Quarantine Memories: Mt Rainier

I’m gonna switch it up and not write about cancer in this post because after all this blog is called Trips and Salsa. Here’s one of the trips I went on last year:

I was in Seattle for a dear friend’s wedding and decided to stay in town a few extra days to see family and friends. I also wanted to take a trip up to Mt Rainier since I couldn’t even remember the last time I was there, if ever.

I grew up in Seattle with a gorgeous view of all of downtown and both Mt Baker and Mt Rainier, so I saw it every day but moved away at 18 and I miss those gorgeous giants.

My friends Caroline and Jess were up for the adventure too! So off we went…

First stop was Grove of the Patriarchs. I wanted to see this bridge.

We you can only cross one person at a time.

It wasn’t much of a hike (1 mile) which was nice but was GORGEOUS and not like any hikes I could go on in Southern California.

Then we made our way through the park to Reflection Lake. What a beaut.

Then we made our way to the National Park Visitor Center where we watched a movie about the park and ate lunch. How could we not get Rainier Beers to drink on Mt Rainier?!

Then we hiked to Myrtle Falls. It was another easy stroll but a lovey trail. I felt like Julie Andrews because the hills were alive with the Sound of Music.

It was a fun day with two great friends. Glad I extended my trip to trek up the mountain I used to stare at daily. ❤

Beach Playlist – HAWAII

As the weather starts to cool down… for some of us (it’s 90 degrees today in San Diego), we often find ourselves daydreaming about warmer days. I created the perfect playlist to instantly bring you to a beach in your mind.


Ziggy’s song is an obvious one but I still bump it.

“Falling” by Iration instantly brings me back to sophomore year of college when I was spending a lot of time in Waikiki with my group of friends. I can almost taste the Four Lokos. But seriously it’s a great feel good song. I recently saw them in concert at the Del Mar Races and it was just as good live.

“Wade in Your Water” by Common Kings is the perfect song for cruising up to the North Shore. I heard they opened up for Bruno Mars when he was in Hawaii and it was an amazing show. I’ll have to catch them sometime soon.

“Higher Than the Clouds” by Anuhea is MY JAM. This girl is so talented and I remember seeing her play at The Shack (RIP) in Waikiki 10 years ago and thinking this girl is going places. She just released the sweetest version of “True Colors” in Hawaiian for the Lullaby album with a bunch of Hawaiian artists (check it out for your keiki) but I didn’t put it on this list because it’s not very “beach vibey”. “Higher Than the Clouds” is my favorite song of hers.

Last time I was home my mom and I went to the Pure Aloha Fest to see Anuhea perform and then this guy was on after her and we instantly fell in love. Spawnbreezie was so fun live and makes for great beach tunes. My mom’s coworkers are impressed she listens to him too when she puts him on their office radio.

The Green is the best Hawaiian band out there. They have a ton of great songs but “Come In” is one of my faves. Rebelution and SOJA also bring me back to college days. I have some funny stories regarding these bands but I’ll save that for another post. Maybe.

J-Boog, Fiji and Kolohe Kai are also goodies. Check out all their music not just the ones I suggested.

Have fun at the beach! Or at least go there in your mind with these tunes.

A day on Oahu with Paco

A couple weeks ago, I flew out to Oahu to celebrate my Auntie and Uncles 50th wedding anniversary a few days early so I could see my friend before my family arrived. Paco was one of my best friends in college and then he moved to Maui so I spent a lot of time with him whenever I visited my parents.

We had no plans but just a desire to adventure. Here’s what our day entailed:

Leonards – Paco was sleeping in and I was up early on West Coast time so I walked to Leonards to get malasadas. This place has really changed since I lived on Oahu. They have merch, a variety of menu items and they take cards now!

On the road – We stopped at Starbucks in Hawaii Kai and luckily didn’t run into my ex that lives there. I’m always afraid of running into exes when I’m on the island… last time Paco and I saw a different ex at a bar and it was frightening. Well he looked all cracked out and I did a silent hallelujah I dodged that bullet.

My favorite route – The drive from Hawaii Kai to the east side is so beautiful because you’re driving along the cliffs on the ocean and it feels like you’re on the edge of the world.

