5 Things to Love About Oahu’s North Shore

There’s little to not love about Oahu’s northern coast. Not only are there so many things to do in the North Shore. It also has the best food joints, offers magical experiences, and is simply, unbelievably spectacular.


While I was a little disappointed with certain aspects of Honolulu, I was completely smitten with the North Shore. Having practically non-existent upper body strength, I thought it best to make do with just watching the surfers do their thing than joining them and ending up with a head gash. Still, I had an unforgettable visit. To me, there was nothing more incredible than taking a quick dip at Pupukea Beach, enjoying quick bites from the food trucks that litter the area, then sitting on the beach watching the towering waves.

Here are five things I loved most about Oahu’s North Shore.

The Turtles


The Hawaiian Islands are famous for turtle sightings, yes. In fact, watching turtles go about their daily routine on the beaches is one of the best things to do there. There are, however, parts of the islands where such sightings come easier and more naturally. The North Shore is one such place. Laniakea and Haleiwa are two of the most popular spots for sightings, but I didn’t see any when I was there. However, when I ventured out to lesser-known Aweoweo Beach, I was lucky enough to see two of them swimming super close to the shore.


The Waves


Surfing is one of the top things to do in the North Shore. But to be very honest, I have tried surfing and it just wouldn’t take. I decided that I actually prefer paddle boarding—it’s more relaxing, easier to do, and less of a full body workout. That said, I still found the North Shore’s impressive waves very appealing, the powerful, thundering ones as well as the smaller, whitewater ones. I could watch them all day, and fall asleep on the beach listening to them.


The Beautiful Views


The dramatic sky, the ragged coastline and the energetic blue sea… Need I say more?

The Food


Granted, food always seems so much better when enjoyed at the beach. Still, many of the food trucks and joints in the North Shore serve amazing fares, especially those that involve shrimps and prawns. In fact, eating is probably at the top of everyone’s list of things to do in the North Shore. Grab some garlic shrimp, tender brisket and shaved ice to go from the food trucks across Pupukea Beach. And enjoy some garlic & butter shrimp at Romy’s Kahuku Prawns and Shrimp. Trust me, you’ll be back for more sooner than you might think!


The Vibe

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You’ll fall as much in love with North Shore’s easy way of life and its slow rhythm as its yummy prawns, its majestic turtles and its impressive breaks. You could pretty much do all the things there are to do in the North Shore and have a hectic visit, and yet still feel yourself slipping into its slow rhythm. It’s incredible, very seductive, and probably why so many people from many parts of the world have decided to move there.

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Culture, Cuisine and a Cold One: The Renaissance of Cleveland

Your very first trip to Cleveland might be an unsettling one. At least if you’re someone like me who has been preconditioned to the hustle and bustle of a much bigger, busier city. Compared to Los Angeles, Cleveland’s streets are practically empty (although that still doesn’t stop its locals from complaining about traffic—to which you simply smile and nod sympathetically). There are only a few people out and about, even in its commercial core during what is supposedly rush hour. And it’s quiet, unnervingly quiet.

Don’t let all that fool you. Bubbling just below the surface is a city at the brink of a renaissance. In actuality, Cleveland—having just woken up from deep slumber—is slowly coming to life. Much like with many of the smaller cities across the country, it’s experiencing gentrification, albeit a milder one. Innovative restaurants, artisanal boutique shops, hip bars like dive-y tavern The Spotted Owl, and craft breweries are emerging every day. And with them come the artists, the musicians, and the younger transplants looking for a cultural urban setting with a much more affordable cost of living.

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Great Lakes Brewery in Cleveland, Ohio
Great Lakes Brewery in Cleveland, Ohio

At the center of this renaissance is none other than Great Lakes Brewing Co, set where else but Ohio City, Cleveland’s hipsterville. As the first microbrewery in Ohio dating back to the 80s, it’s an oldie in this city of new, and clearly one of Cleveland’s most enduring symbols. It is its brews, however, that turned it into somewhat of a cult pilgrimage for the latest set of craft beer lovers. Great Lakes Brewery’s Elliot Ness Amber Lager, Burning River Pale Ale and Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, to name a few, are not only odes to the persons, things and events that shaped the history of the Great Lakes. They are also the incarnations of what good beer should feel and taste.

Mabel’s BBQ along Cleveland’s East 4th Street
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Mabel’s Cleveland-style barbecue

After a proper tasting there (and possibly a historical brewery tour), a sit down dinner under the industrial arched ceiling of Mabel’s BBQ is in order. Set in Cleveland’s buzzing, string light adorned East 4th Street, this terrific contemporary yet rustic joint serves Cleveland-style barbecue: smoked meat served with Eastern European flair. Hunks of tender brisket, moist pork belly and delicious ribs may be enjoyed here with spaetzle, smoked beets and Cleveland kraut at communal tables—a great choice if one is to experience Cleveland-inspired dining.

