2021 Lessons, Accomplishments, and Gratitude

As we get ready to start 2022 I have reflected back on all of the lessons, accomplishments and also things I’m incredibly grateful for in 2021.

I know that times have been challenging collectively. 2020 was incredibly hard for me, much harder than 2021 thankfully. While we are still struggling with the pandemic, working from home, mask mandates and travel restrictions, 2021 was an incredible year of growth and expansion.

  1. We got engaged! I know this isn’t an “accomplishment” because marriage is not something that should be viewed as a checkbox, but it’s something that John and I have discussed for a while and the time felt right. It was definitely my highlight of 2021! While the idea of us getting married (hey we’ve been together 8 years!) wasn’t surprising, in the exact moment it was! I love him very much and am happy for our wedding in June 2022.
  2. My biggest accomplishment is creating my morning meditation, journal, and walking routine that I still practice 365 days later. I can not stress this enough – if you don’t meditate or journal / reflect on your life daily- you should start! I never had time to do this before because I was always rushing off to take public transit to work and never gave myself the space, before or after work, to make this habit. I plan on keeping up this habit because I’ve noticed a big difference in my mental health and mood throughout the day. Something I want to focus on in 2022 is to incorporate this habit, even if it’s short and brief, when I am traveling.
  3. In addition to meditating regularly, I took several mindset + manifestation courses that have really helped change how I think, how I react, and what I focus on. This was incredibly eye opening for me and a powerful way to take control over my mind. I felt so burnt out and stressed from the drama of 2020 (traveling internationally during the beginning of the pandemic, the beginning of the pandemic in general, losing my job, moving across country, gaining weight, etc) that I really came into my own this past year. I know that no matter whatever happens to me I will always be ok. I am going to continue this practice through various workshops, podcasts, books, and rituals.
  4. I launched my t-shirt shop! Something I have wanted to do for years finally happened this last January. It’s so much scarier in your mind when you overthink but if you just take the plunge it’s sort of a relief to see what happens next. I am happy with my sales but of course would love to increase them this next year. My goal in 2022 is to focus on designing more products and growing my audience.
  5. I also put up my art and photography prints on Society6 and have sold quite a few things this year! While I dedicated more of my time to meditation, mindset, and my tshirts, I feel that I was less creative with painting and photography this year. I would love to have a dedicated painting/photography day each week or several times a month in 2022. I am planning on reading The Artist’s Way in January and spark my creative artist.
  6. I was published in a travel magazine this past spring! Several photos from our trip to Big Bend were featured in Southern Styles magazine, due to an old college friend reaching out to me based on what she saw on my instagram. I would love to be published in additional resources or sell more photos online in 2022.
  7. I learned to embrace walking. For the last 20 years I really and truly believed that in order for me to maintain my weight and stay trim was to be a runner. I ran so many miles last year, more than ever in my life (even when I trained for half marathons) and I was the biggest I’ve ever been. It didn’t help I was so stressed from everything going on in 2020 that adding running on top of that, no wonder my body felt incredibly stressed out and my hormones were off. If you are always stressed you can never lose weight. Instead of thinking about how many miles I ran, I switched to caring about always walking a minimum of 10K steps a day (on top of doing yoga and low intensity pilates). I feel a difference and plan on taking this through into 2022.
  8. I started learning more about my finances, saving, investing and what my best interests are for my financial plans (wedding, honeymoon and beyond!). While this is something I am going to majorly focus on in 2022, you have to start somewhere! I am in a much better place than I was 6 months ago and happy to be making progress.
  9. I am learning graphic design! It’s something I’ve always wanted to know more about and this past fall semester I took the pre-req class at UT and am registering for the certificate program this spring. I know this is an area of BIG focus in 2022. I want to create digital art and also scoop up some freelance design work.
  10. I learned to speak up, trust my intuition, and stay strong in my boundaries. I had to let some friends go that weren’t vibing with my new path of life. And that’s ok! Maybe we will cross paths again someday or maybe not, but for now I am focusing on what feels good for myself and mental health.
  11. I realized that how people react, what they say or do has nothing to do with me and is a reflection of the person. It’s incredibly refreshing to not take things personally. Also, when someone is judgemental about something or someone it says more about them than whatever they are judging. We all have shadow sides that need love and incorporation so lean into why you are feeling the way you are and what the lesson is.
  12. You can have a wedding and not break the bank! It’s possible. More on this later in 2022.

Thank you 2021 for an expansive year of life changing events and deeper self awareness. In 2022, I choose to be more present and in the moment, focusing on what feels good for my body, leaning into financial planning, learning design skills and creating more art, having the best wedding we can in the current circumstances, and feeling free and authentic to my true self.

Have a happy new year!

My Favorite Personal Development Books

I started off 2021 with extreme focus and dedication towards creating a lasting morning routine and healthy habits. After years of feeling burnt out with my intense jobs and lively social life in San Francisco, on top of COVID and moving across country, I was looking for more self care and me time to actually think about what I was feeling and reflect. I know that I probably sound like a huge square right now, but January is my favorite month of the year because I love the motivation behind resolutions and goals. Something about this Capricorn energy really super motivates me to try new things and be the best me. And I’m so excited it’s here again for 2022!

I started this year off with something that people had suggested to me many times over the years and I also found excuses to not do it – meditation. Every morning I jumped out of bed, lit candles and incense, meditated for anywhere between 5-15 minutes and then journaled for about 5 minutes. I reflected on things like how I wanted my day to go, short term or long term goals, or big creative ideas that I had. They say it takes 28 days to form a habit and I’m proud to say nearly one year later and I still do this *almost* every day. (Hey I’m not perfect and I don’t always do this when I’m traveling – though that is something I want to focus on next year) I’ve since followed my morning ritual with my morning walk and I am so much happier as a person. It’s probably also worth mentioning that my company is California based and 2 hours behind me, so I am lucky to be able to have a little more time to myself in the morning that I never had before.

Living in SF I would sleep in as late as possible, get ready and head out quickly to catch the bus downtown, rushing to make it in on time. I always felt very rushed in the morning and that did not bode well for my aura over the day. By focusing time purely to yourself, to your thoughts, to setting your mood for the day FIRST thing in the morning – you are in the act of setting yourself up for success.

I’ve read many books this year that have helped me with this journey of habits, thought patterns, mindset – and I wanted to share for those interested in self discovery this January 2022.

In random order, here are the books that helped me this past year:

Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself – I LOVED this book, it’s been my favorite of the bunch. I highly recommend to anyone who wants more insight into our consciousness and what makes you, YOU.

How To Do The Work: Recognize Your Patterns, Heal From Your Past, and Create Your Self – I love the Holistic Psychologist on Instagram and read her book as soon as it was released. It’s a very easily digestible way to recognize your own traumas and work through them in order to not fall into repeated patterns.

