Posted in Thoughts, Traveling Adventures

Traveling Tuesdays – Enchanted: Forest of Light

While I was in LA over the past weekend, I came across something I must share with all of you.

Introducing Descanso Garden’s Enchanted: Forest of Light!

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Enchanted: Forest of Light

If you’re a fan of the Broad or LACMA and are a fan of nature and/or color, this is probably right up your alley. Enchanted: Forest of Light is a timed light display at Descanso Garden in Pasadena, CA happening from November 25th through January 8th. There are supposedly 10 distinct lighting displays, but when I went, we only encountered 8. Boo. Below were a few of my favorite exhibits.

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The tulips changed colors over time
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Symphony of Oaks

It’s about a mile long walk so it’ll take you an average of 45 minutes to 1 hour to walk around and enjoy the beauty of the exhibit. Trust me. Pictures do not do it justice. Some of the displays are interactive and you can take your little ones out to play. Hell, I’m in my late 20s and I had a blast playing with the displays. See my instagram for proof.

Tickets are $28 and it is a timed event so buy your tickets early (it is a rain or shine event). There are tickets on Goldstar and Groupon for $21 and $10 respectively for select dates if you don’t want to pay full price. We paid full price, but I don’t regret it one bit.

If you do go, I suggest the following: 

WEAR WARM CLOTHES – I can not stress this enough. Wear warm clothes! It gets really cold since it is an outdoor exhibit. Gloves ARE A MUST. They also sell light up gloves/fairy wings/tiaras/etc for the adults and kids. If you’re a tiara wearing kind of person, go for it. I won’t judge. 🙂

Bring a hot beverage in a thermos – I suggest hot chocolate. It will help you stay warm and you won’t be tempted to buy over priced drinks/food. $5 for a churro? Really?

Go when it’s really dark – The exhibit opens at 5 pm, but I think the contrast of the lights against the garden is better when it’s really dark. We went during the last time slot (8:30 – 8:45 pm) and the exhibit was just beautiful.

Dress pretty – If you’re a selfie taking kind of person, this is the place for you. There are a lot of opportunities to take selfies here.

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Smile! 🙂

So there you have it, my traveling find of the day. If you live in Southern California or are just in the area this holiday season, I’d recommend this exhibit. It’s fantastic.

Have you been to this exhibit or another one like it? Tell me all about it. 

Posted in Thoughts, Traveling Adventures

Traveling Tuesdays – NYC Edition Part 2

I was bitten by the travel bug a few years ago. The first trip I took? To New York City. Last Tuesday, I posted about my amazing experience at Sleep No More. Today, I’ll highlight the other things I enjoyed while I was there and hopefully, you’ll be able to use some of the information for your future trips to NYC. 🙂

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If you don’t go here on your first visit to NYC, shame on you. This park is beautiful and has a lot to see. On my first visit here, my friends and I aimlessly walked through parts of the park. While we were there, we met a native New Yorker who spent his free time chit chatting with tourists. He liked getting to meet people from all different walks of life. I forget his name, but he was wonderful. He offered to show us where certain things were like the Belvedere Castle, the Alice in Wonderland Statue, among many other things. There are also a bunch of different tours that are available if you want a more structured day at the park.

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Our “tour guide”

City Pass

For $116, City Pass offers tourists the opportunity to visit 6 of NYC’s iconic landmarks. It’s cheaper than buying each of the tickets individually and I believe there are other passes that are available so do your research and choose wisely. This pass includes access to the Empire State Buildling, the American museum of Natural History, MOMA, and 6 other options. It also allows you to bypass the regular lines and so you’ll get to your destination a bit quicker. The pass is good for 9 days so you’ll have ample time to use up the pass, unless you’re only in NYC for a few days. In that case, go go go. My friends and I had a blast doing all the touristy things.

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On our way up to the Empire State Building
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Starry Night by Van Gogh at MOMA

Michelin Star Restaurant – Le Bernardin

If you’re going to NYC, you should make an effort to go to a Michelin Star restaurant. If you’re on a budget, I found that lunches are much cheaper than their dinner counterparts. I went to Le Bernardin (3 star) for lunch and it cost me $87 for a prix fixed menu (3 courses). If you go for dinner, it’s $150 for 4 courses. It was definitely a #treatyoself kind of experience.

