24 HOUR ADVENTURE

When CHER announced that she would be performing shows at the brand new MGM National Harbor, my Mom (a lifelong Cher fan) jumped at the chance to see her live! We had a nice lil 24 hour adventure of mother-daughter bonding fun! 

We chose to stay across the harbor in Old Town Alexandria, there is much more to do as the MGM is a lil isolated. In fact, it's not even walkable from the National Harbor shops and restaurants. 

Here is a lil recap of our trip! 

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8:18am: Board the AMTRAK at Staples Mill Station. Mom was already on the train from Norfolk. My mother has never driven a day in her life and 95 gives me anxiety. The $50 roundtrip ticket is totally worth it to not drive.

10:15am: We arrived at Alexandria Station, which is connected to the Metro Station. However, we didn't have a real reason to take the Metro, but nice to know it was right there. We took a Lyft to our hotel and it was only $6.55. Our driver Pauline said she drives to pay her daughters tuition and we watched a peaceful moment between a cop and a homeless man.  

10:45am: My parents recently stayed at the Crowne Plaza in Richmond and had a great time, so we chose to stay at the Crowne Plaza Alexandria. We were pleased to be able to check in early! I slapped on some makeup before we decided to walk to King Street (the quaint shopping district of ALX). 

12:00pm: The Crowne Plaza overlooks the harbor and is a bit north of King Street, we walked about 12 minutes through a quiet neighborhood until we got to the Alexandria Waterfront. We planned to take the Waterfront Taxi to the National Harbor and were checking on departure times. $8 one way and the ride is about 25 minutes. 

12:10pm: We walked past Vola's Dockside Grill and noticed it was Mahi Margarita Monday! Every Monday from open-close, you can get $5 Margaritas as well as $5 Mahi tacos. Hell yes! Mom got a Lemongrass Ginger marg while I got Spicy Pineapple. (It could have been spicier!) She got malt vinegar chips and I got old bay fries. We sat by the window and watched soooo many pups walk by. Alexandria loves their doggies.

1:00pm: After lunch we took a stroll down King Street. It was full of restaurants, salons, European gift shops, and cupcakeries. There weren't very many shops that caught my eye, except The Dog Park, a boutique shop for pets. I have to refrain from buying my animals souvenirs because they are so ungrateful. We eventually passed by KILLER E.S.P. (espresso, sorbet, & pies), which was a coffee shop that also offered vegan baked goods, frozen desserts, plus sweet & savory pies. It was about time for a mid-day matcha latte (with almond milk), Mom got mango sorbet and I bought a GOUTER (goo-tay) juice for the next morning. They are Washington D.C. based brand that offers raw, organic cleanses and tonics. I had a feeling I might want to remove some toxins after the show.

2:00pm: We took the FREE King Street Trolley back the Waterfront. The trolley just goes up and down King Street from the Waterfront to the Metro Station, making stops along the way. We relaxed in our hotel room with a lil Teen Mom 2 before heading to the Waterfront Taxi.

4:05pm: We thought it would be fun to take the Waterfront Taxi across the Harbor because why sit in a Lyft during potential Northern Virginia traffic. It's a chill ride across the water and then you're in Maryland! The taxi stops at the Gaylord Convention Center before stopping at the National Harbor. We could see a crew team rowing while waiting to depart.

4:45pm: The National Harbor is pretty cute, with boujie restaurants and shops. We found out that there is a circulator that takes people from National Harbor > Gaylord Convention Center > Tanger Outlet Mall > MGM. It was $5 to ride, which would covered us all day if we wanted to. We could have taken the circulator back to ride the water taxi home, if we really wanted to. I had just enough time to take some pictures of the bronze presidents and sample some tea and Capital Teas before our ride came. 

5:30pm: The MGM is so beautiful! There is a conservatory with gorgeous flowers with pink hues. There have fine-dining restaurants as well as an international food court, plus great shopping and the CASINO, of course. We had a drink at Blossom, a cherry blossom themed bar. Two $16 drinks later, my Mom and I went on the floor to gamble for an hour or so. She loves the penny slots but I would much rather blow money on tangible things, like booze! I won $43 and decided to cash out and find a place to charge my phone, like the classy bitch that I am. 

7:00pm: We meet at Bento Sushi Bar. The woman in front of me kept ordering octopus when the cashier kept saying they didn't have that. I ordered us sushi burritos and two sake cups! The burritos were kinda slim but let's be real, it's casino food. I reminisced about all of the sake cups we drank in Japan. I almost ordered krinkly fries from Shake Shack but I didn't wanna ruin my buzz.

8:05pm: We make our way to the theater and head to our seats. Sure, we were in the balcony but the theater isn't huge, so there wasn't a bad seat in the house. (Just a weird glare). I have a really hard time paying retail prices for wine, so I opted for the signature cocktail: The Desert Rose. $16 for raspberry vodka, creme de cassis, lemon, and prosecco.....Mom got a Moscato because that's her shit. I didn't even get another drink because I didn't want to miss a second of the show!

8:20pm: The show started!! No opening act, I MEAN, WHO OPENS FOR CHER?

