All posts by betterwithasideofrice

ILOCOS SUR | VIGAN CITY

Back in January, I went back to the Philippines to spend the holidays with my family. One weekend, we took a trip to the province of Ilocos Sur, just to get away from the city for a couple days. We stayed in the city of Vigan.

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Beautiful views — at least something to look at during that 10-hour drive away from the city!

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10+ hours later, finally arrived in Vigan. It is the only surviving city that dates back to the 16th century, which still exhibits the Spanish Colonial times. This city may be small, but it is beautiful.  Surrounded by horse-drawn carriages and cobblestone streets, walking the streets brings you back in time to when the Philippines was under Spanish rule.

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Because my family is huge, we decided our best option would be to rent a house through AirBnB. We were able to rent a beautiful house, big enough to house all of us for the weekend. Not only that, we had a view of the Bantay Bell Tower right from our bedroom. What a beautiful view to wake up to!

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Provincial life can be so beautiful!

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View from the top of the Bantay Bell Tower!

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Freshly made empanadas — must try when in Vigan! Hot and crunchy, so delicious! You eat this with vinegar — which is what makes it a Vigan specialty!

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This sunset made it hard to leave it all behind to head back to the city.

Although it is a rather long trip from the city to Vigan, it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re willing to drive out there. I grew up visiting the Philippines every year, but this trip made me realize there’s so much of this country I have yet to explore. I’ve taken for granted how beautiful the Philippines really is.

I LEFT MY HEART IN…NAPA??

Spent a weekend in Napa a couple weeks ago and although I’ve always loved San Francisco, I think the city is facing some competition now.

A weekend was great, but next time, I’m definitely spending at least one more night in Napa. While more relaxed and not as congested with things to do as the city is, there is a lot to check out in Napa. Here are a couple of my favorites from the weekend.

1. V. Sattui Winery – 1111 White Ln., St Helena, CA 94574

Oldie but a goodie for sure. One of my go-to wineries whenever I’m in Napa Valley. This beautiful winery has three tasting rooms and wonderful staff that are knowledgeable and friendly. There is also a deli that sells a variety of delicious eats (my favorite is the mustard prawns!). You can pick up some hot food, cheeses, meats, etc.  and head outside (weather permitting). They have picnic tables ideal for a romantic picnic for two, or an ideal backdrop for enjoying a bottle of wine — or two — with a group of friends

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2. Oxbow Public Market – 610 & 644 1st St., Napa, CA 94559

This 40,000 square foot marketplace offers a number of vendors — coffee, wine, beer, food, what more could you ask for? All the necessities in one place! There’s such a great vibe here, so much to try. Great place to just hangout. We had dinner reservations for that night but ended up cancelling and stayed to try the various food offerings.

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3. Hog Island Oyster Co. – Oxbow Public Market

Located inside Oxbow Public Market, this place was poppin’ for a Saturday afternoon. We only had to wait about ten minutes for seats at the bar, but we were able to enjoy a glass of wine while waiting.  Kept it light and ordered the Oyster Bar Mix, which was an assortment of the day’s oysters and a bowl of clam chowder. Highly recommend!

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4. Hill Family Estate Wines – 6512 Washington St., Yountville, CA 94599

Found this place on Yelp when we were looking for a nearby tasting room so that we did not have to worry about driving after doing some wine tasting. This place was less than a 5-minute walk from our hotel. Hill Family Estate is a family-run business and has a more intimate and cozy feel compared to other wine tasting rooms. You walk in and it’s as if you’ve just walked into a friend’s house. The set-up resembles a living room with different sections for tastings. Jeff was very knowledgeable and even gave us a couple extra pours. We ended up returning that night to pick up a bottle of Syrah to enjoy on our final night in Napa.

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5. Atelier Fine Foods – 6505 Washington St., Yountville, CA 94599

Located across the street from Hill Family Estate, Atelier Fine Foods is a boutique that offers everything you need for the perfect charcuterie board. They sell an assortment of delicious meats, cheeses, and spreads. Even found a bag of black truffle chips that were way too delicious for their own good. I copped a few bags to bring back home!

