Holiday in King’s Landing: Dubrovnik, Croatia

Your first glimpse of the Old City in Dubrovnik is an incredible sight.  Whether you’re driving in from the craggy hills of Croatia or if you’re on a boat in the Adriatic’s cerulean sea, the city is breathtaking.  The Old City’s walls are up to 20 feet thick and 72 feet high in certain places.  This fact makes Dubrovnik one of the most preserved cities in Europe since potential conquerers weren’t able to get through these barriers for centuries.  No wonder this city is the perfect site to protect the Iron Throne! If you got that reference, then you might already know that the Old City is one of the sets for King’s Landing, a fictional setting in the series Game of Thrones.  I couldn’t help making up my own GoT tour each day when adventuring within the city walls.IMG_4218

We met Zach and Amanda at the airport, and caught a cab to our Airbnb which was right inside of Buza gate, the Northern entrance into the Old City.  Once you enter the gate, picture steep staircases like in Positano, Italy, flanked by weaving vines and ferns alongside the limestone walls.  Laundry lines hang outside of flat windows and you’ll see from my pictures that I was smitten with these historic streets.

A random start to our trip: our Airbnb host’s mother was actually born in Camden, New Jersey if you can believe it!  She welcomed us with a bit of her family history, showed us around the flat, and then suggested Lady PiPi.  It’s a restaurant around the corner from ours but people come from all over the city for a meal.  We lucked out with only two people in line before us.  We had our first tastes of meat and mead (ok, really meat and an Adriatic feast of shellfish and fish grilled with lemon and garlic and potatoes)…and Croatian wine.  I learned that the whites are dry from Konavle, Korcula, and the Peljesac Peninsula.  Reds should come from the Peljesac Peninsula as well and one should sample bottles of Dingac, Plavac, and Postup. I digress…

The terra cotta rooftops were stunning from our restaurant’s outdoor veranda, and we were covered from summer rain showers since the roof of the outdoor space was a trellis with thick grape vines.

First stop after lunch, and after picking up an umbrella, was figuring out how to climb the walls of the Old City.  We picked our way down to the Stradun, the main thoroughfare paved with smooth limestone slabs.  Amanda stopped into the bulk Pirate Candy shop for a ‘healthy’ gluten-free snack to nourish us on our adventures.  Past Onofrio’s large water fountain, you can buy tickets to walk the 1.2 km of the Old City walls.  I described how Varys’ little birds were scurrying along notable corridors, and how Cersei was plotting from the same lookouts we were scaling.

Zach conquered his fear of heights for this trip, and did an amazing job of walking the entire perimeter of the Old City!  He held handrails, sometimes with his knees shaking, and always leaned on his best bud (see video c/o Amanda!).

The views from atop the walls were gorgeous even on a rainy day.  The waters are too clear, and the rain kept other visitors away for the time being.  We shared stories of our travels as we wandered the ins and outs of the walls.  Each lookout seemed more beautiful than the last.  Of course, I continued my GoT story-telling – ‘here is where Jamie Lannister was practicing his one-armed swordmanship’ and ‘these stairs lead to where the Mountain lives’ 😉

The harbor was quiet because of the stormy weather and most tourists were parked at cafes to wait out the rain.  I liked how the lanterns on the streets doubled as storefront names, and how we could fill up our water bottles at the fountains around town.

Buza Bar, a no-frills joint without food or hot drinks, came highly recommended as a wonderful spot to watch the waves crash as the sun sets.  We arrived earlier than most so we could get a good seat to relax before dinner.  I wasn’t a big fan of the Croatian beer they served, but it’s worth taking a rest here for the views!  Buza also means ‘hole’ hence walking through a passage, or rather, a hole-in-the-city-wall to get there.

We ate at Azur on our first night, a spot that cleverly calls its food ‘Cro-Asian’.  Sitting outside for meals was one of the highlights for me, and this little tucked away spot didn’t disappoint.  We had a wonderful server who rightly suggested the tacos to start.  My laksa had a wonderful bounty of seafood but the broth left something to be desired.  We also got a proper wine bar suggestion from our server- D’Vino Wine Bar. It’s in the heart of the old town and it’s incredibly cozy whether you want to sit inside with subtle lighting or outside with a cushion on the stairs that lead down to the doorway.  It was a really fun night because we met up with Corey’s colleague Tondi, her sister Nyasha, and their good friend Ella, who had just come back from a private boat tour around the Dalmatian islands.  Their pictures were amazing!  I also learned a bit about the reputations of Northern and Southern Germany, and a lot about how Hamburg is an unsung hero when it comes to visiting Germany (I’m in!).  Side Note: Our server also said that Matusko Wine Bar was another spot we should visit but our group didn’t make it past D’Vino that night.

Good morning, Dubrovnik!  Today, we decided that we’d take a trip to Lokrum which is just a fifteen minute ferry ride from the old port.  Admittedly, we didn’t have a serious plan scheduled–we just walked down to the docks and lucked out that the next boat was leaving in five minutes.  The landing dock at Lokrum is a quiet cove that makes you feel as if you’d discovered a quaint island away from it all, even if the major hotels are just across the way.

Lokrum is a mix of shrubs, trees, and beaches with huge stone slabs, rather than sand. It’s highly recommended that you bring or buy water shoes to avoid sharp rocks and infamous sea urchins–though we didn’t see any of these probably because the beach areas we visited were didn’t have actual shores- it was more of a drop directly into the ocean type deal.  It’s also worth a mention that Lokrum is known for its peacock and rabbit populations.  They’re pretty bold if you have snacks, and are indifferent to your cameras.

This first set of pictures was taken on Lokrum’s nude beach.  The signs leading to the beach warn you that you are not allowed if donning a swim suit, but the local woman at the cafe said no one was sunning themselves this early.  It really is a prime location for a beach, nude or otherwise.  The slanted rocks basically give each person their own platform for laying out.

We trekked further around the island and found the main beach on site.  You can see more rocks form the beach area rather than sandy shores.  Check our our little pool below!  We enjoyed taking it all in even though the waves were higher than usual due to an incoming storm.   It was crazy seeing tourists try to brave the waves.  I couldn’t look half the time since I was worried someone would get taken out to sea!  It was sunny at the beach, but once back on the boat, we hit some choppy waves.  Zach suggested we play a game so that I wouldn’t have a panic attack on the boat. Thanks for that!

This afternoon started our actual attempt at finding the Game of Thrones landmarks in the city.  First, we found Rector’s Palace.  Apparently, the stairs at Rector’s Palace are adorned with hands on each rail, but we didn’t pay the ticket price to get that close to see them. Instead, I captured this shot when the guard wasn’t looking to make sure that I could prove I was in the same place as the spice trader from Qarth (images far left, top and bottom).

Next, Cersei’s famed walk of atonement starts atop the Jesuit Staircase.  If you are going to watch the series, then that’s all I can say to avoid spoiler alerts.  (center images top and bottom)

Finally, the exterior of Museum Rupe stunts as the outside of Littlefinger’s brothel.  Tyrion and Oberyn Martell are seen walking away from this space in deep conversation about an upcoming plot for revenge (far right, images top and bottom)


We ate huge pizzas at Mea Culpa, one of the many pizza places located in the Old City. It’s a cheap meal if you avoid a bottle of Zindfandel which basically doubles your bill.  After lunch, we caught a very small Dali exhibit with a lot of work that I hadn’t seen before. Still bizarre for my taste, but interesting to see earlier works before his melting clocks.

