Travel Guide

Ciudad de México

The densely populated, high-altitude capital of Mexico has always been on our long list of places to visit. To celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary, we finally got the chance to make a super quick trip to Mexico City. As one of the largest metropolitan metro areas in the world, the city is packed with storefronts, street vendors, and bright colors. We obviously didn’t have time to see and experience everything at this bustling destination. Thanks to some very kind local friends, we spent lots of quality time in Condesa, Hipódromo, and Roma Norte, strolled through Coyoacán and La Juárez, peaked at the amazing architecture in downtown, and even saw the busy streets of Doctores. We walked everywhere, filled our bellies with delicious food, spiced up our promenade with a copious amount of mezcal, and pondered over how amazing it is to see old friends in new places. Below are our favorite spots for food and drinks. Needless to say, we can’t wait to be back!

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ROMA NORTE: A lovely neighborhood that reminded us a lot of district one in Saigon where Phuong grew up. The streets are lined with beautiful green plants and peppered with folks walking their well-behaved dogs. We walked up and down Colima, Tabasco, Avenida Álvaro Obregón, Calle de Chihuahua, and Calle Zacatecas.

Panadería Rosetta  We have not had pastries tasting as good as the delicacies found at this little bakery since living in Europe. The croissants are perfectly flaky on the outside and soft with the right amount if airiness between each yeasty layer in the middle. The traditional Mexican sweet bread conchas are fragrant with rosemary. The cinnamon rolls are aromatic and delightful. And the cream-filled donuts are the most perfect soft and light pillows of sugary dough. We stayed at an Airbnb on Colima Street and couldn’t help but made a pit stop here every morning during our stay. The owner also has a beautiful restaurant with the same name across the street; we didn’t eat there but was totally charmed.

Abarrotes Delirio  Another gem recommended by our Airbnb host. This general store and café is a lovely place to hang out, grab breakfast, or a sandwich for lunch.

Casa Franca  We caught the last jazz set of the day at this charming spot above Franca, which apparently serves very good pizza. The bar is in an old house with several rooms, each room a slightly different vibe. We walked into a room filled with music, wandered through different spaces, and settled for a bar corner for a nightcap with friends.

Taquitos Frontera  If you do catch a jazz set and get a drink at Casa Franca, stop by next door for a late night snack. This spot stays open until 2am on weekdays and 6am on weekends. Get a couple tacos, or better yet an order of alambres, which is your meat of choice grilled with onions and peppers and served with warm tortillas.

El Moro  This churrería has been around since 1935 and passed on from one generation from another of the same family. Today, it does not only serve up amazing churros but is also extremely stylish. The cheapest order gets you four hefty pieces of freshly deep fried crispy dough sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. We indulged ourselves with a side order of chocolate dip. Treat yourself!

La Nacional  A mezcal haven with a very extensive list of options from different regions of Mexico. The tacos here are quite good as well!

La Clandestina  Another option for mezcal tasting with several choices of small-batch bottles in a cozy bar.

Street taco on the Northeast corner of Puebla and Avenida Insurgentes Sur  You may be scared of trying Street tacos but don’t be! At 5 pesos (around 30 cents) per taco, the al pastor at this place is to die for.

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CONDESA AND HIPÓDROMO: With its beautiful tree-lined streets and Art Deco architecture, these two neighborhoods were candy to our eyes. From Roma Norte, we recommend walking on the charming Avenida Ámsterdam, which wraps around Parque España; then, strolling a couple blocks on Avenue Veracruz and making a left on Avenida Mazatlan. There, enjoy the most lovely walk all the way down to Hipódromo!

Lardo  This attractive and trendy spot features a creative menu that highlights local ingredients, such as nopales (cactus) and huachinango (red snapper) in dishes ranging from pizzas, blinis, to tacos. Elena Reygadas, a young chef who came back to Mexico City after training in Europe, is the owner Lardo, Rosetta, and Panadería Rosetta.

Felina  A cozy bar with wizardly mixologists and great cocktails.

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HISTORIC CENTER: As the center of both the ancient Aztec Empire and the Spanish colony in Central and North America, the Centro Histórico de la Ciudad de México is where you will find beautiful architecture, ruins, and World Heritage sites.

