Couples Getaway: Mexico (Baja,California).

I always refer to this region as Baja, California, because when we go we typically move through the peninsula. There are so many different cities you can choose to stop at. If you want to party and drink on the beach, Rosarito is your spot. If you want seafood (lobster), Puerto Nuevo is your spot. If you want wine, aesthetic views, and gastronomy, Valle De Guadalupe is your spot. Finally, there is Ensenada which is a stop on many cruises from the U.S. Personally, I would not take a cruise there, when you could drive there. Ensenada is full of adventures, from quad riding, to La Bufadora, there are a lot of options on how to spend your day there.

In this blog, I will highlight our recent weekend adventure into Baja. We did a day and a half, ideally if it is your first time I would carve out two or three days to explore the region. However, if you are a busy person this weekend guide will be perfect for you. 

 

The First Day….

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-My husband had to work, so I drove down to his work and from there we drove down together. We drove straight down to Puerto Nuevo to eat our first meal of the day….LOBSTER. I am obsessed with the lobster meals from Puerto Nuevo. This town is cute, and colorful, and full of 31 restaurants which serve a similar menu. My personal favorite one is Villa Ortega’s (it is all the way to the left, and end). This one has a beach view, and you can dine on the outside while you hear the waves crash and feel the sun shine down on you. We normally get Lobster for two and it comes with lobster, rice, beans, tortillas, and tortilla soup!

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You can walk around and explore the town, this is a good spot to shop for souvenirs, and get free tequila samples. There is also a really yummy ice cream shop and panaderia which has different kinds of bread.

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from there, I recommend driving to your hotel or AirBnB to check in! 

For our stay this time, we chose AirBnB and we had an amazing experience. I will link our stay below! We were nestled in the Valle De Guadalupe and we were so close to the wineries. My favorite part was the breakfast that came with our stay, it was fresh and cooked specially for us.

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/9202418?source_impression_id=p3_1582053997_zuI%2F5x%2FFOmuPJAhP

Bed & Breakfast located at Quinta Monasterio

 

Most things in the Valle close early like typical wineries they close around 7pm. There are two location which I recommend and are close to each other.

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-Casa Frida is open till midnight. You can get in without a reservation, but it will be for their outside lounge or the restaurant. If you want to go to their indoor terrace, make a reservation.

-King & Queen Cantina. We got here around 11pm and they weren’t seating anyone without a reservation, so we didn’t get a chance to visit.

 

The Next Day (full day of Mexico)….

This was our full day in Mexico, and I had the day planned out from stop to stop to strategically maximize our time, since everything in the Valle is spread out.

 

Stop 1: Bruma (reservation required)

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This is one of the most gorgeous and unique wineries. There is a beautiful tree in the middle which goes underground and above. The tasting is 17$ pp and includes a tour of the facility, with 3 wine tastings. A little overpriced in my opinion, but you pay for the photo ops. There is also a restaurant called Fauna, which I have heard great things about.

Stop 2: Finca Altozano

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(reservation strongly recommended, if you get there before 12 you can get seated, depending on your party size. Either way I would make a reservation). This restaurant is like no other, its beautiful and has amazing selections of food. The restaurant is situated on a large spread of land, so you can walk around the property and see their animals. There are also a lot of photo opportunities! Our favorite thing to order here is the Oysters, Lengua Tacos, and Seabass Chicharones. We’ve tried other things on the menu, like Octopus, Milanesa, and Tuna. If you are lucky you might even see the two pigs walk past your table. There are also 8 or 9 dogs which live on the property and their name and photo is pictured on the menu. Save some room for desert, there is an ice cream shop located here as well.

 

Stop 3: Casa Frida

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(reservation required). Even though we came here at night, I HAD to go back to explore during the day. We reserved the wine tasting experience, which was $40 for the both of us. Wine tasting is in a separate room that is immersed in art and paintings. If you do not do wine tasting, you can hangout at the restaurant, or hangout in their outdoor lounge which plays funky house music all day. Since we had extra time, we asked if there was space at their Mixology Terrace. I would highly recommend making a reservation for this area, there is a minimum consumption limit, but it is worth it. The views of the Valle are gorgeous, funky house music is playing, and there are delicious hand crafted cocktails to indulge in. Aside from the views, there is even more art to see and take pictures with. Make sure to check out the bathrooms for even more fun photo-ops. Basically this place is an Instagram heaven.

 

Stop 4: Bar Bura @ Cuatro Cuatros

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(reservation required, or take your chances on waiting to get an opportunity to ride the shuttle to the top). Bar Bura, is located on the top of Cuatro Cuatros, and it is the most picturesque bar I have ever been to. You pay to ride the shuttle to the top of the mountain and you get to choose between a soda, water, or beer. You immediately feel like you are transported to somewhere in Greece. I always strategically plan the reservation around sunset hours, the sunset here is breathtaking. You can also order food here, I love their Ceviche. If you need some coffee, there is also a coffee truck at the top, which would be great for your drive home.

 

GETTING HOME

Crossing the border can be a nightmare, because of the waiting time. We’ve waited as much as 8 hours before. On average I would say it takes 4 hours to cross back on a weekend. Just recently on this last trip, it only took us an hour and a half on a Holiday weekend, because my husband figured out how to enter the Ready Lanes! Watch this video and save yourself time! Warning: on the weekends there is a higher volume of traffic, which makes it harder to enter the Ready Lanes, just drive back further and enter in. OH AND YOU CANNOT GET AWAY WITH GOING THROUGH READY LANES WITH NO PASSPORT. Technically you should not even risk going without a passport, however people do many times, in the ready lane they don’t mess around because they use RFID technology to process you faster.

 

 

Thanks for reading! Hope to see more of you venture off into Mexico. If you would like to book a tour, click on my Guide to Valle De Guadalupe Blog, which has my favorite company linked!

xoxo

Jess

New Orleans Guide: 3 day weekend in NOLA

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I’ve had my eyes set on New Orleans, Louisiana for quite some time now. As a major foodie, this places was on top of my list because the possibilities were endless. I was ready for Oysters, Po’Boys, Gumbo, & Beignets galore. Aside from having some of the NOLA staples I got really adventurous on this trip and decided to try new foods I might have never tried, like Chargrilled Oysters (cheese), Alligator Sausage, Turtle Soup, and Quail.

Aside from all the food that drew me to New Orleans, I was also drawn in by the culture. Mixed with Spanish and French influence, New Orleans is a city full of vibrant sounds, views, and people. New Orleans has definitely been the city I have visited with the most live music, from bands playing covers at bars, jazz brunches, or jazz set ups on a street, you can’t help but stop and feel the music.

At the end of this blog you can find my detailed 3 day itinerary which is perfect for a long 3 day weekend. Like my previous Austin post, it is very busy, but you can take what you want from it and make it your own. I strategically mapped everything and placed it in the itinerary in a way where you could see the most by foot. Ubers&Lyfts were relatively cheap, I  DO NOT recommend renting a car.

 

Uber/Lyft from the airport is very controlled and efficient. We paid $40 for the ride from the airport to our hotel.

Hotel: We stayed at the Lafayette Hotel. It was in a prime location, if you are going to Mardi Gras, this is a great hotel to stay, because there are bleachers for the parade right by the hotel. If you enjoy walking, everything is a 13-20 minute walk or a 5 min drive.

Nightlife: Nightlife in New Orleans is like no other. We HAD to check out Bourbon street, there are so many options for bars. If you want a good Hurricane go to Lafitte’s Blacksmith shop, we had one at Pat O ‘Brien’s and it was wayyy too sweet. I avoided the Hand Grenade because I heard it was nasty, but if you want a good buzz and don’t care what you drink, go for it. Also the nightlife is so lax, you can bring your own alcohol and take your drink from bar to bar. Our favorite part of the night was people watching from the Balconies and the bars where they did live covers to songs and requests.

without further a due, lets go into the trip!

Friday Day One

We landed and quickly checked in and got ready for the night. First stop was food obviously. We headed to Acme Oyster House and this was definitely our Favorite meal and spot we went to all weekend, I wanted to go back. We had raw oysters, chargrilled oysters, and we split a seafood fried platter that had the BEST catfish.

From dinner we went to Bourbon street to see the debauchery. It was SO fun and unlike anything we’ve seen before. We checked out Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar, Pat O Brien’s, Saints & Simmers, and Bourbon Bandstand.

 

 

Saturday Day 2

After finding out I booked the wrong Mercedes-Benz stadium tour (whoops) we had to make a change to our itinerary. This goes to shows that no matter how much you plan, things can go wrong. We laughed it off and made a quick change.

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Instead of the stadium tour, we went to the Historical Pharmacy Museum which was only $5 to visit and very well worth the cost! This is one of thee coolest museums I’ve seen with a lot of artifacts and instruments used back then.

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Lunch Recommendation: NOLA Po’boys, they’re pretty big and a staple in NOLA.

After lunch we headed back to the area where the stadiums are to go to Smoothie King Arena to watch the Pelicans and Clippers play. One of our goals in life is to visit as many sports stadiums so it was a must to check out a game while we here. Tickets are also significantly cheaper, when we were walking to our seats I couldn’t help but think wow if only we could sit this close at a Laker game back home.

