Hobbits and Kiwis | New Zealand

New Zealand, a country that I’ve always heard so many great things about and a place I never thought I’d see myself. Or at least, not as an American 23-year-old. A land whose natural beauty rivals that of fantasies; and for that exact reason, film crews flock to New Zealand (and rightfully so). A country where there is no shortage of sheep, Hobbit holes, and super friendly locals.

New Zealand, you are marvelous.

New Zealand

After a whirlwind of a week in literal paradise, my sister and I hopped on a plane to Auckland, New Zealand. We flew over the International Date Line on this flight, and doing so “lost” a day (RIP June 5, 2017 – I never really knew you) when we landed in the capital city. We were greeted by much colder temps and rain, as we realized we were no longer in Bora Bora anymore.

After a quick airport shuttle ride into the heart of the city, we settled into our AirBnB by taking a little power nap. By that time, it was already getting late and we were in dire need of food. On the shuttle ride in, we saw a Nandos, so we had to for sure hit that up. We actually fell in love with it when we were in London, and because there isn’t one near where we live in the States, we ate here twice.

During this first evening in the city, we also learned how to cross the street diagonally. It’s what the Auckland locals do, and I wouldn’t be opposed to adopting this practice here in the States… It saves so much time!

Hobbiton 

Our second day in New Zealand started off on a bus down to Rotorua, with a stop at Hobbiton. Now I have never seen any of the Lord of the Rings movies, definitely didn’t read the books, and only watched the second film in the Hobbit series.. However, I am a fan of fantasy (I’m talking Game of Thrones and Harry Potter, woo!) and can appreciate a movie set.

The amount of detail that went into these Hobbit holes is unreal. Each Hobbit hole is decorated to represent the different residents of the Shire. Everyone knows Bag End, the home of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. However, there’s also the Baker, the Beekeeper, the Inventor, the TOWN DRUNK (lol.) And knowing their occupation, you can easily identify their respective homes – the Baker has pastries and bread in their windows!

I really enjoyed touring the film set despite not really knowing the film/s. Though, I think I would have appreciated it more if I was a LOTR fan. (I did end up watching the first Hobbit film on the flight back to the States). We ended the tour with ginger beers at the Green Dragon!

Rotorua

Janelle and I only spent about 12 hours in Rotorua; half of which was spent asleep as it was only an overnight stay. Rotorua – the city that smells like rotten eggs, due to the sulphur in their world-renown natural hot springs. It was FREEZING (for southern Californian standards) but we rallied and spent our evening literally soaking in a hot spring pool at the Polynesian Spa. The hot water felt so good on our sore muscles, and the natural minerals did wonders for our skin.. Or at least, that’s what we had hoped!

Although there is so much more to the little town than the hot springs, it was all we managed to see and do during our short overnight stay. When I go back to New Zealand, Rotorua is on my list to visit again!

 

Auckland – The City of Sails

Back in Auckland for the last couple of days, Janelle and I froze our buns off, but enjoyed the city life for all that it’s worth. I could definitely imagine myself in Auckland; it definitely gave me San Francisco vibes. Although, if you know me, London is the goal and forever the standard I hold all cities to (just kidding, but not really).

On one of our last days in the city, we took a harbor cruise and got the greatest views of the Auckland skyline. We spent some time on those benches just watching the sailboats go by. Did you know that Auckland’s nickname is “City of Sails”? Over 135,000 yachts and sailboats are registered in Auckland. With a population of 1.4 million, that’s a good amount of boats to people!

Although it was a short stay, it was as the Kiwis say, “Sweet as!”



My Tahitian Photo Diary – Part Three

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My Tahitian Photo Diary – Part Three

So it may have taken the whole summer, but the last installment of this photo diary is finally here! Here is my Tahitian Photo Diary – Part Three !

I think it’s pretty safe to say that my week in Bora Bora was a week in literal paradise. The temperature never dipped below 73 degrees, the turquoise waters were always clear, and I could always count on an Ia orana from every resort employee. Oh how I miss hearing that greeting! (I also really miss the French pastries. Like really bad.)