Pozole Doña Yola  On our second to last day, our friends introduced us to David Santa Cruz, a local writer who had tasted food from hundreds of street stands in Mexico City. He chose to take us to this delightful restaurant tucked on the second floor of the old building at San Ildefonso 42. This family business only serves pozole, a traditional soup made from hominy and chicken, seasoned with oregano, and garnished with shredded cabbage, onions, radishes, chile peppers, and lime. This bowl of rich broth was filled to the brim with all the trimmings and tasted like the comfort of home.

Mole Artisanal Doña Juanita  If you happen to see a market in Zócalo, the main square in downtown, please look for the spice stand that sells the mole spice mix made by Doña Juanita and sold by her son. The spice blend contains over 20 ingredients and has been a wonderful addition to my pantry.

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VILLA COYOACÁN: Located around five miles south of Roma Norte, Coyoacán is the oldest neighborhood of Mexico City. Wandering amongst the cobbled streets and colorful buildings in this area felt like traveling back in time. The area is home to many of the city’s important landmarks, including the main campus of the UNAM (largest university in Mexico), the Casa Azul (Frida Kahlo’s childhood home), and the Leon Trotsky Museum.

La Coyoacana  After a long walk in the neighborhood, this lively cantina really hit the spot. Ask for a seat on the terrace and order anything that comes in a molcajete (stone mortar)!

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Travel Guide

Brussels: beers, chocolate, frites, and waffles.

We are back in the U.S and have been missing Brussels terribly. We miss the beautiful streets and architecture, the amazing people from Belgium and elsewhere, the delicious cheap beers, the kind butcher in our old neighborhood, the farmers’ markets, and everything else in between. Brussels is a very walkable city; we definitely walked our little hearts out to all the neighborhoods while being mesmerized by how different every house is from each other — each one colorful and quirky. We especially love that all our favorite cafés become bars at night and that everyone sits outside to drink beers no matter if it’s raining or hailing. Brussels is such a hidden gem in Europe as there might not be many things to see and do as tourists but if you love beers and good food like we do, it’s a wonderful place!

A map of everything we tried and loved can be found here with lots of restaurants, bars, shops, and sightseeing spots. Our absolute favorites are detailed below. We lived in Saint-Gilles, which is definitely the best neighborhood in our partial opinion. But we also liked many bars and restaurants in Châtelain, Flagey, Ixelles, Saint-Catherine, Matongé, and the Centrum.

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TO EAT

Garage à Manger  This lovely place is such a good example of how much Bruxellois care about seasonal, fresh, local produce. We have only been there for lunch but were more than satisfied every time by the incredible food, beautifully designed space, and fair prices. There’s always a daily menu of starter, soup, main dish, and dessert; you can choose any combination of 2-3 courses. Everything is served family-style so even if only a couple friends in your group order the soup, everyone will get to try it. Delicious, affordable beers and wines are of course available to be paired with your meal. Even if you are only in Brussels for one or two day, this restaurant is definitely worth the trip from wherever you are staying to this corner of Ixelles!

Prélude  This spot is so dear to our hearts and we miss it so very much. We went there a dozen times and never had the same meal. There are three choices of bentos with fish, meat, or vegetarian option. Each bento costs 12 euros and is served with daily salad, roasted vegetables, and grains. Everything is organic, delightful, and prepared with love. We cannot recommend this place enough!

Mer du Nord / Noordzee  If you like seafood, this place is a must-go! The fish soup is amazing. All the dishes with different types of grilled fish are good. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu as all are fresh and beautifully prepared.

Restobières  This was one the first restaurant recommended to us when we arrived in Belgium. It certainly didn’t disappoint! Everything on the menu is made with beers, including the bread and cheese. This spot is great to try traditional Belgian food. Each dish features different styles of Belgian beers and can be paired with a wide range of available beers or the restaurant’s own brew.

Le Vieux Milla  We love this place not only because it’s a quick five minute walk from our home in Brussels but also probably because it’s the most different from the kinds of food we find anywhere else. We had never had Cameroonian cuisine before coming here and was completely hooked. Everything is tasty and the hot sauce is fiery!

