Manda Travels: Maui (trip 3!)

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Brett and I made our third trip to Maui a few weeks ago, and were lucky enough to have three friends join us this time! It really is a magical place and we were so happy to share it with them. We mostly revisited some of our favorites this trip, but tried a few new spots too. Some trip highlights below and, of course, a list of where and what we ate 🙂

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We spent our first three nights in Paia — a laid back surf town with cute shops and our favorite natural grocery store – Mana Foods! Paia is on the north shore of Maui, where the beaches are better for surfing rather than lounging since it’s quite windy! It was a great central location to everything on the east side of the island including the road to Hana, the Maui winery and my favorite “western” town of Makawao (where Brett’s cousins live!). One of the best days of the trip was the road to Hana — we were on the road by 8am and landed at the Maui winery around 4:30pm — a full day of driving and adventure! My most favorite part of Maui is the drive around the backside of the island; when you reach Hana most guides tell you to turn around and return the way you came, but there’s a dirt road that brings you around the backside instead and it has the most incredible views of the island and ocean, and the most interesting terrain changes — you go from full on rain forest, to dry rocky fields, to lush green pastures filled with cows.

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For the second part of the trip, we stayed in hotels in Lahaina. We spent a lot of time lounging at our pools, frozen mai tais in hand. The boys went on a snorkel trip to Molokini Crater and saw tons of turtles. Also, while we were there, the Eagles played the Vikings in the NFC championship game — we rented a poolside cabana to watch the game in and it was so, so fun. We brought down the blender from our room and made frozen drinks with coconut cream, homemade passion fruit infused tequila* and papaya juice. And Dave cooked up an amazing steak. Add in an Eagles win and it was true heaven!

One of the best meals of the trip was on our first day — poke from the Like Poke? food truck in Kahalui. It’s in a parking lot with a few other trucks, all of which looked delicious but we stuck with poke and were so glad we did. We shared poke bowls with both ginger and wasabi poke, along with ahi katsuyaki (fried ahi) and the most insane curly fries ever with furikake on top. We talked about this meal throughout the rest of the trip. We also tried poke from the supermarket, which is oddly enough a very respectful place to get poke in Maui. We had it for lunch two days and it was also really good, but the food truck lunch still wins!

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We re-visited two sushi spots – Nuka and Sansei. We had a really fun and rowdy dinner at Sansei, despite power outages from an incoming storm (!), but the sushi at Nuka blew us away. Traveling as a group of five also means you get to try more things on the menu — going to be vacationing as a group from now on 😉

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Paia Bay Coffee became our coffee spot for the first leg of our trip. They have great iced coffee and an great bagel sandwich with bacon, cream cheese, tomato, avocado and red onion — we each got one of these as road to Hana fuel one morning.

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Paia Fish Market is a great lunch spot that we visit each trip. They make great fish sandwiches that pair perfectly with Maui’s Bikini Blonde Lager. We also revisited T. Komoda bakery in Makawao – the stick donuts were even better than I remembered. I’d pay an absurd amount of money to have one appear in my hand right now. Honestly the best donut I’ve ever eaten.

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After three days in Paia, we drove over to our usual hotel in Lahaina. Our friends stayed up the road at the new Westin, so we divided our time between the two. On that side we revisited Star Noodle – still one of my favorite Maui meals, amazing pork buns and chicken wings; and we also had lunch again at The Fish Market – seared tuna sandwiches all around. A banana cream pie from Leoda’s was also a must, of course.

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Lastly, we anniversaried our pre-airport tradition of having Flatbread Company pizza before our flight — the barbecue chicken with pineapple was unbelievable, and a good transition from Hawaii back to New York!

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*There are tons of fruit stands throughout the road to Hana — prices are listed and you just place your money in a small lockbox, or even a wide open cooler that operated as a bank! The fruit is grown in the family’s yards, and payment is all honor system. These really capture the spirit and culture of Hawaii. We were on a constant hunt for fresh lilikoi (passion fruit), which Brett soaked in tequila to use in drinks all week.

