance. After looking and looking for the perfect little restaurant, we found Osteria del Campanile tucked away in a little side-street off of one of the main roads. Thinking it looked a little run down and a bit out of the way, I honestly wasn’t expecting much. But after looking at the menu and seeing that they had a seafood spaghetti in a tomato-based sauce, I just had to order it. I still don’t know the words to properly describe it, but it was hands down the BEST pasta I’ve ever had in my life. And I eat a lot of pasta. That’s all I can say.

After being stuffed with meats, pasta and red wine, we headed out for the afternoon. We walked through the city center a bit more before heading to the shopping district. Simply a few rows of streets lined with stores on end. One of the stores I discovered while in Italy was Kiko Milano. I was on the hunt for some new colorful eye shadows when I first walked into their store. Everything is so affordable, but the products I’ve tried so far have been really good. After a few more hours of shopping, it was time for our first Italian gelato. We found a little coffee shop and popped it for a sweet treat. Overtaken with all the flavors, I finally settled on one scoop of cherry amaretto and one scoop of almond dark chocolate. Not to sound like a broken record, but best gelato I had ever had in my life.

AMALFI

Up next, the Amalfi Coast. The drive there was nothing short of incredible, stopping along the way at all of the prettiest of panoramic views. The picturesque shoreline with scattered villas, hotels, vineyards and houses was exactly what I was expecting. I constantly felt like I was looking at a background, so so so beautiful. The water was such a rich shade of blue that it almost seemed otherworldly. The town of Amalfi was exactly what I would have expected. The second you pull up, the salty smell of the ocean surrounds you as the sound of waves crashing lightly on the shore and the voices of so many happy people fill your ears. People say Disneyland is the happiest place on earth, but I might want to argue that.

Walk into the town center of Amalfi, a walled in area of streets and stores, to find even more bustling. Boutiques, food stores, cafes and restaurants are absolutely everywhere you look. There’s no stopping, there’s no break, it’s just go go go, in the best way possible. The buildings’ first floors were all filled with stores, but the second and third floors were all balcony and flower-lined, looking like someone may live there. We popped into store after store and I was simply stunned by the sheer amount of things stuffed into every small space. Every kind of pasta you could imagine, snow globes, shot glasses and magnets lined shelf after shelf, and bottles of limoncello could be found at almost every store. The whole time walking around, we were hot, sweaty and sticky from the Italian summer sun beating down on us, but it was also just so magical I didn’t care if I was sweating or not.

With the heatwave coming up to the southern coast of Europe from Africa, it was absolutely sweltering. And what’s the one way to cure a hot, Italian summer day: more gelato. I had already had my first, and what I thought was the best I would ever had, gelato in Messina, but I was ready to have another one. This time the flavor was Amalfi Limoncello. It was tangy, sweet, icily creamy and refreshingly cold. The heat was beginning to softly melt the triangular scoop of beautiful yellow gelato, but that did not stop us from finishing every last drop. As the days moved from morning, to mid morning, to evening, the Amalfi just seemed to get more and more beautiful. Sunshine draped over the town creating beautiful pockets of light and shadows on every building.

NAPOLI

Our last stop of the Italy leg was Napoli. Another quaint town, similar to Messina. The city center seemed to be a shopping district, filled with more boutiques and name brand stores. The public library was as grand as you can imagine, looking over the downtown area. We spent time walking in and out of stores, trying to cool off every second we could. Still looking for my Italian pizza, we were ready for an Italian pizza lunch. Once again, we happened to just stumble upon this little cafe/restaurant that we decided to sit down at for a break. Not expecting too much from their pizza, we just ordered a margherita pizza, a pasta with olives, capers and tomatoes and a salad to share. Seriously not trying to sound redundant, but it was the best pizza I’d ever had in my life. It was so simple with some crushed tomatoes, whole slices of mozzarella and basil leaves, but it was so delicious. The dough was soft but chewy and had a deep taste of bread. Italian pizza, check.