In addition to the great hospitality and postcard scenery, the highlight of our trip was the Shark and Ray Feeding. I think what really made it, aside from the sharks and rays themselves, were our tour guides (Crazy Uncle, specifically). He’s the one that actually took those crazy underwater GoPro shots! And he was also the one who would ask me if I was ready to get back on the boat after each pit stop. I was always the last one to come out of the water, sue me :)

There are not enough words to describe the feeling of being amongst these beautiful and majestic creatures. Being in their domain, we were visitors to their home. I’ve never experienced anything like it, and I get chills just thinking about it. We swam with black tip sharks, lemon sharks, sting rays, TWO manta rays, and an octopus during that half day excursion. And believe it or not, I still have the tan lines from that day!

Those will forever be my favorite memories. And throughout the whole day, Noho and Crazy Uncle would break out the ukulele and sing us songs. They even sang “We Know the Way” from Moana.. We were 100% living the movie. Moana takes bits from all the various Polynesian cultures, but I definitely saw a lot of it in Tahiti. I mean, look at that sailboat!

I feel incredibly blessed to have visited French Polynesia. It is unreal that I am able to say that I’ve been to a lot of people’s dream vacation destination at the ripe ol’ age of 23. I feel extremely fortunate, and I seriously owe it all to my parents. Thanks Mom and Dad, for showing me Tahiti and all its beauty.

And finally, MERCI BEAUCOUP French Polynesia! You are an absolute dream.

Here are Part One and Part Two!



My Tahitian Photo Diary – Part Two

My Tahitian Photo Diary: Part Two

Et voila, part Two of my Tahitian Photo Diary !!!

Every morning we’d start our day having a buffet breakfast. I’ve lost my sweet tooth, but even I had to pay some visits to the crêpe bar! Also, pro-tip for anyone visiting Bora Bora: Take FULL ADVANTAGE of the buffet breakfast!! Eat as much as your tummy can handle because Tahiti is very, very expensive. And if you’re feeling extra frugal, make yourself a sandwich to wrap up and save for later! But bottom line is this: eat a big breakfast so you can skip lunch to somewhat offset the likely-to-be pricey dinner you’ll be having later that night. You’ll be thanking yourself later!

For the second half of our Bora Bora vacation, my family and I had the privilege to stay in the world-famous overwater bungalows. My sister and I were originally supposed to stay in a regular bungalow, but the AMAZING resort staff insisted that the family not be split apart. So, we were given two neighboring bungalows right at the end! Seriously still pinching myself.

While these bungalows were much smaller than our Beach Villa, there was still something so cute and cozy about them. Yes, these are intended for honeymooners. And yes, I’d be so down to return one day with my future husband. The fact that you can just jump off the bungalow and be in the turquoise waters is a selling point in itself! These bungalows are also equipped with glass bottoms so you can see all the fish and sea life swimming beneath you. My dad was certain he saw a barracuda one morning.

When you’re in Bora Bora, you are literally living in a postcard. If only for the week you’re there. It’s no wonder that the resort employees and locals are so happy to take care of all the guests. Shoot, I would be if I had these views every day! And if I got to wear a fresh flower crown all the time, too. I think I seriously could wear a flower crown every day.

See Part Three here! Check out Part One here.



My Tahitian Photo Diary – Part One

Tahiti Photo Diary: Part One

Part One of my extremely delayed Tahiti Photo Diary post, but better late than never I always say.

My family and I vacationed in the French Polynesia right at the beginning of summer… It’s now August. Between then and now, life/work/time got in the way, as well as the feeling of being uninspired. Keeping a blog is hard, and I commend anyone and everyone who writes one. You are amazing.

A little insight behind this first set of Tahiti photos: for the first half of our week long trip, my family and I stayed in a beach bungalow. Complete with an infinity pool, hammock and lagoon view, it was the perfect introduction to our Tahitian vacation. My parents also celebrated their 25th Wedding Anniversary at this time, which meant fresh floral crowns to celebrate with! We also ventured over to the main island town of Vaitape, where we really got to be with the locals. Fresh fruit smoothies and baguettes – I was in literal heaven! Bless French Polynesia.

However, I’d say that the highlight of this first half of the week was seeing a Turtle Release. Le Meridien Bora Bora is the only resort that has an on-site turtle rehabilitation center. And we just so happened to be there during the release of Dixon! Turtle releases happen about once a month there, and they hold a whole ceremony for each turtle they release. It’s quite a once-in-a-lifetime experience, with ukulele music, prayer and the actual release! I still get goosebumps just thinking about it. Hoping Dixon is somewhere in that big ocean out there enjoying his newfound freedom!