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TO DRINK

Café Maison du Peuple  Parvis de Saint-Gilles, the main square in our neighborhood, is our most favorite place to hang out in Brussels. It has so many good bars; each with its own character. Maison du Peuple is one of them! We went there for breakfast, lunch, coffee, and most importantly, afternoon drinks. It has so many good brews to choose from; and we highly recommend the Jambe de Bois on tap!

Moeder Lambic Original  This small bar has over 20 beers on tap, including the exclusive Band of Brothers – a collaboration between the bar and Brasserie de la Seine. The staff is super knowledgeable and can recommend beers based on your taste. Don’t hesitate to ask them about delicious cheeses to be paired with your beers!

La Belladone  This bar is enchanting with its copper decor and original interior from the 19th century. Besides its selection of Belgian beers, you can also find Romanian wines and many specialty drinks from Eastern Europe.

Green Lab  If you want something other than beers, this is a great choice. We promise that this bar is worth taking a break from drinking delicious Belgian beers because it has more than 400 gins from around the world, including some wonderful ones distilled in Belgium such as Copperhead and Filliers. Green Lab also has a hoppy gin (who knew gins could be hoppy?) made by Mikeller, one of our favorite beer breweries from Denmark! We were pleasantly surprised by this spot and think that you will be too!

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FRITES, WAFFLES, CHOCOLATES

Friterie de la Barrière  Everyone in Brussels has her/his favorite friterie. We got emotionally attached to this particular one simply because we think it’s the best! We ate lots of frites in Belgium and no other frites beat the ones from this 40-year old shop. We don’t know if it’s because we are biased toward our neighborhood, or because the very old pot of grease at this spot has accumulated the most flavors over the years. We recommend the samouraï and piri piri sauces.

Les Galettes de Grand-Mère  There are lots of trucks that sell waffles in Brussels and they are all pretty decent. But if you happen to be in town on a Sunday, please go to Parvis de Saint-Gilles and get a freshly made waffles from these guys for us! These waffles are so special as they are perfectly soft inside and beautifully caramelized on the outside. They are so much better than all the other hundreds of waffles that we ate last year!

Pierre Marcolini  Chocolate is another specialty of Belgium and there are certainly lots of options to choose from. It’s fun to try different chocolates at Galerie de la Reine to pick out your favorites! Pierre Marcolini is a super delicious choice but is definitely a special fancy treat.

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BREWERIES, MARKETS

Brussels Beer Project  Awesome brewery in the center of Belgium, one of the few Belgian shops that make hoppy beers. The Delta IPA and Grosse Bertha are both good constant beers on tap. But they have new beers all the time and you can help them decide which beers to mass produce next by trying one of their experimental ones on tap!

Brasserie Cantillon  This brewery has been around since 1900! It has survived both world wars to maintain its tradition of brewing gueuze beers with natural fermentation. Except for the bottling and labeling machines, all the brewing equipments are still the same as they were 100 years ago. You can take the guided tour or just walk around the gueuze museum by yourself. It’s amazing and worth the trek out to Anderlecht!

There are so many markets in Brussels! Marché du Parvis de Saint-Gilles is great on Thursday afternoons/nights with lots of food and drinks and on Sunday mornings/early afternoons for the wonderful waffles mentioned above. Marché de la Place du Châtelain on Wednesday (from 1pm-7:30pm) has many little tents to drink wine and get your snack on. There are also many flea markets all around the city but one of the biggest ones is at Place du Jeu de Balle. It’s massive and is a huge part of Brussels culture!

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Stockholm: island hopping in a fairy tale city.

We fell in love with Stockholm while island hopping and were totally charmed by this archipelago of more than 24,000 islands and islets.  All the islands are connected by trains, ferries and bridges.  The city is beautiful in the summer and gleams in the winter.  Stockholm is easily our favorite place in Europe and here are the spots that we always try to go back to during every visit!

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TO EAT

Hermans  – Fjällgatan 23B, 116 28 Stockholm  We are usually fans of neither buffet nor vegetarian restaurants.  Hermans convinced us that it’s possible for a vegetarian buffet to be exceptionally tasty and delicious!  The restaurant is located on a hill next to the river overlooking the city.  This spot is not to be missed!

