Wednesday, November 29, 2017

THINGS TO DO in Auckland, New Zealand

Easing back into blogging, I wanted to write about something I'm looking forward to in 2018. We're hoping we'll make it back to Auckland, New Zealand (and Melbourne, Australia!) for a visit. It's been 5 years and 7 months since we moved away from Auckland. I'm daydreaming about visiting all the old places, cafes, restaurants, etc. that were a comfort to me.

If you're ever in Auckland, here's a list of old favorites:

Mount Eden 

For sweeping 360 degree views, Mount Eden is a must-see. It's the highest point in the city and also a dormant volcano. 

Vulcan Lane

In the heart of the central business district, Vulcan Lane is a beautiful laneway filled with shops and restaurants. Take a lovely stroll along High Street and check out one of these places (scroll down below). 

Raw Power Cafe

While you're on Vulcan Lane and in search of healthy but tasty, vegan/vegetarian friendly food, check out Raw Power Cafe. My personal favorite is the marinated tofu burger with greens on foccacia bread. They also squeeze fresh juices. In this photo, I enjoyed a carrot, ginger, beet root juice. 

Cafe Melba

Still hanging around Vulcan Lane? Keep strolling through the laneway toward Cafe Melba for a damn fine cup of Australasian coffee (preferably a flat white) and brunch. On a bright, sunny day, this little, hidden, cozy, charming pocket made me feel like I was in Europe. 

Michael Joseph Savage Memorial Park 

This park has a mint view of Mission Bay and Mount Rangitoto. In the summer, you'll see families flying kites. Afterward, go to Mission Bay and get some ice cream at Movenpick. 

St. Kevin's Arcade

Back in the city on Karangahape Road, I loved spending time at St. Kevin's Arcade. It has vintage shops, cafes, etc. I've noticed they put a Lord of the Fries in here (basically a fry bar with toppings), which I loved from Australia. The Wine Cellar was cozy and the Whammy Bar was a fun dive. While you're there, grab a slice of Sal's pizza. 

Revel Cafe & Kati Grill 

Across the street is Revel Cafe, described as a "grunge" cafe with great coffee and food. Next door is Kati Grill. I've dreamt about this place since I left. They serve Indian Kati rolls with a savory coriander fillings and Kati fries (curried fries). YUM.   

Le Garde Manger

Stop into the charming Le Garde Manger for a nutella crepe. Auckland can feel pretty gloomy during the rainy season, but this cute cafe will perk you up. 

Satya Restaurant

Hands down our most favorite Indian restaurant of all Indian restaurants. Whenever we eat Indian food in Seattle (not as often since we eat more Vietnamese food these days), we always talk about how it feels like we're back in Auckland at this place. We used to eat here at least 1 to 2 times a month. So many birthday celebrations and parties held here. On the menu, there's a "must-have" Dahi Puri dish (a sweet, spicy, creamy potato dish). You certainly should have it. 

Other places to check out in Auckland: 

Umi Sushi (inside the Atrium Foodcourt on Elliot Street), Legendary Thai, Elliot Stables

Cassette 9, King's Arms 

Waiheke Island, Mission Bay, Rangitoto Island, One Tree Hill, Devonport village 

It was a total whirlwind pulling this list together and looking back at all the old photos. When I lived there, it was tough to make new friends, so I took a lot of photos instead and became a total wallflower. I'm glad I documented it. I've heard Auckland has changed so much, and I look forward to seeing it along with my old Auckland friends! 

Also, check out my Local Guide to Vegas

Friday, October 27, 2017

Vegas Strong

Nearly a month has gone by, and I'm still processing everything after my hometown of Las Vegas experienced a night of terror. It is like a small town, so it hurts to hear about friends who've lost loved ones. Or they know of others in recovery, still receiving treatment in hospitals. It reminds you again of how tomorrow is never guaranteed. It turns out, Mom decided to pass on free tickets to that festival and decided not to go the day before. *SIGH* It was certainly a shock to our vibrant, bright and wild city. My heart goes out to those who were impacted by the horrific events of that night. 

I'm proud of all the helpers and how the community came together. Images of folks waiting in lines to donate blood and donating supplies, etc. Las Vegas isn't just a stopover or a fun weekend trip. There are a lot of good, hard working (and good humored) people there, that I'm proud to know.

These dark days keep happening, and it's up to us to find a solution. #VegasStrong

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Memorable Moments from Europe 2015

Last year (2015), I visited 5 countries on a once-in-a-lifetime trip that spanned 18 days. I meant to write about it sooner, but here are some highlights that I still daydream/laugh (and feel pained) about to this day. If you're interested, I still plan to share more details about the places I went and all the great eats in separate posts.