The Mountain is You: Transforming Self Sabotage Into Self Mastery – This was also a great read about conscious vs subconscious self sabotage patterning, a bit high level, but still good place to start.

Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself – This was my first time reading Dr Joe Dispenza and I can’t wait to dive into his other books. Similar but more thorough look at taking control of your thoughts.

Girl On Fire – This is more girl-boss business oriented, but a lot of confidence and motivation around listening to yourself, letting yourself be seen and heard, and being your own authentic boss in business.

Discover Your Dharma – I listen to Sahara Rose’s podcast Higher Self and naturally read her book when it dropped. I’m captivated by her and could listen to her talk about your life’s purpose for hours. The book comes with journal prompts and workbooks to help you discover what it truly is that inspires you.

Dear Universe – This is a book I use almost every morning, it’s short meditations based on how you are feeling or how you want to feel (abundant, energized, playful, etc). After I mediate I pick a word that speaks to me and read the mini meditation outloud.

Creative Visualization – This is an old classic around visualization and manifestation. While the concept is not new to me this is a great book to get your feet wet on the concept of the law of attraction.

A Manual For Manifesting Your Dream Life – I came across this mini book on TikTok and really enjoyed it. It’s a super quick motivating read that’s perfect for a flight or rainy day, to remind yourself just how awesome you are.

Raise Your Vibration – This is a 111 step by step daily spiritual practice on things you can do to raise your energy. While at times it felt a little tooo spiritual for me (hey I’m spiritual! Just not, IN YOUR FACE about it) I did enjoy the daily practice.

Witch: Unleashed. Untamed. Unapologetic – This is about the witch wound and how women have had generations of trauma from being held back by the patriarchy and I loved this.

The Burnout Manifesto – I took a manifestation and mindset workshop where I crossed paths with Eve the author and read this early on in the year. It’s about being a high achiever in life and realizing you are more than what you feel you are supposed to achieve, which I really resonate with.

Next books on my list for 2022:

The Artist’s Way

Becoming Supernatural: How Common People Are Doing The Uncommon

Outwitting the Devil

Atomic Habits

The Body Keeps the Score

Your Brain is Always Listening

I hope one of these books speaks to you as it did to me! Stay tuned as I mention more goals and things I’m focusing on this new year.

Flashback: California Summer 2021

Big Sur

When John and I moved from California to Texas last summer we decided to plan a 2 week long trip for us to come back over the next summer (2021). We figured that with COVID and moving we weren’t going to be traveling over the 2020 holidays and wanted to be back for our annual summer Tahoe trip with his family. So this past July we spent 2 weeks doing everything our hearts desired in California, from being in San Francisco to boat rides in Tahoe, to visiting family in Monterey and everything in-between. We even found our amazing wedding venue which I’ll write about in a different post. Needless to say it was a really great trip!

The first 5 days of our trip was spent in the city staying with our wonderful pals in our old neighborhood of Alamo Square. We settled in, got coffee and went for a stroll in our old hood, stopping by the old house and hanging out in the park. It felt like no time had passed while simultaneously feeling like I have grown into a new version of myself.

Because we moved during COVID when San Francisco was at the height of lock down, it was fun to be able to do all of the things we weren’t able to before we left. Eating at our favorite restaurants, seeing our friends, I even DJed one final time at GoBang! It felt like we were able to officially close a chapter of our lives that brought us so much joy and adventure. I even got a long distance run in Golden Gate Park in the schedule! My heart was so very happy. I MISS THE TREES SO BAD. John and I are definitely forest people, lol.

We spent the 4th of July with our friends down in Soquel, outside of Santa Cruz, with a heated pool and ocean side views. We loved being able to have so much time with our friends before we had family time. We got to see everyone we wanted which was so nice and just be together, dance, and laugh like old times.

We picked up our rental car and built some time for ourselves between our time in SF and Tahoe when we visited Monterey, having time at the coast and going out to eat between family visits. The California coast is the most gorgeous place I’ve seen alongside of the Pacific Northwest. It speaks to my soul. Which is why it was incredibly hard to leave but something I knew deep down that we needed to do. We are very happy to be getting married in the Carmel/Monterey area next summer though!

Truth be told, the last time we visited Tahoe in July 2020 it was a bit rocky as that’s when John and I told his family we were moving. There was a lot of shock, disbelief, and sad vibes which made the trip sort of a hard one. We wanted to be together and to tell them in person. But one whole year later, Tahoe 2021 was just what the doctor ordered. It was full of fun, surprises, family and friend time, and also healing. It felt almost like it was before we left which was so nice. For those of you who have ever moved away and done something different, you know what I mean when you go back for the first time. Although I had lived in California for over 12 years and was recently reconnected with my family in Texas, John has never lived this far away from his family so it’s a whole different experience for him.

Our Tahoe house was incredible with the most amazing views and patio. We had a party outside one night with a group of friends who came out for the weekend alongside John’s sister Rosie and Dad. Of course we went on our annual Tahoe boat trip which was such a ham of a time! Tahoe in the summer is gorgeous! I love it in the winter too but since I don’t ski or snowboard the summer is more fun for me. Def do a boat ride and kayak in the lake when you go!

We experienced the most amazing crisp, cool, and foggy weather, as well as the hottest weather I’ve ever experienced in California! On our drive out of Tahoe through Sacramento, the temp got up to 113 degrees! That was just insane. We stopped for wine tasting in a nicely air conditioned place to break up the heat!

After Tahoe we spent another couple days in Monterey again with John’s mom and finalizing things with our wedding venue. I am so excited about it! We are so happy to get married where we made so many memories over the years and share that with my family, who have never been to Monterey or Carmel areas.

Coit Tower, North Beach

The last 2 days of our trip was back in San Francisco. We dropped off the rental car, stayed 2 nights in a hotel in Union Square, and enjoyed our remaining time in the city. We had last rounds of drinks with friends and John and I explored North Beach as a date for our last day. North Beach was where I first moved way back in 2008 before settling in Alamo Square. It really brought me back to my early 20’s and just how different the city was then. There is a special place in my heart for North Beach, it was my first home far away from home.

We enjoyed the shit out of California on our trip. Made great memories, had nostalgic moments, made plans for our future wedding and future visits, but we were ready to come home to our life in Texas with our baby cat. It was a sweet goodbye.

California will always have my heart, and I’m certain we will live there again at some point in our lives. But we are enjoying the adventures and living in the moment and are excited to see where life will take us! Until next time, Cali ❤

Happy Halloween from the Vampiric Counsel of Staten Island

It’s my favorite day and time of year – Happy Halloween! This year we decided to be Nadja & Laszlo from one of our favorite shows on FX, What We Do In The Shadows. We love this show so much and scored these amazing Victorian vampire costumes from Halloween Costumes.