Tradition – Tulegatan 10, 113 53 Stockholm  This restaurant has two locations — we went to the beautiful branch on Gamla Stan.  To get a taste of traditional Swedish cuisine, this place is a must!  Go wild with elderberry akvavit (a Scandinavian spirit), smoked heart of reindeer, and Swedish meatballs.  Everything is delicious!

Soldaten Svejk – Östgötagatan 35, 116 25 Stockholm  Our Swedish friends took us to this Czech restaurant during our first trip to Stockholm and we’ve made it a mandatory destination every time we come back to the city.  The must-haves include beer cheese, schnitzel, gulasch, and potato pancakes served with pork and loganberry jam.  And needless to say, get a couple pints of refreshing Czech beers!

Shibumi – 114 25, Kungstensgatan 2, 114 25 Stockholm  This Michelin guide restaurant completely lives up to every expectation. It’s best to share every little thing from the menu.  As with fancy Japanese restaurants, not only is the food at Shibumi delicious, the presentation is also out of this world beautiful.  All the sushi dishes are creative and tasty!

Nook – Åsögatan 176, 116 32 Stockholm  Treat yourself to a three-course menu of heavenly food at Nook!  Two choices of menus cost 350-400SKK (around $42-$50) and features Nordic flavors infused with Asian twists.  Everything is delightful and luscious!

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TO DRINK

19 Glas – Stora Nygatan 19, 111 27 Stockholm  Wonderful wine bar with large selection of wines from all over the world.  Don’t hesitate to ask the bartender (who might also be the owner!) for recommendations!

Mälarpaviljongen – Norr Mälarstrand 64, 112 35 Stockholm  In the summer, the Stockholm waterfront comes alive with opportunities to eat and drink outside while enjoying the 20 hours of daylight. This stylish bar is on a barge and far from any tourist activity.

Cafe af Chapman – Flaggmansvägen 8, 111 49 Stockholm  af Chapman, a ship from the 19th century, is now a hostel and also home to a great bar.  Coming from New York City, we thought a party on af Chapman would requires mingling with all sorts of fancy people in boat shoes.  However, the ambiance was chill, friendly, and perfect for catching up with friends.  And the boat is beautiful!

Pharmarium – Stortorget 7, 111 29 Stockholm  Great bar with delicious drinks.

Mosebacketerrassen – Mosebacke torg 3, 116 46 Stockholm  We came to this bar when it was already starting to get cold at night in Stockholm but could see how wonderful it would be to sit outside at Mosebacketerrassen in the warm summer months to have a beer while enjoying the view of Stockholm.

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TO SEE

Vasa Museum – Galärvarvsvägen 14, 115 21 Stockholm  A maritime museum located on the island of Djurgården, the Vasa is quite impressive not only because it’s the home of a 17th century 64-gun warship but also because of its beautiful architecture.  The museum was built around the ship, which was salvaged 300 years after it sank, and features a stunning copper roof.  

Fotografiska – Stadsgårdshamnen 22, 116 45 Stockholm  An amazing photography museum with rotating exhibitions!  When we were there, the wonderful portraits by Martin Schoeller were on view, which was an awesome treat.  The Fotografiska also has one of the  most beautiful museum cafés we’ve ever seen.  

Monteliusvägen  This quarter mile walking path is a hidden spot overlooking lake Mälaren.   It offers the most beautiful view of Stockholm, especially during sunset!

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Weekends in Paris.

While enjoying living in Brussels, we also love it that we are less than two hours from Paris by train and can make a weekend trip there any time we want.  We had both been to Paris before so our recent trips to this beautiful city are simply filled with walks around different neighborhoods as well as tasty food and drinks.  The most typical advice is to just get lost in the streets of Paris; but in case you want to plan your day around meals like we do, below are our most favorite spots to eat and drink!

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TO EAT

Marché des Enfants Rouges  This is the oldest covered market in Paris.  It isn’t huge but lovely with delicious choices for lunch.  Sit outside when the weather is nice to enjoy and glass of wine and Lebanese food!

Café Charlot  This typical Parisian café is right opposite from Marché des Enfants Rouges with terrace sitting and traditional French dishes.  Last time, I had a delicious lunch there with lemony skate wing, haricots verts and rice.  They also have an amazing sorbet selection.  Everything is fresh and tasty — try it all!  