From here to eternity

First stop – Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens. I saw that image that all bloggers post from this place on the road with the mountains in the background but I also did research and saw that getting out of the car is prohibited and the guards yell at those trying to take this photo so I was discouraged from visiting. Paco saw the sign and turned in last minute anyway. We saw the road that everyone takes a photo at and also saw all the little cones along the side of the road keeping anyone from stopping BUT we kept driving and this place is GORGEOUS! It was giving me all the Jurassic Park vibes without paying an arm and a leg at Kualoa Ranch.

you are allowed to get out of the car further into the garden

Beach Break – We kept driving up and stopped at Kualoa Beach to this spot Paco knew about. It was deserted and beautiful and I want to come back and camp here. I also biffed it so hard. Note to self: trees in the ocean are slippery. My gnarly bruise on my arm looked like the island of Maui though so there’s that.

the tree i fell off

Lunch – We wanted to make it to Pupukea Grill for lunch for the BEST POKE but we were so hungry that we just pulled into a 711 and got sushi rolls and canned coffee instead. Typical.

Another Beach – We stopped at Pounders in Laie. We were sitting in the sand and I said, “Ok, I’m ready to see some wildlife… like a shark or a zebra or something” and then a turtle swam by! I totally manifested that! I’m also pretty sure my ʻaumakua is a turtle.

My Favorite Beach – We finally made it to the North Shore and stopped at my favorite beach Ke Iki’s. It was HUGE and empty. Just how I like it.

Long Drive Back – Paco and I drove the long road back to town with the best destination in sight…

Dinner – SUSHIYA!!!!! My favorite restaurant in the world. I crave a spicy ahi donburi all. the. time. (We went back for lunch the next day too).

Sunset – We decided to watch the sunset at Kaimanas with all the keiki lol.

I’d say it was a pretty epic day for just going with the flow. But that always happens when Paco and I cruise.

Swimming with Whale Sharks in Mexico

Every time I break up with a boyfriend, Amelia and I go on a trip. It’s great. She’s like break with more dudes so we can go on more trips. This particular breakup we ended up in Cabo. I love going to Mexico. The tacos, the tequila, the whale slide at my timeshare. What more could you ask for?

We were in Cabo and we wanted to check out a few excursions so we talked to one of those kiosk guys in town and they told us some very exciting news: we could swim with whale sharks! I didn’t even know that was an option in Mexico. We couldn’t pass it up so the next day we loaded up in an SUV with two other groups, a family from Idaho and two girls from Mexico City and drove to La Paz. We boarded a boat and off we went.

These suckers were hard to capture on camera but look how beautiful

I pictured really deep water and chillin whale sharks that we could slowly snorkel next to, but no way jose this was not the experience whatsoever. We take the boat out and our guide stands at the front looking out for dark shadows. When he sees one we throw on our mask and fins, the boat speeds up and we all jump off and swim as fast as we can. The first time I jumped out of that boat was TERRIFYING. I didn’t know where the whale shark was or what it would do if it saw us. I just knew that we weren’t allowed to touch it and should swim next to it, not behind it. But what an incredible experience. Amelia and I quickly saw the beautiful creature and swam alongside it, trying to keep up. We looked back for our guide and he was gone and it was just me, Amelia and the whale shark. I thought maybe we should go back or stop because we didn’t know how long we were allowed to swim with it but we couldn’t stop because it was such a magical moment. Finally he out swam us and we headed back to the boat, where everyone else was. We learned that the two girls from Mexico City didn’t know how to swim so the guide had to take them back to the boat, that’s why he was MIA. Who signs up for an ocean excursion when you can’t swim? Haha whatever, more room for us.

We did this find the whale shark, jump out of the boat and swim for dear life routine about 4 more times but none of them compared to that first encounter. They are gentle creatures but they have two dorsal fins so it’s a little frightening. Not to mention they’re like 10 times our size. It’s up there on top 10 coolest things I’ve done in life so far.

On a natural high and stoked on life

The ride back was fun because we stopped in Todos Santos, the cutest little surf town. We drank margaritas at Hotel California, which our guide tried to convince us was the inspiration for the Eagles song, but I’ve since Googled it and that’s just folklore. But their margaritas are delicious and strong. The mom from Idaho had a few, which made for a hilarious ride back to Cabo. Drunk moms are the best. (If you’re somehow reading this, email me! Amelia and I miss you and want to be pen pals!) We also met up with our friends from Mexico City at the club later that night. They didn’t speak English and we don’t speak Spanish so we couldn’t understand each other but we had a blast dancing the night away.