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Manda Travels: India Part 3 – Udaipur

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Day 8: Jaipur to Udaipur

We sneaked in a little bit of pool time in Jaipur before making our way to the airport. Our flight was a tiny little propeller plane — we boarded from the back of the plane and there wasn’t any luggage stowage underneath, so the luggage was just piled in after all the passengers boarded. Despite being a short flight (35 minutes), they served a full lunch meal (which we respectfully declined 😉 ). Our hotel was a 45 minute drive from the airport and we arrived just in time for sunset — the hotel we stayed in was in the middle of a lake, so you have to take a small little boat to get to it. Once we arrived we were greeted with a drink, a red dot on our forehead for good luck and rose petals showering down on us from the roof — quite the welcome! We quickly changed and unpacked our bags then headed to the hotel bar for drinks and the nightly traditional dance performance. One of the dancers danced with seven glasses stacked on top of her head. Eventually we had dinner at the hotel — they had a tasting menu that was one of the best meals we had on the trip. We had three appetizers, soup, eight tastes of different meats and side dishes and seven different types of bread. One of the favorites of the meal was the laal maans — lamb in a red/yogurt curry that is popular in Rajasthan. Needless to say, we were stuffed.

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Day 9: Udaipur

Similar to our previous hotels, breakfast was included in our room rate and was insanely good. Brett had lentil “doughnuts” and I had uttapam – a dosa-like pancake from south India. After breakfast we relaxed by the pool for a bit — our chairs pool chairs faced the lake and the royal palace so it was quite the view. We had a driver for the afternoon that took us to a second, smaller lake, to the Saheliyon-ki-Bari gardens and to a shop I had read about that sells crafts made by women in the surrounding area. We did a quick walk around Temple Street – a street filled with little shops close to City Palace. Udaipur is known for leather-bound notebooks, which ranged in size from two inch squares to full size, and were sold everywhere. We got back to our hotel just in time to join the nightly “heritage walk” around the property and then a quick boat ride to the neighboring island, which the prince used to use exclusively for parties. We had dinner across the lake and ate outside with a great view of the palace and of our hotel.

 

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Day 10: Udaipur

I forced us to get out of bed early to join the 6:30am complimentary sunrise yoga class on the roof of the hotel. We went back into city center to a small cafe for breakfast, then spent the rest of the morning shopping some more and then touring the City Palace museum. There is an amazing temple in the middle of town, Jagdish Temple, which has been in continuous operation since 1651! There were hundreds and hundreds of elephants carved into the stone walls, really beautiful detail! We spent our last night in Udaipur relaxing at the hotel — it was so nice to end our trip on a relaxing note that truly felt like vacation!

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Day 11: Udaipur –> Delhi –> Abu Dhabi –> NYC

Yes, quite the journey home 🙂 But an amazing, unforgettable trip. India, we love you and can’t wait to visit again soon!

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Manda Travels: India Part 2- Jaipur

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We spent four nights in Jaipur and really fell in love with the capital of Rajasthan – also known as “the pink city” because of the color of the terracotta buildings within the old city walls. We did so much shopping here, in addition to site seeing and, of course, eating.

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Day 4 continued …

We arrived in Jaipur in the early evening, hungry, thirsty and thrilled to be out of the car. I strategically booked us a night at the Tree House Resort so that we’d have a little bit of a rest after a busy beginning to our trip, and it worked out wonderfully! You reach the resort by driving down windy and hilly dirt roads into a valley outside of the city. We checked in and were taken to our “nest” – a free-standing tree house perched up in the trees with a real tree growing right through our room! We dropped our bags and headed to the Peacock Bar for a drink — the bar is actually a 400 year old small wooden room that they re-purposed into a bar. One of the quirky things about the resort is that they employ local people from the nearby village, rather than those trained in hospitality — I loved this, but the level of service was very different from what we experienced elsewhere… all of the staff was very friendly and helpful, but many were a little awkward and didn’t speak a lot of English. We spent the evening with wine in one hand and a book in the other the eventually found our way to dinner — we had paneer with peppers and onions, chicken tikka masala and okra with onions –great food, made with fresh local produce. The manager of the resort sat with us for a bit and told us more about the place its history – turns out it started as a single tree house, cute! After dinner we climbed up into our nest and hit the hay!

