Tasting the Fusion: Night Noodle Markets 2011 in Sydney

I don’t know what it is about being here in Sydney but I have really had an urge to get out and explore everything this city has to offer. I want to be at every festival, try every café and restaurant from the quirky to the five-star. I want to know the city like a local. It’s something that I never felt in Florence. I was explaining the difference to one of my housemates earlier today, I don’t know what it is, if it was a lag on my behalf or a fault of Florence but the whole social focus was just different. For a place where there is such a major focus on food, I found it strange that there was less media floating around about where to find the best of everything. Maybe it was just a language barrier. Regardless, the other day while I was working away behind the hotel bar, the glossy cover of The (Sydney) Magazine caught my attention. At first because it was yet another awesome source of journalism about this equally awesome city but then because I saw the words on the cover. The Crave International Food Festival. What could be better? One of my biggest pet peeves in Florence was the lack of international food. Okay, I know that it is some of the best food in the world (I know, okay!!) but the thing is that I like variety. I like spice. And while I’ve given up some of that fabulous, melt-in-your-mouth pasta and the stuff that warms your bones on the worst of winter days, I’ve gained equal amounts of asian spices and Aussie fusion food in return. It’s a trade-off and it’s one that thankfully I don’t completely have to choose between due to the strong family ties that will constantly keep pulling my boyfriend back to his homeland. Reading that the Crave Food Festival lasted the entire month of October meant that I might actually have a day off to participate, seeing that most of the events were available only by purchasing tickets meant that I had to be very choosy. With so many of the world’s fantastic chefs, food events in Sydney are not cheap. Thankfully with the night noodle markets, you only have to pay for what you eat! I did a bit of research before going and read in this article by the Sydney Morning Herald…

Read More

Warner Brothers Studio Tour: Los Angeles, California

Winding our way down the PCH along the coast of California was, in reality, a last minute plan. Lorenzo and I had decided on the train when a status update from Spencer went astray into my newsfeed and a new idea was born. Most of the planning was my job, minus the awesome B&B’s that we stayed at along the way (thanks Spencer!), and Lorenzo more-or-less simply didn’t give a shit what we did. He wanted to see San Diego and say that he’d been to yet another U.S. State. When we arrived in L.A., he suddenly changed his mind. An Italian friend of his is currently living in the city and working on films, and he recommended that we do a Universal Studios Tour. I hadn’t even considered it; apparently there is only room for so much in my head and when in that close of a vicinity to Ryan Reynolds, most else gets pushed out. I divulged this idea to Jade and Bobby and they suggested that we check out Warner Brothers instead. They had done both Universal and WB, and found Warner Brothers to be more interesting and exciting. We booked the tour for our last day in L.A. and set off to explore the city. When the day finally rolled around, the upcoming tour was a nice distraction from the reminder that I was not only about to leave my family again for an extended period, but that I was about to endure a fifteen hour flight with a nervous traveller who happens to have a bad case of motion sickness. Bring on Warner Brothers! I was sure that How I Met Your Mother was filmed on the WB lot, but after going through the entire tour without a mention, I’ll venture out and say that I was mistaken. Anyway, dreams of running into Barney and Ted were floating through Lorenzo and my head as we buckled up into our multi-seated golf cart. Strangely, our tourmates were all family members from a small town in Eastern Washington. Ironic. Most of the tour was spent talking about shows that we didn’t know much about; Mike and Molly, Heart of Dixie and Pretty Little Liars but there was some fun mentions in there. We drove by the pond from which George Clooney saved a drowning boy in an episode of ER nearly fifty years ago! Oh wait, I…