Hotel California, Todos Santos

Insane 10 Day Eurotrip Itinerary – Part I

Earlier this year my best friend Amelia and I found cheap (I’m talking less than $300) flights to Europe and couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I’d already been to Barcelona but it was the cheapest city to fly into, and Amelia hadn’t been yet so we decided to just do a quick stop in Barcelona before heading off to see more of Europe. We did 4 cities in 10 days. Let me repeat that. FOUR cities in TEN days! I figured I’d highlight some of the mentionable moments and tips for those crazy enough to attempt such a trip.

FIRST STOP: BARCELONA

We landed in Barcelona late at night and found our way to our Airbnb, which had approximately 3 million stairs to our flat. However it was adorable with a little terrace looking over the alleyway and the sweetest Airbnb host to give us a rundown of the flat and things to do in Barcelona, along with the yummiest tomato chips. We were exhausted and starving after our 11-hour flight and right outside our door was a little restaurant called Casa Lolea. Boy did we luck out by stumbling on this place because it honestly had the BEST sangria I’ve ever had. We wanted to order what the locals would so the server suggested the Catalan Tomato Bread (pan con tomate). You cut a tomato in half and then rub it on a slice of bread and then drizzle with olive oil. It was good but not as good as the sangria. We tried to go back the next night but they only had a few tables and didn’t have room for us.

CASA LOLEA

The next day was a doozy. We started with the Runner Bean free walking tour of the Gothic Quarter. I highly recommend free walking tours in any city you’re visiting. First of all, they’re free! Well you just tip them what you think they deserve. They give you a great overview of the city you’re in, share the history and fun secrets and you get to meet other people traveling as well. We started in Placa Reial just off La Rambla. Look how adorable.

We took a stroll through the Gothic Quarter and learned a lot about the history of the city and the reason for the difference in city structure and culture. I loved the gargoyles atop some of the buildings. We saw the roman columns, walked under the cool bridge and were exposed to some of the aftermath of war. 10 out of 10 would recommend. I had done the Gaudi walking tour on a different trip and would also recommend that. We saw Gaudi on our own on this trip.

So after the free walking tour we did some more walking. The taxis were on strike blocking off a road in the middle of the city while we were there so we had no other choice but to WALK everywhere. So we walked to Sagrada Familia which is grand and beautiful but also very crowded with tourists and under construction. I wonder if it’ll ever be finished. And then we tried to take an uber but after getting canceled on 3 times by the only 3 ubers in the city we just started walking to Park Güell, which is uphill at the top of the city. Park Güell is this beautifully weird park that Catalan artist/architect Antoni Gaudi built. Its my kind of funky weird art park. It’s a MUST SEE if you’re in Barcelona.

Park Güell
Casa Batlló

By this point our feet were so tired we finally attempted to figure out the bus. Which was super easy after I downloaded an app and we should have done it 20,000 steps earlier. We made it back to our flat and yelped the nearest restaurant to get paella. I won’t let you know which one it was because we were SUPER not impressed with the food or sangria so I would not recommend. This is when we tried to go back to Casa Lolea for more sangria but they were so packed we couldn’t fit.

the BEST sangria

The last day in Barcelona we only had a half-day so we decided to check out the Picasso Museum. Which was surprisingly interesting. I mean, Picasso is world famous but most of the museum was his art before his strange shape people paintings. Who knew he was good at all types of painting? I especially loved the pigeon paintings – look them up. Unfortunately photography is prohibited in the museum so I have nothing to show for our visit but trust me and check it out.  Up next… BUDAPEST.

Insane 10 Day Eurotrip Itinerary – Part II

BUDAPEST

our hidden treasure chest

We arrived in Budapest pretty late so we headed straight to our Airbnb which looked super sketchy from the lobby but the flat itself was adorable! We searched for the closest restaurant and there happened to be one directly below our flat, named Puder. It was DELCIOUS. Amelia ordered a pork dish which she claims was top 5 best meals of her life and I got pasta (even though we were headed to Italy shortly) and I’m glad I did because it was divine. We also ordered “nachos” which happened to be Doritos with cheese wiz dipping sauce. We just laughed. We also ordered mulled wine which tasted like the holidays and warmed up our insides.