Another visit we made in Napoli was to Pompeii. It was quite a different experience, given the history. I still remember learning about the history of Pompeii during history class in sixth grade and it was so incredible to be able to visit the site of the buried city. We decided not to buy the headsets with the audio tour as we thought we could just walk around on our own, but I would highly suggest going for the audio tour since the area is so big and sprawling that it’s a bit hard to navigate on your own. But besides that Pompeii was actually gorgeous, despite it’s dark history. It just made me think of how much natural beauty can come out of something so dark. The afternoon we visited, the sky was a deep blue with just a few clouds scattered around. From a few spots within Pompeii, we had a perfect view of Mount Vesuvius, which was half scary, half amazing.

The last afternoon in Italy, we ended up snooping around a Sephora and Zara at an outdoor shopping mall-like area of downtown Napoli. It was another hot afternoon, so what else did we do that sit down for a glass of iced coffee and, yes, another gelato. This time it was strawberry, and just as delicious and refreshing as the other ones had been. The best end to the Italy leg of this adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12 Days of Christmas|Day 7- Holiday Travel Tips|2018

I can’t believe we’re already at Day 7 and less than two weeks away from Christmas! As this post is going up, I’m in an Uber on the way to LAX ready to hop on a plane and head back to see my family for the holidays. Since traveling is something that almost everyone does during the holidays in one way or another, I thought I would share my holiday travel guide/tips for today’s post. I’ve done some other “travel tips” posts in the past (be sure to check those out!), but this one will be my updated one specifically for the holidays. Enjoy and happy traveling! xx

 

Preparation/planning:

– As we all know flights during the holiday season book up SO early and quickly, so be sure to get those tickets booked far in advance (or as soon as you are able to nail down dates).

– Check different airlines and airports for the best deals and times. This is something that’s good to do any time you’re planning a trip, but especially during a time when everyone is trying to go everywhere. You might find better deals at a smaller airport or with an airline you don’t normally fly with.

– Leave early enough so you give yourself PLENTY of time at the airport. While traffic may not be your biggest concern, driving into the airport and getting checked-in, through immigration and security can be an absolute nightmare during the holidays.

– If you have the means to do so, get TSA pre-check. It will save you so much hassle and time at the airport. You don’t have to worry about taking off your boots and sweaters and taking out your laptops and tablets, which can make a really stressful situation just a little less stressful.

– Get all of your travel documents together and organized using a travel organizer. I always have a passport case/cover (I’m obsessed with the Kate Spade ones), which I keep my passport and boarding pass in, but I’ve also started using a travel organizer to keep my flight confirmation, check-in documents and all those other things. I’m not naturally a very organized/neat person, so having a case where I know all of my important things are prevents me from having to desperately rifle through my bag looking for my boarding pass.

 

Airport chaos:

– Have a portable phone charger and extra cords. Chances are you’ll be spending a lot of time in waiting around in lines and you’ll most likely whip out your phone to pass the time. There’s nothing worse than traveling or being on a flight and realizing your phones about to die. Be prepared, have portables and chargers with adapters so you can charge your phone wherever and whenever you need to.

– Don’t waste time or money on airport food. I know this is common knowledge, but seriously. The number of times I’ve dropped insane amounts of money inside the airport on food is crazy. Try to be prepared and have food/snacks with you so you don’t end up waiting in long lines or spending $15 on a small sandwich. Also try to have some healthy snacks for the flight as well (veggie sticks in a little baggie is so easy).

– Check in online and get a digital copy of your boarding pass, if possible. These days a lot of airlines allow you to not only check-in, but check your bags in and get your boarding pass on your phone. If you’re given the option to do this, do it! It’s going to save you so much time at the airport, especially during the holidays when everybody is going somewhere.

– Give yourself enough time. I’ve always been one of those people who wants/needs a lot of time at the airport. I’d much rather sit there and be bored than end up missing my flight. Especially during the busiest travel time of the year, you never know what’s going to get you held up. So be prepared and get there with plenty of time.

 

On the flight:

– Have a change of clothes (top, pants, undies and all). You really never know what’s going to happen when you’re traveling but I would hate to be in a situation where something spills on you or maybe you leak a little (ladies…) and you having nothing to change into. I also just like having a extra clothes on longer flights/trips to change into half way so I don’t feel so gross.

