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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Manda Travels: Positano

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[view from our airbnb!]

 

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Brett and I spent 5 days in Positano back in May and it was perfection. We stayed in a fantastic airbnb with a giant terrace and an outdoor shower that overlooked the sea. Per usual, we outlined our days around meals and explored or relaxed in between. The food was so, so, so good. We ate just about every type of seafood imaginable — mussels, clams, shrimp, octopus, squid and, of course, fish! We also ate our weight in fresh mozzarella, and had our fair share of prosciutto and melon. The region is known for lemons and we finished each meal with a (complimentary!) glass of limoncello — a custom I wouldn’t mind adopting back home. We took thousands of steps each day, so meal after meal of pasta felt well deserved. And to top it all off, the wine is almost cheaper than water! Some of our specific favorites below, plus photos that don’t even get close to doing any of it justice!

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[the first of many, many limoncello cheers]

Our favorite restaurant was Da Adolfo – it’s only accessible by boat, and located on a small private beach. It was really the most special place. We had grilled mozzarella in lemon leaves (one of their signatures), prosciutto and melon, and a whole grilled orata fish (below!) After we ate, we relocated to the beach chairs with aperol spritzes.

Speaking of aperol spritzes… we became obsessed. We make them at home all the time now, but drinking them on our roof is not quite the same as having them on the beach in Italy (just a tad different).

The best pasta we had was the lemon pasta at Hotel Santa Caterina. Made our day trip to Amalfi 100% worth it (but aside from the pasta, we mostly just missed Positano because we became attached after just 24 hours). The hotel itself was beautiful — it is built straight down the cliff, has an incredible pool right on the ocean and its own lemon orchard. The pasta was the perfect balance of tart and creamy – I still dream about it. After lunch, we snuck into the hotel pool to digest, naturally.

Despite my best efforts to stay in bed and miss the ferry “by accident”, I’m so glad Brett forced us to take a day trip to Capri. I had some amazing sort of coffee milkshake (“cafe freddo”) at a cafe in the main square (“piazzeta”). We walked through the Augustus Gardens, where some of the best views of the island are. And we spent about two hours in the afternoon at Fontelina Beach Club – one of the highlights of the trip! Funny enough, the photographer Gray Malin posted a photo of the beach club on his instagram earlier that day and we somehow ended up there. You have to pay a fee just for chairs, which was annoying at first but worth it. We shared a bottle of prosecco for lunch (because, vacation.)

On our second to last day, we discovered Casa e Bottega and fell in love. It’s a cafe/juice bar/shop that really hit the spot after days of pizza and pasta. Don’t worry, I ordered cake for breakfast (picture below), but had one of their juices on the side. They sold the prettiest ceramics and pillows – we got a little ceramic fish as a souvenir!

Other bests (but really, you can’t go wrong):

Best meat: braised beef pasta at Da Vincenzo

Best mozzarella: from a tiny family-run cheese and wine shop, Latteria

Best mussels: Il Pirata in the neighboring town, Praiano (*we took the public bus there and ended up standing on the street for 90 minutes waiting for a bus back, only to later find out they had stopped running for the night… next time we’ll look at the schedule!)

Best view & best house wine: Lo Guarracino, which is located on the walkway between the two beaches in Positano.

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[Capri’s Marina Grande]

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 [Da Adolfo!]

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[Leftovers from lunch]

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[Lemon Pasta from Hotel Santa Caterina… don’t get me started on the dishware]

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[Lemon Ricotta cake for breakfast at Casa e Bottega]

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[Fontelina Beach Club]

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Hawaii Eats 2016 Edition

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Hi there! Brett and I spent the last week in Maui, returning home on Monday to 2 feet of snow..and work…and winter. We took the same trip during the same week last year, and if this becomes our January “thing” I won’t complain : )

It was a perfect vacation – we came back well-rested and sun-kissed. Once again, we basically ate our way through Maui – planning meals first, activities second. The food there is just so good. A recap of our trip according to what we ate is below, hope you’re not hungry! ; )

Makawao Steak House: The night we arrived, we celebrated Brett’s birthday at Makawao Steakhouse with some family of his that lives on Maui (#dreamlife). We stayed with one of his cousins that lives in Makawao, aka “up-country”, a small town that has an old Western/cowboy feel. The small main street in the center of town is one of our favorites for shopping. Brett celebrated with a T-Bone steak, which he said was great.

The Mill House: This restaurant opened just a few months ago on Maui’s Tropical Plantation, and the meal we had here was one of our favorites. They use only local ingredients from Maui and the neighboring islands, so the menu changes depending on what’s available. We shared Sage and Brown Butter Gnocchi (so rich, and so good), Kauai Shrimp, Harissa Pizzetta (yummy, but could have skipped this), and Pork Belly (would eat this every day for the rest of my life if I could). They also offer a “Chef’s Table” experience, which is expensive but probably worth it.

Paia Fish Market: Our first repeat visit of the trip! Last year, the Mahi and Ono sandwiches were one of our favorite meals of the trip, and they were just as good this year. Paired with fries and Maui Bikini Blonde Beer, of course.