Magical view from our flat.
Puder – notice the “nachos”

We were blocks away from the Central Market so we decided to check that out first since it was on all the lists of places to visit. It was in this huge building with an adorable Hungarian roof. I think the market is way more packed during warmer months but it was nice to walk around and see all the paprika, trinkets and more paprika. We went across the street for breakfast at a little café called Ambers. Ambers had the BEST croissants I’ve ever had in my life. So much that we came back the next day for more.

Ambers

Right in front of Ambers was a Hop On Hop Off stop so we bought bus passes. This was the best purchase because it covers two days and you get to see all the touristy spots without paying for taxis and can go at your own pace (note: there are no ubers in Budapest). The first day we did the whole route and mapped out where we wanted to hop off and what we wanted to save for the second day. Our highlights from that day were Fisherman’s Bastion, Matthias Church, the castle, the Parliament building and the shoes on the river. It was snowing while we were visiting so walking around Fishermans Bastion felt like we had stepped into a fairy tale. We also were freezing our butts off. I put my hand warmers in my boots so my toes wouldn’t fall off.

Fishermans Bastion

We stopped around Fashion Street and tried chimney cakes, which were like big round churros. Nom. Our bus pass also came with a boat tour so we ran to the river to catch the last boat of the night. We didn’t really know what to expect but our bus price was worth just this boat ride. We were on a large boat with only about 15 other people. Most of the other patrons stayed downstairs because it was enclosed and it was freezing but Amelia and I took our glasses of champs and roughed the cold to experience the most epic view of the Parliament Building lit up at night. It was exquisite. And just as we were passing the Parliament Building the George Ezra song Budapest came on and it was truly magical. This was the moment I fell in love with Budapest. We didn’t really know much about Budapest before we visited and kind of randomly chose it as one of our destinations but it was by far our favorite stop on our insane 10 day tour.

The next day was our “spa day” at Szechenyi, the most famous thermal bath in the City of Baths. It was quite an experience. I’m glad we checked it out. It was pretty expensive and weird. If you’re going I recommend bringing your own towel and shoes because they’ll charge you an arm and a leg to rent some and they’re required. You’ll have to pay your entrance fee and a fee to rent a locker and they were out of lockers by the time we got there so we had to rent a whole cabin. There are SEVERAL indoor baths that look like regular swimming pools and some that are fancy but the big attraction is the outdoor bath, which looks like you’re taking a bath with a thousand strangers in a castle. It was below freezing while we were there so putting your towel on a rack and running to the bath was quite the experience but the baths were warm and supposedly have lots of natural healing qualities or something. I don’t know. We just went for the gram. We did see a group of older gentlemen playing chess in the bath and Amelia says “omgosh look, water chess nuts” lol!

Szechenyi
Rub a dub dub…500 people in a tub.

After the baths we hopped on our bus and wanted to check out New York Café because it’s on all the lists of things to see and do in Budapest. So we walked in, saw how beautiful and fancy it was and saw the prices and the long wait to get a table and walked out. Well, at least we saw it. Then we went to this little pub across the street and had another AMAZING meal. Seriously, Hungary has incredible food. Our waiter brought some pickled vegetables to eat along with our meals and those were almost the best part of the meal!

We wanted to check out some of the ruin pubs. Budapest has this whole district of bars in the old Jewish quarter that were created out of old run down buildings of which many were destroyed after World War II and had just been sitting since. Instead of demolishing them, they created funky bars and nightclubs. We stepped in to Mazel Tov, which was more of a restaurant than a bar but it was GORGEOUS. We also stopped by Instant, which was epic with a tree in the middle but it was really early in the evening so nobody was there so we moved on. We wanted to visit the most famous ruin bar, Szimpla Kert. They were having an art show in the downstairs area when we arrived. We grabbed a few beers and checked out the art and the funky building. This bar was HUGE! Every room was extremely different but so funky and fun! We’re talking baby doll heads on top of bowling pins, weird. We settled in a cute nook of a room upstairs and decided that we had one last Hungarian tradition we need to try before we left; shots of Unicum and Palinka. Everyone said we HAD to try it. We asked the bartender what flavor she recommended and said something disgusting like bubble gum so we certainly didn’t order that flavor. We went with something more mild like cherry but it was still disgusting. But we did it! When in Rome! Then we had a lovely drunk walk home with a stop for noodles. We learned that there’s a large Chinese population in Budapest because Hungary was the first European country to offer visa-free travel and easy immigration to the Chinese in the 80s and 90s, so there’s a lot of great Chinese food options in Budapest.