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Day 5: Settling into Jaipur

We had breakfast at the Tree House Resort (coffee, yogurt and some puffy fried bread that tasted like funnel cake) then went for a quick swim in the infinity pool. Our driver picked us up at noon and drove us into Jaipur city to our next hotel – Samode Haveli – our favorite hotel of the trip! We were given lemon water and sat in the most beautiful painted room while we checked in. Samode Haveli is an old mansion surrounded by gardens. Each room is different and you reach your room by climbing narrow staircases and walking through various courtyards. Our room was so pretty – filled with hand-painted columns and arches and it even had a private terrace (complete with monkeys – hah!) We had about an hour to kill before our first plan for the day so we had some prosecco at the pool, obviously. At 4pm we met our guide, Amit, for our Crafts & Cuisine tour with Jaipur Walks. We saw so many things – marble sculptors, bangle makers, copper and brass metal workers and flower vendors, plus various temples and havelis. We also felt super adventurous and had some “street food” — buffalo milk pudding with cardamom and almonds, fried dough filled with lentils and spices, and the best chai tea in town. An amazing tour that helped us understand the day to day life in Jaipur. Later on, we went for a night swim then had dinner at our hotel – butter chicken, cauliflower with peas and butter naan.

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Day 6: Busiest Day Ever in Jaipur

We woke up early for our Old City tour — we started at the wholesale flower market which was crazy busy and cool. Tons and tons of bushels of yellow and orange marigolds! We then walked through the Jantar Mantar observatory – an astrological observatory from the 19th century, including the world’s largest stone sundial (which is accurate to the minute!). We then walked through the City Palace – one of my favorite parts were the four different doors that lead into the main courtyard — one for each season. We learned a lot about the history of the royal family, and their role today – the current king is only 19! After the tour we had lunch at LMB – a popular restaurant and sweet shop. After lunch we wandered around Old City on a hunt for a bunch of shops that I had bookmarked — we bought rose and sandalwood oil from a fragrance shop, pom-pom flip flops from a shoe shop, and some earrings at a bangle shop. We also went into a textile store – Hassan’s – where we ended up buying some clothes and a rug. On our way to meet up with our driver, we found Tikam Chand — a third generation photographer in Jaipur who has been taking and developing photos on the street for years. I was SO excited to meet him. It was a highlight of the whole trip. We went back to the hotel for a swim and some rest, then headed back into the Old City for our appointment with Suresh Shastri – a seventh generation astrologer. We sat on a mattress on the floor with him in the back room of a building — such an interesting experience. We had drinks and dinner at Bar Palladio that night – really pretty restaurant but the food was just so-so.

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Day 7: Shopping Day in Jaipur

We spent the bulk of our day in two stores — Ridhi Sidhi Textiles and Manglam Arts Furnishings. Ridhi Sidhi was my dream come true – stacks upon stacks of hand block-printed fabric, plus cute shirts and dresses and amazing quilts. Harsh, the owner, even drove us in his car to their main factory just a few blocks away where we got to see the printing process live. They do a lot of printing for Pottery Barn and Roberta Roller Rabbit, so it was really interesting to see where it’s all made! We spent hours looking through fabric and ended up with a few dresses for me, two custom-made shirts for Brett, and a new quilt for our bed. We spent the afternoon at Manglam Arts – a furniture company that makes custom furniture for Anthropologie and ABC Home. It’s a series of warehouses filled with amazing chairs, couches, side tables, etc. We walked around and explored then picked out and designed some custom furniture for ourselves. This was a really fun day — we have a future plan of traveling back to these two places later in life when we need a wardrobe or furniture refresh 😛

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Manda Travels: India Part 1 – Delhi & Agra

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Brett and I spent two weeks in India at the end of September. It was an amazing and unforgettable trip. I’m going to highlight some of our favorite things over three posts since there are too many to squeeze into one!

Packing was really tricky for me – the advice that I was given was to cover up while out and about to not draw attention, but wear whatever I wanted within our hotels and restaurants, etc. During the day I wore loose pants and t-shirts or mid-length dresses with a pashmina covering my shoulders. At night I wore normal vacation-y dresses 🙂 It was generally pretty hot (and sweaty), so I hand-washed a few t-shirts that I wanted to wear twice.