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Tuna Carpaccio

Go see a musical

My friends and I went to see two while we were in NYC – The Lion King and A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. The latter was fan freaking tastic. If you have a chance to see it anywhere (I believe it’s touring right now), I’d highly recommend it. If you couldn’t guess, the musical is about love and murder.

“GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE tells the uproarious story of Monty Navarro, an heir to a family fortune who sets out to jump the line of succession by—you guessed it—eliminating the eight pesky relatives who stand in his way.”

One of the main characters goes on to play several characters and watching him exit stage right and re-enter within a minute was pretty entertaining. If that musical isn’t your cup of tea, go find one that is. There are so many opportunities to see a musical while in NYC. If budget is an issue, go here to read about how to get cheap Broadway tickets. If there’s a will, there’s a way.

Eat everything!

As a foodie, I cannot end this post without recommending a few places to eat in NYC.  If you can’t afford a Michelin star restaurant, that’s perfectly fine. There are so many other restaurants that are worthy for a visit. Below are a few of my suggestions.

Totto Ramen is a must for ramen lovers. The broth is not your traditional pork, but rather chicken so it’s a little lighter in taste, but it still has a really well seasoned taste. I would recommend this place to anyone visiting NYC.

 The Mermaid Oyster Bar  has amazing oysters during their Happy Hour. For $1 per oyster, who can’t get behind that? Make a reservation for their happy hour to avoid being sent away.

Levain Bakery is a must. This one is a bit of a splurge as their cookies are $4 a piece, but if anything, just try one (and ask for one that just came out of the oven – they can often accomodate this request). Their cookies are delicious, not to mention HUGE. It’s worth it. Trust me.

My next suggestion Lady M Cake Boutique is also a bit of a splurge, but if you have a sweet tooth, don’t miss out on this. Lady M sells crepe cakes. These cakes have layers upon layers of crepes and they give the cake a really unique texture.

The Halal Guys – If you like gyros, this is the place for you. The Halal guys is considered street food. You order from a cart and you eat on the side of the street. It’s kind of freeing in a way.

If you find too many things to eat (there’s no such thing), do what we did. Order one or two things and split it amongst your friends.

So there you have it – some of the things I did in NYC.

If you’ve been to NYC, what did you do? What were some of your favorite things? I want to hear!

Posted in Traveling Adventures

Traveling Tuesdays – NYC edition Part 1

Okay, this is a bit of a cheat since this post will focus exclusively on my 1st trip to NYC two years ago. I realized that I never really went into full detail as to what I did during my weeklong visit there and I thought it’d be selfish not to share.

Let’s start off with my favorite part of the trip

Sleep No More

I recommend EVERYONE visiting NYC to try this. EVERYONE! Please go. It’s such an amazing experience. I even have a friend that has gone multiple times because each experience is different. For those of you unfamiliar to it, I’d describe Sleep No More as interactive/immersive theater. Ever do one of those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books? This is kind of like that.

Sleep No More takes place on 5 floors within the McKittrick Hotel. That’s right. I said 5 floors. (After a little digging, this actually isn’t true. There’s a secret 6th floor. It’s very tricky to get to so read only if you want spoilers). This isn’t your usual play where you just sit back and watch the actors. You actually get to follow them around the hotel as the scenes unfold.

You’ll check into the hotel on floor 2 where you’ll receive a card from a deck of cards. If you’re in a group, chances are you’ll be split up. It’s more fun that way. Trust me.

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All audience members receive a white mask to wear for the show.

When your suit is called, you enter the elevator and the bellboy will start letting a few people off on each floor. As soon as you’re on the floor, start exploring. It is a bit creepy because everything is dimmed, but the set is MEANT for you to explore. All the props are meant for you to look at or even play with. There’s even candy in one of the rooms, which you can actually eat.

Each floor has something going on and it’s always changing depending on where the play is currently at. The characters don’t speak and are always moving around the hotel and so you’ll have to be quick to follow them. On the hour, the main characters will reconvene on the 1st floor to do their final scene. After the final scene, the characters will reset and walk to their starting position within the hotel and the whole play with start again.