Another beautiful sunset from our Airbnb as we all took a bit of rest before the main event: Konoba Dubrava.  You have to call in advance if you want to order meat ‘under the bell’ which is the restaurant’s version of a slow cooker or of a smoker. I couldn’t tell you entirely, but definitely call ahead! We were told there would be lamb and veal, and we were not upset by double ‘sheep’ on our plates.  With stewed potatoes, and a suggested order of veggies/salad, you will be stuffed to the gills.  The seafood salad was also a nice touch and they serve an aperitif of cherry, walnut, or plum- basically like a sherry before dinner.  We whiled away the final night even while a storm hit.  Guests are all seated outside under awnings, and we saw a few of the coverings give way and soak guests as the nearby tables.  We stayed cozy, filled our bellies, and talked finances, family backgrounds, politics, and debated about sending our future kids to GS or nah.

Back at our airbnb, we sang 90’s r&b, finished a bottle of rose, and tried to plan our excursions for the following day.  Unfortunately, we had to say our goodbyes to Amanda and Zach the next morning. They decided to ride the gondola to the top of the hill, and then a walk down.  They were heading out for the islands of Split and Hvar and only had the morning before leaving Dubrovnik.  Since Corey and I didn’t have any big island tours in our agenda, we decided to make our way out to Gruz Harbor which is just north of the Old City.

Gruz Harbor the main port where ferries and cruise ships are carrying passengers further out along the Dalmatian coast.  Our plan was to head out to the three Elafiti Islands (Kolocep, Lopud, and Sipan).  Lopud, we heard, had the best beaches yet still didn’t allow commercial vehicles on the island like Sipan, so we started there and figured we’d hop back to Kolocep later in the afternoon.  The ferry was relaxing and the waters were so clear you could see fish swimming below the boat.  We were the first boat to arrive at Lopud, and we discovered then that there wasn’t a need to island hop.  We recommend taking one of the golfcart cabs to Sunj beach since it’s a literal hike to the other side of the island. You can catch the cabs about a 10 min walk from the harbor, if you just follow the signs to the beach.  I picked up a couple of snacks and water bottle along the main strip as well.

When we arrived, we rented the 50% off chairs and umbrella even though we weren’t really sure why they were cheaper.  I should mention that we didn’t need water shoes for this trip as the beach is one of the few sandy shores in the area.  Private boats anchor outside of the cove buoys so that passengers can swim into the beach area.  We took the opportunity to swim out to see the yachts.  I was happy we had our snacks (a peach and pastry with ground meat and large water bottle) since there was only one restaurant in the area.  The sunshine was wonderful, and we couldn’t help but reflect on how lucky we were to be swimming in the Adriatic sea.

We caught a golfcart back to town for the 3pm ferry.  There wasn’t a lot to explore around the main strip. We saw a few stalls and more pizza restaurants, but decided to beat the crowds that would be piling into the last boat at 6pm.  We looped past Sipan, before being dropped off at Gruz harbor.  We had another pastry and a glass of wine in Lapad while waiting for Pantarul Restaurant to open.  Umm, but it never opened.  I failed to read that the restaurant is closed on Monday. Well…. more exploring down near the Lapad harbor! It’s definitely more of a neighborhood feel, and there were families at the restaurant that we finally found on the water- Orsan. The moonlight on the water was my favorite of the meal- oh yea, and Corey finding out how just how sunburnt he’d gotten during our first course.

After dinner, we decided to find the best ice cream spot, and all online votes pointed to Dolce Vida in the Old City.  It had the infamous After Eight ice cream (looked like mint chocolate chip ice cream).  I enjoyed the Forrest Berries though my stomach paid for it later.  We walked along the moonlight lanes for as long as my tummy could handle it.  The streets are so magical!

Our Airbnb shared on the morning of that we wouldn’t be able to have a late check out, and that we wouldn’t be able to store our bags. Argh!  So we solved the problem by renting a car.  I’d read that Ston had something akin to a mini-Great Wall of China, and that Mali Ston, Ston’s next door neighbor, was known by gastronomes for amazing seafood.  The gentleman at the car rental also suggested Seosko Domaćinstvo Ficović for lunch.  That was enough for us.  We’d figure out the rest when we got to the seafood restaurant.  We drove along the bright green pines and looked down the cliffs at the sparkling waters.

Ston does have 14th century fortifications to guard against an attack by sea.  The town is incredibly small and very relaxed which is probably very different from when it was a town poised to protect the Republic of Ragusa (the former name of Dubrovnik).  Mali Ston is only a walk away from Ston but we didn’t spend any time there.

The restaurant, in Hodilje, is neighbors with an RV campground, but the grounds are so small that you don’t really notice them unless you go around to the side of the restaurant. If you had to choose a spot to camp or live in a trailer then this isn’t such a bad location at all– in fact, it’s absolutely gorgeous!

Seosko Domaćinstvo Ficović was too perfect. The outdoor seating was serene with a warm breeze and with cleverly draped fishing nets as decoration.  It’s an understatement to say they had amazing ambiance.   We hit the jackpot!

We had divine oysters straight offshore from Mali Ston, and the waitress kept apologizing because they didn’t have everything on the menu.  She said ‘We only have what’s fresh so I’m sorry there isn’t a lot of choice.’ We said ‘Perfect! Bring us what ever is fresh!’ My favorite was the clams, mussels, and venus shells (I think that’s what she called them. They don’t open when you cook them actually but they are yummy!). The garlic sauce was too good!  Then we had tuna and sea bream. I was over the moon!  It was the best meal of the entire trip.

We also watched as Croatian families actually take swim breaks between their courses at the restaurant!  What a life!  The waitress there asked how we found out about the place since we were the only tourists in the area, and she kindly suggested that we visit the numerous wineries in the area.  We didn’t think wine tasting while driving was a good look, so we inquired about the beaches in the area.  She said her favorite was an untouched beach called Vucine.  ‘It’s better than Prapratno’ were her words (Prapratno was in my guidebook but Vucine was not).  So, of course, we wanted to take on the beach less traveled!

As you can see, Vucine was just gorgeous. It’s a bit difficult to find, but once you get there, it’s a small strip that you don’t want to leave.  We turned a lot of heads when we set foot on the pebbly beach.  The families there hadn’t predicted that a mixed couple would show up that day.  Corey received a warm ‘he-llo’ from a small boy swimming next to us.  He was definitely trying out the few words he’d learned in English which was really cute.

On the drive back to the airport, we stopped a few times for the look-outs, and also for the honey and olive oil stalls.  We couldn’t commit to checking a bag so we didn’t get anything.  Our final meal before the airport was at a pretty terrible spot (Dalmatino), but at least we got to watch the Euro basketball cup.  Too bad Croatia lost to Spain.  Croatia actually has two players who are on the Sixers this year, and I should put in writing here that Corey has claimed the Sixers will win the chip in the next five years.

Traveling in Dubrovnik was a really relaxing trip, but, upon reflection, this (s)log took longer to write since we did end up doing more than just sunbathing.  This is a random mention but I saw two different Croatians with the same tattoo:  ‘My life my rules’.  It’s not particularly dreamy like ‘ Live life to the fullest’ or ‘Dance, Live, Love’ (I think that’s a magnet somewhere), but I liked the straightforward realistic nature of the phrase.  When you’re surrounded beaches, sun, wine, and fresh seafood, and your country has also recently experienced a siege in the last 20 years, I imagine that it’s not a bad motto to live by.  We’d highly suggest Croatia as a place to visit, and I look forward to seeing the islands and to traveling to neighboring states asap!

