Tag Archives: sightseeing

Last Day In CA

“Normality is a paved road: it’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow.” – Vincent Van Gough

It was officially Monday; our last day in Los Angeles, California. We had to wake up super early to move our cars, and it was brutal. We were so tired from our hike the day before. On our search for a parking garage, by accident, we ended up driving by the famous Skid Row. It was by far the saddest thing I have ever seen in my life. All the poverty broke my heart. I was truly baffled and speechless. It was one of those experiences that made you grateful for what you have. A reminder to always give thanks for your blessings. At that moment I missed home.

We couldn’t find the right parking garage and it was already 9:00 am. We decided to just have breakfast. Of course, we couldn’t find non-meter parking (meter prices were ridiculous,) so we decided to get our food from Poppy + Rose to go. We really wish we could have ate there because it was a quaint spot; perfect for a relaxed morning with friends.

We ate our breakfast in the car and then head towards FIGat7th. I guess this is LA’s way of modernizing its downtown. Think of it as a mall. We didn’t stay long just stopped by Target, which by the way had a whole liquor area. I was pretty taken aback by that. I haven’t seen a Target with liquor in NJ.

At this point, we were wide awake and just ended up parking the car at a parking place right around the corner of the apartment. It was time to get ourselves ready for Beverly Hills.

Before heading out, we decided to find one of the Los Angeles Angel Wings, which is a part of the Global Angel Wings Project.

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We looked like total tourists and enjoyed every second of it.

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When we arrived at Beverly Hills we were in shock…talk about a total 180 from downtown LA. We parked and thought, “we’ll only stay for two hours max. What can we possibly do for a whole day here.” Yea, we spent our entire day in Beverly Hills without a single care in the world.

It was a perfect day in Beverly Hills. The weather was fantastic and the atmosphere was peaceful. First, we came across this small chocolate shop, Diane Krön Chocolatier. Damaris wanted to get some chocolate for her family. We started talking to the owner and to our surprise she was Jacqueline Kennedy’s personal chocolate connoisseur. She was an absolutely lovely woman with so much kindness. She allowed us to taste some of her delicious chocolates and nicely packaged the chocolates Damaris purchased. It was the perfect welcome to Beverly Hills.

Once we hit the main strip, we came across all the high-class expensive name brand stores that I would never shop at on a daily basis. Dior, Michael Kors, Tom Ford, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Vera Wang (wedding dress goals,) Tiffany & Co. It was all there!

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We walked in awe. Everything was beautiful and expensive. Surprisingly, we didn’t feel poor, even though we totally were compared to the riches we were surrounded by, which is probably why we didn’t go into any of the stores.

We had lunch at 90210 Pho – A Modern Vietnamese Kitchen. The food was good and prices were affordable. We had the funniest waiter who loved that we were from the East Coast. We considered doing a tour of the mansions but ended up not doing so. We walked around some more and then came across Amorino Gelato Al Naturale. Talk about tasting the softest and most delicious gelato ever!

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Before heading back to downtown LA, we drove past some of the Beverly Hill mansions and swore one day we would own one. They were spectacular! With dreams in the air, we parted ways with Beverly Hills and drove right back into reality.

We ended the night at the Ace Hotel Upstairs. It was interesting, to say the least. We didn’t stay long, even though we tried. I think it was 70’s night; not really our crowd. Just like that ended our final day in Los Angeles, California.

California was definitely a 2016 highlight. It has always been a dream of mine to visit the West Coast. I’m glad I was able to share that with some of my closest friends. We definitely learned a lot from our trip and were able to experience things we didn’t think we would anytime soon. It just goes to show that all you really need to make a dream come true is a little push to make it happen. So thank you Steph and Damaris because only by pushing each other did we make this a reality.

Welcome to LA

“What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create.” – Buddha

It has been three months since I went to California and my life since then has completely changed.

 

It was a trip where I was able to put a lot of things in my life into perspective and remind myself that “impossible” still spells out “possible.” My trip to the West Coast played a huge factor in helping me stay determined, and continue to strive to accomplish the goals I had set for myself at that time.

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We can overcome challenges as long as we believe that it is possible.