We are also big fans of the original movie but the show has a completely different vibe so they can’t really be compared. I think it’s some of the best comedy on TV right now, it’s worth a watch if you haven’t seen it and is available on Hulu.

I love her little Dolly so much! I tried to find it online but no one makes a replica – just art (which is also fabulous). I decided to just photoshop her in for that extra fake hilarious look, but I really do want one in real life! This also has given me some creative ideas for my art shop – stay tuned!

Have a very safe Halloween! I’m already thinking about what we are going to be next year… If you ever need inspiration check out our costumes from years past! [ here; and here; also this; and this ]

Haunted Austin Ghost Tour by HEARSE

One thing everyone should do is subscribe to newsletters of happenings in your city or town, it’s the best way to find out about super cool stuff. DO512 has a really great newsletter, filled with events, new restaurants, best patios and all sorts of neat things I would never have known about all around Austin – and that’s how I learned about this amazing ghost tour.

I’m a ghost tour fanatic. Since I was young it’s something I’ve experienced with family members on vacations and something that I’ve continued on with John as we have our adventures together. I’ve done many different types of ghost tours all over but I’ve never had my own PRIVATE HEARSE until I came across Haunted ATX in a newsletter! I’ve also never really had a ghost tour in Austin before either so I was excited for the whole experience! We started the night off first with sushi happy hour at Uchi which is definitely one of our favorite things to do.

After filling up with sashimi we had a spooky beverage at the Halloween themed bar Gibson Street, where Sarah the Hearse driver picked us up. The amazing thing about the private tour is that they pick you up and drop you off anywhere in Austin (within a 15-20 minute radius) AND you can bring your own booze and snacks! She scooped us up and off to the notorious Driskill Hotel we went! We heard all about Jesse and the child who plummeted to their death down a flight of stairs, and even had access to parts of the hotel that were blocked off to guests. Our guide was amazingly animated and thorough so I knew we were going to have a great experience. Also, many years ago I stayed in the bridal suite with my sisters before a Longhorn game and we had a haunted night (there’s even a ghost bride here).

Afterwards we visited the Clay Pit, an Indian restaurant in a historic old general store (called the Bertram building) from the 1800’s. Apparently there were underground tunnels from the general store to the capitol building where folks used to hide gold. The tunnels also kept gentlemen discreet as they visited brothels. Apparently in the late 1800’s the family lived above the store upstairs and some children fell ill with typhoid fever and one died. There is reported paranormal activity here and also the basement where supposedly a prostitute was strangled to death. I captured a weird figure in my mirror shot, above, and generally felt that this was absolutely haunted.

We made a pit stop at the Tavern on Lamar, where I used to frequent and have their delicious wings back in the day. I had no idea it was one of the most haunted spots in town! By a ghost named Emily nonetheless who plays pranks on people upstairs. Maybe she left me alone because we share the same name? Reminds me that I need to go back to the Tavern to have some of those tasty wings….

Of course we had to stop at the Littlefield house on UT campus, which was always talked about as being the scariest place at UT. Funny enough, there was another ghost tour there as well discussing a famous murder that happened while I was at UT all those years ago- so they asked me to share my memories! I felt so old but also it was neat to provide context for the piano teacher Danielle Martin, who was murdered in 2003 by her TA who believed she had a microchip in her brain. He used a meat clever to “get it out” – which resulted in her unfortunate death.

We discussed many other strange events along the way throughout our hearse ride, from other murderers like Colton Pitonyak to ghosts that taunted our tour guide Sarah, to our favorite bars in town. It was one of the most thorough ghost adventures I’ve been on and I 10/10 recommend to even the most skeptical people out there. It’s a little discouraging to do ghost tours where you live because you think you’ve heard them all, but this super interesting twist of an experience was well worth it. Plus we got some coupons to use at the Clay Pit and we want to go back and see if we can see anything else in the mirrors upstairs! (and also want some delish curry)

If you ever find yourself wondering if you should book a private hearse ghost tour, the answer is yes – yes you should. Haunted ATX also provides tours by van that fits upwards of 11-13 people, and hearse tours fit max of 6. Go out there and explore the ghosts, people!

Have a safe Halloween! Stay tuned for our costumes…

Best Crime Podcasts for Spooky SZN

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a true crime addict, from long before Serial made true crime podcasts a thing. From a very young age I’ve been fascinated by crime and murderers. I toyed with the idea of being a Criminologist my senior year of high school and wrote an epic paper about the commonalities between mass murderers and serial killers being basically white men with similar mental health illnesses growing up with a history of abuse (no shocker this is now widely known but for a 17 year old in the early 00’s I thought I was onto something!)

I have listened to a BUTT LOAD of true crime podcasts over the years, some of them have been amazing and others not so much. To celebrate that spooky season is now upon us, here are my favorite true crime podcasts to keep you company as you countdown to Halloween.

True Crime Podcasts

  • The following list is broken out by standalone episode series. Meaning, they are not dedicated to a particular story. You can pick and choose the episodes you want to listen to as they are different every week. These are my favorite to pick up when I want a one-off adventure.

1. Crime Junkie – it’s no wonder this is the top of the list, Ashley Flowers is amazing at telling stories in such a captivating way that is easy to follow and digestible. She features so many stories that I’ve never heard before and her co-host and best friend Brit is the perfect balance to Ashley. Plus- I LOVE their voices (which is truly important when you pick a podcast). I love this podcast so much I’ve been a Patreon for years and will continue to do so because I believe in Ashley’s mission. She created the Podcast network Audiochuck and co produces many other crime podcasts that will also be on this list. She works with the Indianapolis Crime Stoppers unit and really wants to make a difference on spreading the word for missing persons cases. If you truly are curious about learning more about how you can help and only have one podcast you can devote to true crime, this is it. You can hear her devotion to victims and their families on their quest for answers. Also, I’m a big fan of the production and music. 10/10

2. Park Predators – co created by Ashley Flowers but hosted and investigated by Delia D’Ambra, Park Predators is a themed podcast over the last two summers around missing persons cases and murderers that have happened within national parks across America. This is something I find fascinating especially since John and I have hiked throughout much of California’s parks and even here in Texas. We listened to this podcast as we moved across country, conveniently as we drove through Utah and Colorado. Again, it being part of AudioChuck means that the production overall is great. 10/10