– Have all your favorite shows, music and movies downloaded on your computer, iPad or iPhone. The night before a flight I always make sure that everything I’m going to want on the plane is downloaded so I don’t have to worry about it the next day. I forgot to do that the night before once and tried doing it at the airport, but the s****y airport wifi was not having it. Do it ahead of time and you’ll be glad you did.

– Have a pillow or blanket and a neck pillow and eye mask. Seriously, it’s the best thing ever. I love having my own pillow or blanket with me on the plane (as annoying as it may be to carry around) because it helps me feel comfy and safe. And as far as the neck pillow and eye mask go, it’s just a must-have. You don’t want to fall asleep on a flight only to wake up unable to move your neck, it’s awful. And since you can’t control the lights on the flight an eye mask will help you sleep at any time.

– This is one of my golden rules of traveling, but HYDRATE. I can’t emphasize this enough, when you’re up in the sky with the air circulating throughout the cabin you get so dehydrated. Not only do you want to be drinking a ton of water (but seriously though, like a ton), you also want to make sure you have moisturizer and face lotion easily accessible.

 

Happy traveling, see you for Day 8! xx

Travel Wishlist- Where I Wanna Go

What’s the number one place you want to visit right now? I get asked that question all the time and it’s so hard because the answer is: EVERYWHERE. I would love to not have to worry about school or working or money and just travel the world experience all the different cultures. But since that’s not reasonable, I thought I would sit and put together the 5 places that are at the top of my travel bucket list right now. What do you think of my list? What’s on your list?

*All photos courtesy of Creative Commons*

1. New York City, USA- NYC, I don’t even know what to say. Everything from the yellow taxis, the bright lights of Times Square and the quaintness of Central Park draws me to the city. I could get lost looking at pictures of New York for hours dreaming of everything I would do when I finally get to go. And it would be even better if it were Christmas. The tree at Rockefeller Center, hot chocolate at Serendipity (just like the movie!!) and New Years Eve in Times Square, ugh it would be so magical!

2. Sydney, Australia- I honestly don’t know how I lived in Singapore for over 18 years and never visited Australia, but it’s very high up on my wishlist. Not sure what it is, but I always just get such a chill/relaxed vibe from Sydney and the people seem so incredible warm and welcoming! And the growing food scene doesn’t hurt either.

 

3. Sicily, Rome and Amalfi, Italy- Isn’t this pretty much a staple on everyones bucket list? If I could spend a chunk of time exploring every single city in Italy I think I would die. But these three cities are the top three on my list for sure. I’m so intrigued by the contrast of the bustling city of Rome and the pure, calm, breathtaking Amalfi Coast. And then I would just love to move to Sicily and live on a winery and eat all the seafood I want all day.

4. New Orleans, USA- New Orleans is definitely a recent addition to my list, but it’s so intriguing to me. Obviously it would be amazing to go during Mardi Gras, but any time would be incredible. The atmosphere just seems to laid back yet fun and old school funky. I would love to stroll through the French Quarter and spend the afternoon eating beignets at Cafe du Monde.

5. Island Hopping in Greece- Although I’ve been to Athens and the island of Sifnos, I’d love to go back and just spend time on a bunch of different islands. I love everything about Greece, the food, the people, the scenery, the oceans, it’s spectacular. The dream is to spend a month island hopping and spending the evenings sipping on wine and gorging on spanakopita and baklava. Wouldn’t that be amazing!

In-Flight Essentials

Here I am, once again, getting ready for another trip. This one is a little different since my family is leaving Singapore after over two decades to start a new adventure in Tokyo. As I’ve been preparing for this trip, I’ve been trying to think of what I want to have with me to make the trip as comfortable as possible. Usually I love flying, but this time I’m prepared to be overwhelmed with emotion as we are saying goodbye to the only home my sister and I have ever known. With that, I decided to put together a little “must-haves” for the flight. These are some of the things that make me feel safe and luxurious on a flight. I’ve done a lot of other travel posts before, so be sure to check those out by typing “travel” in the search bar. Hope you enjoy this post and comment some of your favorite in-flight essentials down below!

