Sisters in California: The rest!

I’m sorry to tell you, but most of the glorious highlights of our trip stopped after Yosemite. It was a boring drive back on the 5, however we adjusted the plan and went west to Santa Monica so we could at least enjoy a bit of beach time and our last donuts (some of my all-time favorites). After that, it was hard to keep my mind off the cross-country move that would be taking place TWO DAYS LATER. I forced Elayne to come with me to get my oil changed, which she did not really enjoy, but we did try a yummy coffee shop in Atwater Village. But then we walked over a mile in sweaty summer LA sunshine, so win some, lose some, ya know?

We tried to go bowling, and unfortunately there was a two hour wait, so we could only eat tacos. (Note to self: reserve your spot for the bowling before getting the tacos.) Then that was that. I brought Elayne to the airport and packed my car up to leave the very next day.

What a trip, though! I’m glad we could pack so many awesome activities (and donuts) into our week together. Until next time… maybe in another five years?

Sentinel Dome trail

Sisters in California: Yosemite!

Anything I have to say about Yosemite seems very minuscule when compared to the beauty of the place itself. Our hostess was a true park expert, and she gave us great advice for planning the day, not to mention preparing a delicious and above-and-beyond breakfast in the morning. The park was crowded, of course, on a Sunday in summer, but it didn’t hinder our explorations at all. We parked at the far end of the village loop, rode the shuttle back in, and started by hiking the Mist Trail.

Yosemite Mist Trail

As we were climbing up the stairs and getting drenched by the waterfall, we saw a lovely little rainbow. iPhones are all waterproof now, right?!

Yosemite Mist Trail

After our hike, we rode the shuttle back to the car and drove up to Glacier Point. The views were breathtaking! I’ve been to Yosemite twice before (once as a baby), but this time felt like a whole new experience.

Glacier Point

There was a little bit of traffic, and it takes a while to drive around the park at any time, however with these views we certainly didn’t mind. We added an extra hike in at the end by taking the Sentinel Dome trail. At the end of the day, we were glad to have taken the extra two miles, because it was much less crowded and offered similarly incredible vistas to Glacier Point.

Sisters in California: Day 4

After our few days of fun in LA, it was time to head up the coast for further adventures. Maybe I should have organized the itinerary a little better so that we didn’t do the bulk of our driving on a Friday, but of course, hindsight’s 20-20.

We left early in the morning so that we would have time to make a few stops. First, we checked out Solvang, a sweet little Danish that seems straight out of a storybook.

Solvang

And you know we had to find more donuts! Nothing to see here…

SloDoCo

After a long drive and a bit of traffic delay, we made it to Napa and our tasting reservation slot at Domaine Carneros. Elayne had organized this portion of the trip, but I’m always happy to sit by and sip sparkling wines on any Friday afternoon.

Domaine Carneros

This vineyard ended up being our favorite in Napa.

Domaine Carneros

After the tasting, we checked into our fancy hotel—a little too fancy for the amount of time we were able to spend in it, but still a nice escape from LA. We drove into the nearby town of Yountville for pizza and, obviously, more wine. When in Rome…

Sisters in California: Day 3

It’s nice to have a visitor in LA, so that you can do all sorts of touristy activities that you might not necessarily do on a normal day. Like take a Warner Bros. studio tour:

Warner Bros studio tour

And hang out around Batmobiles:

Warner bros studio tour

I think this was the day we made waffles for breakfast at home using my mini waffle maker. And went to yoga. And were there donuts, too? There probably were.

Bird scooter LA

At night, we met a few friends for dinner at Grand Central Market, a good option for visitors since it’s casual and everyone can get something different. We opted for mango beers and Thai food. Elayne rode a Bird scooter for the first time. Then it was time to get home and rest up for our big weekend adventure…

IMG_0354.jpeg

Sisters in California: Day 2

Wednesday had to be one of the best California days I’ve had yet! We woke up early to eat breakfast at my number one neighborhood haunt, Kitchen Mouse. Then we hiked up to a secret swing in Elysian Park.

