Five Things We Did in London

After we booked our Paris trip, we decided to take a short jaunt to London on the recommendation of several friends.  It’s so easy to travel in Europe – it was just a 2.5 hour train ride from Paris to London.  We had about 48 hours in London, but I fell in love with the city’s character and we saw a lot in our short time there.  Here’s a few of the things we did:

High Tea – we knew we couldn’t go to London without experiencing high tea! Mike booked us a table at Ting at the Shard, and it was a fun experience.  The views were amazing and the tea was delicious (food was just okay, TBH).

Churchill War Museum – this was a huge highlight for both of us! The Churchill War Museum is located in the actual underground bunkers that were used as Churchill’s headquarters during WWII, and it contains a lot of artifacts from Churchill’s life.  He was an eccentric and brilliant man who deeply cared for his people and making a difference in the world.

Ate amazing Indian food – several friends recommended Dishoom for Indian food, and it did NOT disappoint! The food was so flavorful and delicious, that we ended up going back from brunch another day :) I can’t remember everything we tried, but I don’t think you can go wrong with anything on the menu.  The restaurant itself has a really fun, retro vibe and apparently they have live jazz music most evenings.

Tower of London – we knew that we only had time to fit in one tour, and decided on the Tower, which is rich in history.  The tour guide here was fantastic and told us some interesting stories that really added color to the whole experience.  We also got to see the changing of the guards.

Saw Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross – the last thing we did during our short time in London was to (try to) see Platform 9 3/4 since we both love Harry Potter – but apparently everyone in the station had the same idea at 9 AM in the morning ;) We took some pictures from the side, bought a few key chains from the gift shop, and called it a day.

While Paris was so beautiful, London felt like such an approachable but interesting city – I get the sense that there’s a mish-mosh of cultures and styles happening, which Paris has made such an effort to keep the overall feel of the city and architecture very consistent.  I would love to go back someday – there’s still so much we have to see!IMG_20181011_164108.jpg


Five Things We Did in Paris

Mike and I took a babymoon to Paris and London last month, and I wanted to talk about some of the highlights of our trip! I’ll cover Paris/ France in this post, and London in the next.

Versailles bike tour

Hall of Mirrors
Gardens of Versailles

This was one of our favorite parts of our trip to Paris – we knew we wanted to see Versailles, but the grounds are large and difficult to cover in one day.  We decided to do a bike tour instead of walking, and it was the perfect way to see a lot in just one day.  Our tour guide Jean-Paul told us a lot of interesting stories about the palace’s history throughout the years as well, especially during the lunch picnic. Bread and wine everyday

I don’t think we went one day without going to a boulangerie for bread or croissants in the morning or drinking wine (or juice, in my case) at night.  The wine was crazy cheap – about 6 euros for a carafe (2-3 glasses) of really good wine, and the grape juices were surprisingly good!

Met the Korean President

No, not really.  But we noticed Korean flags all along the Champs-Elysees and found out that the Korean President’s visit coincided with ours! One salesperson asked if we were with the Korean delegation, and upon our denial, commented that we might not be able to tell him anyway even if we were, haha.

Louvre, Musee D’Orsay, and Musee de l’Orangerie

In our short week in Paris, we managed to visit all the museums on my list – it helped that we bought passes ahead of time and followed custom itineraries using apps to hit the highlights.  While I loved the architecture of Musee D’Orsay and some of the landscape paintings as well as the huge Monet murals in the l’Orangerie, the Louvre with its sculptures was our favorite.

Ate at a Michelin-starred restaurant

Mike really wanted to eat at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris, so we made reservations at Le Relais Louis XIII one night.  It was a fun night with lots of creative courses and very attentive wait staff.  The food was amazing, from the cheese gougeres amuse bouches to the fig dessert course.

But my favorite meal in Paris was at Les Fables de La Fontaine, a seafood restaurant where I had the most amazing fish dish of my life.  I think it was some kind of cod encrusted in a black batter or something? IMG_20181014_124941Mike’s favorite meal was duck confit – once he tried it at a bistro, it was pretty much the only thing he ordered the rest of the trip ;) The french onion soup (which is apparently called just onion soup in France) was quite good too.