1. Phone Charger- Starting off pretty basic, but I always carry around a phone charger with me. Whether I plug it in while waiting to board my flight or charge my phone while actually on the plane, having a fully charged phone always makes me feel more comfortable knowing that I can reach somebody at any time. And plus, with all that free time there is lots of game playing, social media scrolling and other things that are eating up all your battery.

2. Water- I always have a water bottle with me on the plane whether it’s a plastic one or one that I’ve brought with me. When you fly, you get extremely dehydrated so it’s very important to drink more water than normal. Don’t be afraid to ask the airline staff to fill it up for you or to bring you some water. I always say I’d rather have to go to the bathroom multiple times during a flight than get off the plane with a massive headache.

3. Face Masks- Along with your body getting dehydrated on flights, so does your skin. The cabin re-circulates oxygen through the air making your skin breakout prone. One way to avoid walking off the plane with a new friend on your face is to use the time on the flight to do a face mask. I know it may sound crazy to be sitting there with stuff all over your face, but your skin will thank you at the end of the long journey.

4. Lavender Oil- This is actually something I always carry with me, but especially so on the plane. My mom got into essential oils a while back and I’ve finally caught on as well. I’ve been constantly amazed at the power of Lavender. It does everything from prevent bruising to stopping a bad bleed or even clearing up a zit. I also like to add a drop or too to my moisturizer if I need a little extra hydration. This is one thing I always find myself reaching for when I’m on a flight and I’m always glad that I have it.

5. iPad & Netflix- I think that downloads on Netflix is arguably one of the best things to ever happen. I have always carried around my iPad while I’m traveling so that I could watch a movie I’d purchased or read a book, but now I always download as many TV shows and movies as I can before getting on a flight. I love watching documentaries comedies on flights because they’re light, funny and entertaining, as opposed to watching a thriller or a horror (I could never do that). Some of my favorites for a plane ride are Mean Girls, Bridesmaids, CrossFit Games documentaries Full (and Fuller) House, Friends, and Queer Eye.

5. Wet Wipes- This is something I’ve more recently started doing, but I always have wet wipes when I travel so that I can wipe down my seat, the TV screen, the remote, the tray table and the arm rests. I can’t believe I haven’t always done this, but if you really stop and think about all the people who’ve touched those things and the germs that are on there, it’s pretty gross. So I always make sure to wipe things down the second I get to my seat. And with me being a bit of a klutz, I always find myself in need of a wet wipe.

6. Neck Pillow & Eye Mask- My parents got me a neck pillow and eye mask set from Victoria’s Secret about 5 years ago and I’ve had it with me on almost every flight since. I always find that using a neck pillow is a lot more comfortable than leaning your head all the way back on the seat or leaning it to the side. You don’t want to wake up after sleeping on a flight without being able to move your neck. As for the eye mask, it’s the best thing ever. You don’t have control over the lighting on the plane, so it does wonders when you want to take a quick nap while all the lights are still on.

7. Toothbrush and Mouthwash- I always always always have to have a toothbrush and mouthwash (and tons of gum) with me on flights, especially if it’s a longer flight or one with a layover. First of all, I’m super big on oral hygiene, and I always feel like having that minty flavor in your mouth just helps me feel a lot more fresh and put together overall. And if you’re on an overnight flight you still need to stick to your routine and brush your teeth and do all that jazz before dozing off.

8. Makeup Basics- I’m not one to wear a full face of makeup on a flight (or any at all), but I do love having a little bit of the basics to smack on right before I get off the flight. It helps me feel alive and human after being a zombie on a flight. And if I have friends or family picking me up at the airport, I feel like having a little bit of makeup on makes me look more presentable and like I made an effort for them. The basics I like to keep with me are eyebrow products, concealer, mascara and a tinted lip balm.

9. Dry Shampoo- One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to beauty is oily hair, I absolutely cannot stand it. And for some reason every time I get on a flight, whether it’s short or long, I always walk off with oily roots. So to combat that I always carry around a mini sized Not Your Mother’s Clean Freak dry shampoo just to spritz in my hair right before getting off the plane. I love it and the smell is also amazing.