Elysian Park swing

I think we must have had donuts, too, since that seemed to be the theme of our trip.

After that, it was time to get ready for the wine safari. You heard that right. In Malibu, you can visit a farm/winery where they will drive you around in a safari bus to visit a giraffe, zebras, alpacas, etc.

Malibu Wine Safari

Of course we paid extra for a meet and greet with Stanley the Giraffe. It was the highlight of our trip.

Stanley the Giraffe

Look at that tongue! I think the animals are more of the draw than the wine at this particular wine safari, but the grounds are lovely to walk and ride around. And the sun came out exactly at the start of our tour.

Malibu Wine Safari zebras
Malibu Wine Safari

When the tour was over, we likely needed something to absorb the booze, so we decided to revisit one of the stops from our first California sister’s road trip five years ago, Neptune’s Net. It was just as good as we remembered, though we probably didn’t need to eat this entire plate of fried seafood right before dinner, but we’re on vacation, right?

Neptunes Net Malibu CA

We stopped at Point Dume on the way back to take in some gorgeous views of the coast. Then it was back into the city for dinner. I wasn’t doing it intentionally, but I realized I’d added mainly vegan restaurants to the itinerary. My sister and I aren’t vegan, but the options here are just that delicious!

Point Dume

Oh yeah, of course while we were in WeHo, we had to stop and see some more “famous walls of LA”. Here’s the one whose fame shocks me the most. But, when touristing, you gotta do what you gotta do!

LA Pink wall
Malibu Wine Safari

The Calm Before the Storm

Well, actually, it’s almost always a wild storm for me, because I have trouble sitting still for days at a time. But, here’s what’s happening: my sister comes to California for our likely-traditional every-five-year road trip; I somehow manage to sell all my furniture and pack all my belongings into my car by the time she leaves; I leave the very next day to drive across the country to my mom’s house in New Jersey, where I’ll stay for the rest of the summer. No sweat.

So, before that happens, I wanted to enjoy my last remaining solo days in LA (for now) by doing whatever seems worthy of my last days. I went for a glorious nature hike at Chantry Flats. Can you believe that such a place exists so close to this gigantic of a city?!

Chantry Flats goats
Chantry Flats

I drove down to Carlsbad to visit with friends, sing karoke, and spend a cloudy morning at the beach testing my new surfing skills. (And noticed they don’t quite hold up to California waves).

Tamarack Beach surfing

I took the Transcendental Meditation course in Los Feliz and had a few days there to explore a new-to-me neighborhood. And eat ice cream every day of that week. I’ll have to keep you posted on how TM differs from the mantra meditations I’ve been practicing daily for almost two years now, but I’m pleased with the results so far.

Los Feliz Los Angeles

The following week, I drove down to Newport Beach to fulfill all my teenage OC TV-show dreams. It’s been nice when the sun finally pokes through the clouds around 2 in the afternoon to combat our month of June Gloom.

Newport Beach

I hosted a see-ya-later bonfire in my backyard [tears]. I wonder if my grandma knew when she gifted me this vintage picnic basket that it would someday become the home of the perfect Pinterest-esque s’mores bar.

Smores bar


Last, but of course not least, friends and I scuttled over into the valley to eat the fluffiest pancakes in the world. These were worth the trek!

Cicis pancakes Tarzana

Later we spent the day climbing over rock beaches near Malibu and shopping at kooky vintage shops in Topanga.

Las Tunas beach

I’m sure going to miss this place!

Finding Your Tribe

I was sad to leave El Salvador and all of the adventurous, chill, and fun people I met on the retreat. Lucky for me, a lot of them live in LA, so I was already able to get ice cream with my new friend, Teri, and do more Buti yoga with Pixie. However, I’m a little bummed to feel like I’m finding my tribe in this city right as I’m about to leave again… [*life update here].