Quick Shot: 

Eat / Drink at:

  • Konoba Dubrava: as seen in the NY Times article; order ahead for meats ‘under the bell’ (takes 3 hours to cook)
  • Seosko Domaćinstvo Ficović: order the mussels & clams in garlic (need a car to get here, there is no website, and it’s on an unnamed street)
  • Lady Pipi for whatever meal you can get without waiting in line 🙂 Do it!
  • D’Vino Wine bar
  • Dolce Vida for ice cream and pancakes
  • I’d suggest a winery too even though we didn’t get to one; they all looked lovely!

Day Trips to Beaches:

  • Vucine- need a car
  • Lopud- boat from Gruz Harbor
  • Lokrum- boat from Old City port


  • Walk the city walls
  • Opt in for a do-it-yourself Game of Thrones tour (or pay to have an expert take you around)
  • Ride the gondola for stunning views of the city




Vacaciones en Madrid

IMG_0834Voy a escribir en español otra vez pero yo escribir en ingles tambien porque todo mis amigos y familia no pueden leer mi espanol probablemente.  Corey y yo fuimos a Madrid para Feriado Bancario en Augosto y el cumpleanos de Corey tambien.

I’m going to write in Spanish again but I will also write in English because not all of my friends and family can read my Spanish probably. Corey and I went to Madrid for the Bank Holiday in August to celebrate the three day weekend, and also to celebrate Corey’s belated birthday.

Dia Uno: Nosotros llegamos en Madrid en la tarde de noche.  El vuelo fue simpatico y nuestra hotel es a cerca de Parque Del Retiro.  Nosotros caminamos al restaurante La Maquina de Jorge Juan porque una amiga de Corey lo sugirió.  El carne estaba muy bien!  Me sorprendió porque yo no me gusta mas carne normalmente pero en este noche, yo lo quiero.

Day One: We arrived in Madrid late in the evening.  It was an easy trip and our hotel was very close to Retiro Park.  Corey’s colleague suggested many restaurants so we picked one that was within walking distance: La Maquina de Jorge Juan.  The steak was very good. I was surprised because I never order red meat but that night I’m glad I wanted it.

Dia Dos: Este dia, nosotros caminamos todo del dia.  Pense los nubes ayudaron porque el sol no toco mi.  Madrid tiene las calles grandes con arboles y plazas en los barrios.  Cuando yo fui a Madrid con mi familia, mi lugar favorito fue Museo Reina Sofia.  Claro que si, yo quise ir al Museo otra vez para compartir con Corey.  Nosotros caminamos al frente de una iglesia, Los Jeronimos, y Museo Prado, pero no entramos.  Nosotros comimos almuerzo en la restaurante Fabrica, una lugar en el periodico New York Times.  El tomato con jamon y pan fue la comida mejor. Bebimos vino porque fue temprano pero los cocteles tenian nombres de artistas como Ai Wei Wei. 

Day  Two: This day, we basically walked all day!  Madrid has really grand vias with trees and plazas around every corner, in every neighborhood.  When I came to Madrid with my family, my favorite place was the Reina Sofia Museum so I wanted to head back there first thing to bring Corey.  We walked by the Los Jeronimos church and the Prado, but we didn’t go inside.  We stopped in for lunch at Fabrica, a restaurant suggested by the 36 Hours in NYtimes article.  The sundried tomatoes and jamon bite was the best thing we had, and it was served right after you placed your order.  We had wine as we were just starting the day, but the cocktails were named after artists like Ai Wei Wei.

Cuando nosotros caminamos al museo, miramos el Green Wall, a cerca de el Caixa Forum, un otro lugar de artists.  Nosotros reunimos con el Trenton amigo de Corey.  Ellos jugaron balencesto en la escuela. Es verdad!  Justin y Nida, su esposa, viven en Qatar y ellos visitaron Espana tambien!  Es un mundo pequeno, no?

Museo Reina Sofia todovia un museo maravilloso.  La exposition sobre de Picasso: Pity and Terror- Picasso’s Path to Guernica fue en el museo. Mi parte favorita es las pinturas primeros que se ayudaron Picasso con su mural final.  Corey le gusto los cuartos con picturas de surrialistas como Dali.

On our way to the Reina Sofia, we passed the Green Wall, next to the Caixa Forum, another art space.  We also ran into Corey’s friend from Trenton, who used to play basketball with him in middle school!  Justin and his wife, Nida, are living in Qatar, and just happened to be vacationing in Spain at the exact same time!  Such a small world!

The Reina Sofia museum was as wonderful as I remember it.  One of the special exhibitions was actually about Picasso:  Pity and Terror- Picasso’s Path to Guernica.  My favorite part of the museum is seeing the multiple sketches and studies of each section of the great mural.  I loved the variety of mediums and how these were assembled leading up to his final painting.  Corey enjoyed the three to four rooms of the surrealist painters as his beloved Dali was on display.

Afuera de Museo Reina Sofia, fue un cafe que se nombre El Brillante.  Todo la gente tenian calamari frito y pan.  Claro, nosotros comimos un tambien.  Necessitas limon o la comida en el Mercado de San Miguel es mejor.  Nosotros tomimos un autobus a Plaza Mayor.  Yo recorde la plaza cuando mis hermanas y papa visitaron.  Cerca de la plaza es una calle que se llama Calle De Factor.  Es una calle pequena pero hay un calle bonita porque tenemos un bella bonita.

Directly to the right of the Reina Sofia is a cafe called El Brillante.  There were so many people sitting outside with fried calamari baguettes that we had to split one as well before walking to the next landmarks.  Definitely ask for lemon, or it might be a better bet heading for the market place near Plaza Mayor.  We ended up on the bus to Plaza Mayor, and didn’t end up spending much time there.  We had a few tapas that we couldn’t resist at Mercado de San Miguel, but admittedly weren’t too hungry after our stop at El Brillante.  I definitely remember the plaza and market on my trip with my dad and my sisters.  We continued our walk to Palacio Real through we detoured down a small street that took us to a lovely look out over the palace (Calle De Factor).

Caminamos todo del dia, si?!  Antes de Palacio Real fue Jardines de Sabatini.  Es un jardin con mazes y es una lugar por una siesta pequena.  Tambien, estaba fresco con los arboles y fuentes de agua.  El Templo de Debod no estaba interesante para mi pero me gusta El Parque de Oeste porque tenian la gente local.  Hay touristas pero mas joven de Madrid en las ropas punk y goth. 

Yup, we are still walking at this point! Behind Palacio Real is Sabatini Garden, a garden with mazes to explore or a place to rest your feet.  It felt cooler amidst the shrubs and fountains.  If your next goal is to walk to Templo de Debod, as ours was, exit the park and keep on the highroad. Don’t walk down the stairs to the far left as this takes you to the street level (below the overpass).  You’ll walk under the overpass that you need to get up to the park and then you’ll need to walk up way more flights of stairs to get to the temple. I was underwhelmed by the Egyptian temple but Oeste Park was nice since it’s much more local than some of the other plazas.  Yes, there are tourists, but there are also lawns full of families spending an afternoon, as well as Madrid’s teenagers, mainly in punk and goth fashion with alternative hairstyles.