We were really lucky and didn’t get sick at all during the trip – no “delhi belly” for us! We were pretty careful about what we ate and drank (we used bottled water to brush out teeth, avoided ice unless we were in a nice hotel, and didn’t have any salads/raw veggies) and we also took activated charcoal pills every day (a tip from a friend who grew up in Delhi). I also ate yogurt almost every day, something I swear by in the states too 😉

Day 1: Layover in Doha

We had a twelve hour layover in Doha on our way to Delhi. We landed around 7am, showered and changed in the arrivals lounge at the airport, then headed into town. We took an uber to the main souq/marketplace, but not much was open so early. It was 108 degrees so hard to be outside for too long — we ended up taking another uber to the Villagio Mall to cool down. The mall was so heavily air conditioned that I had to step outside a few times to warm up! Similar to the souq, nothing was really open yet even though it was noon. Some stores finally began to open around 1/1:30. While we waited, we watched an ice hockey game (yes, there was an ice rink int he middle of the mall) and we had chicken fingers at TGIFriday’s (::cringe::). At 2pm we headed to the Museum of Islamic Art, which was by far the highlight of the layover. When we left the museum we walked back to the Souq, which had more hustle and bustle than earlier in the day. We checked out a Falcon Souq — which had falcons for sale ranging from $500-$5000! Eventually we made our way back to the airport for dinner and drinks in the lounge. Looking back, we wished we had booked a hotel so we could have slept through the morning and used the afternoon for the museum and the souq.

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Day 2: Old Delhi

We finally landed in Delhi at 2am local time. We were exhausted and so happy to finally crawl into bed. We let ourselves sleep until 9am then made our way north to Old Delhi. We hopped in a rickshaw and drove through the streets of Chandni Chowk – the oldest and busiest market in Old Delhi. It was really crowded with people and traffic (rickshaws, cars, motorcycles, bikes) but despite the hustle and bustle, people seemed pretty calm. During our ride we drove by many Hindu Temples, Muslim Mosques and even a Baptist Church! After the drive we visited the almost 400 year old Jama Masjid – one of the largest mosques in India. For a few dollars you can climb up on of the mosque’s four minarets and take in a great view of Delhi from above. After Jama Masjid we went to The Red Fort, which was the main residence of the emperors for 200 years. We spent about an hour walking around the huge property reading the history behind each of the many buildings. After our Old Delhi morning, we went back to the hotel for a nap and a shower, then went to Haus Khas Village – a very hip, young and social neighborhood with lots of bars and shops. We went to Social and sat outside overlooking a lake. We had drinks and a few really great appetizers – including vegetable “momos” (dumplings). The narrow, winding, pedestrian-only streets reminded me of Positano. Eventually we headed back to our hotel for a nightcap before bed.

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Day 3: New Delhi –> Agra

We woke up early and went to Humayun’s Tomb – a really pretty red sandstone tomb from the late 1500s. We spent about thirty minutes walking around the gardens then went across the street to The Hope Project – a non-profit organization that offers tours of the slum it’s located within. A 21 year old who grew up and still lives in the slum was our guide – he was really sweet and smart and we learned a lot about the community and its history. India is filled with hidden treasures and this neighborhood was no exception – one of the most interesting stories we heard was about the poet Mizra Ghalib whose tomb is in located in the neighborhood. After the tour we met up with a friend’s sister for lunch at Basil & Thyme – good food and great company! We even got to meet her two kittens after that she rescued from the street. Back to the hotel to pack up then we hit the road for the three hour drive to Agra. We arrived in Agra in the early evening, had a drink in the hotel then went across the street for dinner. Crossing a street in India as a pedestrian is terrifying – you just sort of have to go for it, and hope that the drivers swerve around you. Eek! We ate at Pinch of Spice – a crowded and lively restaurant. We had paneer masala and chana masala and, of course, rice and butter naan.

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Day 4: Agra –> Jaipur

Our guide for the Taj Mahal met us in our hotel lobby at 5:45am so we could be at the Taj for sunrise. Our guide was great – we learned a lot about its history and construction (took 20,000 people 20 years to build it and then 5 years to clean up from building it!) He also insisted on taking advantage of every photo opp — we must have 50 posed photos of us from the visit! Went spent a while walking around and experiencing the building from all different distances and views — it was crazy beautiful and super detailed up close. After the Taj, we had breakfast at our hotel and spent a bit of time relaxing at the pool. Then back in the car and back on the road for the long drive to Jaipur. Seven hours total, included a one hour stop for our driver to eat/rest and a one hour detour to visit the oldest and deepest stepwell in India. The highway we drove on was perfectly nice — but the craziest thing is that people don’t seem to use their mirrors at all! Instead, drivers honk constantly at each other to let them know when they’re changing lanes/passing/etc. I spent 15 minutes of the drive counting the number of times our driver honked the horn — 33 times! In 15 minutes! Omg. We finally arrived in Jaipur around 5pm, tired, hungry and happy to be out of the car.