And now I need to eat something, after looking through all our food pics :)

5 Things I Did in Korea

Mike and I made our first trip together to South Korea in early November – me to see my grandma, and Mike to work! It was a short one-week trip, but I managed to see a lot during the day either solo or with my mom (she also went for a few weeks) and had a great time spending time with my grandma and getting to know her a little better. There’s so much we can learn from the older generation, and many of them lived in interesting times. Here’s a few things I did on the trip:
1. Toured the palaces
Korea has some beautiful palaces built during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910); I visited Gyeonbokgung with my mom one day and Changdeokgung with Mike another day.  Both palaces require a small admission fee and offers tours for no additional fee in multiple languages every day.

2. Ran…indoors!
I had intended to run outside, but the pollution is pretty bad in Seoul.  Lots of people wear masks to deal with the air quality.  Thankfully, I was able to stay with Mike at the Sheraton, which had a great gym.

3. Shopping in Insadong and Myeongdong
Korea is known for its shopping scene – from high-end clothing and bags to unique cultural items to makeup/ skincare (have you heard of K-beauty?).  I spent a morning browsing in Insadong, which is known for cultural items (I bought a pair of wedding ducks) and Myeongdong, known for K-beauty and tiny cute things. I’ll post some of my favorite skincare/ makeup products on a Friday Faves.

4. Hiked Bukhansan
Korea has some beautiful mountains nearby, which are absolutely stunning in the fall.  My mom and I took a bus out to Bukhansan, which is one of the mountains in Seoul.  We thought we could do a hike to the top, but apparently it’s a six hour round-trip, and we weren’t prepared for how steep it was! We hiked up about an hour and then came back down.  I’d love to finish the hike on a future trip!

5. Explored the street food scene…and ate lots of other food
Another thing Korea is known for is its interesting street food scene, which pops up in several areas around the city around late afternoon.  One of the BEST things I ate this trip was bung-geo-bbang, which is a fish-shaped red-bean filled pastry and costs about $1 for 2.  I ate them almost every night for dessert :)IMG_20171108_183714.jpgSome other top eats:

  • Korean BBQ at Cha Iyagi (the meat was just okay, but the rice and side dishes were really good)
  • Viennese coffee at Hakrim Dabang, one of the oldest coffee shops in Korea
  • Snowbowl (Korean shaved ice)
  • Fresh sashimi at Noryangjin (korean fish market)
  • Samgyetang (korean ginseng chicken soup) at Tosokchun
  • mung bean pancakes at Kwangjang outdoor market
  • Soft serve ice cream from Baekmidang

Some travel notes:

  • It’s really easy to get around Seoul – there’s a robust and easy-to-navigate subway system with English signs, and taxis are cheap
  • Not everyone speaks English, but many people in service industries (hotels, restaurants, shops) speak enough to communicate
  • Koreans wake up late and party at night – most shops/ restaurants/ attractions don’t open till 10 AM or later, and you’ll see plenty of people out and about at 9 PM or later even on weekdays
  • Wi-fi is widely available in most public places, but if you need to stay connected, you can rent a portable “wi-fi egg” at the airport or many other locations for less than $4/ day
  • The city is very safe! South Korea is ranked as one of safest cities in the world in terms of crime

I really enjoyed my time in Seoul and felt like a week was a good amount of time to get acquainted with the city once again (I’ve visited a few times in my life, most recently in 2009).  I’m planning to go back a little more frequently from now on to spend time with my grandma as she gets older, and am already looking forward to my trip next year :)

{Vacation} 5 Things We Did in Whistler

Mike and I got back a few weeks ago from an amazing trip to Vancouver/ Whistler and I finally found some time to write a short recap! I love writing trip recaps to re-live the fun memories and share our favorite activities/ restaurants with you all.  We flew into Vancouver and drove up to Whistler a few hours later.  These were some of the highlights from our four days up there:

1. Hiked Garibaldi Lake – there’s a ton of amazing hikes in Whistler, and I really wanted to try a long day hike.  Garibaldi Lake is a really popular one in the area, and takes about 4-5 hours to do.  The first couple miles or so are a steep incline through a forest, but you’re rewarded at the top with stunning views of the lake.  We went right after breakfast and brought along some pastries to eat along the way.