It still baffles me that I had the chance to visit Bora Bora. Incredibly lucky to have opportunities like this, and another huge MERCI BEAUCOUP to my parents for bringing us along!

Check out Part Deux here and Part Three here  :)



You, Me, Matcha | Holy Matcha

Holy Matcha – the most aesthetically pleasing café in North Park and an Instagrammer/blogger’s dream. It’s about time that the San Diego area got on the Matcha trend, and I’m so happy that there’s now a local spot dedicated to it. And in one of my favorite neighborhoods, nonetheless!

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Before we get into the actual drinks and food, can we first take a moment to talk about this ombré rose wall?!?! It is such a beauty! At Holy Matcha’s grand opening (which was about a month from the time I’m writing this blogpost), they had another rose wall that I was just dying to see for myself. I wasn’t able to make it during their first weeks in business, and as the wall is made of fresh roses, it wasn’t able to either.

But it somehow worked out that it’d make another appearance for Easter, and during the week I had plans to visit for work play. You can best believe that we had to take many photos of/with the rose wall!

Holy Matcha

Now back to the Matcha! My friend, Lauren, and I each ordered a donut and drink. Lauren got the Matcha lemonade and Strawberry donut, while I went with the hot Matcha latte and Matcha donut. The lemonade was alright, but the latte was amazing. Order it with two teaspoons of agave!

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So I’m a Matcha fan, but it’s definitely an acquired taste. If you were to visit Yelp for this place, you’d see a lot of mixed reviews. Matcha can be quite bitter, but with the right amount of sweetness, it’s wonderful.

What I think the greatest thing about this place is that Holy Matcha is 100% vegan-friendly. The milk used in the lattes is Califia Farms almond milk (with soy milk as the alternative). The donuts are vegan, and gluten free – and were surprisingly good. Although, I do wish they were cheaper. Everything on the menu is quite pricey, but that’s a given for hipster cafés.

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Every inch of Holy Matcha is Instagrammable, which I can really appreciate. From the marble tables and velvet pink booths to the palm leaves wallpaper and gold accents, it’s the café of my dreams!

You, Me, Matcha

I definitely recommend just going for the aesthetics, but if you’re a fan of green tea, it’s a good place to get your Matcha on. Big shoutout to Geraldine, the owner, for opening up this café!

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And did I mention how much I love this wall??

Bracelets: Pura Vida Bracelets



Desert Bloom | Anza-Borrego Springs

The heavy rains in southern California produced what news stations are referring to as a super bloom. You can best believe that I had to get in on some of this wild flower action. Desert Bloom is what we’re calling it, and Anza-Borrego Springs was the place to be these first few weeks of spring.

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Desert Bloom

My go-to adventure buddies are my mom and sister as they’re always down to go on these “crazy” escapades with me. So, we hopped in the car before sunrise to make the 2-hour car journey to the desert. I almost forgot how hot the desert can get. To be fair, I also almost forgot that I grew up in Las Vegas. But that’s another story. By the time we reached our destination, it was 10AM and already 80 degrees!

After a quick bite to eat and chat with the state park volunteers, we drove to the wildflowers and were treated to quite the sight. And I’m not just talking about the yellow and purple flowers… We weren’t the only visitors that weekend, thousands of caterpillars were admiring the fields as well! There aren’t any photos here because it gives me the heebie jeebies just looking at them. But trust me when I say that there were a lot, and they were EVERYWHERE!!!!

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Anza-Borrego Springs

After visiting Joshua Tree for the first time a week before, I was actually happy to be surrounded by cacti again. I personally found the cacti to be more photogenic than the wildflowers, and was most excited to see these tall, spiny things! I’ve become such a sucker for desert vibes, or maybe it’s just because it reminds me so much of Coachella. (Kinda bummed to not be attending this year, but happy that I’ve already experienced it for myself!!)

While we didn’t enjoy the heat, I can say that being surrounded by nature was a sweet treat. I think it’s really good to visit national parks. And more importantly, to respect them!

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U-Pick Sunflowers | Suzie’s Farms

Hello blog! It’s been some time, and while I have no excuse, I’m very sorry for the lack in blog love! But I’m here right now and I’m excited to share this belated post! On the blog today I’m writing about one of my favorite places in San Diego’s South Bay – Suzie’s Farm! This organic farm is my favorite because they’re also a U-Pick farm. Visitors can pick strawberries in the summer, pumpkins in the fall, and sunflowers in the spring! Yes, you read that right, U-PICK SUNFLOWERS! Don’t you love the seasons? I know I do.