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6. Gott’s Roadside 644 First St., Napa, CA 94559

When looking up places to check out in Napa, this was mentioned in a number of articles so we had to check it out. Really chill diner serving roadside classics. Definitely gives off that California vibe. We ordered the California Burger, chicken tenders, and brisket sandwich, which was their special for the day. Really good food. The line out the door was not lying.

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Definitely so much to see in Napa Valley. Might just have to make a Napa trip an annual tradition….

 

 

 

YAYOI KUSAMA: INFINITY MIRRORS

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A couple weeks ago, I was able to check out the Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors Exhibit at The Broad. And I must say…. it was incredible. From the moment I read about this exhibit, I was excited and determined to get tickets. On the day of ticket release, it was difficult to get tickets — I almost wasn’t able to get tickets. Fortunately, my friend was online as well and she was able to score a spot in the virtual line that guaranteed her tickets.

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General admission to The Broad is free, as long as you make reservations online. Infinity Mirrors, however is a paid exhibit. But definitely worth it. This exhibit is so visually stunning.

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The only cons about the exhibit are that:

  1. You only have 30 seconds to experience each room, except for The Obliteration Room at the end.
  2. You have to go inside each room with at least two people. So if you were already thinking about that selfie, you can forget about it.
  3. Once you’ve gone through a room, you cannot go back.

Some cons, but definitely not dealbreakers. If you’re able to score tickets, I’m telling you, you won’t regret it.

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One of my favorite rooms was The Obliteration Room, which is at the end of the exhibit. You are given a sheet of polka dot stickers and can place them anywhere you want. I love the interactive aspect of this room — you get to be a part of creating the artwork.

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My favorite room of the entire exhibit was hands down Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity. Pictures do not do this room justice. When you enter this room, it’s as if you are surrounded by thousands of lanterns and it feels so magical.

Tickets are hard to come by, but if you’re able to get tickets to this exhibition, trust me, you will not regret it!

 

CHAI AND CHAI AGAIN…

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For those who know me, they know the love I have for lavender. It has pretty much reached obsession status if I’m going to be honest with myself. Doesn’t matter what it is — lavender milk tea, lavender latte, lavender macarons, lavender… ANYTHING! You can be sure that if I see it on the menu, there’s no chance of getting me to try anything else.

You already know that I love to try things. But coffee shops are actually my favorite type of place to check out. The more hipster it is, the better because they will most likely have something unusual on the menu. And lavender usually falls under that category because it’s pretty darn hipster.

So imagine my surprise when I was at the mall the other day and decided to stop by the Nordstrom EBar to get my usual honey almond latte, when I saw LAVENDER CHAI. It was under their hot beverage menu but the barista said she could put it over ice. And let me tell you, it did not disappoint. This was the perfect lavender drink. Just the right amount of lavender flavor, and the right amount of sweetness, with a touch of chai. Oh, Nordstrom, you know what you’re doing. After an unexpected shopping spree, that was the perfect way to end my day.

I think I may have found a new reason to go to the mall.

 

FOUR DAYS IN AUSTIN, TX!

Last week, a couple of friends and I went to Austin, TX for a quick girls’ trip. We were only there for four days, so we weren’t able to check out everything we had on our list. Despite the limited time, we were still able to check out a lot of things in a short amount of time.

Now, depending on what you’re interested in seeing or doing, that might not be enough time. If you’re coming up with a list of things to do for whenever you happen to find yourselves in Austin, here’s a few things I recommend!

1. VINTAGE HEART COFFEE |  1405 E. 7th St. Austin, TX

Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 5.15.13 PMIn every new city I visit, I make sure to check out local coffee shops. Vintage Heart Coffee is a great spot with cute vintage decor.  Great atmosphere for studying or catching up with a friend over coffee. Their menu is simple, so if you’re indecisive like me, placing an order is a breeze. I got their iced lavender latte. YUM. I would definitely be a regular if I lived in Austin!