PAIA

Nuka Sushi: Our waitress at The Mill House recommended this sushi spot to us, and it was delicious. The rolls were enormous and we were stuffed. We had the Hawaii Roll, the Nuka Roll and one of their specials.

Komoda Bakery: This 100 year old bakery is on Makawao’s main street and is famous for their donuts. We especially loved the “stick donuts.”

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Eskimo Candy: Another recommendation from our waitress at The Mill House — it’s a Seafood Market and Cafe where we shared a Poke Bowl and Shrimp Tacos. Everyone around us was eating Fish & Chips, so safe to assume those are great too. I consider myself to be quite the texture snob, so I’m weird about raw fish texture sometimes, but this poke was amazing. This place is sort of in a weird location, but is much better than it looks.

ESKIMO CANDY

Mala Ocean Tavern: My friend Yarden specifically recommended the Ahi Bruschetta here, so we had to give it a try. We sat outside right on the water and shared the Bruschetta (incredible) and the Balinese Stir Fry (also great).

MALA

Star Noodle: Our second repeat visit of the trip, and again one of our favorite meals last year. This place is just so good. We repeated two dishes from last year – Filipino “Bacon and Eggs” and Singapore Noodles – and tried two new things as well – Kim Chee Wings and Kalbi Steak. The wings were INSANE. On of my favorite things I ate the whole trip.

The Fish Market: Similar to Eskimo Candy, this place was a fish market as well as cafe. We had the most incredible Ahi Sandwich here — perfectly seared, basically tasteless (in a good way), and just. so. good. The kind of thing it would be hard to find anywhere else. We also shared a Fish Taco, which was also good, but the sandwich was the star.

TUNA SANDWICH

Kimo’s: The only meal we had in “downtown” Lahaina! Felt very vacation-y and the food was pretty good. Their ribs were particularly good, which was a nice change after lots of fish.

Ono Tacos: If I learned one thing about eating in Maui this trip, it’s that you can’t judge a book by its cover. Some of the best food comes out of strip malls or parking lots. We stopped at this food truck for a midday snack and shared nachos and tacos, which really hit the spot. The two guys working were super friendly.

ONO TACOS

Japengo Sushi: We were planning on returning to Sansei for sushi, but our valet told us we 100% had to go to Japengo instead, which was just up the road in the Hyatt. We were a little skeptical (because Sansei was so good, and hotel restaurants aren’t always great), but we trusted him and he was right. The fish was really fresh tasting, and the setting was really pretty — we sat outside, right on the water. Our waiter was also really nice and sent us two glasses of champagne on the house – can’t say no to that!

Sea House: We went here for Happy Hour, which is from 2-5pm, and sat at the bar. It is right on Napili Bay, and the bar is open so you have a full view of the bay and the beach. I had Whiskey Lemonade(s) and we shared Calimari and Pork Tacos. The food was pretty good and the drinks were great.

SEA HOUSE

Hula Grill: This place was walking distance from our hotel, and our third repeat visit of the trip. We weren’t overwhelmed by it last year, but were feeling lazy so decided to try it again. Happy we did, because it was so much better this year! We shared Ahi Katsu (panko crusted Ahi that reminded us of our favorite Sansei sushi roll) and Firecracker Fish, and both were really, really good. They also have live music at their outdoor bar (where we sat), which is always fun.

Flatbread Pizza: Our final repeat visit of the trip, for pizza before our flight. Nothing wrong with good pizza : )

And, because Brett is a coffee snob, we also tried a few different coffee spots:
Paia Bay Coffee: Right in Paia, so we grabbed coffee and breakfast here before the Road to Hana. Their bacon bagel was delicious (obviously).

Mauigrown Coffee: We grabbed coffee here a few days we were at the hotel, since we passed by it most days.

Memphis Belle Coffee: A cute cafe we stopped into on our way to beaches in Wailea. We didn’t try them, but their crepes looked great.

Sip Me: A cute spot on the main street of Makawao. Coffee paired perfectly with Komoda donuts ; )

And, last but not least, two must-stops, plus a winery:
Surfing Goat Dairy: We did the “Grand Dairy Tour” at this farm and it may have been my favorite part of the trip. We milked goats, herded them, and played with the babies before a massive cheese tasting took place. We probably tried 20 different cheeses and were so full by the end.

SURFING GOAT

Leoda’s: We got sandwiches here last year, but didn’t try their pies. We were driving by on our way back to our hotel, and I made Brett make a bat-turn into the parking lot. I ran in and got a small Banana Cream Pie, which we promptly ate half of in the car.

LEODAS

 

Maui Winery: We stopped in here on our way back from the Road to Hana for a quick tasting and ended up loving the wines. A lot of them have a pineapple flavor without being too sweet. We ended up buying their Upcountry Gold (a white blend), Lokelani (sparkling rose), and Hula O Maui (pineapple champagne). Cheers!

MAUI WINERY