Au Comptoir de l’Arc  This restaurant is just steps away from the iconic L’Arc de Triomphe.  It is very reasonably priced and serves up great food!  We recommend to get dinner here then head over to the river for Bateau Mouche, a cruise on the Seine at night to see all of Paris lit up.  (This might seem like the most touristy thing to do but totally worth it!)

La Grande Cremerie  This beautiful place is right in the heart of Paris!  You will spend around 35-50 euros per person including drinks.  Ask for a wine recommendation of your price range to taste one of their 400 different wines and champagnes.  Everything can be shared and enjoyed with friends.   We highly recommend a delicious plate of pasta negra and fresh burrata!

Kunitoraya  There are many Japanese restaurants in the same area but not all are good (sadly, we know this from first-hand experiences).  But we can guarantee that both the Kunitoraya establishments on rue Villedo are amazing!  The beautifully light-filled Udon Bistro Kunitoraya at 1 rue Villedo is perfect for a quick lunch.  The recently renovated (from an early 1900s bistro) Restaurant Kunitoraya at 5 rue Villedo offers a similar menu as the sister eatery but also a fancier degustation dinner.  Try any type of hot udon on a cold winter day or a rice dish on a summer day.  Well… I (Phuong) am a fan of soup any day of the year but for those who don’t, there are choices!

L’Épi Dupin  This restaurant features seasonal products in choices of fixed price menus ranging between 39-52 euros not including drinks.  The owners pride themselves for only using responsible local products with the least carbon footprints.  Their food is not only delicious but beautiful.  If you feel like splurging, the culinary adventure here is definitely worth it!

Le Loup  This stunning restaurant is so beautiful and worth every penny.  Make sure to reserve the table as it gets packed around dinner time.  Come at 8pm and enjoy as much time as you want here as the friendly staff would never rush you out!  The restaurant is known for their roasted chicken and suckling pig (which are scrumptious and delightful!).  But we’ve been to Le Loup with vegetarian friends who also had a good time there!

Hero  Stunning restaurant with tasty Korean fried chicken and other Korean-inspires fares.

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TO RELAX / SNACK

Exploring Paris by foot is the best but also wears you out.  3pm always calls for a coffee while people watching — these spots are perfect for both!

Kodama  This tiny tea shop offers creative tea blends that are not your regular earl grey or green teas.  Try a tea you’ve never had before with one of their delicious pastries!

Costume Café  If coffee is your thing rather than tea, take a break from sightseeing to hang out here!  The designy latte / delicious cake combination is always a good idea!

Sésame  Cute café that serves nice simple lunches and breakfasts.  We’ve only been there in the afternoon for a cake and coffee.  Stop by if you are already in Canal St. Martin!

Boot Café  Not an afternoon caffeine fan?  Have a natural juice at this tiny cafe!

0/Gustave by Yemanja  We stumbled upon this beautiful new café during our last trip and have been dying to go back!  Have a coffee or tea; OR better yet, try something in their beer selection!  It’s never too early to have a drink with an afternoon snack.

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TO DRINK

L’Ours  Legit cocktail bar with great drinks!

Le Comptoir Général  Popular spot for drinks among Parisians!  It’s several bars inside one bar.  You’d be surprised to find such a huge place in the middle of Paris.

Lavomatic  Speakeasy bar hidden behind a laundromat.  Enjoy your adult beverage on a swing!

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Montréal: eat, drink, and winter jacket shopping.

We tend to end up in Montréal on American holidays — Fourth of July 2009, Fourth of July 2011, and Thanksgiving 2014.  The first time we went to Montréal as poor college students, we decided to find some free housing on Couchsurfing.  It turned out to be an amazing experience as we stayed with four different hosts who so kindly open their homes to us and showed us around.  We became good friends with many people we met on this first trip and fell in love with Montréal.  This city is truly lovely all year round.  Well… it’s really cold there in the winter; but the good new is if you are ready to invest in a good winter jacket — there are some amazing options, designed and/or made locally in Montréal.

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TO EAT

Joe Beef  If you are a meat lover, you will love this place!  So many interesting dishes to try, including the foie gras double down — two slabs of foie gras, breaded with crumbled potato chips, deep-fried, stuffed with bacon, cheddar, and aïoli, and drizzled with maple syrup.  The only advice: don’t try to eat this by yourself.  Otherwise, go crazy and you will not regret it!