My time in Los Angeles started with a challenge. It was a morning of revelations; realizing that what my friends and I envisioned Los Angeles to be, really wasn’t. It wasn’t a magical place where everything shines and beauty fills the streets like the sunlight fills the sky. It was a place with struggles and untold stories; a place where the sparkle of diamonds easily takes the attention away from what’s bleak and hidden.

After taking and overnight greyhound bus from San Francisco [Read about my last day] we find ourselves starring at the streets of downtown LA. It was not what we expected. The poverty was evident and it made us wonder how such a famous city got to this point. It was around 7am and the sun wasn’t out yet. We headed straight to my friend Albert’s apartment, who so generously allowed us to stay with him for the next four days. After settling in, we headed to the Grand Central Market to eat some breakfast. The market was filled with all types of delicious food! We ended up getting breakfast at the famous Eggslut. I had the best bacon, egg and cheese on a bagel I have ever tasted.

I wish that throughout our stay in LA we would of went back to try some of the other foods available at the market because I have heard some great reviews… so if you ever find yourself in downtown Los Angeles, please go get some food at the Grand Central Market. 

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After we were done eating, we picked up our rental car and parked it in a parking garage for the rest of the day. To make matters worse like if we weren’t already concerned by the poverty in the city, as we left the garage, the situation escalated when we were followed by two men. It was one of the scariest experiences I have ever encountered on a trip. Luckily, we were able to escape them but it definitely reminded us of the dangers that three girls traveling alone could easily encounter. When we arrived back to the apartment we were pretty shook and swore to stay with Albert for the rest of our stay in the city.

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Later that day we took the LA Metro to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The Hollywood Walk of Fame is one of Los Angeles biggest and most known attraction’s comprised of all the Hollywood Stars. The area kind of reminded me of 42nd street in New York City because it was lively and busy. Honestly, I felt a bit star struck as I stood there and took in everything going on around me.

As we walked down the Walk of Fame and looked at all the different names on the stars we came across the TLC Chinese Theater.

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We didn’t go in but we inspected the outside and loved what we saw… a little reminder to go on and change the world.

After a few minutes of walking it dawned on us that we were hungry; it was time to get some In-N-Out Burger. This is a huge must do in the west coast.

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When we go in I see the biggest line I have ever seen at a fast food restaurant. However, they weren’t joking when they said In and Out. Regardless of the line, the food came out pretty quick and I must say that the burger and animal fries were quite delicious.

We had a rough start with the challenges we faced in the morning but by night time things definitely got better and we started seeing the city in a different light. After our burgers, we walked on the stars some more until we came across the Baja Beach Bar. We saw some great drink specials and just like that it was time to start drinking and time to start celebrating our first day in LA. I really loved this place because it had a nice relaxed vibe to it, a good beer selection and great service.

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Next we were off to Good Times at Davey Wayne’s. This bar was fun and retro with a cool 70’s theme all around. We walked in through a refrigerator door and I was sold immediately. The place was packed and it was before 10pm! That should say something, right?

We headed back to downtown LA and Mrs. Fish was our next stop. We ended up spending most of our night in this nightclub listening to an amazing live band. I had such a great time dancing and singing along to the songs that I knew. Even taught someone how to two-step. We left after the band finished performing straight to Perch Los Angeles, a French inspired rooftop bar. Perch has an incredible view of downtown Los Angeles.

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It was the beauty I was expecting to see the instant I stepped out of the Greyhound earlier that day. There’s beauty everywhere sometimes you just have to dig a little deeper to find it. 

We enjoyed the view and about an hour later walked back to Albert’s apartment. The streets of downtown LA were peaceful and in the darkness the sounds of laughter filled the skies. Before calling it a night, we went into Pellicola Pizzeria, a cute hip pizzeria that shows movies every night. The pizza was tasty and after we pleased our bellies we were happy to be safe and proud to have made it through the day.