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After the game, we decided to walk back to our hotel area since it was only a 13 minute walk. We decided to stop by the Auction House Market, I wish I would have gotten pictures of it, but I did manage to get a picture of their aesthetic bathroom. It’s a really trendy, cute, and IG friendly market. We split two empanadas and an iced coffee to fuel us for a long night ahead.

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For Night two, we decided to do a Ghost Tour of the City of New Orleans. We did it through Haunted History Tours. I really recommend doing a walking tour because you get a lot of fun, historical information you may have never heard, like the tales of Madame Delphine or Marie Laveau. During the tour you also stop at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, which is one of the oldest buildings still up and supposably, very haunted.

We finished the night with a midnight treat, Beignet’s at Cafe Du Monde, which is 24 hours. I honestly would say going the latest you can is the best idea! We sat down and ordered immediately, during the day and morning the lines are ridiculous.

 

Sunday Day Three

We made this day a strategically planned walking day to see the most around town. Which meant waking up early on a Sunday and beating the crowds. We began by grabbing a beignet and coffee at Cafe Beignet, another popular and cute spot.

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Next stop: St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square Area

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Next Stop: Carousel Bar (opens at 11am) If you want a spot on the carousel get there 10-15 minutes early to get in line. Luckily we got there and found two spots! Although it was super early to grab a drink, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit the bar.

Next Stop: Lunch at the Gumbo spot. We split the Aligator Sausage (must try), Shrimp Gumbo and Chicken Andouille Gumbo!

Next Stop: Voodoo Museum, it costs $8 per person to get in. To be honest, I would skip this, it wasn’t worth the price. The Pharmacy Museum is a lot better.

 

We kept walking and decided to find some of the sights from the night ghost tour, in particular Madame Delphine’s Murder house. We had just watched American Horror Story Coven prior to this trip so I was really intrigued by the horror tales.

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Next Stop: The Spotted Cat Music Club, which is a fun, packed, jazz bar! The ambiance and crowd was on point.

Nighttime: We hit Bourbon street and bar hopped. I love how lax the nightlife is here, we were wearing football jerseys and carrying our own alcohol into each venue.

 

Monday Day 4

Our last day in NOLA and we only had half a day because our flight departed at 3:30 pm. Nonetheless, we got up early, packed and made the most of the time we had.

 

Our first stop was Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies, better known as the house from American Horror Story Coven. It’s located in a beautiful neighborhood and the house is majestic.

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Next Stop: Drink Beauty NOLA

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I found this pink, instagram dream coffee shop on instagram and knew I had to go. Aside from the decor and aesthetics, was their drinks. We tried two different lattes which had CBD in them, each latte had its own benefit and they both tasted so good. My favorite part was picking out what design I wanted on my foam for my latte, and the bathroom walls (lotss of boobies)

Next & FINAL stop of our NOLA trip: Lunch at the Commander’s Palace

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So what drew us into this place was their lunch special, which allows you to get 25 cent martinis (max 3 martinis). This sounded like a good idea until we wokeup hungover on Monday, it is safe to say I only had one martini (they’re strong). We kept hearing about the famous Turtle Soup, which I was pretty apprehensive to try at first. I had some bold food adventures on this trip, and if you know me you know I am an ex-picky eater. When I first met Ed, I was that person that ordered a safe burger and fries or chicken. Luckily, traveling has pushed me to be more explorative in my food choices and I am so happy (still don’t like cheese though lol).

Here’s a snapshot of the food we got! Turtle Soup was BOMB, and so was their famous desert! You must dress nice in this restaurant or they won’t let you in.

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Thank you for following along! I highly encourage you all to visit New Orleans if you get a chance. I would love to come back because I feel like there is still SO much to see and do. Ideally I want to come back in a warmer month or fall (to catch a Saints game). I also would love to do a Swamp tour, Plantation Tour, and National WW2 Museum in the future!

My weekend itinerary is below in case anyone needs a structured list to follow!

Feel free to screenshot it and make your life easier on your future visit to New Orleans.

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Guide To Exploring Valle De Guadalupe (Baja California MX’s, Wine Region)

Viva Valle

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Lately I’ve been seeing a lot more friends venture into Valle De Guadalupe and it makes me so happy. I’ve managed to plan epic wine tasting adventures in Valle and show the beauty this area possesses to people who may have never had an opportunity to get down there. Visiting Vinicolas (Wineries in Spanish), has become a fun adventure as we get older, and I live for going to the wineries in Mexico (especially if I get lobster at Puerto Nuevo on the way down)/

Please for the love of God, come with a passport! I cannot stress this enough, border patrol agents and people in your car do not want to deal with any issues. Avoid any mishaps and pack your passport or make sure you get one before coming down.

If you live in Southern California, the drive is manageable and quick, especially if you are coming from Temecula or San Diego.

Driving Tip 1: Set your GPS to your location before driving into Mexico. Make sure your GPS works down there or someone else’s in the car, typically T-Mobile gives the best coverage in Mexico.

Driving Tip 2: Bring Cash and Change for the Toll Roads. When driving on the 1D you will make 3 toll stops which can only be paid in cash dollars or pesos.

Driving Tip 3: Drive safely, follow road directions that you would in the U.S, and be cognizant of speed when driving.

Driving Tip 4: If you don’t feel comfortable driving/staying down there, there are tour companies that pick you up at the border and take you back. There are also tour companies that pick you up at your hotel or airbnb and take you back. I have a reputable company I have used on two occasions, once for 17 guests and then another trip with  12 guests. They provide excellent service and go above and beyond, bring cash to pay and tip your driver 🙂

 

Valle De Guadalupe Tour Recommendation: Ruta Del Vino Tour

https://www.yelp.com/biz/ruta-del-vino-tours-valle-de-guadalupe-4

  +52 646 113 8246

I prefer to contact them through WhatsApp! I have had Carlos and Jacinto as drivers and they were both amazing. You contact them, let them know how many people are in your group and what wineries you want to visit. If you don’t care which wineries, they can plan the day for you. They also plan a spot for you to stop and eat at (Typically Finca Altozano which I dream about going to constantly). Once you figure out how many people are in your group, and how many hours you want to be driven for, they will give you a rate.

You can also drive from winery to winery if you would like, your GPS typically works and you can map your day out. If you plan on getting tipsy I would recommend booking the private driver through Ruta Del Vino, save yourself the hassle and enjoy more of the day.

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Favorite Spots to Visit

 

1.Cuatro Cuatros

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Location:El Tigre, carretera libre
Tijuana-Ensenada Km. 89 s/n
El Sauzal de Rodriguez,
Ensenada B.C., México

 Phone Number: 646) 174 6789

This is one of the most beautiful locations I have ever been to, its so dreamy and you feel like you are transported to another side of the globe. I’ll start out by saying that if you want to go to the top for the view and bar, you have to make a reservation. You can take your chances and put your name down when you arrive, or if you do not make a reservation try getting there when they open. My favorite time to visit is an hour before sunset. The most magical views happen at the top when the sun goes down. You can order food at the top and drink from a wide menu of cocktails and beers. If you want to do wine tasting, that is downstairs when you park and wait for the bus that takes you to the top. You also get a complimentary beer, water or soda when going to the top.

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Had to include a picture of the bathroom, the most magical pee ever taken.

 

2. Finca Altozano

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Location: Carretera Tecate – Ensenada Km 83 Ejido,  Francisco Zarco, 22750 Valle de Guadalupe, B.C., Mexico

Phone Number +52 646 156 8045

Whatever you do, save your appetite and make this your lunch stop. Whether you are driving there yourself, or request it as a stop on your tour, this is one of my favorite stops for lunch. The restaurant is GORGEOUS, wooden accents and open, you feel like you are on an hacienda in Mexico. Reservations are required, but you can always put your name down and wait. If you wait, there is a lot to entertain, from the wood barrel photo ops, to the livestock that lives on the property, to the ice cream shop. Another one of my favorite quirks about this restaurant, is the dogs that live on the property. There are about 9 dogs who live at Finca and spend their day lazily roaming the restaurant, you can find their name out on the menu. We’ve been here about 4 times, one time with a group of 17! The service is phenomenal and the food is delicious. We love the Oysters, Lengua Tacos, Sea Bass Chicharones, and Octopus. Be careful ordering uuuuun taco because you will get the whole cut of the meat which is 5 tacos (lol Aura).

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3. Bruma

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Location: Carretera Avinicola La Cetto fraccionamiento A-B P74, 22760 Valle de Guadalupe, B.C., Mexico

Phone Number: +52 646 116 8031

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I found this winery through Instagram (typical), and it was such a tranquil experience. One of the most thought out and detailed wineries I’ve been to. What’s crazy, is that the roots and body of the tree go down to a room down under. The roots and body of the tree are enclosed in a glass cage and you do your wine tasting down there. Bruma also has a restaurant called Fauna. Make reservations for tastings, you won’t regret it!