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Inside the West Side Market in Cleveland, Ohio

As far as authentic Cleveland gastronomy is concerned, however, none can top a visit to the iconic West Side Market, the city’s oldest. It has been around since 1912 and remains, invariably so, to be one of the city’s best stopovers for gourmands. Here, a hundred or so vendors sell a diverse selection of products. Fresh meat, every flavor of bacon and sausages, fruits and vegetables, nuts and spices, pastries and other baked goods, and even quick eats line the stalls that dominate the interior of one of Cleveland’s most notable buildings.

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Romanesque Revival The Arcade in Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland’s passion for creation isn’t just limited to craft beer and cuisine. It has set roots in its culture and in its streets as well. Today, the city is essentially a hodgepodge of museums, music venues, grand architectural wonders such as the late 1800 Romanesque Revival The Arcade and the stunning Cleveland Trust Company building, galleries, and of course, public art.

The Cleveland Museum of Art in Cleveland, Ohio
The Cleveland Museum of Art in Cleveland, Ohio

To start one’s art and cultural immersion in the city, a tour of the expansive Cleveland Museum of Art is a necessity. Here, every spectator travels through time and space to celebrate art—from the Old Kingdom of Egypt and Ancient Greece to Van Gogh and even Brooklyn’s modern art scene. But perhaps this museum’s best feature yet is its cutting edge space called Studio Play, which encourages creativity and a lasting appreciation for art through fun, interactive installations.

Contemporary stylish room at Hilton Cleveland Downtown

Championing the city’s local art, surprisingly enough, is a newcomer. The 600-room Hilton Cleveland Downtown may just have opened its doors in June this year—just in time to host RNC delegates, but it’s already one of the city’s biggest supporters and promoters of local creatives.

One of Hilton Cleveland Downtown’s art installations
Art pieces at Hilton Cleveland Downtown’s The Burnham Restaurant

The contemporary hotel itself is a museum, a cornucopia of local art. Not only are its stylish guest rooms flourished with deluxe furnishings, cozy beds and beautiful views of the city and Lake Erie (if you want the best panorama, however, head up to Bar 32); they also each showcase a mural that embodies Cleveland. On top of that, the hotel’s common spaces and restaurants are fecund with collages, paintings and murals, all created by local artists, all for the sake of promoting and helping galvanize the city’s art scene.

Part of Hilton Cleveland Downtown’s Selfie Wall
One of the art pieces at Hilton Cleveland Downtown

Among such pieces are the hotel’s selfie wall, an impressive collage of 2,800 Cleveland selfies pieced together to form the city’s most notable skyline, as well as my personal favorites, Madonna Dezal’s Dali-esque painting of music coming out of a piano and the very colorful tape collage of the Beatles, which seem to best fit this town’s musical inclination.

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The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio
Elvis exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Even today, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a crucial part of the city and its ongoing revival. From its polygonal façade to its galleries permeated with exhibit pieces that have helped shaped music history, the museum certainly has an air of rock and roll grandeur. But it’s never too proud to give back to the fans either. For example, through November 27, it’s playing host to the inspiring “Louder than Words” exhibit, which explores how popular music has influenced many of our country’s most important political causes and social issues. The museum also holds a number of music-related events, small music festivals and concert series annually to nurture that collective passion and linear hunger for music.

This is Cleveland after all, the Rock and Roll Capital of the World. And while it’s looking to the future with its culinary, cultural and artistic reawakening, it would still be nothing without its musical roots.


Originally published on The Huffington Post.


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Discovering Tulum

To say it simply, I was astounded. From my cab, I watched the scenes and the atmosphere change from decidedly mainstream and touristy to appealingly low key and bohemian. After more than an hour’s drive from Cancun, I was finally in Tulum, Mexico.

I’m almost ashamed to admit that until a few months ago, I didn’t even know that this part of Mexico existed. I don’t mean the famous ruins; I have been to those several times before. I mean the modern town of Tulum itself and its hotel zone, which runs along a beautiful, sparkling coast. Both have remained fairly hidden to most of Riviera Maya’s tourist population, which of course is part of their allure. They are, however, famous with artists as well as yogis seeking a tranquil retreat.


I came to Tulum’s hotel zone for a story: to do research on the string of bohemian, boutique hotels that apparently imbue the area. But as I sat in my cab, still uncomfortably wet from my snorkeling trip to MUSA, I was already falling in love.

Far from the polished vibe of Cancun and even Playa del Carmen, Tulum carries itself in a very unflashy, understated fashion. The locals are dressed down and get around by bikes, many of the hotels, shops and restaurants are made of wood or adobe, and most structures are only two to three floors high. And the long stretch of fine, pearly white sand beach that runs along its shallow coast is so quiet and unburdened with crowds. So despite the very chic and modern establishments that are continually setting roots there, it still boasts a very relaxed, very mellow feel, which I absolutely loved.


Although I was mainly there for work, I couldn’t quite resist mixing business with pleasure. It’s hard not to; Tulum has a way of getting people to slow down and just unwind.