There are opportunities for one on one encounters with the characters. This is pretty uncommon, but it does happen. (For the most part, you’ll be watching the play unfold with your fellow audience members). Characters will single out an audience member and pull them into a secret room. In the room, you’ll share a scene with the character. This is the only instance in which the characters will actually talk to you. Play along. It’s more fun that way. During my trip, I was lucky enough to have two one on one encounters. I won’t spoil it for any of you, but I will say that each encounter was unique and gave me a little souvenir to keep. Note that some characters have one on one interactions. Others do not. Do your research if you want to know which characters have one on ones. If you’re chosen, savor the moment. It’s a really sought after experience.

My final note is that this play is not for everyone. It’s based on Shakespeare’s MacBeth and like any Shakespeare, there’s a lot of tragedy. There is also some full-on nudity and bright lights involved.

Here are a few of my suggestions for Sleep No More:

  • Wear COMFORTABLE shoes. You will be walking up and down a bunch of stairs and the characters move quickly.
  • If you’re in a group, split up. There are so many things happening all at once that you can’t experience it all within the 3 hours alloted. Everyone can meet up at the end and talk about all the different experiences and you guys can piece the plot together.
  • If you lose a character, don’t fret. All the main characters reconvene on the 1st floor near the hour to act out their final scene. You can then follow the characters back to their starting point.
  • Maintain eye contact with characters. It’ll increase your chances of getting a one on one encounter. I tended to isolate myself from groups and that made it easier for the characters to pull me away.
  • Don’t get too up close and personal (like up in their faces personal). I saw this a few times and I think it just irritates the actors/actresses.
  • Explore as many rooms as you can. They put so much detail in it. It’s crazy.
  • There are a few side plots that occur simultanousely with the main plot. Choose your adventure wisely. Some plots are more exciting than others.

Stay tuned. I’ll re-cap my other adventures in NYC next week.

Have you ever been to NYC and gone to Sleep No More? Did you enjoy it? Did any of you have a one on one encounter? I’d love to hear all about it. 

Posted in Traveling Adventures

Traveling Tuesdays – Seattle edition

When things get rough and too stressful at work, I go and take a vacation. This time (a month and a half ago), it was to Seattle. (I also went to Europe, but that will be for another post.)

Seattle is an up and coming city and I had a blast walking around the city and playing tourist.

Top touristy spots that I thought were worth hitting up?

  • Pike Place Market – This will probably be my favorite spot in Seattle. My hometown, San Diego has a public market, but in no way is it comparable to Pike’s place. Within the market, you’ll find so many interesting things. Here were my favorites:
    • At Pike Place Fish Co, when a customer orders a fish, a fishmonger will hurl that’s customer’s order across to another fishmonger for wrapping. They will often throw it back and forth and trust me, those fish were slippery little suckers. I was just entranced with their performance and I can see why tourists from all over come here to watch this. If you can’t catch the show, apparently they have a live feed that you can watch online.
    • Pike Place Chowder – I mean honestly, who doesn’t love chowder? My favorite is their clam chowder, which apparently won a bunch of awards. The melt in your mouth buttery-ness of the chowder. It’s totally worth visiting and getting your fill.
    • LionHeart Bookstore – This is found on the lower level of the public market and although it may not be super fancy, I found it to be really warm and welcoming. David, the caretaker there, is sooooo beyond friendly. If you’re not comfortable talking to strangers, this might not be the place for you to be. If you’re down to meet new people who are quirky and really pleasant, I’d suggest dropping by here. He also has a notebook full of postcards from all over the world that tourists send the bookstore. 🙂img_6007
    • Pike Place Pigs – I have a soft spot for piglets and so when I came across this place, I was thrilled. The owner makes piggy banks of varying sizes. In smaller sizes, she makes salt and pepper shakers in addition to little ornaments for Christmas trees. This place can be found further down Pike’s Place, but it’s not always there. I’d check her facebook to see when she’ll be out with her piggies.

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      My new little salt and pepper shakers
  • Seattle Gum Wall – Even wanted to make your mark in gum? Well, this is the place to be for that. A tradition started in the 1990s, tourists and locals alike come here to leave their mark via chewed gum. There have been efforts to clean up the wall and last year, they were able to successfully clean off all the gum. The clean walls didn’t last very long as people were adamant about leaving their gum on this landmark. I didn’t leave any gum there, but you can bet your butt I took a photo in front of the wall.