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Suzie’s Farm

So while the harvest varies by season, the local community flocks to Suzie’s Farm for fresh, organic produce year-round. Suzie’s Farm is a 70-acre USDA-certified organic farm with over 80 of the nicest employees. The farm also boasts 100+ varieties of fruits, veggies and flowers. What makes this farm extra special, however, is the U-Pick opportunities. They dedicate a few of their fields for the U-Pickers. Below is the makings of the strawberry fields!

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U-Pick Sunflowers

The hours of Suzie’s Farm are pretty limited. At the time this post is being written, the farm is only open to the public on Saturdays. So you can best believe that when it was announced that the sunflowers were ready to be picked, everyone and their mothers were at the fields.

With shears in hand, my mom, sister and I walked into the field of sunflowers on the lookout for the biggest and brightest ones. I made the rookie mistake of wearing an overall dress, meaning my legs were bare and amongst the rows of flowers. Who knew sunflower stems and leaves were so itchy? However, I did make the right decision to wear high socks. Woo!

I know that I personally had so much fun being amongst the flowers. Of course there were bees and other insects, but the photo opportunities were just unreal. For $1 a stem, we walked away with 7 individual blooms.

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Support your local farms and businesses!



Galentine’s Day SD | Moniker Warehouse

Hosted by Layered Vintage, Pow Wow Design Studio, Miho Catering Co., and Barçon Catering Co., Galentine’s Day SD was E V E R Y T H I N G. 7o’s themed and all things groovy, it was an Instagrammer’s dream. Gold foiled donuts, pretty pink cocktails, and a disco ball – I didn’t want to leave empty-handed. And I didn’t. I walked away with lots of photo booth photos and a feeling of female empowerment.

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Galentine’s Day SD

So what is Galentine’s Day? It is also a celebration of love, but for your girlfriends – single or not! Apparently the term was coined by Parks and Rec.. Now, I’ve never seen that show, but it has produced lots of memes. And being the social media addict I am, I see a lot of those.

I’m all for romantic love, but what about all the platonic relationships in your life? They deserve as much attention, if not more, on Valentine’s Day. And that’s exactly what this event brought to light.

There were probably around 200 women who attended the Thursday party at Moniker Warehouse. Imagine the grooviest, most radical, all girl 1970’s disco. Now imagine that with 10x the glitter! The whole place was beautifully decorated – faux fur pillows, cute furniture, and fresh flowers galore. I know that I, myself, couldn’t stop fawning over it all. On top of that, everyone was in their best dress. Seventies’ fashion was all about the bell sleeves, jumpsuits, and platforms. And if you know me, you know I love a good themed party.

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Empowered women empower women

I’m lucky to be able to work with some pretty rad ladies and have some of the best friends a girl can ask for. Empowered women empower women – and in a world where we’re constantly having to prove ourselves and our worth, girl power is super important.

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Ovaries before brovaries, always ✌🏽



Au Revoir 2016

What a whirlwind of a year 2016 has been. It has beat me down, it has built me up, and it has continued to do what 2015 did –  challenge me. Ever since graduating college, I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching to figure out just what I’m meant to do. Spoiler alert: I still don’t know what I’m meant to do. However, I have learned to hone in onto what I love to do. Which is giving back, traveling, writing, and creating content.

#BestNineof2016

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Giving Back

At the beginning of 2016, I was feeling lost and simultaneously inspired. You all know how the New Year tends to do that. I decided to finally sign up to volunteer at the local animal shelter to keep me occupied/sane during my job search. I did that for almost half a year, and I’m eager to get back to continue! The joy I get from volunteering with dogs is borderline silly, but it brings such happiness to me!

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Traveling

This year I was also fortunate enough to do some traveling and cross off some bucket list items. In March, my sister and I traveled with EF College Break to Costa Rica – my first visit to Central America! That was where I embraced the Pura Vida lifestyle, and who knew that half a year later I’d be working at Pura Vida Bracelets!? More on that later.

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A week later, I was off to the valley – the Coachella valley to be exact! I’ve been meaning to go to the Coachella Music Festival since Vanessa Hudgens put it on the map for me, and it finally happened this year. With three of my best friends, we made this dream a reality. My first music festival was THE music festival and it was probably one of the best weekends of my life. Being able to see some of my favorite musical artists (The 1975, Ellie Goulding, Sam Smith) brings literal tears to my eyes just thinking about it. Ah, what is life?!