We went on several other hikes in the area too – we started the cedar trails hike, and also walked around Green Lake.  The water everywhere was this stunning turquoise or sage green/ blue cloudy color from melting glacial water.

2. Tried outdoor climbing – I think I’ve mentioned that I’ve done a lot of indoor rock-climbing over the last couple of months, and Mike thought it would be fun to try outdoor rock-climbing! We signed up for a half-day climb with Mountain Skills Academy and had an amazing time.  We learned how to crack climb (sticking feet and hands into long cracks in the rock) and slab climb (up what looked like a sheer wall of granite).  It was exhausting and hard and probably the highlight of our trip for me.

3. Axe throwing – This is apparently somewhat of a sport in Canada, and Mike found a place nearby to try it out! The axes are much smaller than the kind you use to chop wood and are pretty easy to handle.  We learned how to throw the axes overhead, underhand, backwards, and even double handed (two axes at once).  It’s surprisingly gratifying to hear the axe thunk deep into the wood and land a good throw.

4. ATVing – Okay, I lied – THIS was the highlight of the trip for me.  I’ve never gone ATVing before, but after a short learning curve, we were trekking up the side of a mountain! The views were incredible and the ATV was so much fun to drive.  We wore helmets and gear over our clothing to keep us warm and dry.IMG_20170930_123446 5. Ate some good ramen – We found the restaurants in Whistler to be of moderate quality, but the ramen at Fuji Market was really, really good.  So much so that we went back for it another night :) More on our favorite restaurants below.IMG_20170929_183413

Where we stayed: We got an AirBnB in Whistler Village and it was so cute and cozy! It came with a small fridge and a washing machine (we needed this after all the hiking/ climbing we did) and the location was perfect with lots of restaurants and the Olympic Plaza within walking distance.IMG_20170930_202316IMG_20170930_072806-EFFECTSIMG_20170930_072703

Good eats in Whistler:

  • Fuji Market – great ramen
  • Peaked Pies – Australian meat pies
  • Mount Currie Coffee Company – amazing lattes (we got one every day)
  • Bar Oso – warm and cozy space with great drinks and appetizers

I’ll post highlights from our time in Vancouver next week!

5 Things We Did in Boston

We just came back from a weekend trip to Boston to see Mike’s sister Elizabeth, Mike’s dad (also visiting), and Mike’s brother Daniel, who just started college! The weather was absolutely perfect (highs in the 70s) and it really started to feel a little like fall.  Here were some of the highlights from the weekend – mostly food, because that’s how we roll ;)

1. Waited 4 hrs for dinner at Neptune Oyster
Mike’s dad’s bday happened to fall within our trip dates, so we decided to try the hottest seafood restaurant in the North End – Neptune Oyster.  We arrived at 3 PM to put our names on the list, only to be informed that our wait time would be approximately 4.5 hours, lol.  So we wandered around the North End and ate a few “snacks”.

lobster rolls from a place a few doors down from Neptune Oyster and cannoli from Mike’s Pastries
Clam chowder from Faneuil Hall yessss

And just as we were about to leave, we received a call from the restaurant that our table was ready! We weren’t hungry after all the food we ate, but we decided to go anyway and just get a little something to eat…you know, like a seafood tower and more lobster rolls, lol.09031619390903161927
2. Tosci’s ice cream0904161912a_hdrBurnt caramel now and forever.  Still my favorite ice cream flavor! The server convinced me to try the hot fudge topping this time and I did not regret it.

3. Brunch at Coppa

Elizabeth took us to this highly rated brunch spot in Boston, and it did not disappoint.  I loved the roasted grapefruit and the shakshuka (eggs poached in tomato sauce).  The food scene in Boston is really thriving!