3. Killer Queens – sister duo Tori and Tyrella are the sweetest southern liberal ladies with a knack for telling chilling tales but mixed in with 90s references to lighten it up. They have so much content, from story overviews to mixtapes to doc jam reviews – it’s definitely worth it to be a Patreon like myself. Because true crime can be hard to discuss, their sisterly chemistry makes it lighter. The one downside is that their recordings tend to be rather longwinded (almost 1.5 hours) and sometimes come in two parts. I personally prefer more streamlined and concise narration and less straying away from the script (when it comes to true crime material), but I thoroughly enjoy their perspectives and they have a cute sisterly vibe. Also it’s worth noting that they are usually pretty biased. 9/10

4. Going West – this is a newer podcast I recently came across that I have devoured. Hosts Daphne and Heath discuss a new case each week and share a lot of stories that are not widely known. They are very precise and streamlined in their story telling which makes them engaging to follow. The production value is also very good. Episodes are around 45 minutes each and they are pretty unbiased, IMO, in their explanations. 9/10

5. Morbid – I also just recently got into this podcast though it’s been around for a while. So far I am really digging the energy of the hosts Ashleigh and Alaina – they are really fun and witty but super smart. I love their perspectives and how they try to understand different angles, but also they seem really fun, like people I would love to be friends with. Of course talking about murders and disappearances can be hard so their dynamic is a breath of fresh air. New episodes come out each week though they have plenty to choose from! 9/10

6. Anatomy of Murder – Anna and Scott, former homicide prosecutor and Deputy Sheriff, team up to dissect a crime from all angles. They share a lot about their previous process and what to do and not to do during an investigation, including all of the red flags. This is a pretty straight forward and sometimes dry angle, but every now and then I like just hearing about the facts. 8/10

7. Women & Crime – Hosts Meghan and Amy, two criminologists, cover female focused stories each episode and thoroughly discuss how women are treated in the criminal justice system. I’ve heard some outlandish cases from this podcast that are riveting. Think – a lot of Betty Broderick type material. And it’s really cool to hear women with previous experience share their insight and tips. 8/10

8. Morning Cup of Murder – Korina hosts this quick podcast where she gives you the highlights of a crime that happened on this day in history. Episodes are usually 10-15 minutes each so it’s perfect for literally making your morning cup of coffee while getting caught up on your murder history. I love the concept of this show. I don’t listen all the time but it’s nice for when you need something short. Of course, due to time, she doesn’t go too deep into anything, but you do get to hear random crimes from all over the world. 7/10

9. My Favorite Murder – ok so this might be controversial but this is my honest opinion and I had to include them on this list. I was THEE biggest MFM fan for years, and I’ve seen them live multiple times in the past. They are arguably one of the largest if not the largest crime podcast in modern age. And they do deserve that because Karen and Georgia are amazingly talented women who are hilarious. And for someone who doesn’t know much about true crime but loves comedy – this is the podcast for you. This is an excellent first touch point in the crime community. It really feels like a community – there are a lot of perks if you join in on their club or Facebook groups. However, over time, I really felt bored. At the time they came out there wasn’t a lot of mainstream true crime material that was weekly and not dedicated to one particular case. So they definitely are innovators for sure. I just felt that the more I listened the more I really wanted the facts of the crimes. I wanted to know what specifically was going on without it sounding too biased – and also, they go in and out of their own dialogue so much that it’s incredibly hard to follow most of the time. To me it feels more like a comedy podcast that chit chats about murder throughout their hangout session. And yes that is fun sometimes and I’m not taking anything away from them – I love the whole Stay Sexy Don’t Get Murdered vibe. I just grew out of casual murder chit chat and graduated to listen to former criminologists and investigative journalists provide immense storytelling quality. 7/10

  • The following list encompasses my favorite crime podcast series, meaning the entire season surrounds one story and the episodes need to be listened to in order to fully grasp the situation. Even though it’s nice to pick up random episodes whenever you want as you embark on a long walk, I prefer the build of a fascinating story over multiple episodes.

1. CounterClock – Of course another Audiochuck show is the top of my list, but Delia D’Ambra is the best on this series. The first two seasons are about different murders that happened in North Carolina (Denise Johnson and Stacey Stanton), while the third season focuses on an unsolved murder case in Indiana (the infamous Pelley family murders). It is riveting to listen to and completely bingeworthy. I personally listened to season 3 within a week. 10/10

2. Up and Vanished – Host Payne Lindsey investigates what happens to missing persons over various seasons. Season 1 focused on Tara Grindstead, who was missing for over 10 years when he started the podcast. What I found intriguing about season 1 was that Payne, a documentary filmmaker, had no experience as an investigative journalist, chronicled his journey on how he met various folks who helped him SOLVE THE CASE IN REAL TIME. When I listened to this it felt inspiring, like MAYBE I CAN DO THIS! And maybe someday I can! His first podcast was so successful that he has since launched multiple other podcasts and investigations, even on TV, including Atlanta Monster about the missing children of Atlanta in the 80s, additional seasons of Up And Vanished, and his newer show Dead and Gone, a unique show about the missing people who have attended Grateful Dead concerts. Definitely check him out! 10/10

3. True Crime Bullsh** – Ok, so this is an incredibly thorough podcast about specific serial killer cases that are mostly unknown to the public. Seasons 1 and 2 focused on Israel Keyes, with Season 3 on female murderer Kelly Cochran. This podcast has a large amount of detail, so if you are fascinated by either of these murderers this show definitely has tons of information, but can be a bit dry. I will say I never knew about Kelly Cochran and listened to that season while I was still living in SF, while I was on walks throughout Golden Gate Park. It’s not for the faint of heart and the episodes are very long – you really have to be in the mood for this one, but you can’t deny the amount of detail and research that goes into this outstanding production. 8/10

4. Suspect – THIS is my current obsession, and I’ve only listened to half of the episodes so far, but I am so intrigued! It’s about an unsolved murder that happened at a Halloween party in Seattle in 2008, and sort of a “whodunit” of different suspects in costumes. You think you know who did it but then you second guess yourself. Hosts Matthew Shaer and Eric Benson do an amazing job of keeping things interesting while unlocking the truth. I can’t wait to see how this unfolds! 9/10

5. The Orange Tree – I lived in Austin and attended UT while the murder of Jennifer Cave happened in 2005, and even know someone who testified in trial. This podcast came out in 2020, as new UT students Tinu and Haley wanted to dive deeper into the strange story of Jennifer’s murder, how she was dismembered and how the suspects fled to Mexico. They did a great job unraveling the story in an intriguing way, even for listeners unfamiliar with the tale. Episodes are on the shorter end and concise. 8/10