Luckily, I chose the perfect hotel to do just that. With just 9 suites, NEST Tulum is one of the smallest boutique hotels in the area. This gives the hotel a feeling of homelike intimacy and exclusivity. But it also means that securing an empty beach cabana, which is my favorite part of the hotel, is much less of a struggle than if you were in a large, all-inclusive property.


I adored the rooms at this boutique hotel, of course. They are all accessible from the narrow, tree-lined, sandy path that runs through the property and leads directly to the beach. They all have this vibe of being tucked and hidden, even though some have doors that face a more communal area. They all have gorgeous, minimalist bathrooms and the most comfortable beds. Plus, each one has its own personality and is furnished uniquely with local Mexican products such as the beautiful fabrics that the owner has collected from his travels all over Mexico. (I especially adored my 2nd floor Tower Two room, which afforded the perfect view of the SUPER MOON and easy access to the rooftop.)



I also appreciated the amazing food from their newly opened restaurant. NEST Tulum’s restaurant may be tiny. But it also serves the most delicious breakfast—guests get to pick between two options, both of which are complimentary—that you get to enjoy outdoors next to the beach as you listen to the sounds of the lapping waves. More importantly, they make fantastic shrimp ceviche, amazing margaritas and to die for tacos. These I made a point of feasting on right on the beach.

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Which brings me back to my original point: NEST Tulum’s beach cabanas are my favorite part of the property. It’s there where I spent much of my short time in Tulum, when I wasn’t working that is. And I got to unwind and spend some time alone while indulging on food, watching the sun rise and set, and taking glorious naps.


Borrowing a bike from the hotel, I did manage to explore the hotel zone for a little bit. I realized that it was not only lined with boutique hotels and restaurants, but also teeming with spas, yoga retreats, bicycle rental shops and artisanal shops. I did a bit of shopping, waved to a few locals along the way, and even made friends with an adorable puppy who decided he was going to follow me the rest of the way.


Regrettably, I only had a day and a half to spend in Tulum. Leaving it certainly wasn’t easy. Not just because it was nice to unwind and not do anything for once, but also because there are still a lot of things to see and do there. But at least I managed to squeeze in another nap on the beach, and I did make a promise to come back someday soon.


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Vignettes of Nassau, Bahamas

We had mixed feelings about Nassau, which is probably why I wasn’t motivated to document our experience. It was crowded with tourists, the locals weren’t very nice or friendly, the main attractions weren’t at all impressive, things were overpriced, and the waters were too rough for a relaxing dip. Apparently, I’m not the only person who’s been disappointed by the port city. Many people who’ve been share my thoughts.

Still, I’m glad I came. It’s nice to visit and experience a destination at least once, even if it did disappoint. Here are some photos from my trip.




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Thanksgiving Getaways from LA for the Non-Traditional

As I’ve been traveling a lot this year for work, I spoil myself lazy whenever I’m home. And this Thanksgiving, I decided that instead of cooking up and stressing over a feast all day that we break tradition and just go on a relaxing holiday somewhere not too far.

Luckily, I live in Los Angeles and have a variety of quick getaway options for exactly this kind of thing. I settled for an across-the-border trip to Ensenada, about 2 hours away from San Diego, because (1) we wanted to go to Mexico but didn’t want to spend money on airfare, and (2) we LOVE Baja style fish and shrimp tacos. And by love, I mean I WILL drive a few hours just to get it.

It wasn’t our first choice, however. We considered a bunch of places first before we decided. Here are a few of them:


Yosemite – I adore Yosemite and thought I’d have time to camp there this summer but didn’t. The magnificent national park in the Sierras, only six hours away from LA, has a complex network of wilderness trails and several campgrounds, some of which do not require a year-in-advance reservation, making it an ideal place to unplug and unwind.


Big Sur – Big Sur, of course, has to be on every California trip list. It’s California’s wilderness jewel, and second only to Yosemite in grandeur. Lush, green, rolling hills atop magnificent cliffs over the thundering Pacific. What more could you ask? Well, what about towering red woods, a waterfall that falls into the sea, and epic views?

Vancouver – Can you believe I’ve never been to Canada? I’m come close, but things always got in the way. So this year, I considered going up to Vancouver for a nice, non traditional Thanksgiving. I’ve heard fantastic things about the city and I bet it’s lovely that close to the holidays. Also I wanted to see Victoria as well as meet up with friends.

Mexico City – I’ve been itching to go to Mexico City and explore its beautiful streets. Everybody’s been talking and raving about it that it’s hard not to get tempted, see its markets, sample the food. I would have been willing to pay airfare too, had it not been for the fact that the city is apparently a busy tourist spot during US holidays and the tickets are not cheap around Thanksgiving.


Ensenada – What can I say? I’m a sucker for seafood. I’ve only been to Ensenada once before and loved it, the Baja style tacos and the rock lobsters especially. The people are lovely too, and I’m particularly excited about their markets. I’m itching to get my hands on some of those colorful blankets and lovely hammocks.