Surf Sweat Serve El Salvador

It’s been so fulfilling to find other people who want to build their lives into a grand adventure and who aren’t afraid to try something new on their own. I feel complemented and supported by others who aren’t cool with the, “Grow up and settle down” message in our society and who want to grow up and live their dreams while maintaining the playfulness and curiosity of childhood.

When I got back to LA, I spontaneously made a trip down to San Diego to see my friend Sara. We spent Saturday night singing karaoke songs in her living room and Sunday at the beach testing out our surf skills. We got tumbled by some waves, but that was OK. We were doing what we’ve always wanted to do and having a great time doing it.

Tamarack Beach

On the drive home, I got a message from my friend inviting me to a PRIDE dinner party at her house. Everyone was requested to bring rainbow foods or drink to celebrate the opportunity to be oneself and the gift of love for everyone. I wasn’t planning to go home or to the grocery store; I had brunch plans with another friend. What do you know, during brunch that friend told me she had a collection of rainbow superfood powders and we could definitely put together a rainbow menu item. We spent the afternoon making colorful tie-dye waffles (she also happened to have a peace sign mini waffle maker!) and I had the perfect thing to bring to the party.

rainbow waffles

I’m going to miss all of these people so much! But if there’s anything I’ve learned from living in different places, it’s that your tribe doesn’t die when you leave. Sometimes it gets even stronger as it spreads out and new members are added. And then you end up feeling like you can land anywhere and find a sense of belonging.

Surf Sweat Serve

Coming Home

Since I’ve gotten older and started traveling on more global adventures of my own, I am always trying to see how I can prolong the transformative effects of travel by making mini changes in my life when I get back home. As you can see, I’ve already started attempting to recreate the Covana Kitchen menu from our hotel. I did a pretty good job of replicating the fruit and chia pudding that was my favorite breakfast each morning.

Chia pudding

But beyond copying the hotel breakfasts, the event that had the biggest impact for me during the trip was definitely our beach cleanup. Perhaps it was being in an a country that is so untouched and underdeveloped, but I felt that you could really see the impact that our American consumerism and wastefulness has on other places. I’ve started making lists (and following them) of how I can make my own small changes.

El Salvador beach cleanup

Some things I do to be kinder to the Earth:

  • Carry reusable bags in the car- this one’s easy for me, since I’ve now lived in two cities that don’t offer plastic bags unless you pay for them. I wish all cities could be like this.

  • Bring a reusable cup- I use this one, but you can find them everywhere. I keep one in my car and one in my backpack so I’m never without. Living in LA, I often find myself grabbing coffee on the run, which usually comes in a paper cup with a plastic lid, and don’t forget the sleeve, which is sometimes also made of non-recyclable materials.

  • Ditch the plastic water bottles- This one is so simple in 2019. There are so many choices of cute bottles to choose from—even ones that keep your drink cold all day. No more buying plastic bottles that don’t last long and create a whole bunch of waste.

New habits I plan to change to make a difference:

  • 5-minute beach cleanups- I am going to start doing this during every beach visit. When we looked around during surf lessons in El Salvador, you could see a lot of trash lining the shores. And a beach day in the US usually holds the same views. Picking up trash while we’re enjoying the ocean will help keep plastic out of the sea and instill the message in our minds that we need to make sure it doesn’t come close in the first place.

  • Ditch all plastic- So, I’m good at brining my reusable mug and bag everywhere I go, but when I order a cold drink or I need silverware for my takeout and need a container, I’m pretty quick to forget my concerns about the environment. I don’t know why it happens so easily, but convenience often trumps what we know is right. The only solution, for me, is to make it more convenient to use my own reusable products. I’ve started putting hard limits on myself— I will not order something if it comes wrapped in plastic (sorry, favorite madeleine cookies from Starbucks) and skip silverware if I haven’t brought my own.