Despues El Parque de Oeste, nosotros caminamos al Gran Via- como Broadway en Nueva York.  En realidad, no pense ellos necesitan viajar en la calle, pero estaba un via a nuestra hotel.  En el barrio Salamanca, hay una restaurante que se llama Ten Con Ten y nosotros comimos al dentro por las cumpleanos de Corey.  Me gusto las cachofas porque no necessite trabajo. Me gusto fuentes de agua en mi video!

After the visit to Oeste park, we walked on the Gran Via, which is basically the main tourist thoroughfare in Madrid.  In reality, I don’t think you need to seek out this street as you’ll probably run into it at some point while making your way around Madrid.  And if you don’t, it’s not a big deal at all. We walked this route because it was on our way back to our hotel.  We had dinner in the Salamanca neighborhood at Ten Con Ten.  It’s an upscale neighborhood with this really cool waterfall (see below how it spells out words!).  I liked the artichokes appetizer because you didn’t have to do any work peeling the leaves from the choke!

Dia Tres:  Nosotros dormimos muchisimo!  Levantamos a las doce!  Es verdad!  Fuimos as Barrio Chueco por desayuno? o por almuerzo?  El barrio tenian calles lindas pero en Domingo, no estan abiertos.   

Day Three: I can’t remember ever sleeping in so late while on vacation. We are usually up and about, ready for an excursion bright and early!  But on this day, we slept in until noon!!!  We walked to the Chueco neighborhood, but most of the galleries and cute stores were closed on Sunday either because it was Sunday or because it was still August and most of Europe is on vacation during this month.  I wish we could have stayed longer to check out the bars with vermouth on tap or the curio shops with great window decorations.  We had a few toasts at San Anton market but I’ll be back Chueco!

Despues nuestra tostadas, caminamos al barrio Lavapies porque nosotros tenimos una reservacion con Justin y Nida en El Sur.  Nosotros comimos por tres horas! Cuando en Espana, no?  Me enamore con salmorejo!!!  Cuando bebimos sangria, nosotoros hablamos sobre de nuestras vidas.

After our tapas snack, we walked to Lavapies neighborhood for our lunch with Justin and Nida at El Sur.  We ate for three hours!! When in Spain, right?  I fell in love with salmorejo that memorable Sunday.  While drinking sangria, we learned about each others’ lives since AAU basketball!

Despues de la reunion, Corey y yo miramos el barrio Lavapies.  Hay mas graffiti pinturas politicas. Me guste el barrio tambien.  Tenemos churros con chocolate en Chocolateria San Gines cerca de Plaza Mayor (si, mas caminando).  La linea es largo pero no estaba mas tiempo.  Un orden fue bastante para nosotros. 

After our reunion, we wanted to see more of the Lavapies neighborhood. There are tons of non/political graffiti art and murals.  We worked up a hunger from walking- not really, but I wanted to have churros con chocolate with Corey.  At Chocolateria San Gines between Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol, the line is long but it doesn’t take a lot of time.  One order was enough for us!  It’s a must in Madrid!

Es tiempo para futbol!  Mi regalo a Corey por su cumpleanos fue un viaje a Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.  Nosotros montamos en el autobus como la gente de Madrid.  Antes del juego, Bernabeu estaba ‘humming’.  La gente espero por el Real Madrid autobus.  Ninos estaban en los hombros de sus dadas y mamas porque los miraron. Cuando el autobus llegaron, ellos gritaron pero el equipo Real Madrid no bajo el autobus.  Estaba bien.  Compramos palomitas como Daisuke y miramos el juego!

I can’t translate this entire section (mainly the parts about describing the futbol game so I’ll have to add more in the English section for this bit).  It’s time for futbol! Corey’s birthday gift were the tickets to a Real Madrid game at the famous Santiago Bernabeu stadium.  We rode the bus with the Madrid fans an over an hour before game time. Around the stadium, it was humming with hawkers and fans.  We started to walk the circumference of the stadium and on one end, there was a crowd of people waiting. We noted it was near the car park and guessed correctly that the team bus would be coming around shortly.  The crowd moved forward in a wave, kids were hoisted onto their parents’ shoulders, and phones shot up into the air  as the bus rounded the corner and drove slowly down the hill towards the fans.  A cheer erupted when the bus was in sight, but it was anti-climatic as the bus doesn’t even drive through the crowd to the car park. It turns right before the stadium and must go through some secret entrance?!

Either way, we took a slightly longer walk away from the stadium to see the neighborhood and the apartment buildings and the small restaurants just begging for me to come in.  But it was near game time, so we trekked back, picked up some palomitas just like Daisuke likes to eat during games and climbed to the top of the stadium for our nosebleed seats (!).  Being 25 minutes early, the stadium didn’t seem like it could fill up for a Sunday night game at 10:15pm.  Boy, was I wrong.  Basically at 5 minutes to the match, the seats were full and the energy was already starting to build.  Real Madrid was taking on Valencia- a seemingly easy win.  But it ended up being one of those matches where the dominant team spends all the time taking shots on goal, but with a couple random break-aways, the scrappier team scored first.  The match ended in a tie and we walked all the way home after the match (7000 steps after midnight)!

Dia Cuatro: El fin dia, corri en El Retiro.  Hay una lugar con vistas bellas!  Despues, llenamos nuesta equipaje y comimos pan con tomate (mi favorita!).  Pero, cuando comimos, comenzo a echar lluvia y graniza! ( didn’t know how to say hail at all).  Necessitamos esperar en la restaurante por trenta minutos mas!  No caminamos en la lluvia sin paraguas.  Nuestra hotel nos ayudo!  Despues, caminamos a El Retiro y queremos tapas.  Arzabal es mejor, la gente!!!

The last day, I took a jog in El Retiro park.  It’s got some gorgeous tree-lined lanes and there were lots of runners up early.  After my run, we packed our bags and went in search of pan con tomate, my favorite breakfast from the last time I was in Madrid.  I’m not sure it’s an actual breakfast, but we found it at a local cafe.  While we were eating, it started pouring and hailing! We were stuck in the restaurant for an extra half hour!  We couldn’t walk around without going back to the hotel for umbrellas.   Luckily, they helped us out, and then we strolled El Retiro park, not wanting to go far from the hotel in case it started pouring again.

Then we did something pretty hilarious. We made the decision that we needed to eat at one last delicious place for lunch.  Arzabal was the best, people! Order the bread and butter to start. You will be amazed at what comes to your table! The house wine is called ‘Terrible’ but it’s yummy.  I had to have my second bowl of salmorejo and more jamon. Corey opted for chicken wings for our final meal before heading to the airport!

Quick Hits aka My Favorites:

  • Visit the Reina Sofia museum: Both the Reina Sofia and the Prado have times during the week where there is free entry. Check the days of the week, and the timings are usually in the evening
  • Have churros y chocolate at Chocolateria San Gines between Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol
  • Stroll through Retiro Park, or Oeste Park or any park for that matter- bonus if you pack a lunch or do your daily jog there!
  • Eat at Mercado de San Miguel but note it’s usually crowded with tourists.
  • Eat at Arzabal seen here. Order bread and butter, and the salmorejo.  Anything else you take on is probably also delicious, too!  The ‘Terrible’ house wine is yummy.
  • Tour the numerous neighborhoods in Madrid: I’d go back to Chueca, and Lavapies.  I also wanted to check out La Latina on Sunday but we woke up too late! Apparently, there is a great market and people are out all day having food and drinks.
  • See a futbol game if you can. Even if you’re in the nosebleeds, it’s really a good time.
Oakland, USA

LonSum 3: I’m going going back back to Cali Cali

I’ve got to begin the month of August with some MAJOR shoutouts!