1. After landing at London's Heathrow Airport in a happily drowsy state, my mom and I proudly navigated the tube system lugging our suitcases through crowded train cars, tunnels and stairs. We dropped off our luggage at the hotel, and we crossed the street to visit the famous Pret A Manger (a popular lunch spot). Not familiar with the traffic signage and flow, my mom walked into traffic :/ and was hit by a car. We ended up in an emergency room half an hour later. UGH. My mom fractured her vertebrae, which is still healing to this day. While in the hospital room, my mom cracked a joke (NO PUN INTENDED) about how our hospital room was more spacious than our dumpy hotel room. LOL. Gotta love my mom's sense of humor! More to come! Thankfully, mom made it through the trip (with the help of painkillers). BUT DAMN, it really affected her spirits. In the weeks leading up to the trip, I couldn't shake off this ominous feeling.

2. London is a beautiful multicultural melting pot with all walks of life. This is something I miss from my old international city of Las Vegas. People don't stare at you or look at you like, "you're not from here."

3. In Paris, I'll never forget the night mom and I saw the Eiffel Tower for the first time. We were on a massive green lawn snapping selfies with the iron lattice tower lit up at dusk.

4. The Palace of Versailles was a remarkable spectacle. There's something about French renaissance architecture and design. I could have spent days there.

5. I'll never forget the kind French man in the convenience store, who didn't speak English, but he was so genuinely excited for us being in Paris. He tried to speak with what minimal English he knew. "First time? Paris? You like?" He probably didn't understand what we were saying, but he smiled back and nodded.

6. That one moment when my mom told the bakery owner that he looked familiar because he looked like a very handsome movie star. It made his day. This is just outside the French bakery.

7. These amazing Paris window sills.

8. Visiting Amelie Poulain's place of employment. My. Favorite. Movie.

8. In the Paris subways, we were followed by a few randos likely trying to steal our cameras. Thankfully, we ran into another crowd and made it to our subway stop safely. We couldn't help but take these photos. No explanation needed.

9. We ate at an authentic Italian restaurant that didn't have menus. Only one chalkboard with dishes in Italian. Feeling homesick for convenience, my mom said, "I wish we could just have Olive Garden." My brother, Karen and I, were dead. Dying of laughter. "Lady! Lady!"

10. In Brussels, mom and I ordered coffees and Belgian waffles in Grand Place (as you do in Belgium). Mom's review: "These waffles don't taste any different from the ones at Costco." I almost spit out my drink.

11. In Copenhagen, I had these grandiose dreams of riding a bike to the mermaid statue early in the morning just like in the movie, "Copenhagen." I even signed up for an online account to use the bikeshare service. Turns out, the bikes were electric, and you'd go from 0 to 10 miles in two feet. My first reaction was to hit the breaks which sent my bike flying, and me falling to the side. Thankfully, I caught myself. EPIC FAIL. This is the famous intersection where it happened.
Morning Ebb And Flow from jim slade on Vimeo.

12. We took a walking tour around Copenhagen, and I got to enjoy a Carlsberg on the street. All while learning all about the city's history and the mad archbishop. Photo by Greg Kiefer.

13. Callie and I thought that ginger shots would help us avoid getting sick. Within seconds of our first sip, we were gagging and ran elsewhere for water.

14. After hanging out with Ally and Hamish in Malmo, we barely caught a train back to Copenhagen and took seats near a group of modelesque Swedes in their 20s ready to hit the town. I had this dreaded feeling that they'd pick on us, and they surely did. As we passed the Oresund bridge, the 5 Swedish guys started impersonating American, Southern, French, and German accents for us. Then one said, "Straight out of Compton!" Nonstop giggles.

15. In Stockholm, this was our beautiful morning commute from our hotel (apartment) to the office every morning.

16. Catching up with my old friend Rakesh from New Zealand now living in London. He took us out to the fun spots in Shoreditch.

17. Sketch London. 

18. The insanity of the two Primarks I've visited.

19. Pret a Manger with Callie. :) 

20. Duck and Waffle views and a catch up with Rey. 

I thought this trip would help me get Europe out of my system, but it didn't. Nothing can cure that. Thankfully, there's been more travel. More to come!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

JV's 2014 Recap (Posted in early 2016)

NOTE: 2014 updates one year later...