  • No new clothes!- I’ve learned a ton about sustainable fashion this year, thanks to the owners of GFCLA, the jiu-jitsu studio I taught at in Chinatown. Erin and Dennys also run an awesome vintage clothing store, where they salvage clothing that would normally be thrown into a landfill and create cool new designs. Fast fashion is NOT good for the environment, and I’m certainly guilty of wanting more clothes for cheap (Hi, Target and H&M) than quality clothing for expensive. I did the no new clothes rule once for a year, but I cheated by letting my mom buy me things and restock my wardrobe. This year, I want to do it for real. It’s totally possible, thanks to the array of consignment stores, vintage shops, or even hosting your own clothing swap like my friend Suzie did a few weeks ago. Some of my favorite pieces have been hand me downs from old roommates or similar swaps in Austin!

Clothing swap

I’m curious, are there any other changes you’ve made to your lifestyle to be more environmentally-friendly?

Playas and Pupusas

I’m back home in LA and missing our sweet retreat apartment—complete with bunkbed slumber parties and epic patio views— so much! Our last couple days in El Salvador were when we finally had a chance to kick back and relax. We had really front loaded the trip, because some retreaters were only able to stay for three days or five days, so a few people left on Wednesday after ziplining. Our end of the week was spent hanging by the pool, ordering massages, surfing, and doing yoga some more. I was a little tired for the fourth and final surf lesson, because we had just taken one of Pixie’s Buti Yoga classes. If you haven’t heard of it before, it’s this new, tribal dance style of yoga that is really popular among women, especially in the middle of the US. I LOVE it! It’s spreading its way out to the coasts, so if you’re looking to try something wild and new, see if there’s a class near you.

Puro Surf El Salvador

On our last night, we went back into the town of El Tunco to dance at the bar and eat pupusas. If you need one reason above all others to visit El Salvador, this would be it! Pupusas are these little corn tortilla pockets filled with whatever you like—beans, meet, veggies, cheese, etc.—and topped with a yummy tomato salsa and spicy cabbage slaw. Think quesadilla, but even better! They’re about 75 cents a piece in the town, so we had no trouble filling our bellies. 11/10 would recommend!

Pupusas El Tunco

Braving the Sea

I have to admit, of all the activities on the trip, surfing was the one I was looking forward to the least. Growing up, I always wanted to be a surfer chick, back when I was shopping at Pacific Sunwear and wearing puka shell necklaces. Then I got older and actually tried a lesson. Turns out, surfing was way harder than it looked on TV! It wasn’t as easy as snowboarding, which I’d picked up in about a day or two. Surfing hurt. The first lesson I took was on a real fiberglass board, so I ended up with a lot of scratches and bumps from getting tumbled around underwater. Oh well, I’d just have to choose another life path besides surfing.

Another issue: when I was younger, I liked swimming in the ocean. I’d body surf and boogie board without any concerns for safety, but somewhere along the way, I lost that fearlessness and began to prefer staying closer the shore. Sometimes I’ll swim out farther, but I’m usually very cautious to go underneath the waves and, when it’s time to come in, I’ll swim or walk quickly to shore without letting any of them interfere.

Puro Surf surfing lessons

I left for El Salvador feeling excited about the yoga and the waterfall jumping but pretty half-hearted about the prospect of catching waves. I thought might be able to stand up once or twice, but I probably wasn’t going to enjoy it. I was teaching on the retreat, though, so of course I would still join in and set a good example.

Two days later, we were lined up on the beach getting our first lesson from Marcelo, the founder of Puro Surf and the head instructor of their Academy Program. He led us in a breathing and stretching warmup that felt a lot like yoga. He broke down each of the steps in a simple way that we could repeat every time.

Puro Surf surfing lessons

Something about his instruction must have stuck with us, because we all stood up in the water on the first day, and the next, and the next. The ocean was crazy warm, and the waves were small but powerful—perfectly manageable for beginners, which the majority of us were. By day three, I was really getting the hang of it. I noticed that when I was out in the water, I didn’t think about anything else besides reading the wave, feeling it push me, and following the steps to get up onto the board. My mind felt completely clear for the first time in a while. Surfing was a lot like yoga.