4. Villa De Frannes

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Location: Camino Vecinal al rancho Cañada del trigo, 22750 Valle de Guadalupe, B.C., Mexico

+52 646 688 1955

It’s extremely accommodating for large groups. They have an indoor and outdoor tasting section. The outdoor section is so picturesque and serene, definitely one of my favorite views and a good spot to admire nature’s beauty.

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We will be going back to Valle for Valentine’s Day this year and I will share the experience. This time I am eager to see Casa Frida Valle De Guadalupe, and also Vinicola Adobe Guadalupe. We will also be staying at a new location located in the heart of Valle De Guadalupe, and I am so excited to show you guys the new location.

I truly hope everyone finds a way to come down and visit Valle, the hospitality is so great and the aesthetics of the locations are so beautiful. This is a great birthday trip or anniversary trip, also a good idea if you want a tranquil and cute bachelorette.

 

Do you have any favorites or recommendations in Valle De Guadalupe? I would love to know, Share them Below ❤

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I love the Baja California region and frequent it often, so keep an eye out for more future blogs on the area!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ultimate Thailand Guide: Part 1 – Bangkok

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In 2018 we went to Thailand for our honeymoon. We had been eyeing Thailand since we back came from studying abroad in Italy. The reason we kept holding out on it, was because we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time there. The flights are typically all over twenty hours, so my number one recommendation if you’re going to Thailand, give yourself at least 10 days.

There is SOOO much to see in Thailand, it was very hard to limit it and create the perfect route. We wanted a good balance between adventure and relaxing. I read many blogs and specifically watched Lost Le Blanc’s Thailand video series to create the perfect Thailand trip.

Before you begin to plan your route, be aware of what season Thailand is in, because the weather will impact your itinerary!

 

This is the route we took

Bangkok -> Chiang Mai -> Krabi -> Phuket -> Koh Phi Phi -> Phuket -> Bangkok

originally we had planned to do Koh Lanta after Krabi,  since we went during rainy season, we heard most of the island of Koh Lanta was a ghost town and not very well picked up due to the rain and tide. We decided to go Phuket instead, since it was huge and had a lot to see, and we did not regret our decision!

Currency: Bhat is the currency used in Thailand, it is imperative to carry their cash at all times. There are a lot of places that accept cards,  but save yourself the hassle and pull out cash from Thai ATMS with your regular bank card, just don’t forget to notify the bank of your travel plans.

Affordability: Thailand is extremely affordable!!! To be honest we did not budget our trip since it was our honeymoon. We booked all of our hotels in advanced online using Hotels.com. Food and alcohol is extremely cheap as well, especially all of the delicious street food, which is a must!

Weather: Make sure to check the season you are traveling! We knew going during July, we would be in the middle of rainy season. This meant a lot of rain, hiding for cover from the downpour, but also less of a crowd.

In order to make this guide comprehensive and detailed, I will break it down into 3 regions, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and the Islands.

Bangkok

I read online many times to skip Bangkok when visiting Thailand, but that is not a good idea. We loved Bangkok, from the temples, to the rooftop bars, to the markets, the culture is so rich. Ed and I love the hustle and bustle that big cities bring, so we took advantage of our time in Thailand.

 

Day One:

We landed in Bangkok at about 4 am! From the airport we took a taxi to our hotel and we checked in at about 4:30 am. We were too antsy to sleep, especially since we had spent most of the time hibernating while on the plane. So we freshened up and left the hotel around 6 am to begin our adventure.

Surprisingly, I didn’t have an itinerary planned, but we had mapped out what we wanted to see. As we were walking to our first destination, we ran into a taxi driver, Mr. Saifon. I told him I wanted to go to the Grand Palace, he then showed us a brochure of places he could take us. I saw a market on the list then asked him if he could take us  to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. Running into Mr.Saifon was one of the greatest blessings of the trip, we ended up having him as our personal driver for most of the day, and he only charged us $30 and we tipped him well!

Stop 1: Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, wow this was one of the most iconic markets I’ve ever visited. It is pretty far from the city of Bangkok, about an hour and a half, taking a personal taxi like we did is the most optimal way. When we got there, our taxi driver arranged us to purchase our ride through the market. Make sure to bring cash with you, or ask your boat driver to stop for you. This market is a bit more pricey than most of Thailand, but you pay for the experience. There are also excursions you can stop and do while at the market, we chose to visit a settlement of women that wear brass neck coils around their necks to elongate them. There are also beautiful temples you can stop at, just make sure your shoulders and knees are covered.

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Here is some of the food we got at the floating markt , the icecream was soooo good, I wanted seconds. Also we HAD to get pad thai for our firs meal in Thailand.

 

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Stop 2: Mr. Saifon took us to grab lunch at a random but very cute outdoor restaurant, I probably will never find this place or Mr.Saifon again unfortunately 😦

 

Stop 3: Maeklong Railway Market

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I had seen this market photographed on Instagram and also asked Mr. Saifon if he could take us there. The market sits on the side of train tracks, the train goes by every so often about 8 times a day. We were lucky to arrive at a good time to walk the whole market, drink some coconuts, and watch the madness unfold. A bell will sound off and you will see all of the shops bring everything in and make way for the train to come. We made sure to get a good spot to see the action happen. This market was best to buy fruit, vegetables, and drinks! I bought my favorite fruit, which I can’t find everywhere in the U.S…lychee!

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Finally, after spending about 6 hours with Mr.Saifon, we returned to our hotel in Bangkok and got ready for the nighttime.

Bangkok is well known for their elegant rooftop bars with the best views of the city, we decided to have dinner at one called Red Sky Bar. We dined like Kings and Queens and it was so inexpensive (thank you to all that gifted us cash for our honeymoon, you made this possible!)

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Day Two

For day two we decided to stay local and explore all the beautiful sights on foot. I wanted to ride a Tuk Tuk really bad, but heard to be cautious because of all the scams. We kind of got suckered into one, he took a picture of us, and then we realized he was a scam so we jumped out and set out on foot, afterall more walking means more room for food later.

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Our first stop was The Grand Palace. We purchased the self directed audio guide tour and walked around. Make sure you dress appropriately if you want to enter the Temples. I had to buy pants outside the Palace, and wore a kimono to cover my shoulders.

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After the Grand Palace, we stopped for some Thai food and then headed over to our next stop; Wat Arun. We took the ferry boat over to Wat Arun and explored its beauty.

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We wanted to check out another rooftop bar but were not dressed appropriately since we had left the hotel at 9am and had been exploring on foot all day. We stopped at a department store, and I used some makeup samples to freshen up….lol ratchet. Ed bought a cheap dress shirt from a street vendor, I managed to roll down my shorts to an appropriate length, ed wore my temple pants, we checked out backpack in, and they surprisingly let us in, talk about a story we will always remember.

This was my favorite rooftop bar for sure! The cocktails were delicious and the views were phenomenal, especially at the time we went.

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We ended the night by walking the notorious Kkao San Road. We had street food for dinner and tried the best deserts Nutella Roti.

 

Time to back our bags because we are headed to beautiful Chiang Mai next! Look out for part two and three on the blog!

The Ultimate Guide to La Riviera Maya (Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, & Tulum)

IMG_3096La Riviera Maya is hands down my favorite place to vacation to, because there is so much to see and do. I have been fortunate enough to travel there a couple times, and every time I leave, I am left wishing to come back and do something we didn’t have the opportunity to do. One of the best parts of traveling to this region, is the water. Cancun is located in the Caribbean Sea, so the water is warm and turquoise. There are parts of the Riviera Maya, where the water is nicer than others, the best water is closer to the Islands, such as Isla Mujeres & Cozumel.  Aside from the ocean, the Yucatan peninsula is home to more than 6,000 cenotes, each one is unique and an adventure visiting. The adventures are endless in La Riviera Maya, and this place is great to travel to for families, friends, but my personal favorite is with my significant other. This post is going to highlight some of the must see & do things while in the Riviera Maya, as well as food recommendations.

I’ll be moving down this list region by region geographically! When you fly in, you fly into Cancun so it is typically better to work your way down from Cancun -> Playa Del Carmen -> Tulum.

Getting Around: Renting a car is the best option if you are up for driving in Mexico. You can either rent a car for your whole stay or for certain days of your trip. If you are driving in Mexico, it is imperative to make safety your priority. If you would rather not worry about driving there are private shuttles which can take you around. If you are staying in Cancun & Playa Del Carmen, a car is not necessary at all, you can walk to most places or take the local bus or collectivos. You can also take ADO busses from Cancun, to Playa Del Carmen, and to Tulum. Make sure to check their schedule at the station to plan your trip accordingly! Tulum is also easy to move around in, the best way is through bike rental!

Cancun

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Many people insist on skipping Cancun, because of how oversaturated it is with tourism, I strongly disagree and love visiting the area. Cancun actually has way nicer beaches than Tulum does. Tulum is more for the Instagram and Cancun is more for the nightlife/ beaches. Cancun is also located north in the Yucatan peninsula and it is most optimal to visit certain tourist spots from this area.