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Another highlight of 2016 was my trip to San Francisco with Diana. I’ve been once before, but not as an adult (okay ew, not using that term ever again). This meant that I also got to experience Wine Country with my best friend, and it was so much fun. Diana and I always manage to go on fun trips, which I’m more than sure we’ll continue in the new year. What do you say to Mexico in the summer, Dee? VAMOS!

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Then there was my trip to Canada, which has been in the making since the end of semester abroad in 2014! It meant a lot to me to see and hang out with Amanda and Sudiksha after all this time. It also got me closer to my imminent return to Europe. Before I travel to Europe again, I wanted to see more of North and South America. It’s actually my goal to be in London in 2018, so I’ve got to get a move on ;)

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Writing + Creating Content

I’m actually really pleased to see that I documented on the blog all of this year’s travels. It was a personal goal of mine to write more and I used this blog to do just that. Admittedly, I’ve fallen in and out of love with this blog. But at the end of the day, it is a passion and a creative outlet. Writing and content creation are things I love, and it’s important to me that it is part of whatever career route I take.

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Which brings me back to Pura Vida Bracelets! These last few months of 2016 I have been grateful enough to get hired at a wonderful company and dip my toes into the world of social media and influencer marketing. It’s been a learning process and I’m so fortunate to finally have the chance to show what I’m made of. I’ve been able to create content for their Instagram, and I have realized that I really really love it. And it’s something I like to believe I’m good at! So here’s to creating more and more in the new year!

Au Revoir, 2016

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2016 also saw another revolution around the sun. Who knew that a person could have an existential crisis at the ripe old age of 22? It was a hard year and I have a feeling 23 will be just as tough, but you know what? So am I. Bring it on, 2017.



Views from the Six | Toronto

Every Toronto local I crossed paths with seemed surprised when I’d list every place I saw in the Six in the short span I was there. Each day’s list would be an upwards of 4 city attractions, which I guess is a lot. What can I say, I don’t play. Especially when it comes to exploring.

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The city of Toronto is small despite being geographically large. It’s also pretty walkable, but I totally understand the need to take transit. It helped knowing I had TTC tokens once my feet started to hurt. I just needed it for this purpose twice, and it was only because it was also raining.

During my three days in Toronto, I found myself all over the city. I like to believe that is plenty of time for all the must-see’s, especially during Canada’s cooler seasons. Aside from much colder temps than I’m used to, I’d say I came right when the weather was still manageable. Layers really helped.

Day 1

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For my first day in Toronto, the universe conspired to give me the most perfect and beautiful autumn day to explore in. It also happened to be the one day that a good exchange friend of mine, Sudiksha, took off work (and that was before I told her I was coming!) How it all worked out amazes me. We started off in the northern part of Toronto at Kensington Market and worked our way south. We braved Chinatown in the daytime, walked through Graffiti Alley, took Queen Street West all the way to Toronto City Hall, and ended our day at the iconic CN Tower.

Day 2

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The second day of my Canada visit brought the clouds and rain. Not wanting to get wet, this is the day I also braved the TTC subway on my own. My destination was way up north again – the Royal Ontario Museum. I spent a good chunk of my day walking around the exhibits before a brief stroll along all the posh shops in Yorkville. Realising that I didn’t want to shop yet, I decided to jump back onto the subway and head towards west Toronto. This part of the city is much more residential, so I spent the rest of the day admiring the cute and charming homes before venturing back to Kensington and home.

Day 3

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I was whisked away to Ottawa and Niagara for the weekend, so the third day in Toronto was also my last day. I dedicated it to shopping and all the tourist stops I missed earlier in the week. Beginning in St. Lawrence Market, I was sent by Amanda to Paddington Pump to partake in a Torontonian staple, the Peameal Sandwich. Needing to walk it off, I headed over to the Distillery District before making my way over to the Eaton Centre. This shopping centre is insane! I spent a good 2 hours in there before treating myself to a BeaverTail.

Toronto aka The 6ix

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The city of Drake treated this California girl very well. I loved exploring a new city and always have to pinch myself that this is real life. Feeling really grateful for these opportunities! Thanks again, Toronto!