10. Snacks!!- If there’s one thing I will always have with me no matter what, it’s a ton of snacks. After getting sick from airplane food five years ago, I’ve had a really bad aversion to it and almost never eat it. So I have to make sure I’m stocked with snacks of all kinds to keep me going. I love having healthy snacks with me like pretzels and hummus, dried fruit, protein bars, and trail mix, but I also let myself splurge a little bit when I’m on the flight with a bag of chips or some chocolate or candy, just to feel like I’m treating myself a little bit.

I hope you all enjoyed this post and found it helpful. Happy traveling!!

Top 10 Travel Tips: Part 2

About a year ago I posted my first Top 10 Travel Tips blog filled with lots of little hacks and tips to make traveling just a little bit easier. Today, in honor of summer and vacation season coming up, I’m going to do part 2 of my travel tips!

I hope you find these useful useful for your next trip:) Comment down below where your next adventure is taking you!

1. HYDRATE! This is mainly for actual plane ride, but of course hydration is always key. When you’re flying, the oxygen is being recirculated throughout the cabin, and the moisture in the air is extremely limited. Be sure to carry around a water bottle (make sure it’s empty when you go through security!!) to make it easy to continuously drink water. Hydrating your body is great, but don’t forget about your skin. Take the time on the plan to stick on a hydrating mask (my favorites are linked below) and load up on lotion. You’ll walk off the plane feeling fresh and hydrated.

2. Make good use of document holders and passport cases. I used to think it was so dorky when my parents used cases to hold all their travel documents in, but as I began to travel more and more on my own I realized how useful it is to have everything together and in one place. I also love using passport covers (maybe it’s because I have the absolute CUTEST Kate Spade one:) because it makes it so easy to find in your bag, and I’ve found that it reduces the risk of misplacing it (or the fear of losing it).

3. Learn a few basic phrases in the other language. You say “hello”, “goodbye” and “thank you” to the people in your life at home, so why not spend 5 minutes learning the phrases to show appreciation to all the people who make your trip easy and comfortable (“where is the bathroom” may come in handy too:).

4. Relax. Vacations can be a bit of a stressful time, but don’t forget to take some time to just sit there and enjoy the beauty around you. There’s nothing wrong with jam-packing your days with activities, but there’s also nothing wrong with just sitting on the balcony of your room or lounging by the pool and doing absolutely nothing, it is a vacation after all.

5. Use a travel website. Companies like Hopper are great for finding and tracking low-price tickets to your desired destination. I haven’t personally used it yet, but two of my friends used Hopper to find their tickets to come visit me in Singapore and it worked great. Super user-friendly and definitely gets you the best deal in town.

6. Carry around cash. In today’s day and age, it’s easy to rely on your credit card for everything, but remember that not every place you will go will accept cards. Make sure to convert some money at the airport to carry around just in case. It’s nice to be able to pay for small purchases or tip the people that help you with cash.

7. I had this one in my first post, but I’m going to say it again: PICTURES! I’ve heard a lot of people speak out against taking tons of pictures on trips because you should be “in the moment”, but I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with trying to capture as many moment as possible. Not only can you share it with your friends and family, but it’s also a memory for you. You can look back on the photos 5, 10, 20 years from then and remember all about your trip.

8. Take public transportation. Not only will you save heaps of money, but you’ll also get your body moving and get to explore local life. Hopping in an Uber may be easy, but your missing out on so much. Taking public transportation forces you to walk around (move your body everyday, right?) and see so many things and places that you may have missed out on if you just hailed a cab.

9. Talk to locals. Getting to know the people is the best way to learn more about the place. Ask them what their favorite thing to do it or where their favorite place to eat is. You will find so many hidden gems that no travel website would lead you to. We have found some amazing little spots and eateries that the locals have led us to. Don’t be afraid to ask around and to step out of your comfort zone, that’s what traveling is all about!

10. Watch the sunrise. Get up early and watch the sun come up. Early mornings may sound grueling, but they don’t have to be. Grab a cup of coffee and appreciate the morning. No matter where you are in the world, the sun will always rise. Appreciate the beauty of that.