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Manda Travels: SF to LA roadtrip

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Two weeks ago Brett and I drove from San Francisco to Los Angeles over the course of four days. I had been wanting to do this trip for a while, and while I’m so glad we were able to squeeze it in this summer, I wish we had had double the time to explore the coast! We spent one night each in San Francisco, Big Sur, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles – each place is so different from the others that it really felt like four mini vacations in one. A few of our favorites below, plus a ton of pictures from Big Sur for obvious reasons 🙂

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Day 1: San Francisco

We landed in San Francisco around 10am and headed downtown to drop our bags at our hotel. Brett’s favorite place to stay in SF is The Palace Hotel — it’s super spacious and comfortable, and generally feels fancy which is fun (they even have those electronic japanese toilets!) We grabbed a burrito for lunch for the Senor Sisig food truck – best burrito ever (feelings may have been influenced by time change/airplane food/etc). After the burrito (which we ate in approx 30 seconds with the i-bite-you-bite method), we grabbed iced mint mojito lattes from Philz. They sound weird, but they taste like a thin mint had a baby with coffee ice cream (= delicious). Brett headed off to meetings for the rest of the day, so I met up with a friend and explored her neighborhood a bit — we walked through a Bi-Rite market (which is what dreams are made of) and she showed me the Painted Ladies. I then walked over to Tartine and got four “snacks for the road” – three of which we ate before we got into the car the next day. The ham and cheese croissant was insane. That evening we had a drink in the hotel with a friend, wine in the Ferry Building with Brett’s aunts and then dinner at my friend Emily’s apartment.

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Day 2: Monterey, Pebble Beach and Big Sur

We picked up our rental car and hit the road around 10am. We arrived at the Monterey Aquarium around 11:30am and had quick hour inside to walk around and marvel and the jellies and the octopuses (which is actually the correct way to make octopus plural, who knew?) From Monterey, we took the “17 mile drive” through Pebble Beach – a fun drive with crazy homes and pretty look outs. We had lunch with a friend at The Bench at The Lodge at Pebble Beach (quite the name, I know) – we sat outside on the patio, which overlooks the 18th hole of the famous golf course. After lunch we hit the road and were Big Sur-bound! Because of highway closures on route 1, we had to take a tiny, windy back road up over a mountain and back down to the coast. The smell of the woods and the mountains was crazy – now I’m on the hunt for a “Big Sur” candle! We pulled into Treebones around 6:30pm, dropped our bags in our yurt (!), went for a quick dip in their pool, then changed and headed to the bar for champagne. There are two eating options at Treebones – the main restaurant and then a little sushi hut. We went the sushi route and we so pleased we did – really fresh fish, with beautiful presentation (edible flowers!) in an amazing setting.

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Day 3: San Simeon, Santa Maria and Santa Barbara

After breakfast at Treebones, we headed back over the mountain towards civilization. Next stop: San Simeon to see the elephant seals. There were about a hundred male seals sleeping on the beach – apparently there are sometimes THOUSANDS of them, but it was still quite the sight! We grabbed lunch at Centrally Grown, where Brett had a Cuban sandwich that he is still talking about. A trip to California isn’t complete without a visit to a winery, so we spent the afternoon at Presqu’ile Winery in Santa Maria. We landed later that afternoon at our hotel for the night – The Goodland in Goleta (one town north of Santa Barbara). The hotel had such a fun, chill, California vibe – there were record players in every room, and Beach Boys records to play. For dinner we went to Santa Barbara Shellfish Company, which is right on the end of the pier. We sat at the bar and shared a steamed local crab and fries. After dinner we had a cocktail by the fire pit back at our hotel, plus a complimentary “s’mores kit” from the bar.

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Day 4: Final Stretch to LA

We slept in and had breakfast at our hotel, then hung by the pool for a few hours. We stopped in downtown Santa Barbara for lunch at La Super Rica — one of Julia Child’s favorite places to eat! We waited in line for about 45 minutes, but the wait was worth it. We shared four different dishes plus a horchata agua fresca, which was actually one of the best drinks I’ve ever had. After lunch we were back on the road, stuck in classic LA traffic. We listened to Here’s The Thing to kill time. We finally arrived at our hotel in Beverly Hills around 6:30pm. We checked in, made a quick change, then headed to Abbott Kinney to meet friends at First Fridays — a monthly gathering of food trucks! We had a quick prosecco toast at The Otheroom, grabbed dinner from the Word of Mouth Truck, dessert from The Pudding Truck, then night caps at The Tasting Kitchen.