4. Played with our Airbnb cat Caleb

We opted to rent an Airbnb in Belmont, about 10-15 minutes away from Cambridge since Mike’s dad was renting a car.  The house was beautiful and comfortable (check out that master bath), and came with a resident cat named Caleb! Felt just like home…including the part where Caleb woke us up at 6:30 AM every morning to feed him breakfast, lol.  Good thing we love cats ;)

We spent one day resting at home and watching a few movies, and decided to order just a few sushi rolls for lunch ;)0905161226_hdr

5. Explored the new Boston Public Market

We did do our fair share of walking every day, as most people tend to do in Boston – one of my favorite activities was exploring the new indoor public market! There are a bunch of gourmet food and foodstuff stalls.  If you go, be sure to get one of the fresh mini cider donuts from Red Apple Farm and the fresh seafood at Red’s Best.  If we had another day here, we would have picked up some seafood or meats here and cooked dinner at our place.

We got to check out Elizabeth’s new place and helped her put some Ikea furniture together, which definitely counts as a workout, right? I also got in some decent mileage on the trail around Fresh Pond (fairly close to where we were staying) – 10 miles on Saturday and 12 miles on Sunday.  The only bad news – I took a bad spill on the trail on Sunday around mile 9 and completely scraped up my knees :( I’ll spare you the bloody pic – suffice it to say that my left knee was badly skinned and will take several days to scab over.  Thankfully, no structural damage.

We also got to eat dinner with sister J and Andrew at a Korean BBQ/soup restaurant in Allston. So great to see them again, even for just an hour or two.  I feel so lucky that we got to spend so much time with family this weekend and am already looking forward to them again over Thanksgiving and Christmas!

5 Things I Did in Boston

I came back from Boston yesterday morning, where I had spent the weekend to celebrate J’s bday! It was so great to see my sister and spend some time in the city I love, and we managed to pack a lot of fun into just a few days. Here’s some of the highlights:

1. Celebrated J’s bday!
Our celebration started at Takemura (sushi/Japanese/Korean restaurant) in Harvard Square, where I got to meet many of J’s awesome friends.  You know you have an interesting group of people together when the conversation includes everything from camping to philosophy to video games set in space to the unique qualities of ant communities ;) We followed up dinner with dessert and drinks at J’s place, with homemade desserts provided by J (more on that below) and an awesome bartending set-up by several of her friends.  I was a big fan of the grapefruit sage paloma!DSC04674 DSC04676 DSC04679

2. Ate at some new-to-me restaurants
Cambridge/Boston has has a thriving restaurant scene, and I love to try a few new places each time I visit.  Chicken cobb salad from Cafe Luna, Chinese BBQ pork banh mi sandwich and ginger lemonade from Bon Me, awesome pancakes with Greek yogurt and jam from Cafe Tatte, and (unpictured) mango chicken from Four Seasons Table – not a bad meal in the lot! I especially want to go back to try some of the other sandwiches and soba noodle salad from Bon Me – I’m a sucker for their sweet/spicy/salty flavor combinations.

I also cooked for J and her friends one night! Super easy Korean menu with cold buckwheat noodles, pre-marinated meat, a spicy/crunchy salad, and a few pre-made side dishes.DSC04682

3. Made homemade cream puffs
Okay, so J did the baking but I helped fill the shells (and provide moral support) :D After baking the cream puffs and letting them cool, we poked a hole in the bottom and filled them with homemade green tea whipped cream and diced strawberries.  And as if that wasn’t enough, J also made an AMAZING grapefruit custard pie.  Grapefruit theme for the evening!DSC04672 DSC04678
4. Spin classes at Turnstyle Cycle
Like I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I was looking for fun cross-training activities in Boston and J mentioned that she had enjoyed a few classes at Turnstyle in Kendall Square (they have two other locations in Boston). At $16, the drop-in cost seemed reasonable so I signed up for a class on Saturday morning and loved it so much that I returned with J on Sunday! It’s basically SoulCycle at half the cost and none of the pretension. The studio is pretty bare bones, but the spin room has great bikes, lights, and instructors. I felt so revved up the entire 45 min and just focused on the awesome beat and motivation.