[To Be Continued…]

Last Day: Golden Gate Bridge

“It always seems impossible until it’s done” – Nelson Mandela

We have reached the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge! We were so excited to finally have made it to San Francisco’s most iconic monument. [Read Here: Beginning of Day 3]

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The bridge was an impressive view; stunning. It was 1.7 miles of beauty, connecting San Francisco to California’s northern counties. It was as if we entered into a new world. The sun and warmth was no longer with us. The area surrounding the entrance of the bridge was foggy and windy. Again, we longed for a warm coat, but not enough to deter us from our adventure and making it to the other side.

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We were so excited to be walking the Golden Gate Bridge. It was one of those experiences you only dream of doing, until somehow you catch yourself living the dream.

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We were surrounded by beauty. A scenic view full of possibilities as we walked away from the city. I remember walking and thinking, if this moment was possible anything could be possible. The same smile I conjured up that day resurfaces as I reminisce. At that moment problems were nonexistent; I saw all the possible doors I could open by just starring at the vast sea.

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Slowly, the fog started disappearing and the sun resurfaced. It was magical as if we were crossing into holy grounds. However, we didn’t really know what to expect on the other side.

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Turns out that at the end of the bridge is Vista Point, a place where you can take in the beauty that is the city of San Francisco, along with the beauty of the Golden Gate Bridge. It was simply breathtaking. Vista Point is located in the town of Sausalito, CA. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to explore Sausalito being that it was a 15min walk into town. However, on our way towards the Point, we did receive great reviews from a friendly couple we came across.

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By the time we finished taking in the view we realized how hungry we were. It took us a bit of time to order a Lyft because Vista Point has no exact address. Luckily, we found a Lyft that was already at the Point and was able to pick us up without any hassle. We headed straight to Liquid Gold, after reading reviews, hoping for a great meal. Come to find out the place is strictly beer and BYOF (Bring Your Own Food.)

We asked for some close by places to eat and the bartender directed us towards Cordon Bleu, a Vietnamese restaurant. Cordon Bleu is a San Francisco must find. It is nothing fancy nor special but it was amazing! Think of it as authentic Vietnamese comfort food. Something you would get if you were to visit the household of a Vietnamese family. There’s nothing better than eating those type of meals on vacation. Happiness in a plate, simple as that. After stuffing our faces we made it back to Liquid Gold for our beer tasting.

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Liquid Gold is a new Bottle Shop and Tap Room in San Francisco. I’m a beer fanatic so I was super excited about finally experiencing a beer tasting. Beer tasting at Liquid Gold includes four beers (local and international beer) of your choosing from the Live Tap Menu.

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This was our last day in San Francisco so we enjoyed our beers as we looked back on our adventures. After about an hour, we started getting ready to wrap things up and head back to our Airbnb. We had to head to the Greyhound station in about 1.5 hours to catch our overnight bus to Los Angeles. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Damaris decided that she needed a San Francisco hoodie and then that’s when I decided that I needed a California hoodie. Stephany gave us the side eye, but after deliberating back and forth, we chugged the last of our beers, ordered a Lyft and headed back down to Fisherman’s Wharf. We ended up getting our hoodies from the same shop Steph got her’s. Why didn’t we just get one back then? Who knows. Once we got our hoodies it was time to head back and say bye to Nob Hill.

To be Continued…

Remember when I longed for a warm scarf?

“Trade your expectation for appreciation and the world changes instantly” – Tony Robbins 

The sun was out, the wind was blowing and the day was still young in San Francisco, California. [Read the beginning of Day 2] We ordered a Lyft and headed straight to Mission Dolores Park located in the Mission District. Dolores Park was once a Jewish Cemetery and ironically it is one of San Francisco’s most popular parks.

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The park was filled with happy people, dogs and music. We picked a spot and just hung out for a bit looking at the scene and the clear blue sky. I only wished it wasn’t as chilly as it was but, we made the best of it. While walking out, we bumped into a few swings and of course, I took advantage. I absolutely love swings! 

After the park, we were off to explore the famous Mission District. Our first stop was Amnesia Bar. The bar was small and quaint. We sat on the stools, ordered our beers, and appreciated the live band playing Bluegrass. It wasn’t really our scene but we made the best of it.