Puro Surf surfing lessons

If the weather was sketchy or the waves too big, we would have our instruction in the hotel gym, just to make sure we were prepared for what we would see on the beach. One day, we even learned how to turn by riding skateboards outside the gym. I certainly never expected that at 31 years old I’d be rolling around a skatepark in El Salvador, but I guess there’s a time and a place for everything.

Puro Surf skate park

By the end of the trip, I had fallen in love with surfing. I wasn’t getting tumbled as often as the first two days, but I liked Marcelo’s main message. We were all going to get tumbled by the ocean at some point, so we had two choices. Choice number one: freak out! Choice number two: relax, stay calm, enjoy a little massage, and keep surfing. You can guess which option we all chose.

Puro Surf surfing lessons

Zipline Time

The last time I was in Central America, I skipped ziplining because I was too evolved beyond the lures of zipling (and also poor), then I wrote about how the act of ziplining doesn’t matter and how it’s ok to walk down the hill instead. This time I decided walking down the hill while your friends are ziplining is PRETTY LAME (but still ok, if you’re intentional about it), so on Wednesday, we ziplined.

Zipline Apaneca

After a two hour van drive, we donned our helmets and harnesses and rode in the open-air truck up to the top of a mountain or hillside or whatever it was we would be zipping off of. I love how gung-ho everyone in our group was about activities. Of course everyone would be hitting the cables; there was no doubt about it.

Apaneca

We set off from about 15 different platforms and lines on the way down. The first few were tiny puddle jumpers, but they eventually led up to the longer main events. As we got further down, the clouds broke open into light rain. We had to switch out our leather gloves for waterproof versions, but a little water couldn’t stop us.

Floripondia

It started raining a lot harder once we were back in town. It was no concern to us, since we found a coffee shop/artesian store that served paninis with the greatest chimichurri of all time along with any variation of coffee brewing technique your heart might desire. Who knew a little town in El Salvador would have the latest espresso machines, Chem X, V60, and french presses? I can’t tell the difference, but I can recognize a master barista when I see one.

Cafe Axul Apaneca

To our delight, the rain ceased when we finished our lunch, and we were able to explore the town of Apaneca. I always love getting out of the resort and seeing what the actual country is like. This is one of the best I’ve seen. The people are very welcoming and the little streets have so much character—there were so many adorable paintings on the walls and telephone poles; I couldn’t resist photographing all the bright colors and intricate doorways.

Apaneca El Salvador
Apaneca El Salvador

We could’ve easily spent the whole day here, venturing down side streets and picking up on even more details. I know many countries have their dangers and that we should always be careful when in a new environment, but I truly have not found where all the warning messages about El Salvador come from. We’ve been in a big group with knowledgable guides, but the locals have all been friendly, well-educated, and kind.

Apaneca El Salvador

Getting out into the town makes me feel even more that El Salvador is a gem of a country and should not be missed.

Apaneca El Salvador

Chasing Waterfalls in Tamanique

Although it’s tempting to spend every possible moment basking in the sun and infinity pool at the hotel, we’ve managed to be very active during our time here. On Monday, we drove away from the resort to explore more of the countryside. We were dropped off in the town of Tamanique, and our guide led us down a dirt path to hike to a waterfall.

El Salvador

It’s the end of the rainy season, so the scenery is lush and vibrant. We hiked for about an hour, winding down the hillside and listening to the sounds of the rushing waters below us.

Tamanique waterfalls

Once we got to the waterfall, don’t tell my mom and dad, but we jumped off the 20 ft. cliffs into the waters below. Our group of 12 was finally all together, after a few late arrivals due to varying travel plans and work schedules. There were a few different heights, but everyone ended up jumping off one of the cliffs! It’s been a blast to be with such an adventuresome crew.

Tamanique waterfalls

We could hear the sounds of an afternoon thunderstorm rumbling in the distance, and our guide urged us to get dressed quickly so we’d have time to visit the second, lower waterfall. We hiked a little further down, and jumped in to swim underneath the cascading streams.