It seems that a lot of my friends on social media had a "sucky" 2014. For us, it was also a tough year. I call it the aftermath. We catapulted ourselves over to the U.S. with 3 suitcases each, no jobs lined up, barely enough savings, but it was necessary. Even after nearly 3 years of living in America, we are JUST starting to feel more settled. My uncertainty is the product of the recession, 6 jobs in 6 years (some freelance, some contracted jobs that came with a few unstable environments: xenophobia, microaggressions, racism, etc. UGH!). I held on just to stay afloat and survive overseas and in the U.S. UGH. All the suffering and sacrifices finally paid off because we live in a great place, are surrounded by good souls, and I got a job working for one of the top agencies in the world. Phew* I'm not going ANYWHERE! Stability has started my process of healing.


We welcomed 2014 with a dinner in Eastlake and then enjoyed cocktails/fireworks at Holly's and Alex's place. It was a simple month. We celebrated our 3rd anniversary at Ethan Stowell's Tavolata, there were hang outs with Lady C and Yuck performed at Neumos later in the month.


This amazing photo happened at LTD Art Gallery. A2 and Dom came to visit us, the Seahawks won the Superbowl, and then it snowed. We had a nice Valentine's Day and enjoyed a cute mellow Valentine's Party at Mel's place. I farewell'd a not-so-great situation, and it was the push I needed to pursue something better. We celebrated Chris' birthday with our favorite people. 


March was a busy month. LTD hosted a Game of Thrones exhibit, we also watched the Oscars at the gallery, LSL and I cringed at El Bachelor Juan Pablo's gaffes, I attended a media/PR workshop at the Seattle Times, we watched Sonicsgate with the film team, Christie visited us (lots of hilarious pranks), lots of other life changes kicked in, we watched my spirit animal Dennis Lyxzen perform, and hung out with Mark aka. Figga. :)


There were walks along viaduct. This bright, brilliant young soul invited me to come see her film at the NFFTY festival (she accomplished her dream of being accepted into NYU's film school). I was moved by these young creative geniuses who were also very articulate during the Q&A session. LSL and Erik took us to see these famous tulips.


LTD threw a fun 90s exhibit. The Pains of Being Pure Heart came to Seattle, and I got to spill my guts out to Kip about how they're my absolute favorite, and how he's the best singer/songwriter ever. I'll never forget how sincerely excited he was. Erik's amazing folk band performed in Ballard, I helped out at the annual NWIRP gala, I got a new job (!!!), the Seattle Center had a beer fest, Sonya made us the most delicious mac n' cheese (Alton Brown recipe), and we enjoyed a Memorial Day BBQ at Mel and James'.


Lady C moved into an amazing new flat, we celebrated Carl's birthday dressed up as wizards and danced at Therapy, Thematic Fashion Friday kicked off (I'm punk!), I went to Vegas to basically eat In 'N Out and celebrate mum's stylish birthday (Tory Burch from H to T).


I got to take Chris to my childhood home in the Philly burbs, Kay and Rich had a beautiful wedding, My Goodness performed for us at the office, we celebrated Nichole's birthday, we caught up with Eric and Gabby for the first time in ages, James Robinson published his Voyages in America book, Marty let me hang out backstage at Spoon/Capitol Hill Block Party, and I visited West Seattle/Alki Beach for the first time.


I took Chris back to Alki Beach, STRFKR DJ'd at Neumo's, Keil let us dance onstage, we attended the punk block party, I visited Bremerton for the first time and purposely wore a navy-themed outfit.


We got to see The Replacements and Nada Surf at Bumbershoot, Jack and Jordan's band came through town, they introduced me to their bandmate Alex who's also in Third Eye Blind (I got to geek out over all their history), and Jon took us Canoeing in the Washington Arboretum.


October started off with no sleep but a lot of excitement. We were brand ambassadors for a client+Demi Lovato, I partied at Adrienne's bachelorette party in Vegas, celebrated Sonya's birthday, reunited with Nick, and celebrated Halloween in NYC as "A" from Pretty Little Liars.


In November, my dear friends Adrienne and Dom got married. They had THE BEST playlist, and we danced all night. I hung out in Brooklyn and Philly, celebrated my birthday at Speckled and Drake, did pro bono work for a great outdoor adventure nonprofit, hiked around mini Mt. Si, hosted a Friendsgiving, and explored Georgetown with Chris.


The year ended with us seeing Saves the Day with Cameron (exclusive emo pics were taken). I had a glorious two weeks in Vegas with my family and drove to LA to see Jermee. I took my family to see the Fab Four. It was one of our last big memories together before my stepdad passed away in 2015. :/

My brother and I sang Saves the Day covers. We will always have these videos to laugh at. Don't I do a good Chris Conley impression?

Thanks for reading about my 2014.

I declared 2015 to be the year of travel. It certainly lived up to its name! 2015 updates to come!


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