Chichen Itza

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Known as one of the 7 wonders of the modern world, Chichen Itza is a must visit. In my opinion, the most optimal way to visit Chichen Itza, is through a tour. The tour company will pick you up and take you home. They often pair this with a visit to one of the most beautiful cenotes.

Cenote Ik-Kil

This is my favorite cenote to visit. It’s huge and super refreshing, it is also very deep, so if you are not comfortable treading water, I recommend you grab a life jacket. You can also jump into the cenote from various altitudes if you are seeking some adrenaline.

Coco Bongo

You can’t visit Cancun and not go to Coco Bongo, the experience is worth every penny. It is not like a regular club, its an immersive experience that blows your mind. The performers go all out, there is acrobats, stunts, live covers of favorites from Queen, Michael Jackson and many more. The ticket also includes open bar so make sure to get there early and get a good spot because it does get packed.

Isla Mujeres

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If there is one place of the Riviera Maya, I could go back to today, it would be Isla Mujeres. Since it is an island, the water is the best in the region. The island is beautiful, I recommend staying there for a night, you can find many affordable hotels and air bnbs. Isla Mujeres is accessed from Cancun from the multiple ferry ports, the ferry is cheap and a nice ride itself (as long as its not raining lol). Now the first thing you need to do when you arrive to Isla, is to rent a golf cart. Pack a day bag and wear your bathing suits, you can drive through the whole island and make pit stops to hop into the beach. There are even bar stops along the way for you to grab a cold cerveza or coco. Playa Norte is the most popular region on Isla and has the best sunsets.

Where We’ve Stayed

-Real Inn Cancun

-Hotel Bahia Chac Chi (Isla Mujeres)

Both of these hotels are super affordable yet still nice and enjoyable!

Restaurants

While were in Cancun, we typically do tours which feed you, so I really don’t have many places to recommend for eating except one.

Mextreme- Located on the strip where the nightlife is, this place has really good mexican food and even better margaritas. The restaurant is also super fun and has live music and the workers get into it by stacking drinks on their head.

and now we work our way down the Peninsula to……….

 

Playa Del Carmen

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Playa del Carmen is definitely worth visiting, especially if you love shopping. They have a main strip with a ton of restaurants, bars, and shops, the decor is beautiful especially at night with all the twinkle lights. Playa del Carmen is the most centrally located and is a good spot to stay to visit the most in the area. Tulum is only an hour away by car and, the island of Cozumel is also a ferry ride away. The best part of staying in Playa Del Carmen, is how close the excursion parks are, such as Xel-Ha, Xcaret, and Xplor. Finally, Playa Del Carmen is also close to many beautiful cenotes worth visiting.

Getting around Playa Del Carmen via Collectivo

My best recommendation to visit the cenotes/Akumal, is to take the collectivos from Playa Del Carmen. I should explain what this is, a collectivo is a local shuttle van that picks up people in Playa Del Carmen to take them to various stops along the highway which ends up at Tulum. The locals take these collectivos everyday to get to work at the various resorts along the highway, so they are super safe, just be aware of their times of operation so you do not end up stranded. The collectivos are cheap make sure you have small pesos in hand. Collectivos can be found on Calle 2 between 20th and 25th avenues. 

Xel-Ha

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Xel-Ha, if I could live here, I would. The ticket comes with all you can drink all you can eat. Did I mention, it’s all you can drink ALCOHOL? The buffet food is also really delicious. This park blows any disney resort out of the water. From the snorkeling, lazy river, cliff jumping, cenotes, and much more, this places is for everyone. There are even hammocks for you to take a nap in post alcohol binge.

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This is the parent of the parks, its huge and best for families. There is a beautiful cultural show that will marvel the beauty of the Yucatan culture. To be honest, I haven’t been to this park yet, Ed and I always say we will come back to it when we have kids.

5th Avenue

The best shopping in La Riviera Maya. From local artisan crafts, to chain stores like forever 21, you are bound to find your perfect souvenirs here. Pro-tip: buy your souvenirs at the local wal mart, you will find the exact same things at cheaper prices (we were told by locals).

Akumal Bay

Have you ever wanted to swim with sea turtles? This is the place to go. We took a collectivo for a couple pesos from Playa Del Carmen to get to Akumal bay. We also bought our own snorkel mask and stick from Wal Mart and brought it with us to swim with the turtles. You do not need a tour to do this, and you can save money by doing it on your own. Swimming with the turtles was a beautiful experience, just be cognizant and respectful of their environment.

Cenote Jardin Del Eden

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 Cenote Jardin Del Eden, is actually the first stop of 3 cenotes worth visiting. It costs 5$ to get in, if you have your own snorkel gear, bring it with you to see the fish and underwater life. You can cliff jump into this cenote & it has some of the most beautifully colored water.

Other favorite cenotes to visit that are close by, Cenote Azul, Cenote Chickin Ha.

Where We’ve Stayed Before

-La Pasion Hotel Boutique- WE LOVE THIS HOTEL and it is also super affordable, just researching the name right now and the hotel costs 50$ a night. It is in a perfect location super close to all the walking shops and restaurants. It has a rooftop pool, rooftop bar, and another pool in the hotel. You also get free breakfast (sit down, restaurant style), and the amenities of the hotel are pretty sweet.

-Grand Mayan at Vidanta- I only stayed here because my mom has a timeshare. This resort is freaking awesome. Its huge and there is SO much to do, it probably would take two days to cover and explore everything this resort offers. One of the best things this Hotel offers, is its proximity with Cirque Du Soleil, where you can watch Joya! We loved watching the show here, it was much more affordable than Vegas and you can order packages where you you get drinks and appetizers.

Restaurants in Playa Del Carmen ( we have two favorites that we always make it a mission to visit to when were in the area).

-El Oasis Mariscos Calle 12 (best seafood ever) So many options to choose from and it is not that expensive

-El Fogon (there are various locations) best place to go for quality mexican food like tacos, especially el pastor.

and finally we head down to Tulum!

 

Tulum

 

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Tulum is every avid Instagrammer’s heaven, people go for the aesthetic and are drawn in by beautiful photos shared online. Because of how popular it is, this region is also much more expensive but it depends on which side of the town you are on . Typically most tourists go to the Tulum Hotel Zone, and if you are only there for the day, this is the region you want to visit and stay at. If you are in Tulum for an extended amount of time and are looking for a much more affordable stay with gorgeous AirBnB’s look into staying in Tulum Town. The only difficulty with staying in Tulum Town, is getting to and from the Hotel Zone where most of the attractions are located. Some of the airbnb’s do offer bikes which make traveling to the Hotel Zone a fun adventure.

here are some of my favorite spots to visit in Tulum

Azulik Hotel

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This hotel is so dreamy, I dream of staying there one day. For now i’ll just visit the beautiful attractions they offer. In this hotel you can find Kin Toh (restaurant), Sfer Ik (immersive art gallery that changes), and suspension bridge walkway at Azulik.

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Pro-Tip: Dining at Kin-Toh is pretty pricey and tbh the food was alright in my opinion. I did enjoy their cocktails and & bread they brought, but the food was kind of average. It is extremely expensive to dine on the nets and birds nests, but most people stop in for a drink at their bar, hop on the net for a quick picture and head out.

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Matcha Mama

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By far the best Acai Bowls i’ve ever had! They sell Acai bowls, smoothies, coffee, matcha, juices, and my personal favorite immunity boosters made out of juiced ginger. I love riding bikes here, and making this a pitstop. Aside from all the delicious food options, it makes for a perfect picture stop.

 

Coco Tulum

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One of my favorite stops for a drink and some beautiful beach views. This is also a great place for groups, in particular bachelorette parties. It has an all white aesthetic and has a great vibe to it.

Other Places worth Visiting in Tulum

-Casa Malca (Pablo Escobar’s Mansion)- Been dying to go here, last two times I was in Tulum it didn’t work out. Super cute and trendy for photos, check out the restaurant so you feel comfortable hanging around since it is a hotel.

-Coba Ruins ( you can climb these ruins, further away so you definitely need a car)

-Tulum Ruins (beautiful & by the water, there is also a trail that leads to a beach, can be accessed by bike coming from the hotel zone)

-Grand Cenote

-Cenote Calavera

 

 

 

 

since this blog is getting long, I will cap it off here. There are honestly SO many places to visit, you will love any region you travel to. These are just some of the highlights from the past times I’ve been. There is still so much I am yearning to see, I can’t wait to go back.

 

 

Things To Do on A Weekend Trip To Temecula

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Temecula, a beautiful valley nestled in Riverside County, and a place I’ve been fortunate to call home for the past 26 years. When I first left for college in 2011, Temecula was very unknown. When asked where I was from, people would respond to my answer with a sense of confusion. I would reply, it’s between San Diego and Los Angeles. Fast-forward to today and you will find many people now know where Temecula is, and might have even visited.

Temecula is home to over 40 wineries with stunning views, this is what draws many tourists in. Not only does Temecula have wineries, but there are also breweries, speakeasies, and even an Old Town that has an effervescent scene day and night, basically a lot of opportunities to get drunk. Temecula is the perfect location for your next girls trip or couples get away. Recently, there has also been a surge in the presence of bachelorette parties in town. One of my favorite parts about living in Temecula, is the endless opportunities of food selection, I will include my favorite restaurants in this blog post as well.  I’m going to break this article down on three areas to visit in town that are popular. Look out for a later blog post on my favorite wineries in town.