Vignettes of Samana (Dominican Republic), Part Two

Here is the second set of photos from my trip to Samana in the Dominican Republic. Be sure to check out the first set here.


From Las Terrenas in the north, we made our way south to the town of Samana to check out check out two other Bahia Principe properties and also visit the town itself.

The first property, Grand Bahia Principe Cayacoa, an inclusive property that’s both luxurious as well as family-friendly and has fantastic views of the bay and the town.


It was, however, the second property that impressed me. Luxury Bahia Principe Samana, a newly opened Bahia Principe property, is simply gorgeous. It’s small and has a luxury boutique resort style; but its relaxed, beach house feel compliments its poshness. I especially adored the lobby!



After checking out the two properties, we boarded a boat for a quick trip to Bahia Principe’s pride and joy in the Dominican Republic. Set on a small, partially-private islandLuxury Bahia Principe Cayo Levantado is a luxurious, adults-only, all-inclusive property. Like all Bahia Principe properties, this one’s also beautiful. However, it does convey a feeling of remoteness, which makes it extra special.

If you’re going to stay at this resort and on the island, don’t miss out on two things: (1) a spa treatment at the onsite spa, and (2) late night drinks at the bar on the public beach.




Be sure to check out more photos from my Samana adventures here.

Vignettes of Ensenada, Mexico

Having finally decided on Ensenada for our Thanksgiving getaway this year has me all excited, even though I have a few trips scheduled before that. What can I say, I loved our first visit there and I’ve been wanting to go back ever since. And it wasn’t just because of the tacos… although I must admit, it did play a big role.

Sadly, while we’ve got our hotel room booked already, Thanksgiving is still a few weeks away. So for now, I’m settling on looking at (and sharing with you) my photos from our last visit.

Come enjoy them with me…



Feed Your Wanderlust with Flea Market Finds, Part One

Indulging on delicious cuisine, meeting people, exploring new places, opening your eyes to other cultures and going on epic adventures are probably the top reasons why we love to travel. They’re certainly a few of mine. But there’s one other reason that keeps popping in my head whenever I’m planning a trip or choosing my next destination: SHOPPING!

Visiting a new country means a fantastic opportunity to buy indigenous, artisanal wares that you’ll be hard-pressed to find in your own country or city. You don’t know how many times I’ve started obsessing about a country all because of an Instagram photo (of a beautiful rug from Marrakech, a colorful bag from Cartagena or a darling hammock from Nicaragua.)

Often, when I’m not traveling, I keep myself sane by means of retail gratification (aka shopping!) Luckily, our flea markets here in Los Angeles are bubbling with products imported from Mexico all the way to Ghana, and it’s the perfect place for me to feed my wanderlust without having to leave home and spend a few thousand dollars.

Here are some of the imported, artisanal wares I found on Sunday at the Rose Bowl Flea Market in Pasadena:

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Colorful baskets from Ghana – These normally cost about $45 at the market.


Purses from Colombia


Simple yet elegant umbrella from Thailand – This one was massive and only cost $175.

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Singing bowls from Nepal – The medium sized ones are $35 to $45 dollars. These are great for meditation.


Pastel pots from Mexico


Lanterns from Morocco – Some of these had bits of rust, but their designs are intricate!


Baskets from El Salvador – These are great for beach picnics or grocery shopping. The medium sized ones are about $55.


Moroccan-inspired rugs and poufs


Fabrics from South Asia

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Fabrics from Ghana – These are from $35 to $45. There were a few different vendors selling the same stuff, so it wouldn’t hurt to haggle.


Rugs and tapestries from India

Rose Bowl Flea Market is a monthly market that takes place every 2nd Sunday of the month at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. General admission starts at 9am. Tickets cost $9 per person.

Quick Tips:

  • Bring plenty of water, as water is not cheap inside the market.
  • Wear a hat and cool clothing, and apply plenty of sunscreen. It gets pretty hot after 10am.
  • Bring plenty of cash. Many vendors accept credit cards, but they might charge an extra fee. Most of them prefer cash.
  • See something you like? Shop around first. There are many vendors in the market that sell similar stuff, and you’ll probably find a better price elsewhere.
  • Bring a cart, if you plan on making several or large purchases.


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Vignettes of Samana (Dominican Republic), Part One

I have a soft spot for the Dominican Republic. Not only was it the very first Caribbean island I ever visited, I also adore its people—they’re so welcoming and friendly—and love its shallow, sandy beaches full of beautiful sand dollars and shells.

Before my epic United Kingdom/Marrakesh trip in July, I was invited by Bahia Principe Hotels & Resorts to come out to Samana to check out their gorgeous all-inclusive properties there and experience some of the European-popular province’s attractions. It was a fantastic experience: one brimming with adventure, delicious dips in the water, amazing seafood and wonderful people.

Here’s the first set of photos from my trip.