First: Congratulations to all of my parents for starting their retirement this summer!!!  I’m very, very excited for you, and I look forward to hearing about your adventures in this new chapter.

 Second: Congratulations in advance for all of the wonderful news, weddings, and babies that make me smile from ear to ear! You have to read to the end of the post for updates about my incredible friends.

This trip to California was one of the most relaxing I’ve ever had.  We spent the first week loading up on lots of family time.  For our first dinner at home, my mom surprised Corey with an early birthday celebration since he’d be back in London for the 19th.  The next day (Sunday), the Forrest women celebrated Marie Adele with Auntie Caryl, as my cousin Eric is getting married in September.  Monday, we had lunch with my mom, Barbara and Corey D at a Caribbean joint in Old town, but it left a lot to be desired (we tried, Eula!).

For Corey’s final night in Oakland, Miya and I booked tickets to the Battle of the Bay game so that Corey could see his first game at the A’s stadium.  The entire Forrest crew could cheer for every play since we’re a mix of Giants and A’s fans. (Daisuke was asleep by the 3rd inning I think!)


Battle of the Bay. They gave away towels that read ‘Hella Hustle’!

Then it was off to South Lake Tahoe at Zephyr Cove.  Time to celebrate one of my oldest and dearest friends, Brian.  He and Meggie tied the knot on 4th August, and I had the honor of officiating their ceremony!

They both looked incredibly happy, and the lake resort was such a pretty setting for their ceremony, even though there were worries the front row might get taken by the waves.  Auntie Marlene gave the most touching speech I’ve ever heard at a wedding- so strong and so thoughtful.  Eric’s follow up also made me beam with pride as the Kozono clan held it down with back to back championship speeches.  We hit up the photo booth, did some gambling at Harrah’s and Corey had a dance off with a 12 year old cousin of Meggie’s.  Yes, he went super hard in the paint to show this middle schooler how it’s done.

Forgot to mention, that the day before the wedding, we enjoyed the outdoors.  My mom, Corey and I got in a hike across the state line, and everyone enjoyed the lake on such a warm day.

Following the week of merriment (or marry-ment!), I decided to take things as they came. No crazy scheduling and driving all over the place. Just hanging out and meeting up when it made sense.  This meant that I spent a majority of my time with my little Papas (Daisuke).  I learned his schedule fairly well, and even watched him on my own for a trip to Children’s Fairyland, a park that we went to as kids.  We picked tomatoes, read books, and played at both grandparents’ houses, and I got to see swim lessons at Mills College one morning.

When schedules did align, it was the best.  My wonderful girlfriends, Miho and Lisa, met up for drinks at Lake Chalet.  How are they both in Oakland?! It’s so powerful for me!  Lake Chalet is a spot that sits right on Lake Merritt, and has a great dock with outdoor seating for happy hour. I was lucky enough to catch Lisa’s soon-to-be husband, Jared, there as well to catch up with them as they’d just picked up their marriage license.

Never a dull moment with my SLHS crew either.  Caught up with Joc and Jessi at MUA for Jessi’s bachelorette (yassss!!!), and saw Jen for a Sparky’s lunch. Double bonus, I got to hang with Monica, Jessi and Jen for another evening where we shut down some cocktail spot called Plum bar?

Even though we spent some quality time in Lake Tahoe, I was really happy to have more time with Auntie Marlene, Meggie, Brian, Eric and Gary.  Auntie Marlene hosted a pasta dinner one night, and Meggie, Brian, Gary and I had drinks around Old Town on another evening.  We talked about everything under the sun, and I felt so energized after our hang out.  I jumped on the bandwagon for BK and Meggie’s book club. The goal is to read titles listed on the incoming freshman lists for major universities (namely Ohio State, Meggie’s alma mater).  I’ve just finished Hillbilly Elegy, the first one on deck. Eric and I caught up at a spot on Grand, and after two hours of talking realized we never ordered a beer.  Auntie Marlene also came over to a dinner at my mom’s where we compared dishes we’d made where we added msg or just regular salt.  Our Chinese-American inspired meal included pork meatballs, peppers stuffed with shirmp and home made scallion pancake.  As I hoped, all gatherings kept us up talking late and sharing ideas about what we’ve learned so far about growing up and making sense of our experiences.

I’m pretty sure I ate avocados, pho and Mexican food in rotation every day. Corey ate about three burritos in the first 48 hours of being on the West Coast. Jamie and I had large bowls of beef pho for a sister to sister lunch on International, and my mom and I had back to back bowls in Richmond and then in Oakland.  On the way back from camping, we had a bonus get together with Oonaugh and Uncle Jamie in Fairfax at Avatar’s Punjabi burritos! So good!  I also snuck avocados whenever I could- on salads, on bagels, and sometimes right out of the skins with a spoon.

More family time: The Forrest/Black/Tremblay/Jaffa clan met out in Santa Rosa for a summertime reunion, and Ginny came by my mom’s house to talk art projects, and about her feelings starting her new school year.  Corey, Auntie Sue and Auntie Caryl were able to witness the longstanding relationship that I have with the owner of Tsuru sushi since I’ve been eating there since I was 15 years old!  I biked with my dad and mom-Marilyn up to Cull Canyon, and I also can’t forget the nice evenings having dinner around San Leandro and then sitting in the family room on Covington street just talking about life.

Camping with Daisuke, my Dad and Miya made my heart melt. Going back to Samuel P. Taylor where we camped as kids was just as magical with the next generation.  We went down to the creek to wade and throw rocks.  We visited Hearts Desire beach where Daisuke practiced more rock throwing, burying his feet in the sand, and blowing bubbles in the water.  We took bikey-blue for a spin around the redwood trees, and we told stories around the campfire.  My dad shared some old scrapbook gems that were recently recovered, and Daisuke and I also reenacted the stories of Abiyoyo and Anansi the Spider at least three times in one evening. That’s the energy that a s’more can give you.

Miya hosted a retirement dinner for two of Logan’s Hall of Fame teachers who’ve just retired.  We sang songs from our childhood and yelled over-zealous commands at Alexa, Jose’s google contraption.  We also spent a day in SF at the Giants game, complete with a visit from Lou Seal!  Anthony, a former student teacher of my dad’s, also works at the stadium, making it a really special day for my dad.

The eclipse was on my last full day in California, and it made for such an adventure. Barbara came prepared with the glasses, colanders and tools, while Miya found a spot with a  wonderful playground, and mom and I packed the picnic lunch.  Daisuke was pretty oblivious but that’s allowed since he’s so cute!

My mom cooked a masterpiece for my last meal: Lamb shanks with pilaf and salad.  Miya and Daisuke made pie like the kittens who soiled their mittens, and Jose and I …well, we just ate it all up!

I recognize I can’t really stop gushing about how grateful I am for the people I love.  I know I am not doing this post justice by sharing quick summaries of this month but I know this post is already so long and we have more life to get back to, to share, and to make social change. I’m just happy I have so many people to stay strong with! Thank you for making my trip home an incredible one.

Celebrations for Friends!

Addie is the 2017 Harriett Ball Excellence In Teaching Award Winner (and she’s pregnant with a baby girl)

Weddings: Anson got married, Eric and Marie are next, followed by Jessi and Monica, and then Lisa and Jared!  So much love and joy and dancing is ahead of us!