Tamanique waterfalls

I almost didn’t go in on the bottom level, because I’d dried off and didn’t want to get wet again. That would have been a mistake, because it started raining heavily while we were all in the water. The guide rushed us out and warned that the waters could rise quickly. We scrambled to put on our clothes and shoes, then slid over the muddy rocks to pull ourselves out. After a fast and breathless hike up the trail, we were back in the town, soaking wet but smiling. It was a sticky and soggy ride home in the van, but we all made it back safe and sound to Puro Surf to dry off.

Tamanique

Enchanting El Salvador

We’ve been here since Friday, but it already feels like we’ve moved in and might be staying down here forever. The world is feeling peaceful, complete with perfect patio views, enriching connections, and new surroundings. We’ve experienced a few yoga classes, a couple of surf lessons, and a cultural visit into the town of El Tunco.

I can’t say I’ve seen a better yoga studio view in my time as a student or teacher:

Puro Surf yoga

It’s always a little intimidating to teach a new group of people, but I’m glad everyone has been keeping an open mind and showing up for class, whether they’ve done yoga a bunch of times or only once or twice. I’m so appreciative that they’ve created space and trust to have me as an instructor.

Puro Surf surfing lessons

We’ve had two surf lessons so far. The waves right in front of our hotel are too difficult for beginners, so we’ve been driving about 20 minutes away to another beach. We learned and practiced techniques in the sand before heading into the water. I’d had one surfing lesson before coming here, but the lessons here have been a lot more structured and easy to pick up. Everyone stood up on the boards on their first days! The second day waves were more forceful, but we all rode some, and I’m getting more comfortable being tumbled and feeling less afraid of the ocean.

Puro Surf El Salvador

I think the hotel vistas speak for themselves! Puro Surf is a sweet hideaway surrounded by black sand beaches and little hidden caves. They consciously collect rainwater from the thatched roof and use reusable straws/silverware for all of their drinks and dishes. The surf instructors are some of the best (and best-looking :P ) around!

Puro Surf El Salvador

On Sunday night, we went into the nearby town of El Tunco for drinks by the beach and to celebrate one of the retreater’s birthdays. It’s been a treat to get to know everyone who came from as close as LA and as far as Hong Kong and Australia.

We’re having an awesome time and the days are jam-packed and flying by! I’ll be sharing more adventures as the week goes on.

Monkey Lala El Tunco

We made it to El Salvador!

We made it to El Salvador this morning, and things are looking bright! I’m going to be here for the week teaching yoga on a retreat with Surf Sweat Serve. Today we’re finalizing the details of the itinerary, getting settled in, and eating lots of yummy fruit for second breakfast.

I’ve already seen chickens wandering in the road and a mid-day parade featuring fireworks, because what else would one expect in Central America? It’s the perfect mix of sun and clouds, humid (how I like it), and gorgeously green!

Puro Surf El Salvador

i can’t wait to see what surf lessons have in store for me!

Penguin Parade

I hadn’t quite gotten my fill of animal sightings, even after our Sydney zoo tour featuring the koala breakfast, so I rallied Mike for another one-day bus tour, and we took a voyage down to Phillip Island to see the parade of penguins. Every night (I think) at this point about 2 hours from Melbourne, a number of tiny penguins waddle in from the sea and make their way up to their wooden nest boxes on the coast to sleep or feed their kids or mate (very noisy) or whatever else penguins do in their nests. I was told there would be hundreds of penguins to view, so it sounded like a sight worth seeing. Count us in.

But first, we needed to find more kangaroos, so we were taken to a stop at an animal sanctuary where they had koalas, emus, and a dingo for viewing and a bunch of kangaroos for feeding.

sleeping koala
emu

The kangaroos were very relaxed and open to being fed, but the whole feeding event really was a testament to the ridiculousness of human behavior when new animals are present. Everyone was crowding, poking, and generally bothering the very calm kangaroos, so it was a little disheartening.