A few minutes in and we realized how hungry we were. Our last Lyft driver recommended a Mexican Taqueria that apparently had the best tacos in San Francisco. Since we were only a few minutes away we figured it wasn’t worth ordering a ride. However, at this point the wind was becoming unbearable and we were freezing. Few seconds into the walk and all three of us were shivering, but somehow when we saw Xanath Ice Cream, Stephany and Damaris craved some. So yes, we had desert before dinner. They both ended up getting cones and I got the smallest cup available. The ice cream was really delicious so I wouldn’t say it was the worst decision made during our trip. After finishing our ice cream, we went back out into the freezing wind, not stopping until we reached El Farolito Taqueria.

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Steph, Damaris and I walked into a dark and sketchy place filled with drunk men. We stood by the door confused; I refused to eat there, even though Steph actually contemplated the thought of staying. **shakes head** Turns out we were in a bar and not the Taqueria. I was so relieved! I already craved tacos and I was extremely hungry. The line was long, the place was not that big, and it wasn’t the most sanitary. Oh well.

While waiting in line to order my two tacos and tostada, we encountered yet another man under the influence of drugs. At this point we all thought, “you’ve got to be kidding me!” Things got extremely awkward. I wondered if we could take our tacos to go, but eating outside was not an option…way too cold for that. Fortunately, after a few minutes of ranting about some girl, the man ended up leaving because they kept telling him to be quiet. Once we sat down it was all history from there. Goodbye tacos.

We were so full we didn’t think walking was possible but somehow, we were determined to do a bit of bar hoping before calling it a night. Remember when I longed for a warm scarf? Well as soon as we stepped foot outside, we all longed for a warm winter coat! It was insanely cold outside. The wind and chill was unbearable. We managed to make it to Cava 22 Bar. I was so cold I had no desire to even have a beer. Steph and Damaris ordered something to drink, but as soon as they finished we ordered an Uber to head back to Nob Hill. We fell asleep as soon as we reached our beds and wrapped ourselves with the warm blankets.

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Thursday welcomed us with a bright and sunny day. We had our morning mimosas and were ready to enjoy our last day in San Francisco. It was such a beautiful morning that we decided to walk to our first destination, the Full House, house.

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Not even five minutes into our walk and we decide to stop in a cute little coffee shop, Peet’s Coffee and Tea, for some tasty coffee. I had the Coconut Crème Javiva. I was extremely pleased with my selection as we walked and talked about our trip thus far. About 10min into our pleasant walk we came across St. Dominic’s Catholic Church.

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The church was absolutely stunning and we couldn’t pass the opportunity of checking it out. It was super peaceful inside. There wasn’t a mass going on so I took the opportunity to give thanks for the experiences and memories I was making. I also prayed for my grandfather who at the time was seriously ill. I’m not Catholic but I believe prayer is universal; it is received regardless of where it’s done.

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Finally, we reach the house of Danny Tanner and we were shocked! So everyone remembers the white house with the red door, right? Well that house no longer exist! The owners transformed the house completely [please refer to the picture above,] probably to confuse the tourists. Almost had us for a second too. I mean it’s a genius idea, but we were pretty bummed out by the transformation…[cue Full House theme song]

What ever happened to predictability?
The milk man, the paper boy, evening T.V

Everywhere you look (everywhere)
There’s a heart (there’s a heart)
A hand to hold on to….

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To be Continue…

I longed for a warm scarf…

“Better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times” – Asian Proverb

Day 2 started with homemade mimosas and extreme bewilderment as to why it was so ridiculously cold. [Read Day 1] I longed for a warm scarf and a cozy jacket. So what do I do? I purchase the fluffiest scarf I could find at Walgreens. Once I had my fluffy warm scarf, I was ready to tackle on the adventures that awaited us.

Our first stop was the Painted Ladies. We decided that it would be ideal to walk there since it was approximately only a 15 to 20min walk from where we were staying in Nob Hill. During our walk, I was just in awe by the beauty that surrounded us. There was something about the architecture in San Francisco that gave the city a modern vintage look.

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On our way we passed Japantown. Apparently, the Japantown in San Francisco is the oldest of the three remaining Japantown’s in the U.S. which, all happen to be in California. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to explore Japantown, but it was nice to learn of its existence.