2. HOPE OUTDOOR GALLERY | 1101 Baylor St. Austin, TX

IMG_3963FullSizeRenderDefinitely a must-see when in Austin. Also known as Graffiti Park, this place serves as a canvas for local artists to express their creativity. A lot of cool street art, murals, etc. to check out. It’s even great place to take a few photos. Being multi-level, there’s a slope on the right you can climb to get to the top where you’ll have a great view of Downtown Austin.

3. BAO’D UP | 1911 Aldrich St. Austin, TX

IMG_0159IMG_0157We checked this place out because my friend was craving Asian food. My expectations weren’t very high, but I was down to try. Now, I don’t know if I was hungry or if I just really missed Asian food, as well. But these baos were bomb.com! I ordered the GuaBao combo, which allows you to choose any 3 from the GuaBao category. I wasn’t really in the mood for pork, so I ordered one crispy chicken bao and two fried tofu baos. DELISH! The fried tofu was my favorite. We had planned to come back for more before we left Austin, but didn’t get a chance to. Really wish we did, though! I also ordered a lavender black tea with boba. So refreshing in the Texas heat!

4. MURAL HUNTING | Austin, TX

IMG_3989IMG_3988If you ever find yourself in Austin, you have to go mural hunting! Really cool street art all over. We made sure to hunt down a few of the popular ones and take pictures.

5. DIRTY SIXTH | Sixth St. Austin, TX

IMG_0187My friends and I are always down for a night of drinks and dancing. But we had heard stories about Dirty Sixth, and no lie, we were a little nervous to go. We started off one night in West Sixth, deciding we were going to keep it chill. Somehow, we convinced ourselves it would be a good idea to head over to Dirty Sixth and “check it out” — on a Thursday night, no less! They close the street on the weekends to allow people to walk in the middle of the street, which was pretty cool for bar hopping. Fortunately, it wasn’t too crazy for us and we were able to re-live our college days for a couple hours — minus the hangover the next day!

6. EPOCH COFFEE | 221 W. North Loop Blvd. Austin, TX

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I’m telling you, I love my coffee. Another coffee shop we checked out while in Austin. Epoch Coffee just screams “hipster”, and I love it! A lot of tables inside and out, + free wifi — perfect for studying. Got a lavender latte again, this time hot. Delicious! Another plus, this spot is open 24 hours. Wish we had these coffee shops back home!

7. ICENHAUER’S | 83 Rainey St. Austin, TX

IMG_0119Started our night on Rainey Street at Icenhauer’s. Really loved bar hopping down Rainey Street, with old bungalows that have been turned into bars. Icenhauer was a great spot, not that poppin’, but we did come on a Wednesday night. The drink menu organizes drinks by liquor and each drink is named after a woman. Although this place was a little too chill for us to get our night going, I would definitely love to check it out again.

8. STILES SWITCH BBQ & BREW | 6610 N. Lamar Blvd. Austin, TX

IMG_0204 2IMG_0201Recommended by a co-worker, I was skeptical because I’m not a HUGE fan of BBQ. I had been to a popular BBQ joint in Dallas and was very underwhelmed. So I didn’t have high expectations for this place. But HOLY MOLY. The BBQ here is legit. I ordered the 2-meat plate — pork ribs and jalapeño cheddar sausage with a side of Mac&cheese, potato salad, and corn casserole. Everything was delicious. Meat that falls off the bone. Corn casserole was just the right amount of sweetness to complement the ribs and sausage. I’m glad we checked this place out on our last day, or else I might have come back and had all my remaining meals here.

9. SAN ANTONIO RIVER WALK | San Antonio, TX

IMG_0104I know this isn’t in Austin, so just think of it as a bonus recommendation! We drove to San Antonio since it was only about an hour and a half from Austin. Even though it was ridiculously hot, it was so nice walking along the river. You can stroll along the river, pop into one of the restaurants along the way or you can take a boat ride on the river. Such a nice place, very serene and beautiful.

Here’s just a few of the things I enjoyed during my short visit to Austin, TX. Hope this helps and/or inspires your future visit!