 

Wine Country

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The possibilities are endless in Wine Country, with over 40 wineries to choose from. Each winery has something different, whether it’s the views, wine, food, or decor, you will find something unique in every location.

If you go wine tasting, I highly recommend, ubering around town. If it is a group of you, look into booking a limo/transportation service. For group transportation I recommend Vineyard Coast Transportation, contact Hugo at (951)-303-4923. Having transportation figured out is key, to allow yourself to have a great time worry free.

There are a couple wineries that offer brunch, I suggest starting there to ensure a smooth day of day drinking. My favorite winery that has a brunch is Miramonte Winery. Two other ones to note are Leoness Cellars and Lorimar Winery.

The wineries typically close around 5-6 pm so plan to come early. There are a couple that are open later and many of them have live music to enjoy. Check out the winery’s calendars as well to see if there are any special events while you are in town, such as Salsa dancing or cover bands.

Here is a link to a comprehensive website, which lists all the wineries in alphabetical order and gives you their hours and costs on tastings.

https://www.temeculawines.org/taste/winery-listing.php

 

Old Town Temecula

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Old Town Temecula has grown and changed so much. When I was a kid, I remember it being a small strip with country style buildings. Some of those buildings are still up today which give it its old town flair. However, there has been so much new added to Temecula that has made it vibrant and exciting. From the countless restaurants to unique bars, there is something for everyone. I’m going to list some of my favorites and go-to’s.

Food & Drink

1909

1909 has an eclectic menu and is best known for their weekend brunch. They are also known for having exquisite bloody marys. The restaurant is spacious and has indoor and outdoor setting, they also have a ton of beers on tap. If it is your first time visiting Temecula, I would pick this as a food stop.

The Goat & Vine

This is currently the highest rated restaurant in Old Town Temecula. I have never been, and don’t know why but it will be high on my list for our next date night out.

Espadin

Espadin is more new to Old Town Temecula, but it has made its presence known. It has some of the best Mexican food for a nice sit down and has festive cocktails. They also have Mezcal in house.

Devilicious

It originated as a food-truck and now has its own restaurant location. They have an array of crafted foods with bold flavors. Their taproom is also impressive and they often have live music or events throughout the week.

 

Nightlife

The nightlife in Old Town Temecula is lax, but can get pretty turnt depending on who you’re with. Most of the bigger places do charge a cash cover so be prepared.

Blackbirds’ Tavern

This is our go to for going out when we want chill vibes. I say chill vibes because the whole outdoor area feels like a backyard kickback there are several fire pits you can sit around and talk. There is also corn hole and benches to sit at. Ideally this place is best to socialize and grab a drink. But then again there is also a D.J spinning in an interior part of blackbirds. They play hip hop and top 40 so it definitely gets fun!

Bailey’s

Baileys is much bigger than Blackbirds. They have two levels of dancing, the bottom floor is hip hop and top 40 while the top floor is Latin, you’ll hear anything from cumbia, to bachata, etc. There is also a huge outdoor patio area to socialize and grab drinks.

Pub & Grub

I haven’t been to pub & grub in years, it used to always be our go-to. I have some friends who prefer going here over any others but I haven’t found myself wanting to go back.

Here are other locations worth noting and visiting. The great thing is that Old Town Temecula is all on one strip so it is super easy to walk from location to location. Check out; Lukes on Front, Temecula Beer & Wine Garden, Public House, and The Bank. If you like country music Stampede is a good option however it is 18 and up so be warned.

 

Speakeasies

There are two in Temecula. One is called Thompson and Twain and it is located inside Crush and Brew. Show up and put your name down and they will text you when your spot is available.

The other speakeasy is located inside Devilicious and it is called Apparition Room. You can reserve a spot for up to 8 by texting (951)514-6332.

Both speakeasies have amazing cocktails and are an immersive experience into the prohibition era.

 

 

Pechanga Casino & Resort

One of the biggest reasons why people became familiar with Temecula, was because of the casino. My dad worked there as a security guard when I was a kid, and since then I have seen the casino double in size. They are constantly expanding it, they just recently unveiled their new pool resort. If you are not a guest of the casino, you can purchase day passes for their pool resort. You can also rent cabanas and make a whole day of it.

Pechanga offers a lot more than gambling, if thats not your thing. There is a spa, comedy club, and a ton of restaurants to choose from. The restaurants range from a fancy steakhouse, buffet, food court, and everything in between. The nightlife in Pechanga is also plentiful, from the round bar to the Eagle’s Nest Club, you can spend a good amount of time exploring the casino.

 

Those are the big three attractions in Temecula, the wineries, old town Temecula, and Pechanga casino. Growing up, I always said there was nothing to do in Temecula, as an adult there is plenty to do. We love having out of town friends visit us and show them around our beautiful valley.

As a Local, I’m going to list some of my favorite restaurants if you want other options outside of the three locations mentioned.

 

Food Recommendations

Mexican Food- Aztek Tacos, hands down. Before I ever worked there, this was the only place I ever ate Mexican food at, because lets face it nothing compares to mom’s.

Sushi- Firefish Sushi, 100% the best sushi. Ed and I have tried sushi in so many cities and at the end of the day we always end up comparing it to firefish.

Burgers- Burgers & Beer, duh!!!! If I could be sponsored by a restaurant it would be Burgers and beer. I love this place! It has a huge menu aside from their specialty burgers, and also has happy hour every day from 3pm-close. This is also the best place to watch sports, there is TVs everywhere!!!

American- Bushfire Grill. This place screams quality. Everything in here is delicious and fresh. There is so much to chose from, the food is on display too, so you can see some of what you are going to get before ordering.

Chinese- Chef K. I had given up on Chinese food in Temecula because the quality was so bad. We tried Chef K and all hope is restored. I’m craving their honey walnut shrimp now lol.

 

 

There is a lot more to do in Temecula that I didn’t mention, such as the Promenade Mall, Vail Headquarters, and Farmers Markets. I urge you all to visit because it took me leaving for four years to truly appreciate the beauty of my hometown.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Austin, Texas Guide: 3 Day Weekend in Austin

If you need to know anything about me when I travel, is that I leave no room to waste. We land and we hit the ground running, we stay out late and wakeup early and we don’t take naps (maybe in the car rides). This guide is perfect for someone who doesn’t have as much time in Austin, but is down for the adventure and wants to cover as much as possible.

Austin has been on my bucket list for many years now. From the sizzling barbeque, to the buzzing nightlife, Austin is a foodie and adventurer’s dream. When my husband found out that he had a day off for Labor Day Weekend, we booked an early birthday trip for me. Flying from Los Angeles, there are many good flight deals and you can even fly roundtrip for $125 based on the time you go and through the help of tracking apps like Hopper and Skyscanner.

Since we only had a limited amount of time in Austin, I composed a very detailed and efficient travel itinerary that would allow us to maximize our time there. I will include the itinerary at the bottom of this page to help any future travelers plan out their trip if necessary.

Hotel: We stayed at the Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt. If we were to ever go back to Austin, I would definitely stay there again. The location is prime, located right by Rainey Street, you are instantly connected to the wild adventures Rainey street offers day and night. There are also an array of delicious restaurants and foodtrucks to grab late night drunchies. Aside from the location, the hotel is beautifully decorated, the rooms are stocked with great amenities, and the hotel offers free drinks daily during a happy/socializing hour. The rooftop pool was one of the best highlights from our stay and the hotel also has live music at their restaurant “Geraldine”. Another big bonus from this hotel is that it is pet friendly, you see dogs coming in and out constantly. Oh and I can’t forget the free coffee from their coffee shop during your stay, to fuel your adventures.

Driving Situation: We decided to not rent a car and we are glad we didn’t! The airport is not even that far from the downtown/heart of Austin. Uber and Lyfts were plentiful and fast. You will also find rentable electronic scooters everywhere, another more exciting way to explore the city. With my guide I included distances between locations to see which method of transportation was the most efficient. Ideally, we like to do a lot of walking on trips when we can, to make room for the food haha.

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Day One (Saturday):

Day one started with a 3:30 am wakeup call. You would think we would have gone to bed earlier, but being who we are, we were in bed by 12:30pm lol. Our flight departed from LAX at 7am and landed in Austin at noon. We took an Uber to our hotel where we were greeted with some local beers and were luckily accommodated into our room early.

Our day in Austin began with lunch at Bangers, which is a sausage house and beer garden. Luckily we got there at a good time and our wait was only 30-45 mins, which meant we had time to enjoy the sunshine and some Hazy IPA’s. They have a backyard bar with 207 different beers you could choose from! The food was delicious and definitely one of our favorite meals of the weekend.