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When we finally arrived to the Painted Ladies we were confused. For some odd reason we thought that the Painted Ladies was the location of the Full House (the sitcom) house. However, it’s not! The Painted Ladies is actually one of the most photographed locations in San Francisco. Right in front of the Painted Ladies is Alamo Square Park where people usually sit on its hill and enjoy the view of the beautiful colorful houses. Unfortunately, the hill was fenced up and tourists had to take their beauty shots from across the street.

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The infamous Chinatown was our next stop. San Francisco’s Chinatown is the second-largest Asian community in North America. Chinatown was filled with an abundance of culture and history. There were stories being told all over the streets through the form of art.

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By this point we were starving and wanted some food. We go on the look for some authentic Chinese food but, instead end up having Sushi at Sushi Taka, a Japanese restaurant specializing in sushi burritos and rice bowls. The irony, we skip Japantown to eat in Chinatown and end up getting Japanese food. Sushi Taka was a small spot in the corner of Kearny street and was only take-out. The line was long but we waited because that only meant that it would be worth it. All three of us order the Sushi burrito and decide to eat at the park in Portsmouth Square, known as the heart of Chinatown.

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The square was filled with pigeons, adorable Asian elderly locals, kids and your few random scattering civilians/tourists. Everything was so serene. We sat by the kid’s playground. As soon as Steph took a bite of her Sushi burrito, she saw a new world and stated that it was the best thing she has ever had. In the midst of Steph’s revelation, an elderly man decides to feed the pigeons right by where we were sitting. The pigeons flocked towards us, and as the man grinned with happiness we fled to a new bench fearing the pigeons and their hungry eyes.

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Apart from the awesome Sushi burrito, the best part of Chinatown was the dance group composed of older Asian women. It was the cutest thing ever! They were performing traditional cultural dances. If I knew what they were doing I would of joined in the dancing festivities.

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Off we go to find a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Beforehand, I do some quick research and read that there was a nice view of the Bridge in Presidio Park. Therefore, we tell our Lyft driver to take us to the park. After our awkward drive, we find ourselves in the middle of a huge hill with no idea where to go. So what do we do? No, we don’t climb the insane hill as shown above instead, like good tourists, we ask a local girl walking her dog. She points us towards Inspiration Point.

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Inspiration Point was truly inspirational; just breathtaking. From the point you can see Angel Island, Alcatraz, the Palace of Fine Arts and the East Bay.

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I am absolutely obsessed with scenic views because there is so much power in them. They hold dreams, inspirations, love, hope; they hold stories of success, failures, sacrifices, beginnings and ends. All we simply have to do is get lost in them and we are sure to discover something valuable. 

Inspiration Point and all its beauty did not have a view of the Golden Gate so our search continued. After waiting for our lost Uber driver for about a half hour, we made it to the Marina District.

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The Marina District houses the Palace of Fine Arts. The Palace was designed by Bernard R. Maybeck and the design reflects the impression of a Roman ruin. It was stunning to look at. There’s always so much meaning behind historical buildings. I always find it interesting.

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As we started walking towards Crissy Field we came across baby ducklings! Yes, it was an exciting point in our trip! We don’t see baby ducklings everyday.

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Finally! We found our view of the Golden Gate Bridge. It was perfect. However, in the midst of all the perfection was the strong cold wind blowing so fiercely that my scarf didn’t feel as warm as it did in the morning. There I was again longing for a warm scarf. I sat down as the cold winds caressed my face and took the opportunity to call home. It was nice to feel home close to me as I viewed a historical landmark.

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I looked at the Bay with gratitude and thought of how perfect the moment was. I was truly and genuinely happy.

To be Continue…

Cali, the West Coast, why not?

“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer” – Anonymous

I finally did it! After years of dreaming, I finally made my way to California. All I simply needed was my dream and two friend’s with the same vision.

My friend Stephany proposed the idea to me. At first, I was hesitant because I was focused on all the problems I had going on at the moment but, after a few exchange of words Steph convinced me to take a week off work. “Cali, the West Coast, why not?”
Then we reeled in our friend Damaris who was down for the cause as soon as the idea was presented to her. Soon after we were ready to start planning our trip to Los Angeles, California. In the midst of planning, Damaris had a genius idea; why limit ourselves to Los Angeles? Why not visit San Francisco too? Next thing you know using Expedia we booked an affordable flight to San Francisco and an overnight Greyhound from San Fran to LA.