6. Tom Brown’s Body – Skip Hollandsworth of Texas Monthly hosts the strange and mysterious disappearance and death of Tom Brown, a teenager in the panhandle of Texas several years ago. I was hooked instantly. This is an exceptional production (would you expect anything less from Texas Monthly?) and I absolutely LOVE Skip’s voice. Side note, I even bought his book The Midnight Assassin about the first serial killer in Austin called the Servant Girl Annihilator. But back to the podcast – I still talk about it to this day! Like what really happened there? 10/10

7. Bear Brook – Two mysterious barrels with four bodies are found in a park in New Hampshire, 15 years apart. Their discovery changes the course of modern day investigations, and links a man across the country through genealogy, after another death. Jason Moon covers this tale full of many twists and turns. I loved it and binged it over a week. 9/10

8. LISK (Long Island Serial Killer) – This is an unsolved case that is currently being investigated, about the deaths of sex workers buried throughout the coast of Long Island, NY, after the search for a missing woman. How are they connected? What is happening to these women? Why are there no answers? Chris Mass narrates and provides incredible detail and insight. 8/10

9. Cold – the disappearance of Susan Powell is something that haunts me to this day. When I first heard about this case, I researched it for clues. Every documentary, trial, and even this podcast – I ate up. Her story is heartbreaking as much as it is completely bizarre. This is an incredibly well made podcast about her horrendous situation. I promise you will binge this. 10/10

10. To Live And Die in LA – an aspiring actress goes missing from her Hollywood apartment and Rolling Stone journalist Neil Strauss was tasked by the family to get answers. Season 1 is the story of missing person Adea Shabani while season 2 focuses on the disappearance of Elaine Park. I got into this podcast quickly because of how compelling Neil is as a journalist. 9/10

  • The following are non-fiction and folklore spooky stories that are really fun and a lighter listen.
  1. Deadly Manners – this is a few years old but I still love this show. It’s a “whodunit” with immense Clue vibes, set in the 1950s. Tons of celebrities voice the characters, like Kirsten Bell and Anna Chlumksy, and the sound effects makes you feel as if you are really there in the middle of the house and murder mystery! It’s a super fun one. 10/10
  2. Full Body Chills – this is another project from Ashley Flowers and Audiochuck, but this time they are short stories dramatically narrated mostly by Ashley (sometimes the authors or others). Think of Are You Afraid of the Dark or Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark vibes. They are about 20 minutes each and only come out in October for the last couple of years. Perfect for a fall walk while you select your pumpkin! 10/10
  3. Lore – This is an award winning podcast about the darker side of history – true life scary stories, narrated by Aaron Mahnke. There is also an accompanied Amazon series with dramatic re-enactments, but it’s really fascinating to explore folklore behind some of the most popular wives tales. His voice is very soothing and don’t recommend for long drives though! 9/10

Texas Swimmin’ Summers

After living in the Bay Area for over 12 years, this summer is the first real hot one I’ve had in over a dozen years. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the weather of San Francisco – most people complain about the fog and constant 55 degree coastal breeze. I miss it very much each and everyday. However, having a summer where I can wear shorts and swim regularly has been a really nice change!

John and I took advantage of the summer sun and swimming whenever we could, and I’m the tannest I’ve been since I was 23. Here is a list of our favorite outdoor activities this season.

  1. East Side Hotel Pool

Day passes to this hip hotel on the East Side are about $40 per person for half day, either 12-4pm or 4-8pm. We decided to stay the night and take full advantage of this pool, so we got a last minute deal on Hotel Tonight for $100 for a badass room and view. Parking was free and we swam both days for only $20 extra of what would have been a half day activity. It was right after we got engaged and felt like continuing to celebrate, and a much better deal IMO. I love this hotel!

2. Lake Travis

Everyone needs to experience a boat day at Lake Travis at least ONCE throughout their life! I remember doing party boats back in the day when I was a college student at UT. This summer our pals rented out a lake house with a view from AirBnb for the month of June. We had lovely swimming day together where I got completely burnt for the first time in YEARS. Definitely make friends with the neighbors – they gave us a free evening boat ride to catch the sunset!

3. Barton Creek Greenbelt

Although I lived in Austin throughout the 00’s while in college, I never swam in the Greenbelt! HOW is this possible?! Most of the time I was too busy with school or work, or it was super dry without much water. This summer we finally made it happen and it was awesome! John loved it and had never experienced anything like this natural wonder out in CA (though there’s lots of swimming holes outside of Sacramento close to Auburn!)

4. Tubing the Guadalupe Horseshoe Bend

In central Texas, you TUBE in the summer. I grew up tubing the Guadalupe horseshoe regularly. My dad wrote a murder mystery eco-thriller about a death along the river when I was in high school. I took John on this river trip the first time he came to Texas back in 2014, but we haven’t been since. We decided to go with our friends Jen and Ian who we regularly explore with one Saturday afternoon. It was so crowded! The water was pretty low and took us about 2 hours to float the shoe. The part that always bothers me is getting stuck in a whirlpool while the rest of your party swirls past you, but luckily it’s pretty quick. Also when the water is low your butt hits the rocks so it’s great to have a tube with a hard bottom.

I still laugh about our first trip down the river; we recently visited Shiner brewery and John wore a Shiner trucker hat he purchased. With a 6 pack of Lonestar in tow, some dudes who tubed next to us took one look at John and said “That man there- this isn’t his first rodeo! He’s a true Texan” – and I corrected them and said “Actually it IS his first rodeo, and he’s from San Francisco!” – the LOOK on their faces was priceless. But John is great like that – he fits in wherever he goes ❤

5. Barton Springs Pool

Barton Springs is THEE quintessential natural pool in Austin. There is a small fee to enter the park but there is a “free” side on the other side of the barrier where folks bring their dogs, coolers, and party. The natural pool has tons of algae so it’s a bit slippery and some adjustment if you aren’t used to it, but the cold refreshing water in a unique setting is beautiful and a great experience! Plus you can canoe or kayak out into Town Lake.

6. Port Aransas Beach

We originally got the cutest Airbnb in Port Aransas for John and I’s birthday week this past February, but decided to postpone until summer to celebrate my sister Bryana’s birthday instead and take full advantage of summer activites. This was the ultimate place to stay not far from the water, with a private pool and John and I had our own private suite!

It was so fun! I enjoyed getting in the pool multiple times a day – I was so incredibly tan after this trip and all the other swimming outings we’ve had. We had our own private golf cart that we drove all around the island which was fun and something I’ve never done before. It had a lot of Weekend at Bernie’s vibes.

I remember going to this shark beach tourist store when I was a kid, so naturally my sister and I had to get a pic.

This was also John’s first true beach weekend in warm water. Every time I’ve tried to take him to the beach in the past my family has stepped in and said he wouldn’t like it because he’s from California and the Pacific Ocean is gorgeous (which it IS). But the gulf also has its own natural beauty as well!