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With a nice day buzz going, full belly’s, and happy hearts we began our adventure into Austin. We took an Uber to Zilker Park, where we rented Canoe’s at Zilker Park Boat Rentals Canoe. I chose this rental spot based on reviews and its location on the river. We kayaked through the river and into Lady Bird Lake for some stunning scenery and refreshing rows (except when my paddle broke in half and were were subjected to rowing the canoe with one paddle and a mini broken one lol). We wish we would have brought our bathing suits with us to take a dip in the water because it was pretty hot at this point. Barton Springs Municipal pool was also next door and would have been a nice addition, however the line was pretty long and we had other opportunities to go in water later in the weekend so we did not make it a priority due to the time frame we had.

From Zilker Park we went to our next destination, which is the iconic “Greetings from Austin Mural”. The Texas heat got the best of us, we were getting covered in sweat, but it didn’t stop us from taking a good picture in front of the mural. From the Mural we walked to the Churro Co Foodtruck for a snack, water and some shade to cool down.

 

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From Churro Co Foodtruck, we took an Uber to explore the downtown of Austin most notoriously known as “Dirty Sixth Street”. We went to an arcade bar which was super fun and had a lot of games and white claws available. We then found a sports bar to catch the UT Austin Longhorns game which was going on in the city. If we would have had more time in Austin, this is another activity we would have liked to attend. Football is huge in Texas and the environment at a college game is so hyped. Finally we went back to Rainey street and explored the bars in the evening time before going out at night with a sorority sister who also happened to be in town.

The nightlife in Rainey street is my perfect environment, it’s super chill yet alive, it’s packed, yet there are many options to chose from. The setting for the bars in Rainey st are so unique, they are historic houses turned into bars. You walk in through the front door and there is even an outdoor yard. Each place is so eccentric so I recommend visiting Rainey street multiple times to see as much as you can. We started out at The Container Bar, which is huge and has more of a club feel with the DJ spinning all night. We also visited Unbarlievable which is funky and like nothing you’ve experienced before. More noteworthy bars to visit; The Alibi (has a lot of TV’s for sports and also a white claw pina colada), Half Step (spacious and a variety of speciality cocktails). We ended the night with food from the foodtrucks on Rainey St. We had the best gyro from Big Fat Greek Gyros.

 

Day 2 (Sunday)

Started the day with some free coffee from Cafe 605 conveniently located in our hotel’s lobby. An uber was called and we were off to find some of the most iconic murals in Austin. We began by visiting the Austin Motel which has a picturesque sign. From there we took a quick walk to Jo’s Coffee to take a picture with the famous “I Love You So Much Sign”, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t the most excited for this mural out of any. I had always seen so many pictures on the gram of this location and I thought it would be a sweet visit with my hubby. We then hopped on some Bird Bikes and rode down Congress street to find the next mural. The whole ride up and down Congress street was entertaining, it was colorful and artistic everywhere you looked, it felt like a movie scene. The next mural we visited was by Magnolia Cafe which is the Love from Austin mural.

By now it was lunchtime and we were hungry and in need of some shade from the sun. We headed to LA barbecue for lunch which has extraordinary reviews. My man being the planning genius he is, read online that you can preorder your food online. When we got there it was the best decision we made, the line looked about 2 hours long and went from the inside of the restaurant all the way outside in a zig zag. By the time we were done eating, people that were at the end of the line outside still had not made it into the line inside. If you go to LA Barbecue order online and you pick up at a window in the back, you can then sit outside or inside and enjoy your meal. The food was great but we realized we ordered too much and would not eat the leftovers. We boxed up the remaining food and decided to take it to someone who was homeless and needed a lunch.

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After lunch, we took Bird Bikes to the Texas Capitol and explored the building. We did one of the free walking tours and took in the knowledge of the Texas government. The architecture of the building is grandiose. After walking through the capitol we decided it was time for a drink. We called an Uber to take us to the Wonder Bar, something my husband had found on Instagram. He knows a key to my heart is a place with photo ops and this place is just that plus some uniquely crafted cocktails. The ride was about 22 minutes but well worth the drive. The Wonderbar is interactive and the perfect place to cool down from the Texas heat. Since we were already in that area, we explored the shops around it. Even though we had a busy day, it was only 4pm so we decided to go to Rainey street in the day and catch some live music. We ended up at the Clive and had some Moscow Mules and we saw a local band rock out.

We headed back to our hotel and took advantage of the free happy hour before going to the rooftop pool. The pool was so relaxing and also had a bar up top to keep the buzz going. We stayed at the pool till the sun went down and then we decided it was best to get ready for dinner. Everyone recommended Torchy’s Tacos so we went! Unfortunately they were short staffed that day so they told us thee wait was going to be about an hour for our food. We got chips, salsa, and guac to hold us up, by the time we got our food it didn’t taste too fresh and was average. This was my first and only experience with Tex-Mex so I know I have to go back and give it another shot, but at this moment, I stand with my belief that California has the best Mexican food aside from Mexico.

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Day 3 (Monday):

For our last day in Texas we saved the biggest adventure yet, Tubing in the San Marcos River. This activity has always been on my bucket list, because what is better than floating down the river, catching a tan, with a drink in hand? This activity does take up a good amount of time, so we debated doing it or not, but we are so happy we ended up doing it, because it was the highlight of our trip. We booked our tour through Texas State Tubes and they provided an exceptional time! They picked us up in downtown and took us on an adventure in a school bus. They even stop at a gas station for you to pick up your needs for the day, beer, white claws, chips, and water were the only things we needed for the day. They then provide you with a cooler for you to store your goods, don’t forget to purchase ice at the store for your cooler.  You then are given a floaty and tie yourself to your friends and cooler. It was the perfect way to spend the day, I would love to come back to Austin and do this with a gang of friends.

We got dropped off at our pick up spot and grabbed some lunch before heading back to the hotel/airport. Even though we were pretty toasted at the airport, everything went smoothly and we caught up on the lack of sleep on the plane ride home.

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Adios Austin, you were truly an adult playground for the foodies and drunkies to enjoy, I cannot wait to be back.I hope this blog inspires some of you to check out this gem of a city. There are so many things to see and do, if you only have a three day weekend like us, this blog will be very helpful (and tiring lol). If I were to go back  I would also make a trip to Lake Travis and rent out a boat if I was with a group. We did see a lot of bachelorette groups while we were there and honestly, Austin is a great spot for a bachelorette if you want something different than the typical club experience.

Love From Austin

Jess

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PS; Here is my itinerary, if you would like to screenshot it and save it for your future travels this makes it really easy and i put a lot of work into it, I would love for others to benefit from it too ❤

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How I Travel for Free Multiple Times a Year

Free? Yes, you heard that right. Get Money to Spend Money? Count me in!

If you follow me on Twitter or know me in real life you know I constantly rave about my Capital One Venture Card. I first applied and received my card in February 2016. It was my first year post grad and I was not making that much money but I knew I wanted to find a way to keep traveling. Before I had this credit card I had my typical bank credit card. I had it for over 4 years and was saddened when I realized the rewards I had amounted in those 4 years was virtually nothing. So I began to do my research on which credit card would give me the best benefits and I came across the Capital One Venture Card.

Since I’ve had this card in February 2016, I have cashed out on free flights to these places, 2 roundtrip flights to NYC, Roundtrip flight to Denver, Roundtrip flight to Cancun, Roundtrip flight to Austin and now a future trip to Cabo in April. After two years of having the card I got my husband to jump on the credit card so we can take advantage of getting free flights together.

 

With the holidays around the corner, now is the perfect time to apply for a credit card that rewards you. You will be spending money from now till December, you might as well spend money and make some back for a future spring break or summer trip. I have a link at the bottom that allows me to refer people to sign up for the credit card.

 

There are many great Travel Rewards cards out there but these are the reasons why I think the Capital One Venture Card is the best.

  1. You are not restricted on where you can use your rewards. This is a big one for me especially because I book flights on different airlines. There are a lot of great travel rewards credit cards but many of them will only allow you to use your points/miles on that specific airline. Not only are you able to redeem your points on any airline, but you are also able to use your miles on Hotels, Airbnb bookings, car rentals, and anything deemed “travel”.
  2. You earn rewards miles on E V E R Y T H I N G, not just based on flights purchased, gas, groceries, and restaurants. There is also no cap on how much rewards you can earn, so charge everything on that card! You earn 2 miles per dollar on every purchase you make.
  3. MY PERSONAL FAVORITE PERK of this card and why every new member should get it. There is a sweet sign on bonus for new members. If you spend 3,000 in the first 3 months you are given a $500 miles bonus. So pretty much spend $3,000 and earn $500 for a future trip.
  4. No foreign transaction fees. If you are traveling and want to use your card in another country you have the ability to do so without getting charged hefty fees, which definitely do add up over time. Just don’t forget to call their customer service line and notify them about your trip so you are able to use your card!
  5. ANNUAL FEE. Yes there is one. Typically with cards that reward you so greatly, there is an annual fee, but honestly the rewards heavily outweigh the $95 annual fee. But wait, there is a bonus, your first year your annual fee is waived!!!
  6. Other Perks worth mentioning:  TSA Pre Check & Global Entry: Receive a credit of either $100 for Global Entry or $85 for TSA PreCheck with your Venture card.             –Travel Accident Insurance: Use your Venture card to purchase your flight, and you’ll automatically get travel accident coverage of up to $250,000 with Visa Signature Benefits. Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver-Rent a vehicle using your Venture Card and refuse the car rental agency’s collision damage coverage. You’ll receive secondary coverage for collision damage and theft on a domestic car rental and primary coverage for international rentals. Lost Luggage– Pay for your ticket with your Venture Card and receive up to $3,000 if your luggage is lost or stolen. 