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Day 5: Last Day in LA!

We packed quite a bit into our one full day in LA. On our way to Sqirl for brunch, we grabbed coffee at Alfred on Melrose Place. Sqirl was incredible — Brett and I shared the crispy rice salad, smoked whitefish tartine and ricotta toast with jam. So, so good. After lunch we drove up to the Griffith Observatory — parking was sort of a nightmare and took 30 minutes, but we had a good visit (especially space-obsessed Brett). We picked up our friend Katie and headed back to our hotel for some poolside aperol spritzes. Later that afternoon we stopped by a friend’s birthday party then had an amazing dinner at Felix in Venice. We were lucky to snag three seats at the bar before it got super crowded. Everything was had was delicious — it was the perfect final meal of our trip!

Manda Travels: Cuba!

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Two weeks ago Brett and I spent a long weekend in Cuba thanks to my older brother, who gave us the flights as an engagement gift. We spent two nights in Old Havana and our third night in Guanabo, a beach town about 30 minutes from Havana. Cuba was unlike any place I have ever been — it was colorful, hot and weird but welcoming.

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We stayed in two different airbnbs and both were comfortable but without any frills, which is exactly what we expected. Our hosts were so friendly and helpful – they arranged taxis for us, made dinner reservations and were available for anything we needed (including when the water stopped working on our first day, and when the power went out on our second day – part of the charm of Havana!) The hotels that we were looking at didn’t have great reviews and were much more expensive than our airbnbs (which were $35/night and $17/night!) — we also were able to walk everywhere we needed, which was nice and convenient.

Cuba has a few “inconveniences” that are easy enough to work around in advance. There isn’t any cell service, and wifi isn’t widely available — I called my phone my “camera” the whole time. We did a bunch of research in advance on restaurants and site seeing. There is a map app that allows you to save a map to your phone, but we actually used a paper map from a guidebook the whole time, which felt fittingly old-school. There aren’t any traditional grocery stores, but you can buy water or beer from little counters in town (that also sell a few other random items like canned corn, tuna fish and rolls).

Cuba also operates only on cash, and there is an extra fee to exchange into their currency from US dollars. We brought euros with us instead, which we exchanged into CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso) at the airport and then a second time at a bank in town. We had to wait about 45 minutes at the bank — if you can plan out your budget for a single exchange, I’d recommend just doing it all at the airport. We spent about 100 CUC/day ($100), plus another 100 on the driving tour we did.

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Our favorite eats:
361 – a cute bar/restaurant next door to our airbnb
Dona Eutimia – one of “the best” restaurants in Old Havana, apparently! our host made us the reservation here — it’s at the end of a small alleyway and surrounded by other small restaurants. We had ropa vieja, a giant avocado filled with shrimp and frozen mojitos.
El Cocinero – we had dinner here Saturday night and it definitely had a vacation vibe. The host stand apparently didn’t have our reservation (or the reservation for the group in front of us…) but they managed to seat us anyway. El Cocinero is in a cool old building that use to be an oil factory — we ate outside on the cute rooftop terrace. The food and drinks were great. After dinner we went next door to the Fabrica de Arte Cubano – a super trendy, VERY Brooklyn, art factory and bar.

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Our favorite drinks:
La Bodeguita del Medio – Hemingway’s favorite mojito bar! Super small and crowded, so we grabbed our drinks and enjoyed them outside on the street. Not the best mojito, but a fun crowd and live music, so worth the experience.
El Floridita – Hemingway’s favorite daquiri bar! Also fun and crowded. The shades are all drawn, so it was dark but cool.
Plus we got a surprisingly good and refreshing pina colada inside a pineapple from a street cart – we really embraced the whole “we’re tourists!” thing, in case you couldn’t tell.

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And, of course, we tried three different coffee places:
*iced coffee is a foreign thing there, we ordered it at each place, but were served three different versions. As with everything in Havana, just go with the flow.
Cafe Bohemia – a cute cafe tucked away from the main square in Plaza Vieja. Was my favorite setting, but a little hot because it didn’t get much air flow!
Cafe El Escorial – another place in Plaza Vieja, but on the main square. Good people watching, but wasn’t our favorite.
Cafe O’Reilly – this was the only place we found that was a) open early and b) served breakfast! A cute place, reminded me of New Orleans.