Read More

StayOn Beverly: Luxury Hostel in Los Angeles, California

The words budget traveler and luxury generally don’t go hand in hand, especially when you throw Los Angeles into the mix. However, luxury in a cozy sense of the word is exactly what you’ll be welcomed with when you punch in your personal door code and step into the StayOn Beverly located right on the edge of Korea Town in Los Angeles. Please bear in mind however, that luxury when referring to a hostel does not mean the kind of five-star service you expect to find in Hollywood’s top hotels. As we pulled up into one of the five parking spaces (already this hostel gets bonus points) in front of the Beverly I already had an idea of what to expect since Spencer had stayed at the hostel previously. Still, when I walked through the front door and onto the clean, wooden floors of the hostel, I felt as if I’d stepped into a newly built apartment complex rather than a travel accommodation. As we walked the length of the hallway in an attempt to find our room, we kept shooshing each other because the place was so quiet we felt like, even at 8 o’ clock in the evening, we might be waking someone up. Finally, we arrived at our door and I eagerly punched the code in, curious what was on the other side. As I opened the room to find a beautifully laid out double bed with a sea foam green blanket, I couldn’t help smiling. The presence of the mini-fridge, complimentary water bottle and flat-screen TV on the wall, begging to be watched, made me instantly relax. It was as if I was coming home rather than booking into a $50 per night hostel. I’ll be the first to admit that after a drink and dinner at the Bier Garten just down the street I was quite happy to come back and settle into catching up on some American TV and cuddling into my memory foam mattress. Usually, when you book into a budget accomodation, you can’t be exactly sure what you might find. In the U.S. you are pretty hard-pressed to find any room for $50 a night, let alone a room that is both private and fully-equipped. While we were traveling in Europe we booked many private rooms in hostels and often found ourselves shivering under the covers each night and creeping along concrete…

Read More

My Summer of Zoos; how do they stack up?

Meercats @ The Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, WA

What is the best zoo in the world? I guess I couldn’t really tell you that until I had been to all of the zoos in the world. I can, however, tell you about some great ones that I had the chance to visit over the summer. This summer we traveled from Seattle to Portland to San Francisco and on down to San Diego. There are plenty of things to do and see in all of these places but zoos and aquariums generally jump to the top of the list. I love animals, and the more exotic they are the better. When I was living in Sydney in 2009, I made the trip to the Taronga Zoo twice, and probably would have done more if I had been around longer. When we were in Seattle, we decided to buy a CityPass, as we had in New York. While we were in NYC it was a lifesaver, we saw everything that a tourist in the city needs to see in the span of four days and for less than half the price. In Seattle, we had a bit more time but I wanted Lorenzo to have an opportunity to see the best that my city had to offer, so I figured that it would be a good investment. And at only $59 compared to New Yorks $79 it was much nicer to our wallets. One of the tickets in the CityPass was a choice between either the Woodland Park Zoo or the Museum of Flight in South Seattle. We, of course, chose the zoo, which in all my years of living in Seattle I had yet to visit. So there we were on one of the only nice days in Seattle this past summer, wandering around the beautiful set-up of the Woodland Park Zoo. Seattle’s zoo has some fantastic animals, including giraffes, sun bears and red pandas. I love seeing new animals, ones that I haven’t had a chance to see before. In Sydney they focus on Aussie native animals, which are fantastic because you don’t see them anywhere else in the world. In Seattle it was nice because even after we first arrived and were disappointed that many of the animals seemed to be sleeping or in hiding, it wasn’t long before they started peeking out and getting active and they had a lot to offer. Upon first entering the…

Read More

Searching for the Perfect Wave; the Endless Summer

As I mentioned in the introduction of my photo post of San Diego, that hot pink poster represents something in my life that I’ve always dreamed I could be. Creative Commons credit: montereymedia Growing up in Spokane, Washington a city more nearly equated to Idaho than any big ocean waves meant that my dream was always just that. When I moved to Seattle, I was so consumed in my life at school that I forgot that one day I had dreamed of surfing in the waves of the Pacific and the dream fizzled out, left on the back burner. When my plane touched down in Sydney back in 2009, the flame began to flicker and one of the first things I did was book myself into a three-day surf school.  Now was my time, I was going to become a surfer. But then another six months passed of my being in Australia, and I hadn’t picked up another board. I just couldn’t brave the waves alone, I needed a surf buddy. But they never came. Fast forward to Portugal in the summer of 2010 and there I was again, surfboard in hand, like someone re-learning how to walk, I struggled to even perfect my stance on the board. More than a year had passed since I’d last felt a board beneath my feet and I’d lost nearly all the meager knowledge I had ever held when it came to surfing. Yet the dream remained. As we cruised down the Pacific Coast Highway, all the way from Monterey to San Diego I thought, what better place. But the howling wind and the sudden density of dark grey clouds reminded me that summer on the Pacific Coast was in hiding this month. Regardless, I couldn’t keep the dream at bay. As we walked along the Mission Beach Boardwalk and the sun began sinking down over the water, visions of a life I never had began flashing before my eyes. It was then that I realized I’d been pushing the thoughts out of my mind. At twenty-four years old, I’ve theoretically still got plenty of life in front of me. I have time to explore and decide what it is that I want in the world, but in reality it’s been six years now that I’ve been independent enough to decide where I want to live, and I’ve yet to choose a house…