 

It’s 2019, do yourself a favor and get yourself a credit card worth using. Be the person that sets their card down for the group and take advantage of the points and collect their portions of the bill later.

One of the best ways to use this credit card is to simply charge everything on it. At the end of the week, add up all the expenses and transfer the money from your checkings to your credit card debt. This will help you keep your balance low.

Another tip to maximize your rewards earnings is to make any big purchases on your credit card especially if you already have the money in your account to transfer it over. For example, when I was taking classes at CSUDH, I would pay for my $800 classes with my credit card, then transfer the money I received from my loans to pay off the classes. Find any big expense you have been saving for, charge it on your card and then pay it off, in the end you earn miles and accumulate for a future trip.

My final note, upon applying for the credit card it says you need excellent credit. Don’t let that discourage you from applying. I applied for the card my first year of post grad I didn’t have a crazy high credit score and my income wasn’t super high. Another benefit this card will bring, is that it helps you build your credit tremendously. My husband’s credit score jumped up by 50+ points after 8 months of using this card consistently.

If you are ready to apply, click on the link below to take you to the application process via my referral. If you have any more questions, ask below and I will be glad to answer them!

 

capita

https://www.capitalone.com/credit-cards/lp/referrals/?referralCode=YC7YCG6B&customerName=Jessica&programCode=3001&pId=923811

 

 

The Ultimate Cancun / Tulum Bachelorette

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Bachelorette Parties! My absolute favorite thing ever. There is nothing like celebrating your best friend with a girl squad with days filled of booze and wild adventures. This bachelorette is Nacho average Vegas rendez-vous (which I absolutely love). My best friend getting married wanted to do something different and more adventurous. We considered our options and it came down to Miami, Cancun/Tulum, or Cabo San Lucas. In the end Cancun & Tulum got the most votes so down the Riviera Maya we went. It was everyone’s first time visiting that region, except mine. I’ve been lucky enough to visit the Riviera Maya three times prior to this trip (shoutout to my mom). I took it upon myself to help with the planning because there is nothing my Virgo soul loves more than planning a sick and overly-detailed itinerary. I will admit we crammed a lot of adventures in the days we were there. I asked the girls and the bride what they wanted to see and I tried to piece it together as best as I could. If you’re more of the relaxing type this itinerary might be a wee bit overwhelming, but if your soul craves adventure and can run on little sleep this itinerary might work for you. Either way I grouped the traveling in the most strategic way possible to ensure as much could be covered in little time. This itinerary could also be used with couples traveling to the Riviera Maya.

Flight: I had been monitoring flights for a month or two before we came out with a good deal. Volaris typically has the best rates for flights to Cancun. If you live in Southern California, choose to fly out of Tijuana. Flying out of Tijuana will give you domestic travel rates and prices are always lower. We flew out of Tijuana and used the Cross Border Tunnel (CBX) which conveniently crosses you into the Tijuana airport directly. Book your tickets online, they can also be purchased with Volaris while you book your flight.

Currency: Pesos. Cancun will accept dollars but many of the tourist locations will value your dollar a lot less than the national average. If you are going with a group, I recommend you have pesos and change. Going out to group dinners are a lot easier, if everyone can throw down the exact cost of their food + tip, don’t forget to tip!!! Throughout time, I have found that my favorite and most convenient way to get pesos is to withdraw from an ATM at the airport. You get the best conversion rate and you only pay a small fee to withdraw money.

Length of Trip: We did my friend’s bachelorette during Spring Break so we flew out early Wednesday morning and came back late Sunday night, so 5 days.

Air BnB: Since it was a group of 8 of us we booked AirBnB’s and it was the best decision ever. I searched to find the best possible options. Our Cancun airbNb was huge, elegant, and in a perfect location. Our Tulum airbNb was eccentric, looked like a treehouse, and was so unique. I will link the two locations. Both of them had really great hosts, especially Allistair in Tulum, he went above and beyond to make sure our stay was amazing. I would recommend these airbnbs to groups for any situation.

Travel: We booked shuttles through the same agency. This shuttle picked us up from the airport, took us to our Cancun airbNB. It also took us down to Tulum from Cancun. Finally it picked us up from Tulum and took us to the airport. The company was great, and extremely reliable. When we were in Cancun we rode the public bus to get around because our airbNb was conveniently located. When we were in Tulum we took taxis around because our airbNb was located in Tulum town not near the hotel zone. Taxis were affordable especially since they were split by 4 each way.

I will include my google doc itinerary, in case anyone wants to model their trip a similar way, Enjoy ❤

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Day One: We booked an early, direct flight from Tijuana to Cancun. It was about 4 hrs and 35 mins. Safe to say most of the girls got sleep on the plane because once we landed in Cancun it was go time. Originally we had booked a private catamaran yacht for all 8 of us plus the captain. When we got there, there was a mix up between our scheduled yacht. Through some negotiations we managed to get on a boat with unlimited alcohol. We caught the sunset, had music blasting, and endless palomas. The ride was so serene, the water was clear. We jumped in the open ocean. Riding the boat was pure bliss and felt like the culmination of a bachelorette party in paradise.

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Day 2: Chichen Itza Pyramids, Cenote Ik Kil & Coco Bongo

The next morning was an early wakeup call at 7am. Despite being hungover AF, we all pulled it together and made it to our pick up spot. Through previous experience, I booked through Cancun Adventure and have always found the best rates. The more tours you book at a time the greater the discount. They also pick you up and drop you off which is super convenient.

We started the day with Chichen Itza, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. The architecture is breathtaking and the photo ops are plentiful. From there, the tour took us to one of my favorite cenotes, Cenote Ik Kil. We had time to swim and eat lunch, which was included with our tour. On the way home, the tour also stopped through a picturesque town.

Our night consisted of a group dinner at Mextreme, really great food and entertainment for parties. They even brought out a midget stripper and did a little show for the bride. From there we walked to Coco Bongo for a club night like no other. We purchased bottle service, which I highly recommend because the club gets awfully crowded. Coco Bongo is like no other club, it’s a spectacle. There is live performances to iconic songs and tributes to bands like Queen. We all agreed that this was one of the highlights of the trip.

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Day 3: Tulum

Our previously arranged shuttles picked us up at our airbNb in Cancun and took us directly to our airbNb in Tulum. I wish I had pictures of the airbNb in Tulum because it was honestly a dream. It was big beautiful wooden house with 4 mini houses in one. It had a pool in the middle and at night lit up with twinkle lights. Although we were tired from the club night before, we rallied. First we went to El Camello Jr to get Mariscos, this restaurant is well known and was walking distance from our airbNb, warning the portions are HUGE. We decorated the air bNb for the bride and took a tequila shot and bounced to the “Hotel Zone of Tulum”.

We started out by visiting Azulik Hotel to explore Ik Lab and innovative and immersive art experience. From there we walked to the beach. Unfortunately, Tulum’s beaches have been covered with a lot of seaweed the past two times I have been there. You can’t visit Tulum and not ride bikes, its the thing to do and the best way to cover the most ground in the hotel zone. We stopped at my favorite pit stop, Matcha Mama and got acai bowls to cool down.

We went home and got ready for night time. The night life in Tulum, is different, its not like the clubs in the U.S. They hardly play hip hop, so if you are looking to twerk you’re in the wrong place. The music is super chill and the vibe of the nightlife is trendy. Drinks are super expensive so plan accordingly!

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Day 4: Xel-Ha

If there is one attraction you must do when visiting the Riviera Maya, it’s Xel-Ha. It’s the ultimate paradise and it includes all you can eat buffets and drinks (alcohol included). The park is beautiful and you can spend the whole day there. From cliff jumping, snorkeling, floating on the river, the adventures are endless. We spent the whole day at the park and then headed home to get ready.

We decided to explore Tulum Town which was conveniently close to us as opposed to the Tulum Hotel Zone. We found a bar that played hip hop upbeat music so the girls were happy.

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Day 5: Last Day

I could tell we were all tired, tired from the trip and some even tired of each other lol. But hey thats just the nature of traveling with seven other girls for five days. Our flight did not depart Cancun till 8:30 pm so we had a good amount of time to adventure one last time. It was also one of our friend’s twenty sixth birthday so we started out with a brunch to celebrate her and the bride. We did brunch at El Pez, unfortunately it was super windy so we could not sit outside. The view inside was still beautiful and the food was basic nothing special.