Babies: I ran into Adarius in the Trader Joe’s parking lot and got to meet Benjamin (Benji) on my last day! It was a sign since Kris and I hadn’t been able to hook up earlier in the month. Also, Courtney, Alison and Sayuri – my girls from NYC- have new little ones, and Eula is due in one week (8th Sept!).

Erica and Brian have such a homey-house in Soquel, Kori Chen’ s coffee is selling at Farmer Joe’s, and Rich and Sam are engaged (ok, they’re in London, but I heard the news when I was in Cali). I love the people we love!


London, England

LonSum 2: Join Us in July

9th July: Corey and I celebrated our one year anniversary this month. It’s hard to believe that it’s already been a year. In fact, we are both terrible.  We kept accidentally booking events and hang-outs with friends and then had to cancel because we’d remember it was actually our anniversary on Sunday.  Were we forgetful because so many people were traveling to London in July and we were just overly-excited about visitors?  We finally had to put the date into our calendars as we were clearly not very good at remembering anniversaries.  While the anniversary bit is a work in progress, we never tire of talking about how our friends and family made our wedding day so special. We had the BEST TIME EVER, and we will reminisce about it whenever we can.

We decided a tradition we’d like to start on our anniversary would be to do something new each year.  To kick off our annual endeavor, we took a day trip to a small seaside town called Rye.  We read that this Southeastern town had a long stretch of beach and a nature preserve and it was just 90 min from London by train.  July 9th was a very hot day with very sunburnt Brits on the beach!  The waters were waveless and shallow so it was perfect for kids with floaties and inflatables rafts. We didn’t make it to the nature preserve, but we did find picturesque Mermaid street!

*I’m bummed have zero pictures with our July visitors. Maybe because so many have traveled /lived in London already, I lost my focus?*

I think Marc was our first visitor in July.  Marc and Corey were basically in a emotionally-attached relationship before I moved to London (they will admit it, too).  While Marc lives on the East Coast now, it felt like a homecoming for him since he spent a few years living in Bermondsey.  He still hadn’t been to Lahore so it was great to have that experience with him. Now, I’m already missing him thinking that we’ll have our first NFL season at Hippodrome Casino without him.

Next up: Taya! If you think we’re traveling a lot, you should meet my friend Taya.  She’s a dynamic lady, thoughtful and hilarious, and is changing the world little by little.  She also previously lived in London, but is now in Dubai (we’re setting up a trip asap).  We caught up for an evening at Jazz Verse Jukebox at Hoxton Hall.  The poetry and singing was really great, and we plan to buy tickets again for the show this month. Miss you, girl!

PhD Graduation:  Al and Gypsy visited to celebrate Al’s graduation from Oxford!  The last time they were in London, we introduced them to Sam and Abs over a Sunday roast.  This time, we met Al and Gypsy’s mates at the Jugged Hare, and the champagne was flowing! Such good conversation, and bar snacks to boot.

Dreamgirls: Janine and Danielle stopped over before their summer trip to Scotland.  Janine is a homie from Infinity and I was really happy to spend more time getting to know her partner, Danielle.  It was easy to see why she lights up J9’s life.  We walked Regent’s canal, took a jog to Columbia flower market, caught a show (Dreamgirls), and of course, ate our faces off at Ottolenghi.  Each day, they’d visit landmarks when I was working (Savoy for tea!), and then we’d reflect at the days’ ends over dinner like a true team and family.

Dinerama and Dancing: Sam clearly lives in London, but I have to include her bday celebration because it was the last London-y thing I did before wrapping up July.  It was the perfect time to celebrate because it was also the conclusion of my Summer Institute work.  It started as a low-key night with great people and good food from Dinerama.  I met her colleagues, hung out with Rich’s siblings, and shared plates of dumplings and tacos with Corey’s friend, Ricardo.  Then we went dancing at a spot around the corner. I loved the effort but sometimes I’m just older than I remember (oi!)  Cheers to my dear friend!

London, England, Manchester, England, Paris, France

LonSum 1: Lovely Jubbly June


Summer 2017 was full of incredible events! Though it’s the busiest time of year for my role, I was lucky to share meals, celebrate friends, and reunite with family to keep me energized right up to the end of teacher training.  The next three posts will string together the highlights for each month.  As the days get shorter heading into September, I’m having a great time revisiting our warm memories. Missing you all!


1st June- London: To kick off the month, Nick Wong visited London prior to his EU tour with his family.  It’s been a big transition year for him so it was incredible to get some time to share reflections and next steps. Plus we tried a restaurant that he’s been interested in for a while: St John’s Bread and Wine (near Spitalfields Market).

We walked Brick Lane, Kingsland Road, Regents Canal, and Essex Road, all the while catching up on life after Ssam Bar, and the goings-on in NYC.

It was also a real treat that I was able to share a meal with the Wong family later that evening to catch up with his broddah and with Mr. and Mrs. Wong.  We actually had double dinner- Ottolenghi first, and then Poppy’s Fish and Chips as a follow up! Now you know where he gets his love for food!

7th-8th June- Manchester:  Training for Summer Institute was a top priority in early June.  Though the majority of the days were spent in a conference room, I looked forward to exploring Manchester after completing professional development sessions.

I took a morning run with a group of PDLs/LDOs through a lovely park on day 2, and hit up a gym session on the final night with my colleague, Zoe, whose circuits felt like that of a personal trainer! I kept up with reading A Little Life between taking notes, and answering emails.

My colleagues planned a night out for our final day of training which was a great time.  But when asked why I was leaving the bar early, I shared that I was heading to St Ann’s Square to pay my respects for those killed at the Manchester Arena.  This created an exodus to the square.  You could feel the emotion of the space.  The intense sadness of the tragedy.  Flowers, balloons, candles and messages to the victims were thigh-high.  Each of us took in the length of the square.  We waited until the last person had taken the time they needed, and walked back in reflection.  One of my colleagues said to me ‘Good idea on coming here… that you wanted to make this happen.  With everything that’s been frustrating with work, I’m sad it took this to remember that we’re all ok.’ I completely agreed.  We are so lucky.

21st- 23rd June- Paris: I still can’t believe I was able to say  ‘I’m going to Paris for a few days for a wedding of one of my dearest friends’.  Congratulations to The Grays!  Corey and I were so happy to celebrate your love in the City of Lights. You two were gracious hosts and you have some incredible friends and family.  Plus, check the pictures –they looked fabulous!


The first night was an easy boat ride on the Seine which was a nice way to spend time meeting friends and family.  On this warm summer night, we waved at locals sharing beers and wine on the edges of the river.  Dinner was on our own so we revisited one of our favorite restaurants, Le 404, with friends Reed and Lauren.

Paris was experiencing a heat wave at this time, but an outdoor ceremony was a must with the Eiffel Tower as the perfect backdrop.  Tracy and Andrae shared their own vows, and looked incredibly happy.  For a part of their ceremony, they had all guests bless their rings with one word as they passed them around to us.  Words like ‘love’, ‘joy’, ‘passion’ were spoken over their rings, and I thought it great that my word was ‘growth’ and Corey’s word was ‘understanding’.

We had a very French dining experience- definitely delicate and delicious at the same time.  Holly and Junior shared their speeches as well as the mothers of the bride and groom.  Then– very organically–each guest started to share a small speech about Tracy and Andrae.  It was clear how much everyone thinks the world of them as individuals and as a couple.  Corey pushed me to share my sentiments by clinking the glass when he thought I might chicken out.  My heart was pumping through my chest as I hadn’t prepared anything to say, but I would have missed that opportunity if it hadn’t been for him, and I am grateful for his perspective on that.  (Trace, if you’re reading this, I love you so much that I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to say everything that I feel about how wonderful you are without writing it down!)