Szimpla Kert
adorable Airbnb

Tootles Budapest. Next stop… ITALY.

Insane 10 Day Eurotrip Itinerary – Part III

VENICE

Venice canals

Our next destination was Venice, and what a perfect place to experience my first time in Italy. The town was so picturesque and straight out of a movie. We arrived in the early afternoon so the view from our top floor flat balcony was unbelievable.  I immediately started blasting That’s Amore. Our top priority was pizza. We walked to St. Marks Square and stumbled upon a cute pizza place. To my surprise, one of the items on the menu was pizza patatosa which sounded an awful lot like pizza with French fries so I clearly had to order it! And it was exactly that. And it was amazing. After dinner we found another little wine bar and had some delicious Chianti.

French fries on PIZZA!

Day two in Venice was the most colorful day of my life. We took a ferry to Burano, a little island where every building is painted a different bright color and it was truly a rainbow experience. We took the first ferry over so the island wasn’t crowded at all, and allowed us to sneak photos as if we were the only people on the island. We got more pizza for lunch because why not? We went for a walk with our pizza which was a horrible idea because the birds started to swarm. At one point we hid in a tiny alley because we were afraid for our lives. I could see the headlines now; “birds kill basic tourists because they insisted on photos with pizza and colorful houses”. But we got the shot. 🙂

That evening, back in Venice we yelped a restaurant close to our flat that looked decent. So we mapped it and upon arrival we realized the restaurant was no longer in business. We were pretty far from the main town center so we just wandered down sketchy alleyways until we found a place to eat. We stumbled upon this little place that only had about 5 tables but had two patrons so we figured we’d give it a shot. And thank goodness we did because it was DELICIOUS. I ordered the seafood pasta and Amelia had Carbonara. At one point, Amelia had gone to the restroom so I checked my phone and I had a DM from my friend Christina that saw on my story that we were in Venice and recommended a restaurant. I looked at the name of the restaurant and then the name on the menu and then laughed! She was recommending the restaurant we were in! Taverna Scalinetto is a must if you like good food and great wine. I showed the server because I needed someone to share in the moment and Amelia was in the restroom! She laughed with me. Good sport. After dinner we stocked up on Haribo gummy candies and watched Friends on our projector screen in our Airbnb.

After seeing some of the other sites, Rialto bridge, the leather shops, the gondolas it was off to our next destination; Florence!

Insane 10 Day Eurotrip Itinerary – Part IV

FLORENCE

What a great city to end our crazy adventure in. Our Airbnb was RIGHT under the Duomo. CHECK. OUT. THIS. VIEW.

Insane view from our flat
Yes, I bought red boots for this picture.

Our top priorities upon arrival were pasta, wine and shopping. We found cute leather bags. It was really hard to choose which to buy because there are so many options and they’re all so affordable. Then we just wandered the city in awe.

The next day my parents had organized a private tour with a guide they had when they were in Florence last year. This woman was amazing. She had so much knowledge and passion that it was fun learning from her. She showed us incredible historic tid bits around town, even right in front of our Airbnb. She took us to Accademia Gallery to see David and gave us way more information than if we had gone on our own. Message me if you’d like her contact information and I’ll email you her info. She’s worth it!

hottie with a body

Below our flat was a wine bar that our guide had recommended so we ended the day with a wine tasting. We tried them all but loved the sparking wine the best!

Our last day we went to the Uffizi Gallery. I wanted to go to see Venus specifically but this museum is HUGE! You’ll need a least a half day to see everything. Then as some sort of magical send off, it started snowing! We danced in the snow on our balcony and took a moment to reflect on what a beautiful and insane 10 days it had been.

Our trip home was a bit stressful but we made it home and immediately wanted to start planning our next trip. Where should we go next?