Le Vin Papillon  Same owner as Joe Beef but with a more “normal” menu.  Everything is amazing — try them all!

Restaurant Le P’tit Plateau  Our friend Manat recommended this amazing tiny little BYOB spot and it did not disappoint!  Bring a couple bottles of wines and buckle down for some of the most well-prepared classic French dishes such as cassoulet and magret de canard.  We had an amazing time and our bellies were quite satisfied!

La Banquise  Poutine  If you have had poutine, you know it’s genius!  If you haven’t, poutine is a Canadian dish (Québecois to be exact) consisting of fries topped with cheese curds and a brown gravy sauce.  At La Banquise, your wildest dream about poutine will come true as they take the poutine toppings to the next level!

Shambala  One of the first friends whom we met in Montréal took us to this little Tibetan restaurant and it remains on our list of favorite places ever since.  This is your chance to try yak meat and salted butter tea!

Schwartz’s  This is a MUST GO in Montréal! The most amazing pastrami!  If there’s a line, don’t worry it moves fast; but try to avoid prime meal times so that you don’t have to wait in line at all!  The meat has the exact amount of fatty bits to keep it moist and is so tender that it melts in your mouth.  The large plate is perfect to share between two people!

Sumac  Wonderful Middle Eastern spot for a quick lunch.  Everything is beautiful and tasty!

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TO DRINK

Big in Japan Bar  Beautiful speakeasy with great cocktails!

Dieu du Ciel  Tasty beers. ‘Nuf said.

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TO SEE

Westmount Greenhouse  Beautiful greenhouse that is open to the public free of charge!  It’s such a hidden gem and a true oasis of nature in the middle of the city.  Come with breakfast or lunch or a snack to take in this beautiful view

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TO SHOP FOR WINTER JACKETS

After four brutal winters in New York City, I always resorted to wearing 4-5 layers when it’s cold and never thought that one jacket would ever be enough.  Then my life was forever changed when I decided to invest in a real winter jacket with a good down layer!  Bye bye layers.  Hello wearing-summer-clothes-under-my-extremely-warm-jacket!  The challenge with finding the ideal outerwear is the perfect marriage between style and warmth.  Check out these awesome local Montréal brands!

m0851

Mackage

Rudsak

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Guide to explore every bit of Oahu in six days.

Oahu is very beautiful but also full of tourist traps.  It’s easy to get stuck in Waikiki where the crowd is and miss out on many amazing hidden gems across the island.  A car is highly recommended as it is utterly dreamy to drive around the island; whether it’s an ocean drive or mountain drive, the scenery looks quite surreal!  I personally often felt like I was in the Jurassic Park movie and 50 First Dates at the same time.  Click here for some photography proof of the beauty of this island!  And below is my guide to explore every bit of Oahu in merely a week!

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TO LAY IN THE SUN AND CONTEMPLATE HOW GOOD LIFE IS (aka Beaches)

Pupukea Beach Park  (Shark’s Cove, Three Tables)  Local spot on the North Shore!  The beach looks a bit rocky but if you get over the corals into the tide pool, you’ll find the most beautiful and clear water.

Waimea Bay  Also on the North Shore, this beach could be quite crowded and it might be hard to find a parking spot!  But if you happen to get in, you’re in for a good time.  There are a few food trucks parked nearby that offers some very tasty treats!

Hanauma Bay Nature Reserve  If you happen to be heavily jetlagged (like I was), it is highly recommended to get to this reserve before 7am to get in for free!  And the sunrise at this beach will be the most beautiful thing that you will ever see… well, I haven’t seen many in my short life span but it was magical to see the dark sky at dawn scattered with cotton candy clouds that are illuminated by the first light of day.  I was completely mesmerized watching the sun peeking out from the horizon then slowly rising up.

Halona Beach Cove  This tiny little beach is for the adventurous ones!  It is hidden and you are required to hike down an unbeaten path to get to the spot.  To find it you want to look for the Halona Blowhole (which is supposed to be cool but it wasn’t blowing anything when I was there!).  The beach cove is nestled right next to the parking lot for the lookout of the blowhole.  