Be sure to check out my stories from the trip on Huffington Post as well as on Travel Pulse


Our first stop was the lovely, beach house style resort of Grand Bahia Principe El Portillo and the nearby town of Las Terrenas.








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We also spent some time visiting small villages and farms, meeting with the locals, and doing some snorkeling and swimming at the gorgeous Playa Rincon, which doesn’t see a lot of tourists because it’s a bit hard to get to and the dirt road that leads to it is kind of rough. The beach is definitely worth the trek though, and it’s probably my favorite on the island.







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Enjoyed these photos? Keep an eye out for the second set, to follow soon…


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Vignettes of Yountville, Day Two

Day two in Yountville didn’t start out well for us. We came out to one of the vineyards up on the hills early Saturday morning with Napa Valley Aloft for a hot air balloon ride (and a champaign breakfast after), but the weather had other plans. We were hoping it would clear up, spending our time taking photos of the fog-covered vineyards and half blown-up balloons while waiting. But the fog just got thicker by the minute.

Our guides were very apologetic though (although it’s hard to blame them, the weather can be unpredictable), and they made up for it by having unbelievably delicious Bouchon chocolate cupcakes waiting for us when we got back. And we still enjoyed the view.

Hot Air Ballooning with Napa Valley Aloft (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Hot Air Ballooning with Napa Valley Aloft (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Hot Air Ballooning with Napa Valley Aloft (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Hot Air Ballooning with Napa Valley Aloft (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Hot Air Ballooning with Napa Valley Aloft (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Hot Air Ballooning with Napa Valley Aloft (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

Bicycle Ride Around Yountville

With our hot air ballon ride canceled and it being too late to go back to bed, we had to find another way to spend our Saturday morning. Luckily our hotel (North Block Hotel) lets guests use their cruiser bikes for free, so we decided to explore the town on them.

We rode our borrowed bicycles along Washington Street past the main strip and the town limit to where the vineyards are, and then on the bike path along St. Helena. The bike ride was a lovely experience, and certainly a good way to see the rest of Yountville.

Yountville (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Yountville (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Yountville (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Yountville (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Yountville (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Yountville (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Yountville (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Yountville (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
M(a)isonry (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
M(a)isonry (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bouchon Bistro (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bouchon Bistro (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
French Laundry (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
French Laundry (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

Richard Reddington’s Redd Wood

The bike ride was also a fantastic way to work up an appetite. Afterwards, we had a light but super tasty breakfast at Chef Richard Reddington’s Redd Wood, complimentary of North Block Hotel: eggs (sunny side up and an omelet), bacon, roasted rosemary potatoes and toast. And the arugula was amazing and fresh.

Redd Wood at North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Redd Wood at North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Redd Wood at North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Redd Wood at North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Redd Wood (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Redd Wood (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

We also had supper there that evening; and unsurprisingly, the restaurant serves amazing dishes for dinner (much like most of the restaurants in this town… I seriously think they have a ban on bad food and bad chefs in Yountville). For starters, we had the crispy Fritto Misto that I couldn’t get enough of. We followed it up with the super light Prosciutto Crudo Pizza and amazing Shrimp Linquine. And for desert we had their yummy Pot De Creme Coffee Espuma Whip and Biscotti.

Redd Wood (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Redd Wood (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Redd Wood (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Redd Wood (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Redd Wood (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Redd Wood (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)


Before heading off to the Taste of Yountville festival, which we had tickets for, we simply had to stop by Bardessono, one of the greenest hotels in the country (that’s no exaggeration, mind you! This hotel goes out of their way to be eco-friendly, which gained them the hard-to-acheive LEEDS Platinum certification. I talk more about this in my recently published piece on eco-friendly trip ideas for Earth Day…).

Anyway, the hotel is not only very friendly to the environment, it is also beautifully designed. We had a quick tour of its grounds and buildings that blended modern simplicity with natural touches, which I absolutely loved. And they have a spa onsite too. It was smaller than the spas I’ve been too, but Yountville is all about relaxation so we simply had to squeeze in massages before we joined the festivities.

Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

After our lovely massages at the Spa at Bardessono, we walked over to Washington Street, which was bustling with people. We were in town on the same weekend as the town’s annual Taste of Yountville and Yountville Live!, and having obtained complimentary tickets to both festivals (thanks to the kind folks at Fuller & Sander and the Yountville Chamber of Commerce) we decided to spend lunchtime sampling wine and food from many of the local restaurants and wineries that were participating. There were out of town participants as well.

It was a fun experience, going from one tent to another. We spent a couple of hours walking up and down the main strip, tasting different wine and samples of delectable food (even the firefighters’ tent served amazing barbecue), and chatting with some the locals.

This is day two of our Yountville adventures. Vignettes from Yountville, Day Three is coming soon. Stay tuned!


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10 Best Comic Book Stores in the US

Comic books aren’t just for shy and bookish kids anymore. Thanks in part to Hollywood and to the upsurge of counterculturalism, the world of fantasy, superheroes and villains that once only belonged to introverts is now a cool thing. Just look at the crowds that swarm ComicCon in San Diego every year.