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    Hello gross factor!
  • Chihuly Garden and Glass – I’m not a huge fan of museums, but when in Seattle, right? The Chihuly Garden and Glass is a museum for glass blown objects by you guessed it, Dale Chihuly himself. His artwork is amazing and it kind of makes you wonder about what you’ve been doing with your life…

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    Amazing

Other notable mentions

  • Seattle Glass Blowing Studio – This is on the way to the Space Needle and for a hefty sum of $395 per 1-2 people, you can make your own glass blown art piece. You can make a bowl, a paperweight, a cup, or an ornament. Even if your wallet can’t afford it, I’d recommend stopping by here to see the artists at work. It’s kind of crazy watching them work with glass at melt your face temperatures.
  • The Fremont Troll – It’s a creepy looking troll sculpture found underneath the Fremont bridge. You seriously can’t miss it. It’s HUUUUUUGEEEEEEE!14184385_10104196384867914_1943298903523402699_n
  • Nue – This restaurant had an interesting gimmick. There is no real cohesiveness to their meals except they are inspired by dishes all around the world. You have Balut, which is a developed duck egg usually sold on the streets of the Philippines. Then, there’s Tijuana Tostilocos, which as the name implies, originated in TJ, Mexico. I grew up with these and they’re delicious! Then, there’s also Sri Lankan Beet Curry, South African Bunny Chow (not real bunnies folks), and Trinidadian Goat Curry just to name a few. If you’re in the mood for international, this is the place to hit up.
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    Our Chengdu Spicy Jumpbo Chicken Wings

    There you have it. My vacation to Seattle in three short days. I had so much fun that I will definitely be back.

    So what are your favorite things to do in Seattle? What did I miss? 

Posted in Traveling Adventures

Traveling Tuesdays – Thailand edition Part II

I went to Bangkok and Chiang Mai in Thailand last November. Here are my favorite four things from the trip and some things I learned along the way.

  1. Bangkok street food – On any given weekday, the streets on which our hotel was on was filled with food vendors selling food for ~20 baht, which is give or take 60 cents in the U.S.  As huge foodies, we were thrilled. Here were some of my meals.

    If you have a sensitive stomach and aren’t willing to try street food, Siam Paragon is a mall that has a lot of delicious meals and is cleaner. We ate a lot of street food and didn’t get sick, but to each their own. We had some of the food there and most of the things we tried were delicious.

  2. Silom Thai Cooking School – My boyfriend really wanted to take a Thai cooking class and after a lot of research, I settled for this cooking school in Bangkok. This was such an entertaining class and I would strongly recommend to anyone to take one while in Thailand. Our instructor, Oliver, was fluent in English, and educated us on the ingredients at the market that are often used in Thailand. He was funny, charming, and just a wonderful instructor. Here are some of the dishes we made.
  3. Taking the overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai – I had never taken the train before this so this was something I really wanted to do. I chose to take an overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai because why not? I save on a night’s stay AND wake up in a new city all for roughly $25. It was also fun to wake up to a view of the countryside with stray dogs roaming around. When the train was stopped, the kitchen would often throw out food scraps for the dogs and so we’d get to see them eat and play around with one another. If you do end up taking the overnight train and you choose a sleeper with airconditioning, I’d recommend taking a blanket, some earplugs, and a sleeping mask. They do give you a blanket to use, but they blast the airconditioning and it can get quite cold in the evenings. If you are a light sleeper, ear plugs are necessary. They also keep the lights on and even though there’s a curtain that blocks out some of the light, a sleeping mask is recommended.
  4. Elephant Nature Park  – This was my absolute favorite part of my trip to Thailand. Here’s a mini lesson on elephant riding. Elephants don’t normally allow humans to ride on their backs. The extra weight puts a huge strain on their back and it hurts them. Trainers will beat and abuse the elephants to train them to allow humans to ride them. The Elephant Nature Park and other elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai don’t do any of that. While you won’t be able to ride an elephant (it’s not the end of the world), you will be able to feed, bathe, and take care of an elephant for part of the day. [The sanctuaries will send out vans to pick you up at your hotel (as long as you’re within a designated region) at 8 am and take you to the park and back.] These sanctuaries take in elephants that have been abused by their owners. We saw elephants that were stabbed in the eye for disobeying their owners. Others had stepped on landmines while working. It was really a heartwarming experience to see them so well taken care of after all that torture and I am so lucky to have been so close to one.