Also there was a school of baby crabs that floated in the water and freaked out my niece, it was super bizarre. We had a lot of fun with our family making memories!

7. Austin Motel Pool

I’ve never swam at the pool at Austin Motel but we bought passes for the Purple Rain night and it was adorable! They also have evenings where they show movies and you can float in the pool all night. It’s definitely something you need to get in advance because of the size (especially during COVID).

As summer 2021 comes to a close, I’m very thankful for creating new memories with John and our family and friends. I admit I can’t wait for the fall weather and we all know that Halloween is my favorite! I’m already planning for our Halloween costume reveal 🙂

We’re Engaged!

On our 8th anniversary of our first date, John and I got engaged!

I sorta had a feeling something was different when John decided to plan a weekend getaway for our anniversary, the weekend after we came home from New Orleans. I am the planner in this household – not because I have control issues, but John doesn’t really have strong opinions about where we stay or what we do, he’s so open and go with the flow. Someone has to plan! And it *normally* ain’t him… 😉

He booked us this beautiful remote cabin in the countryside of Wimberley, TX. If you aren’t familiar, Wimberley is a very cute artsy small town between Austin and New Braunfels located on the river with the most gorgeous scenery. A lot of people get married here or come for the big flea markets or antique shopping or craft fairs. It’s a sweetie place and super unique.

The first night we decided to head down to Gruene for dinner and drinks at Gruene Hall. This was the first place I took John to when he came to Texas to meet my family way back in 2014, we floated the river here, and we have fond memories. We initially talked about floating the river that weekend but we had so much rain that I didn’t feel safe (and it was overcast the entire time!).

After wining and dining in Gruene and shopping at the general store (where we got THEE CUTEST ornament of Gruene Hall – yes I am obsessed with Christmas tree ornaments) we opted to head home to enjoy our cabin. It was already getting late and more rain was en route. I had Google maps take us the most direct way back through the back roads which was entirely pitch black! If you are familiar with the weather in Texas you know that it can flash flood at a moments notice. We were about 5 minutes from the house and our last crossing was “Slime Bridge” – and we couldn’t cross at all! After getting out of the car to look at the water directly in front of our car (which I can see how other cars can get swept away!) we decided to turn around and head back a different way – which was another 40 minutes! On the flip side, John became obsessed with this bridge and loved that we crossed paths, who names a bridge “Slime Bridge”?!

This is Slime Bridge on a “normal” rainy day. We were driving in heavy rain after it had rained for weeks straight! There was NO WAY we were going to cross this path.

After safely returning to our cabin, we enjoyed some wine in the hot tub before watching a documentary on Roku about pasta. Named, The Shape of Pasta, Chef Evan Funke visits small towns in Italy and receives training from Nonnas on how to create the town pasta shape. He provides a thorough history lesson into each shape and brings them all back to his award winning restaurant, Felix, in Los Angeles. I love pasta so much I was purely fascinated by this! (AND – the next time I’m in LA I am eating at Felix!!!)

The next morning, we enjoyed our coffee in the hot tub, got ready for our day, and headed out for lunch when…John proposed! He tricked me into thinking that we were taking a timed selfie under the Live Oak tree, when he set it up as a video. So here I am, posing, asking how many seconds we have until the timer goes off….when John got down on one knee. While the video is ours and we are not making it public (not even with our family), I will share he did say that he loved me an incredible amount and couldn’t imagine life without me. It was very sweet and totally caught me off guard in the moment.

The ring is custom made from Avant Garde. John brought them his family diamonds, passed down from his mom (jewels from his Grandmother’s side of the family, some as old as the late 1800’s!). I love that it is a modern take on a vintage look. It’s totally me!

It felt like an out of body experience! We didn’t know what to do but we were hungry, so we went over to Creekside Cookers for BBQ and beers to celebrate. Afterwards, we went back to the cabin to drink champagne on the wrap around porch that John was saving. It was so sweet and special. We decided immediately that we didn’t want to tell anyone or talk to family for a full 24 hours so we could be with each other and soak it all in. Ahhh take me back…

A celebratory feast for two.

After basking in each other’s love and arms for the afternoon, we got dolled up and headed to Trattoria Lisina for drinks and pasta. I felt so beautiful! We had so much fun at this cutesy spot. And we decided we would get very small matching pasta tattoos! And that we wanted to visit Italy during our honeymoon (at least part of it 🙂 )

Our final day together before we broke the news to our family and friends was spent in downtown Wimberley walking along the river, having brunch at Ino’z, and doing some shopping.

We literally stared at the cabin with precious memories in our hearts, kissed, and parted ways to tell our families the news! John shared with me that he actually called my dad before our trip to ask his permission, which of course he said yes, and then told him not to share with anyone else. So when we called all of my sisters – they 100% had no idea and were all shocked! Everyone was thrilled for us, and in just a few short weeks we would be in California to celebrate with John’s family and our friends in SF! While I am not a super traditional person, my entire family is so it was nice to see that John talked to my dad beforehand.

A few days later my parents came into town to take us to dinner at Eberly and gave us beautiful crystal champagne flutes. We had champagne FOR DAYSSSS ❤

John and I were never in a rush to get married but we always knew it would happen for us someday. We are not having our own children. We plan on being together as a couple and should years down the road we want to adopt, we will cross that path. I have never felt that biological clock ticking and do not feel the pressure that I know so many of my friends have in regards to having kids before a certain age. Because of this, we were always happy being together no matter what “status” we were. Honestly we are sorta married in a way because we are already registered domestic partners in the state of California (this happened last year, when I lost my job due to COVID and got on John’s insurance). We are just happy to have found each other – where we can completely be ourselves. There’s never been any games or drama, we just are who we are. I am so happy to have met John, he is the perfect yin to my yang and we make a good team! I can’t wait to see what adventures life brings us together.

We are currently planning our wedding for next summer in Carmel Valley, CA. We are excited! And enjoying every moment.

New Orleans Roadtrip, May 2021

I absolutely love visiting New Orleans! The culture and vibe of the people, food, and place make it all so unique and enthralling compared to the day to day of other cities in the US. Every time I go I learn something new, connect with something or someone different, and dive even deeper into the cultural melting pot of the south.

Since we’ve been in COVID over a year John and I decided to do a roadtrip from Austin, stopping in Houston to stay at my sister’s place, and continuing onto NOLA to basically eat ourselves to death. We’ve done the drive before and while although parts can be so unbearable, it’s much cheaper than flying. True story flights were $600 roundtrip when I checked out of ATX! Plus, the drive reminds us of True Detective Season 1 so we rewatched it prior to our trip for inspiration.