5. Boda Borg!

Boda Borg is a Swedish real-life questing environment, where you work with your team to beat physical and mental challenges within a puzzle.  At the Boston location out in Walden, there were about 16 puzzles, each comprised of  2-3 rooms (you progress from one to the next as you beat a room and unlock the next).  Once you enter a room, you aren’t given specific instructions, just maybe a hint or two, so you have to figure out what it takes to unlock a room and then accomplish the task with your team.  I went with J and her friend Andrew and we had a blast! I was a little nervous that it might be too easy or too hard, but they definitely weren’t too easy, and the more times we re-attempted a room, the more we got the hang of it.  But in the 4 hours we spent there, we still only unlocked 1 puzzle (but tried about 10 different puzzles multiple times) ;) It isn’t as frustrating as it might sound – we had a great time discussing various strategies we might employ and encouraging each other inside the rooms – such a great team-building activity!

Source: Boda Borg

That sums up the highlights from the weekend.  Happy, happy birthday to my incredibly talented, kind and beautiful sister J!


Weekend Trip to Pittsburgh

It’s never too late for a weekend recap, right? Even a week later? Lol.  We got out of town for the long Memorial Day weekend to see our good friends Alex and Lexi near Pittsburgh! After packing and working out Saturday morning, we got on the road and arrived in Pittsburgh 5 hours later, just in time for dinner. We met at Bar Marco, one of our favorites from our last visit to Pittsburgh – the bartenders here are fantastic. You tell them the base you’d like (vodka, gin, bourbon etc) and the flavor profile you’re looking for, and they come up with a custom drink for you!

Photo Credit: Alex/Lexi
Photo Credit: Alex/Lexi

(Yes, my eyes are closed lol)

After our long drive, we were eager to get to our hotel and rest. We picked the Fairmont Pittsburgh – Mike has a Fairmont card, which comes with a free night and upgrade, as well as meal credits every year, so we try to stay at one every year. The service at this one was great as always, and they had a huge gym (complete with spinning and yoga!). I completely forgot to take pics, but the ones below are similar to the suite we got, and the lobby was airy and gorgeous.

Photo Credit:
Photo Credit:
Photo Credit:

They also had a fantastic breakfast buffet, complete with carbs (pancakes, baked goods, waffles, couple kinds of potatoes), protein (all sorts of eggs, bacon, sausage), roasted veggies, lots of fruit, a yogurt bar, and a bagel bar. We took full advantage using our food certificates ;)

The following day, we both got in a short workout in the morning before our trip down to our friends’ place in West Virginia to go shooting and eat korean BBQ.  Our friend’s dad has a bunch of guns, so we got to shoot everything from handguns to shotguns to even an automatic rifle. BTW, I personally believe we could all benefit from reducing gun ownership in the U.S. (we have a high incidence of gun-related deaths for a reason), but am not against the right to bear arms for self-protection and sport/hunting.  Getting off my soapbox.
After a few hours of shooting (my arms and hands were tired!), we headed back to our friends’ place for some korean BBQ. Mike and I brought marinated meat, side dishes, veggies, and drinks from DC in a cooler because our friends were really craving some korean food. Happy to oblige! Sorry for the blurry picture, but we had quite the feast.
We enjoyed eating and drinking with friends and exploring their amazing garden, and then headed back to our hotel in Pittsburgh.

Monday was our “explore the city” day, but much to my chagrin, nearly everything was closed! I knew it was Memorial Day, but I feel like most shops in DC stay open. It was awesome to see the city’s patriotic spirit though – it seems appropriate to close up shop to honor those who have given their lives to secure our freedom.

We did see a cool outdoor festival – I think this might have been Sunday. Pittsburgh closes certain sections of their streets on Sundays in the summertime to enable people to enjoy working out outside! There were bike rides, this yoga class, outdoor spin classes, and Zumba. Would love to see this in DC!
We made our way to Roland’s Seafood Grill in the Strip District for happy hour – they have 60 cent oysters, shrimp, clams and chicken wings. So of course we did two rounds of oysters and cocktail shrimp :)
And after dinner, we walked over to the Penguins Stadium to check out the tail-gate party.  We thought we might score some tickets from scalpers, but no such luck – there were plenty of people looking to buy tickets, but we couldn’t find any selling! Hockey fans aplenty in this town – especially with the Stanley Cup!
0530161713_HDRTuesday morning, we slowly packed up, ate breakfast in the room, and headed back home.  Pittsburgh remains one of our favorite nearby cities to relax, hang with friends, and eat – so I’m sure we’ll be back!