    So there you have it. My favorite four events from the trip.

    If you’ve been to Thailand, what did you do? What were your favorites? If you have any questions, please feel free to ask me. Thanks!

If you liked reading my post, please like and comment below.

Posted in Daily happenings, Food adventures, Traveling Adventures

Traveling Tuesdays – Chicago edition

About a year ago, my traveling partner and I decided to head to Chicago after seeing a great deal on The Flight Deal. This is a great place to go if you’re not set on any particular destination and just want to travel.

A round trip ticket from LA to Chicago cost me $112 So off we went to the Windy City. We took a red-eye to Chicago, which in hind sight, wasn’t the best idea. Since Chicago is two hours ahead of us and it was only a four hour flight, we arrived in the wee hours of the morning (~4:30 am). What do we do at 4:30 am when no one is around and we can’t check into our housing accomodations until 2:30 pm?

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What perfect way to make use of the situation than to visit the really touristy spots without any of the tourists. First stop? Millennium park to see Cloud Gate aka The Bean.

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At the Bean

This was one of the best decisions we made during the trip. We enjoyed the beauty of the Bean in silence and to top it all off, we got to wake up with the city. We watched the dark and desolate streets slowly become populated with people as the sun rose and with more light, the city got louder and louder. It really was a wonderful experience and although we spent part of the morning passed out at a Panera, I’d recommend doing this at least once in your life. We were able to visit the Bean, walk around the Navy Pier, grab a hot dog from Portillo’s, and get a massage to relieve our tired bodies all within a short time.

Highlights of our trip

Chicago Greeter program – I am such a huge fan of this program. Chicago, along with most major cities (even international cities), will have a greeter program and most of them are free. People who live in the city volunteer their time to give you a tour of their city favorites. You can set an appointment online a week before your trip and this tour can range from 2-4 hours (Their instagreeter program is 1 hour long if you’re short on time). You’re able to pick your language preference and a few interests that you might want to explore (i.e. food, architecture, nature). Our greeter, Bobbie, was fantastic. She is a huge fan of Chicago history and spent a good 3 hours showing us around downtown and giving us the 411 on the everything from the beginnings of the brownie to the uniquely colored cow statues we kept seeing. I had a blast and I suggest everyone use this greeter program at least once. It’s amazing.

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Our wonderful greeter Bobbie

The Purple Pig:

  • Roasted Bone Marrow with Herb Salad & Sicilian Sea Salt – Enough said. When on vacation, do like vacationers do and indulge. You won’t regret it.
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    On a cold day, this hot dish hit the spot

Lou Malnati’s:

  • Also, when in Chicago, get a deep dish Chicago pizza. Even if you’re not a fan, please go. Maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised like my date was. He liked it over Giordano’s.

The Second City Comedy Club

  • If you like laughing – and who doesn’t – I’d suggest dropping by here. Several SNL cast members have graduated from here and it’s guaranteed to make you laugh.

And there you have it – the highlights from my trip. Chicago is a wonderful city and you can bet that I’ll be back a few more times.

Who knows? Maybe if I survive my NYC marathon, I’ll try my hand at the Chicago marathon. 🙂

If you enjoyed reading my post, please let me know and like below. Thanks!

Posted in Traveling Adventures

Portland Happenings (Day 3 and 4)

Day 3:

The Reggie
The Reggie

If you thought our second day was full of food, you haven’t seen anything yet. Started off our third day making our trek east of the Willamette River and set our sights on Pine State Biscuits. The Reggie Deluxe is what they’re known for, but we opted for the eggless version of it, which was the Reggie. It’s basically fried chicken and bacon in between a biscuit with gravy drenched over it. This place is amazingly good. I would definitely go back if I was in Portland again. They have two types of gravy – one that is sausage based and the other, which is mushroom based. We got the sausage based gravy and was instantly won over. The biscuits and that fried chicken was so good. You could just feel your arteries clogging up. Luckily, we did a lot of walking afterwards to check around their local shops. There were a LOT of consignment shops or what I like to call them, a hoarder’s paradise. Walking through these shops made me realize that I really am not a fan of clutter. After some