Tracy and Andrae hosted the after party in their honeymoon suite of a room.  Close friends became even closer as we played Heads Up, broke baguettes (broke bread), drank rose, and talked music, politics, race, gender, poetry and love until the wee hours of the morning.  I’m not sure the exact time but around 2am, we realized we needed to get out of their room, but we continued our deep conversations about life until 4am in the lobby!  It was a perfect way to celebrate these two since their relationships with close friends are clearly built on thoughtful exchange.

Congratulations Tracy and Andrae!

27th June- 6th July- Back to London:  Ginny and Jamie flew out to London to start their summer vacations!  It was special that Jamie just finished her 1st year of teaching, and that she would celebrate her birthday in London.  It was also a significant trip since Ginny was transitioning to a new school and new home.

We loved seeing Twelfth Night at Shakespeare’s Globe. It was a modern take on the story with elements of drag, 70s disco, and musical ballads!  None of us had seen a show at the historical theater so it was a great birthday-eve celebration for Jamie Lynn.

Lynn Bynn’s birthday featured a Tamiko-Forrest-Original Pub Crawl starting in Angel at the Narrow Boat for fish and chips and Camden brews.  We walked along Regent’s Canal to Shoreditch for a pint at the Ten Bells.  We strolled Spitalfields market and Brick Lane but Jamie was keeping herself accountable while shopping: no purchases unless they had a place to live back in Oakland.  This limited us to mainly food which was fine by me!

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We shared some sour beers at the Earl of Essex and tried a scotch egg (see above).  Our final stop was the Queen’s Head where we had a late evening of philosophical conversations: financial woes and awareness, standards about beauty and weight, mixed families and above all else- love.

Of course, no trip to London is complete without a meal at Lahore, late-night kebabs, and egg sandwiches from Sainsbury’s.   We also snuck in an afternoon tea at The Renaissance Hotel Gilbert Scott Restaurant (booked by Ginny’s roommates). Corey figured out how to get us the afternoon tea menu even though we were told upon arrival that they couldn’t seat us.  By the end of the afternoon, we’d gotten free champagne and 15% off of our bill! Spells to the rescue.

I was tickled that I was able to introduce Danielle, one of my dad’s former students, to Jamie at the Island Queen- a local pub that Ginny stumbled upon during her walk to Regent’s Canal.  Separately, Jamie and Ginny took on London landmarks at their own pace when Corey and I were at work.  You also have to ask them for the photos and stories of their trip to Amsterdam on 2nd -5th July as well.  I know they loved Vondelpark and a small cafe with yummy potatoes.

For a final meal, we headed to Berber and Q for smoky shared platters of cauliflower  and chicken and a bottle of Alicante wine.  I was so happy to catch up on life from this year and that Jamie visited London for the first time.  Every day felt like an excuse to celebrate.

Their trip kept me sane during the start of teacher training, and I’m grateful for their kind words and challenges to my mindset.  Having family visit is just what I needed at this time.

Image result for Only Fools And HorsesTheir trip is actually why the title for this post came so easily.  The phrase ‘Lovely Jubbly’ is an expression used to share one’s delight or approval.  Apparently, the phrase was made famous by ‘Del Boy’ the main character from long running English sitcom ‘Only Fools And Horses’. It’s a show about brothers who sell dodgy goods believing that next year they will be millionaires (some British pop culture for you).  Corey argues that ‘everyone says it‘ while I’ve never heard someone use the phrase in London–other than to say ‘no one says that unless maybe they were a geezer from the 80s’. Either way, it is a way to describe my feelings for the month of June so I’ll allow it!

Valencia, Spain

Vacaciones en Valencia

Mi amiga, Aisha, y yo fuimos a Valencia para Feriado bancario en Mayo. Yo necesito practicar español en ‘past tense’ así que voy a escribir en español en la blog ahora. Buena suerte a mi!


Dia Uno: Nosotros fuimos a nuestra airbnb.  Yo comprende mas acerca de la casa porque hay contexto cuando la Señora explico cosas en la casa.  Estoy feliz…pero cuando no hay contexto en las calles de Valencia, mi español mas menor!! Pobrecita!!

Después nosotros ponimos las maletas en la cuarto, nosotros tenemos hambre. Fuimos a Mercat Central!  Muchas personas estaron en el Mercat Central compraron comida y bebidas.  Hay mucho jamón ibérico, vino, aceitunas, fruta y verduras. Compramos pan, aceitunas, jamón, y vino y sentamos cerca de el mercado.

Claro, era un buen dia asi que nosotros caminamos en el barrio. Hay mucho graffiti y edificios bellos.

Yo monte una bicicleta y era mi tiempo favorito en Sábado.  Nosotros montamos a La Ciudad De Artes y Ciencias.  No visitamos en museos en este viaje, pero esta bien.  Los edificios están futuristicos.   Estarlos en un gran parque también.  El nombre es Antiguo Cauce Del Rio Turia porque fue un rio pero ahora el rio es una calle larga en el parque!  Es muy verde en el parque y la gente son muy amables.

Porque nosotros estamos sudados, nosotros necesitamos las duchas.  En la noche, nosotros comimos tapas.  Los hongos fueron mejor que la carne.  Nos vimos una boda también en la plaza.  Fuimos a Jimmy Glass Jazz Bar también pero la música era como jazz en la hotel ascensor.  La señorita puedio cantar pero ellos fueron asi asi– ok, aburridos.

Dia Dos: Fuimos a La Playa Malvarrosa acerca de una hora en el autobus.  Un poco lejos, pero era un day bonita de nuevo.  Hay muchas personas que se viven in Valencia en la playa también!  Nosotros nadamos y tomamos sol.  El barrio cerca de la playa no era como Valencia central.  Yo vi las calles fueron un poco sucio y desgastado. Me gusto los azulejos y calles pequeñas.

Caminamos a Valencia central y Aisha quieria paella.  Buscamosla en una restaurante pequeña que se llama La Valenciana.  La restaurante como una escuela de cocina.  Era una noche fresca y la comida era muy bien!

Dia Tres y el dia final! Primero, porque nosotros comimos mas pan y arroz en Domingo, nosotros ejercitamos.  Despues, compramos cosas en un mercado local.  Hay cosas como maletas, sandias, pan, alfombras, y mas ropa.  No mas comida asi que fuimos a un restaurante cerca del mercado.  Pare Pero era muy delicioso.  Pienso era mi restaurante favorita!  Yo comi atun y mas hongos.  Un joven profesor de ingles hablo conmigo por dos horas!  El vivio en America por dos anos y el le gusto mucho. Tu quieres saber si yo hable en español por dos horas? Lo ciento, no! El hable conmigo en ingles, pero esta bien porque Aisha quería hablar también y ella hablo en ingles. Yo engañade– oi 😦

Nosotros visitamos Plaza de la Virgen, y vimos muchos edificios grandes y bonitos.  Valencia es una cuidad relajada.  Yo pienso gente retirada viajan a Valencia porque es una ciudad fácil.  Si quieres una vacaciones con las playas y la ciudades pequeñas, Valencia es una lugar bonita.