Read More

Tasting San Francisco: Off the Grid

Off the Grid Event San Francisco

Anyone who lives in the United States at the moment is most likely aware of the food truck craze that is sweeping the nation. Having just come from Europe where food carts and stalls are normal only for certain food groups (i.e. sandwiches and pastries), I was extremely excited (and maybe a little scared) to get in on the action. Over the summer I read an article in Sunset Magazine comparing Seattle and Portland. Among other things, they spent some time discussing food trucks and Portland was the clear winner. Portland is one of the food truck capitols of the country with a reported 80 or more trucks in the downtown area alone. The article intrigued my taste buds and it was time for me to try some tasty street food. I didn’t make it to Portland for the street food, I did however, get to appreciate some of the best food trucks in San Francisco while I was in town. My good friend, Spencer, is somewhat of a connossieur when it comes to eating tasty treats sold out of the side of a cart (read Spencer’s food truck articles here and here). And we knew that San Francisco’s weekly Off the Grid event would be the perfect meeting place. Lorenzo and I stood just outside the door as we watched the parking lot of Fort Mason swarm with hungry locals on this particularly cold Friday night in August. We looked inside in an attempt to scope out what we would go for first, but little did we know that Spencer had this whole thing down to a science. When he discovered that we were open to anything, Spencer steered us in the direction of some of the best fish tacos I’ve ever had in my life. The Taco Guys not only pump out some of the tastiest street tacos I’ve had to date, but they actually manage to be beyond friendly behind the counter while their truck is being bombarded by hungry customers from all sides. In an attempt to save room and sample as many different foods as possible we each ordered one of their fish tacos and decided to try out their spice-ade as a nice companion to the meal. These guys do not disappoint. The flavors of the batter-fried fish were perfectly complimented with the simple ingredients and the spicy lemonade was just the kick I needed.…

Read More

Sunday Photos: Chasing the Endless Summer in San Diego

Whenever I think of San Diego, that old poster always comes to mind. You know the one? The pink and orange sunset frames the silhouette of a surfer as he searches for the best waves. This is the epitome of what I’ve always dreamed my life would be. Finally arriving in San Diego was like a dream come true for me. I had finally made it to the perfect beach town where days are spent surfing the beaches and nights are spent trolling the boardwalks for the best sunset beach bar in which shoes and shirts are not requirements. While in San Diego, the weather wasn’t exactly up to par and we did find that perfect beach bar, only to find it closed at 8:30pm. The houses lining the boardwalk are only vacation rentals and are so overpriced that even my wildest dreams may not accommodate them. Some things are never as they seem but thanks to some good memories and good photography, these images will preserve San Diego in my mind on the list of cities I could live in. Mission Beach. Mission Beach Boardwalk at sundown. These two were quite a pair, quietly waiting for some free fish at Sea World San Diego. Seeing the Beluga Whale was a treat since the song Baby Beluga was a favorite growing up. Beautiful La Jolla.   If you’re planning a trip to San Diego be sure to check out cheapflights.com for airfare!