We went over Memorial Day weekend since we had an extra day built in, so we knew this was going to be a short trip. We loved staying over in the Irish Channel by the Garden District when we visited in 2016, so we opted for an Airbnb in the same area.

First thing first we hit up Mahoney’s on Magazine Street for some delish po-boys. I am not normally a po-boy type, but when I want one I want it while I’m in NOLA. The crispy crunchy shrimp with the fixins and soft bread with hot sauce and mayo. It’s amazing and trust me on this – this is one thing you need to try when you are there!

We then headed over to Frenchman Street once things started opening up around 5pm for early drinks before getting too crowded. We are fully vaccinated but most people in NOLA don’t wear masks, so we wanted to have time before things there got real crazy. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the debauchery of my 20s and drunken nights in NOLA – but not this trip! We were going for a more casual day drinking vibe with chill nights at nice restaurants.

Maybe I’m older or maybe the pandemic had me feeling safe and sound in my clean home, away from all the germs, being around people felt super weird! Isn’t it strange the things we did all of the time before that feel dangerous now? Blowing out candles on a birthday cake that will be shared with others, working out in a gym and sharing weights, riding public transportation and holding onto the rail. It made being in the Frenchman district feel super adventurous!

After an interesting happy hour with a full cop arrest and intervention on the sidewalk, we walked through the art market, bought a few unique items, and then walked across the French quarter, window shopping along the way.

We made our way towards Lafayette park in the Warehouse district for dinner at Sofia, voted best new Italian restaurant of 2019. It didn’t look like much online or once we got there, as it’s more casual, but let me tell you this was the best pasta we’ve had in ages!

We still talk about how good Sofia was to this day! I haven’t yet found my place in Austin with delish fresh pasta that is to die for. But until then I’ll keep searching for the perfect noodle…

Afterwards we walked through Lafayette Park (which I had never done before) and snapped the most beautiful spooky shots. I love the mystery and magic of NOLA each and every time I visit. I always do a ghost or voodoo tour, but we didn’t have the time this go-around. But NOLA is so spooky you don’t even need to go on a tour to feel how vibrantly haunted it is.

Afterwards we went to this snazzy little cocktail bar + lounge called Bar Marilou and it was the cutest lil spot! Due to COVID you had to make reservations in advance for limited capacity inside. I’m so glad we did this because this was one of the coolest NOLA bars I’ve ever been to. We got caviar and enjoyed the end of our day of driving and exploration before heading back towards Magazine Street.

After a long night of good rest we were pumped for a whole day of exploration in the Big Easy. We walked through the Garden District to admire the beautiful homes. Every time I’m in the area and see them I think about Anne Rice and Interview with the Vampire. She lived in the Garden District for a long time and then moved to San Francisco. And also – Interview with the Vampire was filmed in both locations! She must be a really neat lady. I love thinking about what a conversation with her would entail!

Obsessed with this rhinestone fringe bandana from Gato Denim.

It was a hot day and many people were out and about. I initially wanted to go to Cafe Du Monde for beignets but the line was outrageous (and I mean, OUTRAGEOUS), so we checked out the view and decided to save the beignets for later.

The first thing we did was get a decent brunch in the French Quarter followed with a visit to the Museum of Death. I had heard about it and thought it sounded interesting, as you know I’m a huge fan of true crime documentaries. A good friend of mine created the Netflix docu-series about Henry Lee Lucas (The Confession Killer) and I knew there would be some weird gems inside that I had to share!

The Museum of Death was a bit more of a roadside attraction than I thought it would be. They did have some cool original artworks from murderers on death row, and more detailed information/police composite sketches/crime scene details that were interesting, but they also had a lot of campy stuff in poor taste that felt a bit strange. All in all it was $15, but it’s not someplace I would visit again.

Walking around Bourbon was so weird on a Sunday mid day, because it wasn’t really all that busy. We were able to walk right into the historic Pat O’Briens for a super-duper strong hurricane.

Of course, we explored all of the French Quarter, even walking by the infamous haunted LeLaurie mansion!

I love the architecture of old New Orleans. So much rich culture and history. It was founded by prostitutes and thieves from France and also burned down twice 6 years apart! So much mysticism exists it permeates from everything you come across.

We drank along our route in the French Quarter, as one does, exploring and shopping throughout the niche NOLA markets. We tried to get beignets several times but it just wasn’t in the cards for us that day. So many people were waiting in endless lines at every beignet cafe we came across! That city loves those beignets…

Meanwhile, our last night in NOLA was spent out on Magazine street – which I had never experienced before! We freshened up at our Airbnb before walking over to the cutesy neighborhood. We got a beer at the Bulldog Bar before heading to Cavan, an adorable vintage house-turned into bar and restaurant, for cocktails. While we only had cocktails, next time I come back I want to dine here. The inside was magical full of Victorian chandeliers and bright bold interior design.

This side of NOLA was way more my speed. It was cute, cozy, a bit more eccentric and less crowded / less touristy. I would 100% stay here and hangout here again. Our dinner reservations were just around the corner at Atchafalaya, a real NOLA creole & Cajun restaurant.

Everything was so damn delish! Eat here, you won’t regret it.

After several days and meals of Cajun and heavy cream southern concoctions, we slept like babies from food comas. Our last morning before hitting the long drive on I-10 back to Texas was spent waiting for those damn beignets (for 45 minutes!) and finally exploring some cemetaries. While John was pretty pissed we waited so long for those beignets, he loved their pillowy softness and totally would get them again.

Thank you New Orleans! We ate, we drank, we explored – we wore our masks when we could and we enjoyed the twisty winding roads of the old French Quarter and beyond. Thank you for always being a fun culinary hot spot! Until the next time we cross paths (probably in several more years)…

Barcelona 2020

After a glorious few days in Portugal we made our way to Barcelona as the 2nd destination for our February 2020 birthday trip (before the world closed down). This is the second part of our birthday trip beginning with Lisbon + Sintra. We arrived later in the evening and checked into our amazingly central and affordable hotel, Hotel Ciutat de Barcelona, in the El Born district just next to the Gothic neighborhood. It was both John and I’s first time in Barcelona or Spain for that matter (neither of us ever studied Spanish and never studied abroad so we were pretty excited). I wanted to be in an area with tons of restaurants, bars, and shops in walking distance but I also wanted to be close to the Gothic area as it’s one of the oldest parts and most historic. El Born seemed really fun and our hotel was in the perfect location! We spent our first night walking around El Born, grabbing dinner and drinks and resting up for our big first full day of exploration.