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And how we killed time between meals 😉
We did a 90 minute driving tour with a guide recommended by a friend – he picked us up in Old Havana, drove us to the Morro Castle, then along El Malecon and through the neighborhoods of Havana.
Museum of the Revolution – Brett described this as “highly mediocre” and I couldn’t agree more! This can be skipped.
Playing Card Museum – a cute, free museum in Plaza Vieja, was fun for a quick walk-through
Walked around Central Park, Capital Building and “Jurassic Park” (a place where a bunch of old cars park!)
Played bananagrams and read books 😉

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Our night in Guanabo was so different from our time in Old Havana, it was great to have the contrast. It’s a beach town filled with Cuban tourists – we definitely stuck out, but everyone was really friendly. One guy even introduced himself and shook my hand on the beach! Our airbnb host used to own a restaurant and cooked us breakfast on our last morning – was one of our favorite meals of the trip! For dinner the night before we ate at Chicken Little – the “best restaurant” in Guanabo. But in classic Cuban style they were out of chicken! We had fish instead 🙂

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Manda Travels: Iceland!

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We spent last weekend in Iceland with my sister, my mom and my stepdad. We stayed in a really cute and comfortable cabin in Selfoss, complete with a hot tub that we used daily. A quick run down of our days below, and a few of my favorite pictures!

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Day 1: We arrive!

A lot of flights to Iceland land really early in the morning (like 4am early). Before we drove to the cabin for a much needed nap, we grocery shopped and had breakfast at Bergsson Mathus in Reykjavic. This was one of the few cafes open before 8am but we loved its vibe and the breakfast plate was delicious. After breakfast we drove to the cabin, unpacked and napped for a few hours before our tour of the Icelandic Turf Houses. The tour was given by a man whose family built and grew up in the turf houses and was an interesting look into historic Iceland. Later on, we drove to the Secret Lagoon for a dip in one of Iceland’s natural hot springs. For me, the highlight of our first day was pulling over to pet Icelandic horses! Horses were all over the place and really sweet and friendly.

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Day 2: Golden Circle!

We were lucky that the cabin was really close to the golden circle! The first stop, Kerid Crater, was just ten minutes away. We had lunch at Fridheimar Greenhouse – a tomato greenhouse fueled by natural energy that supplies about 20% of Iceland’s tomatoes! They have a limited menu, which is all tomato based. We each had the tomato soup and shared a few Bloody Marys. After lunch we saw Faxi Waterfall then got caught in a freezing cold rain storm at the Strokkur Geysir – worth it, because we saw it explode, but our down coats were soaked through afterward! The last stop of the day was Gulfoss Waterfall, one of Iceland’s best known waterfalls. While we were there, the sky cleared completely and the sun came out! We stopped at the cabin to change and have some champagne, then headed to dinner at Fjorubordid – a restaurant on the beach known for their langoustine soup and langoustine tails. The tails were sauteed in butter and garlic and were incredible, they tasted like mini lobsters.

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Day 3: Road Trip to Vik!

We saw my two favorite waterfalls on our way to Vik – Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss. We were able to get really close to the base of each of these (rather than viewing from the top like the two we saw on Day 2). The rainbows at Skogafoss were so fun and pretty. For lunch we had fresh, local Fish & Chips at a food truck in the parking lot of Skogafoss – probably my favorite meal of the trip! After lunch we stopped at Dyrholaey to see the natural stone arch then continued on to the Black Sand Beach in Vik. There are really beautiful geometric rock formations on the beach and a few cool caves. We rewarded ourselves with beers at a bar in Vik before headed back toward Selfoss. On the way home we stopped at the Myrdalsjokull Glacier – climbing up the slippery glacier was a highlight of the trip! After the long drive home we stopped at Pylsuvagninn in Selfoss to try their famous hot dogs – the one with crumbled cool ranch Doritos on it was a crowd favorite, obviously. Later that night, we were lucky enough to see the Northern Lights from the cabin! Amazing and unforgettable.

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next stop: india!