Algarve, Portugal, Lisbon, Portugal, London, England, Sintra, Portugal

My Very Merry ‘Unbirthday’

IMG_9682Thirty-three is my favorite number.  It was on my basketball jersey for years.  Corey deems it lucky because he’s won money at the roulette table betting on double three.  I also turned 33 years old this past February.  It made this birthday special for me though I understand that this age isn’t a significant birthday when it comes to milestones like 21 or 30.  But Corey and Miya did find a way to celebrate thirty-three for me. They plotted together to ensure that she could visit London the first week of May which is why this post references my special unbirthday gift (only because it’s June and not February).  Cheers to celebrating unbirthdays like this for my entire thirty-third year and many more to come!

What better way to start Miya’s first day than with a good meal–lunch at Ottolenghi! We’ve both cooked with his recipes for the past few years so I wanted her to visit his restaurant in person.  The dessert display from the window is enough to make your mouth water.

* Miya brought Daniel Tiger along to show Daisuke what fun things were happening on Mama’s trip with Tia. Spot him throughout this post!*

We toured parts of our neighborhood and then walked to Brick Lane to see the graffiti art as well as the historical sites in Shoreditch.  Corey and Miya kept track of our steps and signaled when it was appropriate to sit down for a huge dinner at Lahore.

We rode the 341 bus to Westminster Abbey. I’m listing the bus number because we’ve never taken this bus from our house to this part of town.  The ride has a great view from Waterloo bridge when you cross over the Thames.  We walked to Westminster Abbey, which was closed (!), over to the Horses Guard, and through St. James Park to Buckingham Palace.  The flowers were in full bloom still!  Corey couldn’t get a word in edgewise as Miya and I talked the entire time we were together.  He hung out with Daniel Tiger a lot.

After learning that you need formal wear for afternoon tea at the Ritz (think ball gowns!), we opted for a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory afternoon tea where Mr. Wonka himself shows up with golden envelopes for the table!  It’s a pretty good gimmick.  You can’t use the prize in the envelope if you open it before returning for tea at another time.  We will be back with future visitors for sure.

From tea, we strolled Picadilly Circus, Soho, and Covent Garden.  There’s always something to see at Trafalgar Square like chalk artists and bubble magicians.  In Convent Garden, we were swept into shop similar to Sabon. The gentleman there must have been their top salesman as he got us to buy so many of their products in less than 15 minutes! We had a yummy meal at Kipferl before calling it an early evening.  Miya and I had to catch the first flight to Portugal the next day.

Once we figured out how to program our GPS in English, not Portuguese, we had a pretty smooth ride in the Algarve.  We had a rooftop lunch at Hotel Faro before heading out to Praia da Marinha.  It’s a gorgeous beach, and the sea breeze kept us cool even when there was little shade to be found on the sand.  At first, Miya wasn’t sure she needed to go into the water.  We were content relaxing on our towels and exploring the rock formations along the shoreline.  At one point, though, Miya sat up- “How could I not go into the water? I’m going,” she said matter of factly.  It was a good decision 🙂

Ferragudo is a beautifully small town, and our airbnb was on a cute street with bougainvillea climbing up along the tiled walls.  It’s easy to take a water taxi across to Portimao, a much more built up town with shopping promenades, and it’s also easy to stay put and have an afternoon coffee in the main plaza of Ferragudo.  We rested and showered before our night out on the town.

You can see our amazing meal at Fim do Mundo, where the staff were just as jovial and welcoming as I remember.  Get the clams and garlic sauce as a starter!  For someone’s first time to the restaurant, order the cataplana.  The sheer presentation of the dish is a fun experience.  The menu lists this dish for two or more people. If there are only two of you, ask for the half order, and choose a meat dish to share.  To help digest our food, we took an evening stroll to see other parts of the neighborhood-  where the taxi boats docked, how many different tiles we could find along the walls, and a small church atop a hill.

We took our time to drive out of Ferragudo.  We visited the Playa Grande, a longer flatter beach than Praia da Marinha.  It seemed a great beach for families with young kids as the waters were completely calm.

Miya expressed wanting to see Pena Palace, so we took the day to drive to Sintra and then took a tug tug up to the palatial grounds.  It was fun for me to see Miya’s architectural brain spring to life as she pointed out the columns, nooks, crannies, and influences in the art of the palace.  I love hearing about the connections she was making and I was conscious of how quickly I’d previously moved through the palace without taking note of the details she could see.  I had to remind her to take a break and eat something since she was so enthused by the palace!  I probably should have asked her to write some captions for the pictures below as she was able to explain so much!

We got into Lisbon later than we expected, and were pretty worn out from the long day of travel.  Ramiro Cervejaria wasn’t helping us out with dinner as the wait was over an hour.  We opted for roasted chicken and chips with a glass of complimentary port from our hotel–a quick recipe for getting a really good night’s sleep.


View from our hotel. Thanks for the hotel points, Core!

It was strange that the three days could go so fast but feel so relaxed at the same time.  Dropping off the rental car was a breeze, and the cafe where we had breakfast was incredibly cute.  Erica and Brian suggested it from their trip, and one of the Leitaria locations was around the corner from Hertz.

Both of us enjoyed taking public transportation to the Tile Museum, or the Museu Nacional Do Azulejo.  Azulejo means ‘small polished stone’ and comes from the Arab word azzelij or al zuleycha.  I was absorbed into the color and glazed shapes of each piece, and the chronology of the museum was really helpful to when comparing eras.  There were also tiles in braille that described the various color schemes in a hands on way for guests.  We were in awe of the numerous boxes of tiles that filled one of the museum hallways.  There seemed so much more to add to the exhibitions but they had yet to be unboxed!

We arrived at Cervejaria Ramiro just a half hour after they opened, and were seated immediately.  I highly suggest lunch here as it’s much less of a scene than dinner.  The seafood was tasty as ever (crab, langoustine medium, and lots of buttered bread).  For the first time, I also ordered the prego sandwich to cap off the meal!

We did some final shopping around the corner at A Vida Portuguese and then had coffee and tea in an outdoor plaza.  It was a perfectly warm and breezy day, and we couldn’t have been happier.

Back in London, Miya had some more sights to see to ensure she had a well-rounded trip across the pond.  Our Kipferl breakfast of pan fried potatoes, streaky bacon and arugula salad was the perfect fuel needed for a day of walking.

First stop: St Paul’s Cathedral.  I can’t get over the mosaics every time I visit.  The Whispering Gallery was as far up as we could walk in the cathedral, but that was more than enough to hear about Miya’s challenging architecture classes at the University of Washington- full of all nighters, sketches and out of this world projects.  Miya’s vote was that we take everyone to see St. Paul’s Cathedral when they visit.

The South Bank and Borough Market are also highlights that we share with all visitors and this trip was no exception.  We shared snacks in the late afternoon, and Miya found some vanilla bean pods to for her homemade tea recipe.  IMG_1237

In keeping with the architectural theme of her vacation, our final two visits of the day were to Kings Cross St Pancras station and The British Library.  We sat under the train station’s arches and sorted how Miya would navigate her way to the airport the next morning.  Then I had to show her the facade of the St Pancras hotel before we went to the library as I really enjoy the treasures room.  It’s such a great sized space to see some amazing artifacts at the library.  You can do it all in about an hour.  Miya packed her bags back at home and we had Thai food at our local spot for her final meal.  The week was up too soon! But I know that a trip like this is one where we’ll relive the memories over and over again…for thirty-three years and beyond!