“Top 10 Travel Tips” Post: https://swimeatlove.com/2017/03/18/top-10-travel-tips/

Links:

Hydrating Face Mask (perfect for the plane): https://www.sephora.com/product/sleeping-mask-P398102?skuId=1668615&icid2=products%20grid:p398102

Kate Spade Passport Cases: https://www.katespade.com/accessories/travel-accessories/

Basic Phrases in Other Languages (website with many languages): https://www.infoplease.com/common-english-phrases-translated-other-languages

Hopper: https://www.hopper.com/

SEOUL Travel Guide

Looking for a fun getaway for the summer? Can’t decide where to go? I got the chance to spend a few days in Seoul last summer, and I absolutely loved it! Seoul was never a place that I thought much of and I never really had a strong desire to visit, but I am so thankful that I did. I tagged along with my mom on her business trip, so we didn’t have too much time to explore the city as a whole, but we were able to do some fun things and explore a couple cool places. I just wanted to write this to share all the things we did, and hopefully give you some inspiration to visit this really awesome city!

We stayed at the Sheraton Seoul Palace Gangnam, located in the Seocho-gu district. While it’s not walking distance from downtown, it’s only about a 10 minute drive (and a 30 minute drive from the airport). It’s also caddy corner from the Shinsegae department store as well as the Goto Mall, which is the underground shopping mall connected to the Gangnam subway station (super useful to help get around). The department store and the mall combined has enough to keep you occupied for at least a whole day. The mall has tons of sit-down restaurants ranging from Italian to Chinese to Korean, and the basement of the department store has a huge supermarket as well as lot’s of little eateries.

There’s an office building right next to the hotel with a bingsu shop (forgot the name of it, but you can find bingsu everywhere), which was a perfect little afternoon snack for my mom and I after a day of shopping.

On the second night, we went to the Myeongdong district which is a large outdoor shopping area. The only thing I can relate it to is Takeshita Street in Harajuku, Tokyo. It was crazy, chaotic and super fun. The streets were absolutely filled with beauty stores, clothing shops, and food vendors. We spent a couple hours walking around and buying some fun Korean beauty products, and then walked over to Ziu Spa, where we spent 3 hours getting pampered. It was a traditional Korean spa, so they had two big thermal baths as well as two sauna’s (one rock and one salt), where we spent the first 20 minutes before we got famous Korean body scrubs, massages, face masks and body masks. The session ended with cupping (this was the first time I tried it and it was so cool!). After feeling totally blissed out, we walked over to a Korean BBQ restaurant where we had lot’s of meat, beer and soju:)

On our last full day, we were lucky enough to have lunch at an Imperial Korean Restaurant, where we were served lots of traditional Korean foods including kimchi, bulgogi beef, japchae, buchimgae and lots of other dishes in a private (really fancy room). The restaurant was in an old traditional house with a huge Korean garden out back. We spent half an hour walking around and soaking in all the beauty after our delicious meal.

That night, we decided to stay close to the hotel and had another Korean BBQ dinner at one of the restaurants at Goto Mall. We found out that the restaurant did both BBQ and hot pot, so we decided to do both (because it was our last night and why not?). There was so much amazing meat, vegetables, kimchi, and of course ice cold beer. It was the perfect way to end our little getaway.

 

While there is so much more I would have loved to do and see, I am so glad I got a chance to visit this vibrant city, and I hope to go back again soon. Below I have attached some links to some of the places/things I talked about, and also have some photos to share. Enjoy, and happy traveling!

 

Sheraton Seoul Palace Gangnam: http://www.starwoodhotels.com/sheraton/property/overview/index.html?propertyID=4542&language=en_US

Shinsegae Department Store Gangnam: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SHP/SH_EN_7_2.jsp?cid=273804

Goto Mall/Gangnam Terminal Shopping Center: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SHP/SH_EN_7_2.jsp?cid=2021659

Ziu Spa: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ziu-Spa/441988689201849

Seoul on TripAdvisor: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Tourism-g294197-Seoul-Vacations.html