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Now that we are back from Iceland (pictures to come this weekend!), I am starting to plan our September trip to India. So far all we have booked are flights but I am slowly starting to outline our ten day trip. Top on my list is a stay at the Rajamahal Palace in Jaipur – photos below. I can’t get over the colors and the patterns!

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top photo source, rest of photos source

Manda’s… Getting Married!

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Last Thursday Brett (and Moose) proposed to me in Gramercy Park! We celebrated that night with my sister, Pico and (too much) champagne. The next day Brett and I flew to Paris for a surprise celebration weekend. It was overwhelming and over the top in the best way. I’m not a fan of romance or surprises, but I’d repeat last weekend over and over again if I could.

Paris in January was perfect – who knew? It rained a bit each day (the perfect excuse to nap or duck into a cafe for a glass of wine), but in between rain showers the skies were blue! We ate and drank and shopped and then ate some more. We stayed in the best hotel with cute french wallpaper, a marble tiled floor in the bathroom, and views of the Eiffel Tower from the bedroom and the bathtub. Plus, it had the first champagne bar in Paris in its lobby, which obviously called for a champagne tasting on our first night.

We walked underneath the Eiffel Tower, visited the Musee d’Orsay and hiked up to the Sacre Couer.

Coincidentally, a few friends of ours also happened to be in Paris! We had champagne with my friend Sharon, and then dinner and drinks with four friends from London – such fun, unexpected treats on top of the surprise trip!

Although you can’t really go wrong in Paris, some of our favorites are below 🙂

Oysters at Le Stella (which was filled with very chic French people – we felt out of place in the best way)

Croque Madame at Le PoinCare (I still can’t stop thinking about it…)

Literally everything at Frenchie Wine Bar

Cocktails at Les Justes – I had one that tasted like a chocolate covered cherry

Brett bought the cutest (euro) coat at Bilabaris

We loved walking through Fleux – a cool home/accessories store

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Manda Travels: A Long Weekend in SF + Napa

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A few weeks ago Brett had meetings in San Francisco on a Thursday and the following Tuesday — the perfect excuse for me to fly out and meet him in between for a long weekend in Northern CA! We spent two days in San Francisco with one of my best friends Emily and her boyfriend Robbie. Thankfully their priorities align perfectly with ours (food first, activity second, sleeping a close third). We ate really, really well. After two days in SF, we spent two days in Napa, where we continued to eat really, really well. And drink really good wine, of course. Some highlights from the trip below!

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EAT

Coqueta: On our first night we went to Coqueta for dinner. Although the portions were a bit small, the food was incredible. I’m still thinking about the Suckling Pig (!) and the Patatas Bravas.
Don Pistos: We went to Don Pistos on Saturday night. We had three different meat dishes (I think the pork chop, pollo asado and a pulled pork special) and it was some of the best meat I’ve ever had. (And yes, I know I went 15 years without meat but trust me). The restaurant was loud and dark, but the vibe worked well on a Saturday night.
Ferry Building Farmer’s Market: We walked through the Farmer’s Market and grabbed lunch before we drove out to Land’s End. Emily and I had open faced smoked salmon toast, and Brett and Robbie had chorizo and egg sandwiches. Insanely good all around.
The Girl & The Fig: I love the atmosphere and food here, it’s a must if you are in Sonoma. I had eaten here four years ago, and everything was as great the second time as it had been the first. We sat outside on the patio and shared a brussels sprouts salad and mussels, among other things.
Redd Wood: Brett and I ate here on our last night in Napa. We’re spoiled by pizza in New York, but Redd Wood held its own. The chicken wings that showed up at our table compliments of our server were a highlight. As was my jack & diet after a day of wine 😉
Oxbow Public Market: Our hotel was a two minute walk from here, thank goodness. We had amazing breakfast tacos from C Casa, and some of the best oysters we’ve had from Hog Island Oyster Co. I also picked up some fun flavored salts from Whole Spice.

DRINK

Copain: Our favorite winery that we visited! Amazing views.
Dark Horse: Definitely more of a fun/more energetic vibe here, we each did the sparkling wine tasting.
Hope & Grace: Brett and I did the full wine and cheese tasting at this tasting room in Yountville. Really friend staff and some of the best red wine we’ve had.
Scribe: A young, hipster winery recommended by a friend. The vineyard was actually closed so we went to a pop-up tasting in downtown Napa – great wine, and apparently a very chill vineyard to visit. We’ll add it to our list for next time.

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