One of the best things about comic books – aside, of course, from the fact that they promote heroism and assert that good guys always triumph in the end – is that they’re easily the most accessible and the most effective way to distract the kids, especially on long flights or drives.

So if you happen to be visiting one of these cities with the kids and they’re getting somewhat antsy, a pit stop at these awesome comic book stores might just be what your vacation needs:


Austin, TX – Austin Books & Comics

Austin Books & Comics in Austin, TXAustin Books & Comics in Austin, TX (Google Maps)

Opened in 1977, Austin Books & Comics is one of Texas’ biggest and longest running comic book stores. Taking your comic book fans and young collectors here is a must while in the Texan capital. Not only do they sell the latest issues and lines, they also carry many first editions and back issues as well as an entire department dedicated to collectibles, which means that you might have to discuss their shopping allowance before your visit. (5002 N Lamar Blvd, 512-454-4197)

Baltimore, MD – Atomic Books

Founded in 1992 in downtown Baltimore, this independent Hampden comic book store sells alternative and underground comic books as well as zines and books. If the young comic book fans in your family are ready to upgrade from the usual superhero stories to the more experimental or unconventional titles and comic lines, they’ll definitely enjoy a visit or two. This store is so radical, in fact, that director John Waters actually picks up his fan mail there regularly. (3620 Falls Rd, 410-662-4444)

Charlotte, NC – Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find

What’s in a name? Well, with an epic one like “Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find,” this North Carolina comic book store, owned by HeroesCon founder Shelton Drum, impressively lives up to expectations. It’s not only one of the largest comic book retailers in the US, it also has an impressive collection of back issues as well as prides itself in the diversity of its comics, carrying lines from virtually every genre. (1957 E 7th St, 704-375-7462)

Chicago, IL – Quimby’s Bookstore

Quimby’s Bookstore in ChicagoQuimby’s Bookstore in Chicago (Flickr: Pat Loika)

An independent bookstore in Chicago’s Wicker Park, Quimby’s is more for those with a taste for the avant garde. They specialize in underground comics, unusual publications and independent zines. If your teen is tired of the usual superhero in spandex tale and is looking for less mainstream reads, this bookstore is definitely a necessary stop while in the Windy City. (1854 W. North Ave, 773-342-0910)

Los Angeles, CA – Meltdown Comics

Located on the famous Sunset Boulevard, this 14,000-square-foot comic book store is frequented by comic book fans visiting Los Angeles. And its massive collection of not just the latest, but also the best comic books is but a tip of the iceberg. Meltdown Comics also has a lot of cool collectibles, merch and toys for your young collectors and an art gallery for the artists in your family. (7522 Sunset Blvd, 323-851-7223)

New Orleans, LA – Crescent City Comics

With their friendly and knowledgeable staff who are more than willing to offer recommendations and a treasure trove of comic book goodies – from comic books and graphic novels, some staff-curated, to action figures and other toys and memorabilia – this Big Easy comic book store is a sure hit with the locals, young and old. (4916 Freret St, 504- 891-3796)

New York City, NY – JHU Comic Books

JHU Comic Books in New York CityJHU Comic Books in New York City (Flickr: Joey)

NYC has a number of impressive comic book stores, including fan favorites Midtown Comics and Forbidden Planet, but JHU Comic Books is more of a purist’s paradise. While other comic book stores in the city fill their shelves with other products like cards and board games, JHU focuses more on the comics themselves, with shelves filled with great selections of the latest releases and back issues from wall to wall. Plus, the staff is very friendly. (32 East 32nd St, 212-268-7088)

Portland, OR – Floating World Comics

Floating World Comics in Portland, ORFloating World Comics in Portland, OR (Floating World Comics)

A true Portland establishment, Floating World Comics is more than just a comic book store. It’s a hip community, hosting art shows and a tiny vinyl department. Priding itself on cool aesthetics and style, this is a comic book mecca with a vinyl store feel where independent works, art books and zines fill shelves just as much as the more mainstream comics, graphic novels and mangas. Both the future artists and the comic book lovers in your family will more than appreciate a stopover during your Portland vacation. (400 NW Couch St, 503- 241-0227)

San Francisco, CA – Cartoon Art Museum Bookstore

What can you expect from a store that is attached to the only comics and cartoon museum in the West Coast? Where do we even begin? To start with, comic books and cartoons vie for shelf space with history, how-to and art books. Then there are the DVDs, toys, postcards, and other comics and cartoon-related merch. And just because this bookstore in San Francisco’s Financial District is packed to the brim with virtually anything you’re looking for in a comic book store, doesn’t mean they don’t have space for other things. They also support local young artists and regularly host hip community events. (Cartoon Art Museum has temporarily closed its doors to prepare for a move to a new location, and have temporarily moved to the Renaissance Entrepreneur Center (275 5th Street). Keep checking their site for updates on their new home.)