All the Thai food from my 3rd day in Portland
All the Thai food from my 3rd day in Portland

time walking around exploring comic book shops, pet stores, and consignment shops, we ended up at Nong’s Khao Man Gai for Thai food. They have several food stands around Portland in addition to the restaurant we went to. Fun fact: I believe, the owner was on the Food Network’s Chopped, and used to work for Pok Pok, another Thai restaurant in Portland. If you’re looking for basic home cooked food, this is the place for you. We ordered the pork and rice dish and got this really simplistic dish, which I liked. The dish was light and not overpowering, which made it a nice break from all the heavy foods that we had eaten the past few days. We were in and out of there pretty quickly and on our way to getting lost.

It really is amazing how far technology has come. Both of us had been using google maps to get around using that nifty little bus function during the whole trip, but unfortunately in the middle of our third day, my phone decided to lose my GPS location and take me in the wrong direction while on low battery. Luckily, my boyfriend’s phone was able to take us in the correct direction and we were on a bus back to our airbnb spot. And as the saying goes, “When it rains, it pours.” Once we were on the bus and cruising back, we realized that we had missed our stop and was on the other side of the city. We were dropped off on the side of the road in some country side like area and just laughed at our little bump in the road. 15 minutes later, we were back on the bus, and on our way back.

That evening, we went back out, this time with a fully charged phone, to another Thai restaurant that was highly recommended called Pok Pok. I’m so glad we made the trek across the river. We ate at the bar and I’d recommend this if you’re in a party of two. We talked to the bartender and he was extremely friendly and gave us great recommendations on their food. We ordered the Kai Yaang (charcoal roasted hen with lemongrass),  Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings, and the Muu Paa Kham Waan (Boar collar meat served with chilled mustard greens). First off, Thai food is really flavorful. Second, most Thai dishes are spicy. Now, if you can’t handle either, you really shouldn’t be eating most of the things here. My favorite dish was definitely the Muu Paa Kham Waan. It was pretty darn spicy, but so good at the same time. I mean, they serve it with chilled mustard greens. That’s how spicy it is. You need that iced veggie to calm your taste buds down. Their fish sauce wings came in a very close second. It’s their most well known dish and there’s definitely an explosion of spices in your mouth when eating this. I’d definitely recommend it.

Day 4:

Tanner Springs Park
Tanner Springs Park

Last day of our trip was pretty chill. We walked around a few parks, most notably Tanner Springs park. One of the walls there is made of train tracks and was kind of cool. We slowly made our way east and toward the airport. We dropped by Kalé for Japanese curry. If you’re into Japanese curry, I’d highly recommend this place. The owner was delightful. He informed us that they specialize in curry and therefore, do not have a variety of other dishes. We ordered the Kalé rice with chicken and the kalé rice with beef. It’s a order at the register, pick up your food there, and bus your own table type of deal and for $8 curry, I can’t really complain. As a side note, after eating lunch, we passed by a full block of food trucks selling their tasty goods. I was really sad we were full from eating or else I would have bought some food here too. We also dropped by Cacao drink chocolate. If you’re a chocolate fanatic, this is the place for you. Like the name

Our flight of sipping chocolates
Our flight of sipping chocolates

says, you drink chocolate here. We shared a flight of 2 oz sipping chocolates. The cinnamon infused chocolate was definitely my favorite. We also tried salt and straw vanilla ice cream with craque (pronounced crack). Although, it should have been spelled that way. They’re candied cacao nibs and are crazily addicting. Sadly, afterwards, we made our way back to the airport.

TLDR? – Highlights of my last two days:

Pine State Biscuits is a must try for all the foodies and even the non-foodies. Who knows? You might even convert.

Pok Pok Try the fish sauce wings! They’re yummy.

Food pods  Find some around Portland and eat to your heart’s content or until your wallet is empty.

Parks Visit some! Being from an area that’s in a drought, I found Portland to be super green and beautiful.

All in all, this was a great trip. It had food, games, getting lost, and a great vibe to it. I look forward to my next trip!