Read More

Braving the Blustery Winter Winds of the San Francisco Summer

Foggy Day at the Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco, CA

Lorenzo and I were lucky to be staying in the neighborhood nearest the Golden Gate Bridge while we were in San Francisco. The Presidio is by all means, not a likely place for a young city-dweller to live, but in my honest opinion, it was the perfect place to spend the week. Just a short 1.4 miles down the Coastal California path (also great for a foggy morning run) would lead us straight to the pedestrian-filled entrance to the most famous icon in San Francisco. It was a rather cold and windy day in the city, quite comparable to each of the previous ones we’d experienced in our week in San Francisco, but we were coming to a close on our time and knew that we it was time to make the hike across the bridge. We put aside the fact that we’d already managed to walk nearly five miles that day and mustered up our strength to head down the coastal trail. We followed it along the cliff edge while the wind viciously whipped around us. And in spite of my hatred for the wind, we were afforded some beautiful views of the coast on our way to the bridge. There was some confusion along the way, as parts of the path were obstructed and redirected due to work being done but we did finally reach the viewpoint. Here we took a breather and I managed to snap this charming photo of the fog enveloping the tall golden cables. We sat looking out across the water and, on a clear day, the view would have led straight across the bay to the small town of Tiburon. After a few shots of each of us in front of the bridge we headed into the intensely crowded pedestrian walkways of the right hand side of the bridge. Now, can anyone enlighten me as to why professional road bikers choose to use the Golden Gate Bridge as their practice route? Obviously the paths are going to be clogged and many of the tourists will either not understand when you scream, “leeeefft” at the top of your lungs while simultaneously blowing a whistle/ringing a dainty bell, or they simply won’t move for reasons that can be left to your imagination. In one of the most environmental, tree-hugger friendly cities in the United States, can’t you just go find another path? On second thought,…

Read More

Coffee Spots of San Francisco: The Three Contenders

Blue Bottle Coffee San Francisco, CA

I didn’t plan on acting as a coffee connoisseur while in San Francisco, the job was just kind of handed to me. Before I get too into myself though, I have to admit that I only sampled three places but have added to the list a popular NorCal addition of whom I’ve tested in my beloved Seattle. San Francisco is a place of known diversity, by all means when it comes to population, food and drink you are likely to find what you are looking for. I even found a popular Italian chocolate bar in a random liquor store! That’s beside the point though. On a particularly long day, Lorenzo and I were making our rounds in The Mission District of San Fran and as we boarded the bus that would take us to Golden Gate Park and my dear friend Victoria, the exhaustion flooded over us. When Victoria’s car pulled up alongside the bus stop, just outside Golden Gate Park, I relayed the message of exhaustion in my utter refusal to get out of the car to view anything not direly worth it. The park is beautiful and I would have loved giving it my full attention but I just couldn’t bear the thought of subjecting my little feet to more walking in the biting wind. After a short drive and some direction on the better aspects of the park (buffalo in the middle of a city anyone?), Victoria knew just the antidote for my laziness. As we turned corner after corner in this shockingly grid-like city I began to recognize the shops spreading along the sidewalk. We were back in The Mission! Victoria had a very specific coffee shop in mind to take me. It was called Philz Coffee. Philz Coffee I sat in front of the menu board for ages as I carefully read through each and every single world of each brew as a means to discover what I was looking for. Victoria made a few suggestions and I finally settled on a small cup of Tesora, the Italian word for Treasure and knowing the Italians love of their coffee, I thought it must be good. The barista behind the counter graciously took my order and asked me the most simple question: sweet, medium or not-so-sweet? None of this one sugar, two sugar, red sugar, blue sugar business! What a fantastic way to order a coffee! Once…

Read More

Sunday Photos: San Francisco Snapshots

Sutro Baths San Francisco, CA

Although we aren’t done with California just yet, we have seen a lot in these last fifteen days. I have been traveling and seeing all that I can see, meaning that I haven’t been live posting and have a lot to catch up on. In the meantime here is a look at some of my favorite photos from the seven days we spent in San Francisco this month. This photo was taken from the Marin Headlands viewpoint across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. It was one of the only clear days we saw in seven days. Clarion Alley in The Mission, San Francisco. Famous for politically and socially empowering and just colorful art murals. Our footsteps behind us leading back up Baker Beach to the Cinque Terre-esque neighborhood of Sea Cliff in the distance. Baker Beach is San Francisco’s main nude beach; we had been warned but were possibly not prepared. Watching the sunset at San Francisco’s Sutro Baths, a ruined structure overlooking the ocean which used to house elegant swimming pools but was destroyed by a fire in 1966, shortly after it was shut down due to high maintenance costs. This is the french toast I waited two and a half hours in line for. It was beautiful and the Bloody Mary was amazing but I wouldn’t suggest going for brunch at Mama’s on a Sunday in August.

Read More