Washington D.C. – Big Planet Comics

If the cool aesthetics of their blue-and-yellow exterior doesn’t get the kids dragging you through the doors, then Big Planet Comics’ impressive collection inside will. This store, originally from Georgetown, prefers the more independent, small-press titles as well as stuff from Europe and Japan that your kids probably haven’t even heard of, but they also carry the more popular ones. True to its name, BPC has established its own comic book world, with podcasts, book signing and meet-and-greet events, and their very own, albeit tiny, comic book publishing house. (1520 U St NW, 202-342-1961)


(Originally published on MiniTime.com)

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Best Ice Cream Sandwich Parlors in the US

Sweet Republic's assortment of ice cream sandwiches in ScottsdaleSweet Republic’s assortment of ice cream sandwiches in Scottsdale (Sweet Republic)

Ice cream is arguably the one dessert that everybody, adults and kids alike, cannot help but love – maybe it’s because not only does it cool you down on hot summer days, it’s also very comforting. Or perhaps it’s partly because whatever dessert flavor your taste buds fancy, you’ll most likely find that flavor in ice cream – whether it be vanilla, chocolate, or something more unusual like honey lavender or even bacon.

With National Ice Cream Sandwich Day taking place on August 2, we’ve selected 9 of the best ice cream sandwich parlors in the country so you can properly celebrate the occasion:


MOOmers Homemade Ice Cream. Moomers has been name-dropped by many as one of the best ice cream shops in the US, and that’s hard to argue with, especially when this Traverse City ice cream paradise milks its own cows. Its cowpie ice cream sandwich, either with chocolate chip or sugar cookies, is to-die for. 7263 N Long Lake Rd. Traverse City, MI 49685; 231-941-4122.


S'mores ice cream sandwich at Coolhaus in Los AngelesS’mores ice cream sandwich at Coolhaus in Los Angeles (Coolhaus )

Coolhaus. This delicious LA haunt started as a food truck, but mixing unusual flavors (blueberry sweet corn, brown candied bacon) with popular cookie flavors (chocolate chip, red velvet) all wrapped into edible wrapping paper apparently works since Coolhaus blew up into a successful ice cream sandwich shop that’s a favorite with Angelenos. 8588 Washington Blvd, Culver City; 310-424-555.


Magnolia Bakery. The ice cream sandwiches are seasonal here and only available during the summer months so hurry up to this New York City bakery, which offers Ronnybrook Dairy ice cream packed between delicious cookie “buns” that come in different types, including double fudge brownie, lemon bar, and red velvet. These sandwiches are a sure treat for those humid NYC months.11 Fulton Street, New York City; 855-MBAKERY.


Sweet Republic. This all-natural, handmade artisan ice cream shop is an institution. It prides itself in using the purest local ingredients and recipes that set it apart from all the rest. And its ice cream sandwiches? Well, they’re made to order with freshly-baked cookies so that the experience of eating them is as delightful as the flavors themselves. 9160 E Shea Blvd, Scottsdale; 480-248-6979.


Fresh delivery from San Francisco's Garden CreameryFresh delivery from San Francisco’s Garden Creamery (Garden Creamery)

Garden Creamery. “Sweet cold treats made fresh,” is San Francisco’s Garden Creamery’s slogan. Much like LA’s Coolhaus, it made a name for itself in the streets as an ice cream truck. Garden Creamery’s handcrafted dairy delights are made from the freshest local ingredients; and its Classic Vanilla Mouse Oatmeal Cookie Sandwich, half dipped in chocolate, will keep kids as well as adults coming back for more. Check out the truck’s weekly schedule on their website.


Chocolate truffle with backyard mint sandwich at Jeni's in Columbus, OHChocolate truffle with backyard mint sandwich at Jeni’s in Columbus, OH (Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams)

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. This Columbus, Ohio ice cream shop indeed has a splendid and surprising collection of flavors – from brambleberry to goat cheese to saison with sunflower seeds and flax. And their ice cream sandwiches come in chocolate hazelnut, chocolate truffle and mint, oatmeal, salty caramel, and even orchid vanilla. If that doesn’t make your mouth water, then what will? Find a shop near you on their website.


Diddy Riese. Dreaming of building your own ice cream sandwich? Dream no more. LA’s Diddy Riese, an ice cream and cookie shop, has been the City of Angels’ go-to tasty treat shop since 1983; and for less than $2, your kids can make their own ice cream sandwiches with the freshest cookies, mixing and matching them any way they want. With ice cream flavors like Strawberry Cheesecake Chunk and Mint Chip as well as several types of cookies including chocolate with white chocolate chip and peanut butter, the possibilities are practically endless! 926 Broxton Avenue, Westwood; 310-208-0448.


Payard. French macarons are heavenly enough on their own, but somebody had the brilliant idea of combining them with ice cream. Chef Francois Payard created the culinary innovation that is the macaron ice cream sandwich as a fusion of the American and French food cultures. Even better, they come in delightful flavors like coconut mango and raspberry pistachio. 1293 Third Ave, New York; (212) 717-5252.