Kailua Beach Park  This is definitely my favorite!  This beach has the softest sand ever!  It’s on the windward (east) side of the island so it is more ideal to go there in the morning as it gets pretty breezy toward the end of day.

Bellows Field Beach Park  This beach is inside the Bellows Air Force Station and is only open to the public on the weekend.  It is such a gem!  Unlike other beach parks on the island, you will never have difficulties finding parking here!

Diamond Head Beach Park  This is a local surfing spot (and tanning for me!).  The waves are high and the beach is rocky so it isn’t great for swimming, although there is definitely parts of the beach that are very swimmable.  The beach is slighty slanted and provides a great angle for tanning.  In addition, it’s super entertaining to watch the surfers!

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TO SEE

Tantalus Lookout  The view from this lookout is worth checking out both during the day and at night!  You’ll get a breathtaking view of the city from the lookout; and the drive up and down is beautiful.

Manoa Falls  Need a change from being a beach bum everyday?  The hike up to the Manoa Falls is a great alternative.  The trail is quite easy with countless beautiful foliage to look at.  The falls is also definitely worth it (if it’s not dry!).

Turtle Bay Resort  This is a private resort with public beach access.  The view to the bay from their pool area offers one of the best sunset views on the island — definitely worth a visit even if you can’t afford to stay at the resort.  Also, I wish someone told me that their pool bar is a perfect spot to watch sports!

Kualoa Regional Park  There are tons of things to do there — a bunch of hiking trails, the film set of Jurassic Park at the Kualoa Ranch, or just lay out on the Kualoa Park beach.

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TO EAT

Zippy’s  You might look at this fast food chain and think why would I eat here?  But Zippy’s is a truly amazing local experience!  Their food is delicious and the menu includes a very impressive variety of items from the local favorite noodle soup saimin (created in Hawaii and is a combination of Japanese Ramen, Chinese mein and Filipino pancit) to Korean fried chicken.  I especially love their breakfast options which, of course, includes spam, eggs, and rice.

Diamond Head Market & Grill  One day in Hawaii, I decided to walk from Waikiki to Diamond Head Beach and found this amazing bakery on the way.  I don’t usually enjoy scones but their blueberry cream cheese scones are absolutely delightful.  Their spam and chicken musubi (rice balls) are also yummy.  Simply put, everything is divine!  Try as much as you can!

Sunrise Restaurant  Since my first and only trip to Okinawa in 2008, I have not been able to find any Okinawan restaurant in the U.S. (not even in New York City!).  But thanks to the great population of Okinawan immigrants in Hawaii, I was lucky to devour lots and lots of the island’s delights.  Sunrise Restaurant is a tiny family-owned spot right in Kaimuki that serves up many traditional dishes such as soki soba (soba with braised ribs) and goya champuru (bitter melon).  The price is great and the food is even better!

Bubbies Homemade Ice Cream  Wonderful mochi ice cream selection!

Lawson Station  Not enough can be said about Lawson Station!  And I am incredibly glad that this Japanese convenience store chain has made it to Hawaii.  When Myke and I lived in Japan, we went to Lawson every day multiple times a day for all of our snacking needs.  In Hawaii, it’s perfect to hit up a Lawson before you go to the beach and stock up all of your picnic supplies from freshly made onigiri (Japanese rice balls) to Pocky to sushi.

Morimoto Waikiki  You can always count on Iron Chef Morimoto to serves up wonderful food everywhere in and outside of kitchen stadium.  Morimoto Waikiki is definitely not an exception!  The impeccably designed spot is located in the Modern Waikiki Hotel and offers great deals for lunch.  You will be feasting on the food with not only your taste buds but also your eyes!

Izakaya Naru  Another Okinawan gem!  This small restaurant is very cozy and the food is super tasty!

The Pig and the Lady  This relatively new restaurant is a hit!  Chef Andrew Le and his family offers Vietnamese-inpired dishes that are really creative and delicious.  Brunch, lunch or dinner — go for every meal if you can — totally worth it!

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TO DRINK — Who knew Chinatown is where all the bars are at!  They’re all solid and stylish if you want a change from the tourist crowd at the beach bars.