Maru animal sanctuary

After the sanctuary, we visited the beach and ordered iced coffee, which is actually either coffee with ice cream or with a whole bunch of sugar. I should’ve just gotten a Golden Gaytime like everyone else was doing.

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We stayed in our habit of not listening to the time we were supposed to be back on the bus and then arriving to find we were the last ones on the bus. Then it was time for a stop at a place called the Nobbies, which held excellent seascape views and the Seal Rocks where, unfortunately, the seals are too far away for the naked eye to see.

The Nobbies

Finally, onto the much awaited final destination. We arrived at the penguin march around 7 and entertained ourselves with a light dinner and sunset vistas while waiting for the penguin migration.

Phillip Island

They started coming in around eight o’clock and, I must say, there were far fewer penguins than we were expecting. Like, we saw 8 when we were expecting hundreds. Still cool to see I suppose, but also a bit anticlimactic after all the hype of waiting. However, when we turned around to walk back to the van, we did see at least tens, if not hundreds of the tiny birds. The trip was saved, either by the viewing of the penguins or by the hot chocolate that was waiting for us when we got back.

Fairy Floss

During the trip, I overhead someone say that a visitor to Australia will take one of two sides: you’ll either decide that you’re a Sydney person or a Melbourne person. I had heard cool things about the art, music, and culture coming out of Melbourne, so Mike and I decided to make a weekend out of it and flew on the budget Tiger airline to check it out. I’ve also heard that Sydney is more like the west coast of the US and Melbourne is more like the NYC area. So, you can probably figure out which one I prefer as I sit here writing this from my sunny SoCal apartment with lots of grass in the backyard.

Melbourne botanical gardens

I didn’t dislike Melbourne at all, I was just surprised to find it so similar to big cities that I’ve seen a lot of before. Hip bars, delicious restaurants, but overall not much newness. Well, there was one new thing… Melbourne is well-known for its coffee, and we were promised some of the best cups of coffee in the world. However, I hadn’t been that huge of a fan of Australian coffee at that point. I don’t like to add cream, so I found the long and short blacks all too bitter and the lattes much too milky (even though they sometimes came with adorable koala designs!) I (and Mike, too) missed the good old fashioned drip, which, while it might not be the fanciest or highest quality, felt familiarly like a satisfying cup of home.

Melbourne coffee

On our first day in Melbourne, we were off to try this famed coffee, but I decided to mix it up and sample something new based some intriguing Yelp reviews. Enter, fairy floss. What was this? It looked like a cloud in a cup and appeared to be more about novelty than actual taste. I can be into that, especially in the midst of an impromptu vacation down under. I ordered what looked like (and was like) plain cotton candy and selected the matcha to pour over top. There was also a hot chocolate option, but when I tried to order a coffee version, the waitress looked at me like I was crazy (which was a lot coming from someone who seemed like they had inserted an IV drip of caffeine for her entire shift), suggested the matcha, then brought me an extra shot of espresso just in case I wanted to try it.

Matcha fairy floss

The pouring experience was quite a treat, and it was the best matcha I’ve ever had. No joke! Our caffeine choices gave us the energy to continue on explorations of the botanical gardens, figure out the public transportation system (some free, some not free, some trolleys), and eat the most incredible Italian dinner from this unbelievable restaurant, which you should go to and tell me seriously, how is it all vegan??

While I might label myself a Sydney person, I enjoyed the rest of our stay in Melbourne, playing hipster Guess Who?, drinking craft beers, and checking out the local music scene. I would certainly go back for more of any of what Australia has to offer.

Basking in the Blue Mountains

Towards the end of my time in Sydney, I was able to make a little excursion to a place I had heard a lot of wonderful things about—the Blue Mountains and the Three Sisters rock formation. I joined a bus tour, though I found out later it would’ve been just as easy to take the train, but I was happy to have company and a guide. We started the day with a lovely waterfall hike, where we saw some beautiful nature and some not-so-beautiful homes of the famed Australian spiders that will all quickly kill you.