The next day we walked over to La Sagrada Familia, stopping along the Arc de Triomf for some photos and grabbing croissants and coffee. Of course due to popularity we got our tickets in advance, but on a weekday in February it was not busy at all. We spent a good hour and a half walking around, exploring every nook and cranny and listening to the guided tour. It’s incredible the amount of work and planning for this cathedral and Gaudi’s vision! It’s absolutely beautiful inside – the beams and posts are similar to trees and looking up is like looking up in a forest. The lighting is gorgeous and it feels peaceful.

Afterwards we walked by Casa Mila and throughout the Eixample neighborhood. I almost thought about staying there as it’s more of a neighborhood and less touristy than Gothic/El Born areas, but since it was our first time we were happy with our hotel location and choose to explore other areas when we could.

Gaudi’s influence is apparent throughout Barcelona. It’s such a distinct vibe unique to the city and we were all about it. Just walking through different neighborhoods and checking out the eccentric architecture was a fun activity in itself!

After walking around for a good few miles we had a delicious lunch in the Gothic district with the most amazing croquettes. I became seriously addicted to croquettes on this trip and even now dream of biting into their golden brown cheesy deliciousness. We decided to explore the Barcelona History Museum for free and learn more about how Barcelona came to be a powerhouse in the Iberian peninsula. There are ancient ruins underneath the city that you get to walk through too!

We then grabbed some empanadas and went to Terrace La Isabella for a rooftop happy hour and saw beautiful views of the city. Absolutely stunning with our divine weather! Also there aren’t many skyscrapers in Barcelona, the views are mostly hills and cathedrals. However the 1992 Olympics brought some modern architecture into play.

But really, Barcelona is SO much fun! I was really impressed with the history, the AMAZING food, endless options, fun walks, good wine – the list goes on and on. I would gladly go back and spend more time there – the energy is great. Kinda reminded me of parts of Paris and also parts of NYC.

We ended the night with an AWESOME night out at the most adorable alley spot in El Born for happy hour followed by a delicious Spanish meal for John’s bday! Iberian ham is the way to go, especially paired with fresh sangria. I can’t remember the name of this spot we went to but it was both our favorite place during our trip.

Our next day we spent at the morning at Las Ramblas markets and then rode public transit up to Park Guell just north of downtown. It’s a big hill to climb up to get to the top but it was a super interesting view and experience. There’s also tons of performing artists sprinkled throughout the climb, so beware if you feel yourself getting lost – you can hear faint singing to guide you back to your path 🙂

Park Guell was Gaudi’s vision for a utopian neighborhood in the early 1900’s and it looks sorta like a surrealist wonder. You have to go as early as you can because it will be crowded and hard to get photos without too many people in the background, but definitely check it out! We didn’t get tickets in advance but we were able to purchase them on our phones in line for a quicker entrance.

In the evening we went on a walking ghost tour and it was one of our favorite things we did together! We ate in the Gothic area and met our guide outside the steps of the Cathedral de Barcelona for an adventurous evening.

Our tour guide was originally from Mexico City but also sort of grew up in the suburbs of Houston – and we bonded over Texas. She was so incredibly rad and was an awesome story teller – there are so many messed up stories she shared from Barcelona’s history. Like how the Opera house had burned down multiple times or the Vampire of Barcelona who kidnapped and murdered children. We really enjoyed walking around, exploring, and hearing more about the dark tales of the city. We ended the night with drinks and bites in a cute bar by the water. She offered us goat brain! (it’s a delicacy)

Our last day we were supposed to go on a fun excursion riding bikes along the water to the wine country, complete with tastings and lunch – however our trip was unfortunately cancelled last minute. We didn’t let this stop us, so instead John and I picked a winery that looked good, was open and didn’t need reservations, and booked a car to get us there. It ended up being the most fun day in Alella!

We opted for Alta Alella Vineyard because it had the best reviews and also didn’t require reservations. I’m not kidding the cab dropped us off at the end of a dirt road in front of their gate, driving off with dust in our faces. There was an intercom that I pushed to speak to someone and John legit turned to me and said “what if they are closed or won’t let us in and we are stuck here” and voila – they opened the gate and we walked about half a mile in to the tasting room where we enjoyed amazing Cava. It was such a funny moment. He was briefly scared I got us into a tough situation.

Originally we weren’t going to do a full vineyard tour, as there was already another group with a reservation with a private Catalonian tour. However they invited us to join, and they spoke both Catalonian and English so it ended up being the perfect experience!

When you are determined, anything is possible. I’m so glad we persevered and went despite our plans changing. I would recommend this experience to anyone who spends a few days in the area.


We enjoyed a 15-20 minute walk from the vineyard back to town for a bomb dot com lunch at Cal Barquer. Check out this amazing Iberian pork tonkatsu! It melted in my mouth.

After our fun filled afternoon in Alella, our last full day in Barcelona was coming to an end. We made one last stop at the Picasso Museum just a few short blocks away from our hotel, followed by our last meal.

Of course there was tons of things we didn’t get around to experiencing, like a Flamenco show. But I wouldn’t have changed anything about our amazing trip. We ate delicious food, explored art and historical museums, saw beautiful sights crafted by Gaudi, walked a ghost tour, bought some fun souvenirs, and enjoyed the culture.

Barcelona was a VIBE and we were there for it. I would love to go back to Spain and southern France on another trip because it’s just so gorgeous, a nice change of slower pace, and delicious food and wine for days. Here are some tips if you find yourself in Barcelona:

  1. Endless food options! You can eat anything you want – we even had fantastic Thai. The food IMO was better here than in Portugal but I enjoyed cuisines from both countries.
  2. Make sure you try Iberian ham, multiple times, in different forms! Also – the croquettes!!! I will not say it enough how good they are.
  3. There is a lot of stuff to do in terms of nightlife, it’s sort of like NYC meets Paris – but chill. If you like those cities you’ll enjoy Barcelona.
  4. They have a rich history and don’t really discuss WW2 or the 1930’s. In fact they refer to that time as the Struggles and it’s kinda kept quiet.
  5. There is an ongoing independence crisis that seems to be growing through the last few decades. Catalonian people are very proud of their heritage and speak a different language (like the folks on our vineyard tour).
  6. Get tickets for Sagrada Familia in advance and opt for the guided tour.
  7. Spend time exploring Gaudi architecture and Park Guell!
  8. The markets at Las Ramblas has tons of food options and tastings from all corners of culture – visit at least once.
  9. Have few day drinks and then opt for a siesta.
  10. The best shopping is in El Born.
  11. We walked a ton and only rode public transit for our visit to Park Guell, so I can’t speak to the metro system but if you stay in El Born/Gothic area close to Las Ramblas you probably will walk to most things.
  12. Visit wine country if you have the time.
El Born, the cutest neighborhood and our favorite!

Thanks Barcelona! Until next time.