From brunch, we took a taxi to Grand Cenote. Make sure you have cash or pesos for admission. Even if you are not going into the cenote you have to pay. There are shaded hangout spots for those that opt out. If you are there though, please go in the water its refreshing and an experience like no other. You even get to swim under a cave with bats in it, total adrenaline haha. The water is teal and this cenote is a great location to get some gorgeous instagram shots. We got a taxi home and packed our belongings. Some of us walked into Tulum Town for a last lunch and it was by far the best seafood I had the whole trip. If you get a chance you must try the seafood at Los Aguachiles in Tulum Town. We boarded our shuttles to get to the airport and had a safe and smooth journey home.

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Even though this was my 4th time in the Riviera Maya, there is still so much more to do and uncover. I will definitely be making a couple more blog posts on this region because it is my favorite region to travel to. The culture is rich, the food is exquisite, the adventures are endless, you can’t go wrong!!!!

If you would like a PDF version of the itinerary please email me at jessicamarquez951@gmail.com or simply leave a comment below with your email and I will send you the information. Feel free to ask any questions !

Till the next adventure!

xoxo, Jess

 

Useful Links

To Book Excursions and Tours : https://www.cancunadventure.net/

Air bNb’s we stayed at

 

 

 

Mexico City Guide: 3 Day Weekend in Mexico City

El D.F., La Cuidad, El Distrito, La Capital, y Mas Importante Donde Naci.

Fun Fact: I was actually born in Mexico City and most of my mom’s family currently still resides there. As a child my summers were spent in Mexico. My mom started sending me to Mexico as a child by myself at the age of 11. I would spend most of my nights crying because I was homesick and did not like the food (typical picky child). I did not appreciate her efforts to send me to Mexico, however, looking back on it now as an adult it was one of the greatest cultural blessings she could have gave me. I strengthened my Mexican roots, connected with my family, practiced my native language, and explored the culture. I had been longing to go back as an adult and do the tourist things, too bad no one was willing to pay for my flight like they did when I was a child. My husband and I decided that this year (2019), we would travel to Mexico City for his birthday trip in February.

Flight: With the help of the Hopper App, we tracked flights. I saw them for as low as $100 roundtrip but we waited a bit to buy them until we were sure we were going. We ended up paying about $125 roundtrip with Interjet. If you could get a good deal and fly with Interjet I would highly recommend that airline, you get complimentary beer and chips. Oh, and the seats are spacious and comfy.

International Travel: Due to the fact we live in Southern California, we chose to fly out of Tijuana. If you are close enough to do this, I highly recommend it. Since you are flying from Tijuana to Mexico City you are flying domestic which means you can get cheaper flights. We used the CBX (Cross Border Tunnel), it is highly efficient and smooth.            TIP: I recommend you buy your tickets in advanced through the website, and yes you do 100% need your passport.

Currency: Mexico uses the Peso, and the exchange rate fluctuates constantly. Not only that, but different businesses can choose the rate they convert the dollar to the peso. My biggest piece of advice is to convert your dollars to pesos. You can do this in a multitude of ways. Our favorite method is pulling out from the ATM in Mexico with your ATM card, you get the best conversion rate and you only pay a flat fee to your bank for using a foreign bank. If you have time, another method is to do it is through your bank at home, you just pay the service fee. Personally I do not like doing this method because that means you are carrying around a lot of money (depending how much you pull out). Finally, if you do not prefer to carry around physical cash you can use your credit card, try choosing a credit card with no foreign transaction fees, like my personal favorite; The Capital One Venture Card.

AirBNB Experiences: It was our first time using AirBnB experiences and I can honestly say wow, wish I would have used them before. We did two activities through AirBnB experiences and had the most amazing time. I will definitely continue to use them. I will link the two experiences we booked at the bottom , because I did a good amount of time researching, reading reviews to make sure we chose the best.

Getting Around in Mexico City: UBER!!!!! I was highly surprised at how smooth Uber worked in Mexico City. Most cell phone plans allow you to have international data at no extra cost. If you are not sure, call your cell phone provider or make sure someone you are traveling with has data abroad. Uber is extremely cheap and they are everywhere in Mexico City, we never once had trouble calling one. Tip: Most Ubers in Mexico do not display an Uber logo on their car, look for license plate numbers!

 

So now that the logistics are over here is our long weekend trip to Mexico City.

 

Day 1:

We flew from Tijuana to Mexico City on a direct flight. Mexico is ahead of California by 3 hours. Once we arrived in Mexico City, we Ubered to our hotel, Hotel NH Collection which was conveniently located in the Reforma neighborhood. Choosing which neighborhood in Mexico City was extremely difficult. We went with a practical approach and chose a hotel close to many of the tourist attractions and had opportunities to walk.

Although we landed around the evening, we wasted no time, we had already planned our first night in CDMX. Through AirBnB experiences, we booked a Tacos+Beer+Lucha Libre night. The hosts were hilarious and truly loved lucha libre, they encouraged us to yell the obscenities and get into the spirit. After the match we went to a well known taqueria called El Califa.

 

 

Day 2

This day called for an early wakeup call, 3:30 am to be exact. I booked a birthday surprise for my husband. It was a beautiful hot air ballon ride over the pyramids of Teotihuacan. After deliberate research, I found the best deal with SkyBalloons MX. Our driver picked us up and gave us one hours drive worth of fascinating history. It was our first time on a hot air balloon and we had an amazing experience, with the most serene views, totally worth the lack of sleep. From there our driver became our friend and told us he would drive us till 4pm when we had to be back for the next pick up. Included in the hot air balloon adventure, is a buffet brunch and access to the pyramids of Teotihuacan.

The pyramids were breathtaking and you were able to climb to the top for the best views. Bring a hat, water and sunglasses because it gets hot out there! From the pyramids our driver took us to an extra outing, he took us to an authentic Pulque tasting. Pulque is know as the drink of the gods. It is advertised everywhere you go in Mexico City, but finding the true and authentic pulque is more difficult. Our personal driver dropped us off back at our hotel to recoup for our next adventure.

The rest of the day called for another Air BnB experience, a futbol game at Estadio Azteca. Our guide Alexis, was phenomenal, he picked us up and took us to the game with other travelers. If you have time, I highly recommend doing a game in Mexico, whether it is at the famous Estadio Azteca, or a nearby stadium. One of the best parts of watching a game in Mexico, is that you do not have to get up to get drinks or food, everything is catered to you.

Even though we had been running on very little sleep, we did not end the day after the game. We took advantage of every minute in Mexico City and continued to explore. We walked around the lively Plaza Garibali at night, and walked near the Historic Center of Mexico City. We decided to end the night with a treat and visited the famous El Moro for some churros and chocolate. The line looked long but it moved quick and was well worth the wait.

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Day 3 (Sunday)

Day 3 was also another jam-packed day. If I would have had more leisure time or would have stayed closer to our hotel, I would have definitely taken advantage of a carless Paseo de Reforma which happens every Sunday from 8am to 2pm. Do it like the locals do and ride bikes, skates of jog through the Reforma without worrying about cars.

We started our day by exploring the Castillo de Chapultepec. Aside from the beautiful architecture and scenic views, there is a lot of history displayed throughout the whole castle.

From the Castillo, we took an Uber to our next destination, el Museo Frida Khalo. I 100% recommend you purchase your tickets in advanced online, select the best time for you and you will skip the line. Purchase a photo pass at the door to be able to take pictures at the museum, otherwise you will be told to put your electronics away.

From the museum, we walked to el Mercado de Coyoacan and had delicious tostadas for lunch.

The next stop was my most favorite of our trip, Xochimilco! I had seen so much buzz about Xochimilco, that I knew it was something that should not be missed. Tip; you can bring your own alcohol and snacks onto the trajineras (boats). The price is set per trajinera not by the amount of people on them. You can also buy alcohol and micheladas all throughout your journey from vendors on their own little row boats. After a long day, we decided to head back to the area near out hotel to watch the NBA All Star game over some drinks. We finished the night with dinner at La Casa de Tono, which had many delicioius, authentic Mexican options.

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Day 4 (Monday):

Although we did not have the full day in Mexico, our flight did not leave until 5pm, so that meant an early morning to squeeze in some last minute sights. From our hotel we walked to the Angel of Independence to get a day view of the magnificent monument. From there, we called an Uber to the Museo Soumaya, we did not go in due to time constraints, but lets be real, I came for a picture of the building which looks like a tiled whale’s tail. Our next stop was one I found through Instagram & was well worth visiting. We visited La Biblioteca Vasconcelos, which is definitely the most breathtaking library with an intense layout.

Our next stop was a view of El Palacio de Bellas Artes. To get the best view, go to the Sears across the street and take the elevator to the 8th floor. You will find a cute cafe with open air seating which allows you to get the best view of this magnificent building.

We couldn’t leave without trying the cuisine at Contramar. Right when we got there it was packed and buzzing, a reservation is strongly required. We got lucky and were seated without one.

Finally, we called an Uber to take us to out hotel to gather our belongings then head to the airport. There is so much to see and do in Mexico City. I discovered more things after visiting, so I know I will be back. This is a great place for families to visit as well, there is a lot for children to see and do! Teach them about history at young ages and captivate their interest in culture!

xoxo

Jess

 

 

>>>Links

 

 

 

Hot Air Balloon Rides

https://www.skyballoons.mx/