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Early on Tuesday, May 24th we were at the San Francisco International Airport trying to decide how we were going to get to our Airbnb. After weighting our options, we decided to take the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit,) the train. We would then get off at the stop closest to our destination in Nob Hill, the area in San Francisco where we were staying, and from there take a Lyft. The BART was definitely an experience. For starters we had no idea how to figure out the ticket machine! If it wasn’t for the local lady who kindly assisted us we would of held up the line for quite awhile. Also, traveling on a train with six suitcases (two per girl) is not as easy as it sounds. No, we didn’t overpack, we were carrying sheets and pillows for our trip to LA…I’ll explain that at a later time. When we got off at our stop Steph and Damaris struggled getting their suitcases up the stairs. It was quite hilarious because an older woman, who was struggling just as bad as Steph, offered to help her with her luggage. The lesson here is that you are never too old to be a good Samaritan. Once we all finally made it up the stairs it hit us… we were in San Francisco, California. We were in the middle of a super busy street, we couldn’t find our Lyft and it seemed that even when we did, the driver wouldn’t have a spot to load our suitcases. Luckily, our driver finds us, she looks at us and our six suitcases like we were crazy, we loaded our stuff, get cursed at by an old man driving, reminding us that we were “not in New York City,” and just like that we were off to Nob Hill.

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We have been traveling since 5Am EST and arrived to our Airbnb around 12pm PDT. We gained three extra hours and we were tired but, more than ready to venture out into the streets of San Francisco. Our first task was to find and ride a San Francisco Cable Car.

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After walking up and down a few steep hills and after waiting what seemed like forever, we finally made it into a cable car! The destination was Fisherman’s Wharf. We paid $7 for a 2min ride down a hill. I didn’t really get to enjoy the ride because it was super crowded and the lady that charged us was extremely rude (don’t work with people if you don’t like people.) However, in the end I did get the experience so it was all worth it.

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When we arrived to Fisherman’s Wharf it seemed as if it got colder and the winds became stronger. It seemed crowded but not too crowded and, the streets were clean. It was a peaceful late afternoon down at Fisherman’s Wharf.

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As we walked and looked for some food, we came across some beautiful street art by a sweet Peruvian man. We loved his work so much we each bought something! He even gave us a discount!

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We stopped to eat at Capurro’s Restaurant where they had a delicious lunch special (half a crab sandwich with a side of clam chowder soup and fries.) 

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We enjoyed our tasty beers and laughed a lot. Everything seemed perfect and it felt like we had so much time left in our day. We walked Fisherman’s Wharf and came across a lot of boats, shops (Steph got her self a San Fran hoodie) and a lot of chain restaurants we were used to seeing back home. Steph and Damaris even made a new friend.

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As we walked closer to the shore of the San Francisco Bay, we saw Ghirardelli Square from a far.

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At this point it was freezing and the wind was uncontrollable. The Bay looked like an abyss filled with unknown secrets and stories. We admired it for as long as we could and then decided to head up the hill towards Lombard Street, where San Francisco’s famous crooked street resides.

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On our 2min cable car ride down to Fisherman’s Wharf we passed Lombard Street so we figured the walk up wouldn’t be so bad.

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Wow, were we wrong! We had the most intense workout. We walked one steep hill after another. Anyone who decides to visit San Francisco, wear comfortable shoes and be prepared for a daily workout.

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The crooked street housed a beautiful scenic view of the Bay Area. It was absolutely breathtaking. This is just one of the many views in San Francisco that leave you at a lost of words. After admiring what Lombard Street had to offer it was time to head back to our Airbnb. We walked so much and up so many hills, that by the time we got back we literally couldn’t feel our legs.

Just when I thought we were calling it a day, Steph and Damaris start craving Crêpes. So out we go around the block to Crêpes ooh La La. It’s a small place and nothing flashy but wow are the Crêpes amazing! The French man was also super adorable. He had a conversation with Damaris in French and I loved every second of it… as per usual.