Blue Mountains
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Then it was off to scope out the breathtaking landscapes around the Three Sisters. There wasn’t much hiking here, just a hop off the bus and take pictures sort of situation, but the views were certainly worth the trip.

Three Sisters

Afterwards, we went off to search for kangaroos IN THE WILD!!! And we were handsomely rewarded with three sightings. Two of them were moms carrying joeys in their pouches! The babies were actually pretty big, and I’m still not sure how they fit into the pouches. I also learned during this trip that kangaroos have two uteruses and can be perpetually pregnant. Yeesh.

Kangaroos

The day ended with a stop at a swimming hole, which was really nice, but would have been even nicer had I known that “wet clothes” is Australian for bring your bathing suit. Whoops!

Steps through Sydney

After our week in Bondi, I was back on my own to wheel my giant suitcase through the buses, trains, and city streets until finding my way to Redfern to stay with Mike, one of my bff’s from college. Redfern appears to be the Brooklyn of Sydney; it’s hip, featuring cute parks and coffee shops, and less crowded than the central business district. Mike has a very sweet and very adult real-life apartment there, and he was gracious enough to accommodate me on the couch-bed for the week.

Redfern, Sydney

Mike was working during the days, so I had some time to explore more of actual Sydney, which I hadn’t seen much of yet since I’d spent most of the first weeks in Manly and Bondi. I walked and walked, and sometimes took the metro. I visited the Royal Botanical Gardens and sought out fancy donuts that my friend had seen on Instagram.

Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney
Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney

I did more yoga (at an amazing studio) and afterwards indulged in the famed Australian meat pies (mine was chicken; it was just okay).

Yoga Moves Sydney
Australian meat pie

When Mike got out of work, we visited pubs and found fish & chips, among other foods. I was grateful to have some extra time to explore Sydney, and glad that my visit took me to three very different parts of the city so I could get a feel for it all.

IMG_3706.jpg

Best of Bondi

Much to our dismay, our coveted beach week in Bondi, which started out looking like this:

Bondi Beach

Ended up, by the third day, and for the rest of our time, looking like this:

Bondi Beach

Oh no!

We ventured out on a scattered showers day for our Bondi to Coogee trek, but most mornings we were resigned to stay inside.

Bondi to Coogee walk

Although we had to content ourselves with the yoga and the sampling of Bondi’s outstanding places to eat and drink, we were able to make the most of it. For heaven’s sake, The Nine even made me this koala latte while I worked inside on a stormy day:

Koala latte The nine

Some of our other favorites were:

  • Bad Mama: We stumbled in here on a night when we were planning to go into Sydney, but the rain kept us home. We hadn’t made a reservation and Bondi restaurants can get crowded, so we weren’t expecting too much when this cocktail bar had open tables and seated us right away. We weren’t even sure they served food. How wrong we were! Everything was mind-blowing and we would happily come back for more.

  • Bangkok Bites: Incredible Thai food! Super crowded, but super excellent and fast service!

  • Bondi’s Best: Yummy seafood. We tried to come here without a reservation and ended up having to make one for later in the week.

  • BondiTony’s: The BEST burgers! Grass-fed, organic stuff, craft beers, healthy-ish options, and vegan milkshakes. We came here twice during our stay.

  • Fonda: Our first stop after the first day of practice. Of course you should drink multiple margaritas and much Mexican food after three hours of yoga, who’s to say you shouldn’t?

I was lucky on my final morning at the beach, when my mates had departed, that the sun finally came our for a few AM hours and I go to do Yoga by the Sea. It was a much appreciated way to wrap up a rainy week.

Yoga by the Sea

Koala Brekkie

Just to confirm that Australia is every bit as amazing as you’ve always imagined it to be, here are some photos of our brekkie with at the zoo with the koalas.

Koalas

Yup, they do call it brekkie in the Aussie way of shortening everything to make it sound 100 times cuter and more fun.

Tasmanian Devil

We saw all of the Big 5 (kangaroos, a crocodile, wombats, platypus, and the aforementioned koalas).

Wallaby
Koala selfie