MILK's macaron ice cream sandwiches in Los AngelesMILK’s macaron ice cream sandwiches in Los Angeles (MILK)

MILK. And speaking of these ingenious inventions, LA’s MILK isn’t just about cookies and sundaes. Their macaron ice cream sandwiches that come in different MILK ice cream flavors, made with seasonal ingredients, are not only to-die for, they are also massive. No wonder it’s become one of the favorite dessert haunts in Los Angeles. 7290 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles; 323-939-6455.


(Originally published on MiniTime.com)

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5 Best Milkshakes in America’s Big Cities

Take the kids out for a special foodie treat.Take the kids out for a special foodie treat. (Flickr: Jim Champion)

Since the 30s, milkshakes have been one of America’s favorite drinks. And with classic favorites like chocolate, strawberry, and banana, it’s hardly a mystery. Kids, teens, and even adults just can’t get enough these ice cream treats, so much so that you can pretty much get them in most restaurants nowadays, from fast food joints to fancier cafes.

Like with pretty much everything, however, some milkshakes are just undeniably better than others. If you happen to live or find yourself in one of these five cities, take the kids – heck, take the entire family – out for a treat at one of these spots, which incidentally serve some of America’s best milkshakes.


Franklin Fountain (Philadelphia)

Franklin Fountain is not just an old-fashioned soda shop in Philly. It’s an American institution. Locals and tourists make sure to stop at this spot housed in a turn-of-the-century building and treat themselves to Franklin’s famous homemade ice cream that come in yummy flavors like vanilla bean, chocolate chip, franklin mint chip, teaberry gum, and maple walnut. But the best part is they can make any of their ice cream flavors into a shake, so that anyone, but especially the kids, can enjoy their legendary ice cream with a brightly-colored straw. 116 Market St., Philadelphia; 215-627-1899.


Edzo’s Burger Shop (Chicago)

Milkshake at Edzo's Burger Shop in ChicagoMilkshake at Edzo’s Burger Shop in Chicago (Edzo’s Burger Shop)

“Nothin’ fancy here” is what this favorite burger joint says of their milkshakes – you know, just vanilla ice cream with the patron’s choice of Oreos, peanut butter, or bananas. That might be true, but it hasn’t prevented Edzo’s Burger Shop from becoming one of Chicago’s best burger joints and America’s best milkshake shops. Like their delicious grassfed and freshly made burger patties and their hand-cut fries, their milkshakes are made from hand-dipped vanilla ice cream and blended with old-style slow mix machines, making their shakes some of the creamiest and smoothest shakes you and the kids will ever have in your life. Tell the kids to ask for their off-the-menu flavors for a yummy surprise. 1571 Sherman Ave., Evanston; 847-864-3396.


Lexington Candy Shop (New York City)

Chocolate milkshake at Lexington Candy Shop in New York CityChocolate milkshake at Lexington Candy Shop in New York City (Lexington Candy Shop)

Take a trip back in time and go retro at NYC’s Lexington Candy Shop. This luncheonette is as eye-catchingly timeless as its samplings are delicious. Vintage kitchen appliances, a historical Coca Cola display, and old photos hanging in frames on the walls treat your eyes while their famous ice cream shakes and malts, made from Bassetts Super Premium Ice Cream and come in classic flavors, will satisfy your hungry troops. And of course, don’t forget to sample their grub – you’ll regret it if you don’t. 1226 Lexington Ave., New York; 212-288-0057.


Milk (Los Angeles)

Milkshake at MILK in Los AngelesMilkshake at MILK in Los Angeles (Credit: Rye N.)

This Westside favorite makes their own desserts and confections – from cookies to cupcakes – and they also churn their own frozen delights. While famous for their wonderful ice cream macaroon sandwiches, which come in unbelievably huge helpings, they’re also frequented for the dripping goodness of their shakes and floats. Kids and adults alike can have their pick from the menu, which include flavors like coffee toffee crunch shake, the MILKIE way, and triple chocolate, or they can DIY their way to milkshake heaven. 7290 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles; 323-939-6455.


Ted’s Bulletin (Washington, D.C.)

Ted’s Bulletin's milkshakes in Washington D.C.Ted’s Bulletin’s milkshakes in Washington D.C. (Ted’s Bulletin)

In their father’s honor, Mark and Ty Neal opened Ted’s Bulletin, a Rammy-nominated family-style and owned restaurant that’s made its name in the capital with their hearty, home cooked-style meals. But delectable helpings of ham steaks, eggs, and burgers aside, Ted’s milkshakes have proven to be an attraction all on their own. And with flavors like root beer float, s’mores, PBJ, and apple pie for the kids and Grasshopper, White Russian, and Tequila Sunrise for the adults, it definitely comes as no surprise. 505 8th Street SE, Washington DC; 202-544-8337.


(Originally published on MiniTime.com)

all rights reserved. no part of this blog post may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the author.