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I had the strawberry, banana and Nutella Crêpe. It was worth every single penny! While we were there we had an unfortunate encounter with a drug addict. This was the start of a social issue we slowly started realizing in the San Francisco area. Soon after, it was time to call it a night. We head back, put on our PJ’s and collapse.

We survived our first day in California. 

Differences & Culture Plus A Wedding

“To love and be loved is to feel the sun from both sides” – David Viscott

Santi(Located at the old airport)

Earlier this month one of my best friends got married to the love of her life. I took a plane to Santiago de los Caballeros (Santiago,) Dominican Republic and watched my friend say I do with so much joy and happiness in her eyes. After 11 years of friendship; after all the wondering as to who would get married first, we saw how terribly wrong we were in thinking I would be the first to walk down the isle in anything other than a bridesmaid dress!

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Though I am of Dominican descent (from Santa Bárbara de Samaná) I actually haven’t been to the Dominican Republic since I was probably six or seven years old. Needless to say, that as soon as I stepped foot on Dominican ground I experienced serious culture shock.

I could go into this rant about culture and identity; what it felt like to be classified as Dominican-American or how it felt to not be considered Dominican at all but, simply American. However, at the end of the day I know who I am and what I am. So why focus on that?

Instead, I’ll focus on everything that left me in awe like the streets and it’s colors, the liveliness, the heat (love hot weather,) the poverty, the music (that I enjoy so much,) the simplicity, the crazy driving (You won’t ever catch me driving over there!) but most importantly the WEDDING!

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The streets amazed me. There was so much liveliness, it was a raw image of simplicity. Its beauty magnified with the happiness of the people that inhabited the surroundings.

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The driving was insane! I think I would suffer from anxiety if I had to drive over there. For starters I hate driving in narrow streets! I think I suffer from claustrophobia when I’m driving because I cringe whenever I drive in super tight streets. So lets imagine me driving in a bunch of narrow streets with close to no traffic lights and huge cars (oh I also hate driving big cars) I would cry! But this is what I appreciate about traveling, coming in contact with all the differences you find in the midst of all that is going on around you. Ultimately, it is what gives your trip meaning and gives you long lasting memories.

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I was only in Santiago for the weekend (Thursday-Sunday.) Therefore, I wasn’t able to explore as much as I wanted too. However, I was able to accompany Mayra (the bride) and her now husband on their pre-wedding photo-shoot which, allowed me to visit a few areas and discover some beautiful locations.

We visited three spots where the amazing photographer was able to capture amazing pictures of the couple:

1. Monumento A Los Heroes De La Restauracion (Monument to the Heroes of the Resurrection)
2. Fortaleza San Luis (St.Luis Fortress)

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3. Antiguo Aeropuerto (Old airport)

After the photo-shoot while driving back I was able to witness the poverty in the city. It’s always shocking to see so much poverty; it really makes you appreciate everything you have. People visit these tropical islands and sometimes forget that in the midst of such beauty there is a deep sadness and need within.

After the pre-wedding activities and getting to know the city a little better finally, came the day of the wedding. Everyone was super excited for the big day! We had the best make-up artist in the city turn us into celebrities and our hair came out absolutely perfect! I felt gorgeous but most importantly, Mayra looked absolutely stunning!!

The ceremony was beautiful and the reception was spectacular. It’s always breathtaking to see a love story unfold and bloom. From beginning to end the night was magical filled with lots and lots of dancing and laughter; of course can’t forget the Presidente (Dominican beer) lots of that too…the entire weekend actually!

I almost even missed la hora loca (the crazy hour) because of a quick bathroom break! Definitely one of the funnest parts of the wedding. There we celebrated the infamous carnival (Dominican style of course) with los Diablo Cojuelo. It was super cool because she had a photographer taking Polaroid pictures to pass to people as souvenirs (yes, I took one.) It fills my heart with joy that my best friend got the day she deserved and I only wish her many more blessings to come.

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Thank you Mayra for being a great friend and for the trust you enlisted in me to help make your day one for you to always remember. I couldn’t be more proud of you and I am happy to continue to be a part of your life!