Manifest 

Bar 35

Next Door

The Dragon Upstairs

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Travel Guide

New Year in Dublin.

After spending three New Year’s Eves in New York City, we were ready for a change and looked tirelessly for an affordable getaway.  Fortunately, a great deal showed up for Dublin where we had never been.  Without much consideration, we took this opportunity to spend a week in the land of ire.  We stayed with an Airbnb host who so graciously invited us to spend an amazing New Year’s Eve with him and his friends.  We took so many long walks, connected with old friends and new friends, frequented many pubs, drank a gazillion beers, and had delicious food.  Here’s our guide to Dublin!

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EAT

Crackbird  New Yorkers are no stranger to Korean fried chicken.  This spot has solid fried chicken PLUS delicious brews from the local Eight Degrees Brewing

Leo Burdock’s  Classic fish & chip.  Fresh and delicious.

Neon  The food is great but what’s the best about this place?  It’s that they give you an ice cream cone with your meal so that you can get a free soft serve afterwards.  Amazing and genius!

Yamamori Izakaya  Great food!

l’Gueuleton  Classic and delicious french food.  The restaurant is also connected to The Bar With No Name, a great hidden spots with outdoor seatings.

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DRINK

Bull and Castle  Classic Irish pub with tons of beers that could only be found in Ireland as well as some global selections.  The extensive selection could be intimidating but stick with the Irish brews as they are delicious!  Galway Hooker, Metalman, Trouble, O’Hara’s, Dingle… — try them all!

The Royal Oak  This pub is so quaint and amazing!  It’s a family-run pub frequented by mostly locals.  After a delicious homemade New Year’s Eve dinner, we stumbled with some new Irish friends to their favorite neighborhood spot and it turned out to be a true hidden gem.  The place is tiny but the beer selection is grand.  It also features a traditional pub snug with private access to the bar.

The Palace Bar  If you wander to Temple Bar and was not feeling the touristy vibe at all, please check out this pub before leaving the tourist trap!  You will feel the difference as soon as you walk in the place — despite its location in the middle of Temple Bar, the crowd consists to all locals and the ambience is nice and perfect for conversations.

Bison Bar & BBQ  We did not try the BBQ but the brews were great!  Another nice & chill pub!

The Porterhouse  We are huge fans of the historic Porterhouse Fraunces Tavern in New York City and couldn’t miss checking out the original Porterhouse in Dublin.  It did not disappoint!

The Library Bar  Hidden and charming bar in The Central Hotel.  Fireplace and brews — what else would one need?

Guinness Storehouse  Free pint with your tour ticket!  We went straight to the Gravity Bar on the top floor to sip our beer while enjoying the 360° view of the city.  Ask the bartender to draw your name on the beer — it’s not exclusive to latte art!

The Long Hall  Another great pub!  Definitely stop by if you’re around.

The Bar With No Name  Connected to the Kellys Hotel and l’Gueuleton restaurant, this place feels like a big house party with multiple rooms and outdoor space.  Great spot!

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COFFEE & SNACKS

Insomnia  They are everywhere!  And they have delicious coffee!  Do check it out if you see one!

Brother Hubbard  Coffee and sweets!

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SEE

Old Jameson Distillery  This spot wasn’t on our list but we stumbled upon it and decided to check it out.  All the tours were full so we just had some drinks in the pretty lobby bar.

Irish Museum of Modern Art (the IMMA) and Phoenix Park   The IMMA was closed for a while a renovation and had just reopened right before we got there – lucky us!  The galleries aren’t huge but the building, which used to be a 17th-century hospital, is truly beautiful.  The museum is connected to the amazing Phoenix Park, a 1700-acre green space in the heart of Dublin.

Howth  Our host kindly drove us to Howth for a quick day trip.  Howth is right outside of Dublin and is a cute little fishing village.  We walked out to the lighthouse, climbed up to Howth Head, then had delicious oysters and guinness at The Bloody Stream.

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SHOP

Designist  Super fun design store where we discover a new favorite local artist Clover Rua.  Check her out as her prints are amazing!

Irish Design Shop  All kinds of beautiful!

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There are still many places on our to-do list that we didn’t get to visit during our short stay.  Check out Phuong’s Foursquare list here!

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