This concert gave me life! She sang all of her classic hits and changed costumes almost every song! I can't decide what my favorite costume was but it was probably the leather number from the 'If I Could Turn Back Time' video. During each costume change, there were videos highlight great moments over her career that spans 5 decades! Spoiler alert: she sang 'The Beat Goes On' and it was synced with a video performance from 1965. It was so amazing! My phone screwed up when I was trying to get a video of 'Gypsies, Tramps, & Thieves' and I was bummed because it's my favorite song! I had to snap myself out of it and say 'BITCH,YOU'RE SEEING CHER'! So I put the phone down and enjoyed the rest of the show. In general, the crowd and the energy was electric and it truly gave me life!!! So glad that Cher added East Coast dates to her tour, so my Mom and I could see her live! 

10:00pm: And just like that, the show was over! We hit the casino floor for an hour or so and it was poppin' off! I played $5 on a Sex and the City slot machine and lost it all within 10 seconds. Mom cashed out her winnings and we Lyft'd back to Old Town Alexandria. A $10 ride, not too bad. 

9:00am: We wanted to take the free trolley to the Metro station but it doesn't start running until 10am. So we had breakfast at the Railstop Cafe on the second floor of our hotel. We had omelettes, hash browns, and coffee. Pretty delicious for hotel food, the service was wack though. Mom signed up for her first Uber account because the hotel offered a free $15 ride credit! Then she promptly deleted her account. It was a nice 8 minute ride to the station. Oh how I love showing up minutes before my train departs. We left at 10:18, just 24 hours and 3 minutes after we arrived! 

JUDY EATS: FOOD VIBES IN JAPAN

We didn't have very much on our Japan agenda; visit Enna, go skiing, and EAT. Food is always great motivation for travel. My appetite has always been pretty adventurous. I grew up eating pig's blood soup, bone marrow, and fried fish for breakfast. James? Not so much. He didn't even eat seafood until we met and I forced him to try it. (12 years ago). Now you'll catch him feasting on tuna tartare and I couldn't be more proud.

While I still have an appreciation for all types of cuisines, my diet is a lil restricted these days. Still eating eggs, fish, and keep it rather plant based otherwise. I keep it light on the dairy but still binge on a block o' bleu from time to time. I was so excited when I saw the term, flexitarian, in print because that's how I'd like to identify. (BC im cheesy) I knew that I had to be flexible during this trip because didn't want to miss any cultural experiences and I also could barely read most menus. 

And let me be really real. It hasn't been that long since I've dipped chicken liver pate or had a meat snack on the clock. It is my job to describe and sell food, so I should know what things taste like. Plus, don't want anything to go to waste! So if it's free and for R&D, I will certainly try it!.

Let's take a walk down memory and see everything that we ate in Japan!!

First meal in Japan. We hopped off of our 13 hours flight and it was suddenly dinner time. We were greeted with tea and ordered a round of Asahis. I got the salmon sashimi plus ikura (roe) over rice. On the side was: miso soup, mentaiko, pickled vegetables, greens, and a boiled tofu dish. About 1800 yen for the entire set! 

This is where we learned that in Japan, you call for your server by saying "sumi ma sen". It has a variety of meanings, mostly "excuse me" or "sorry". The most useful word to know, if you ever go to Japan! 

Our first izakaya experience.

An izakaya is basically a Japanese gastropub. When people go out, they go hard, and food is usually is involved. First of all, we loved that there was a basket under our table for our bags and hangers behind the table for our coats. There are turmeric pills (take 3) on the table for your future hangover. We ordered so much good stuff! Potato salad with mentaiko (pollock roe), cucumbers with miso, oden (winter hot pot), fried sardines, lotus root, plus beers, of course!

My only complaint about Japanese dining is that smoking is still allowed indoors. I forgot how much it makes your clothes stink! 

We went to the Family Mart kombini (convenience store) pretty much every day. Onigiri (rice balls) filled with so many things! I always got ikura (duh) or with greens. Don't even get me started on the snacks. Shrimp chips, vegetable straws, green tea kit-kats!!! Plus iced matcha, solo beers, and hard-boiled eggs on-the-go. We were eternally equipped with snacks. Sharing with friends is the best part!!

The Noodle Bazaar at the CupNoodle Museum was one of the most adorable places that we dined at! There were noodle stands from Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Japan, Vietnam, China, Kazakstan, and Italy! You pay 300 yen for a noodle dish and a culturally-appropriate drink. I had noodles from Malaysia, Indonesia, and Japan--which were original CupNoodles and a melon soda. I was so tempted to get noodles from Italy (and San Pellegrino). I indulged in Uji Kintoki (Green Tea Shaved Ice) with condensed milk, syrup, and red beans for dessert. It was a day of decadence, for sure.

We were in Tokyo for a hot minute at the beginning of our trip, the Nakano neighborhood. We had a salad, tuna sashimi, and tonkatsu. There are essentially two major ways of frying food; katsu or tempura. Most fried food is always served with shredded cabbage. It's all about balance.

Afterwards Enna and I got cocktails at Vow's Buddhist Bar. Our bartender was a Buddhist Monk whose favorite band is Baby Metal! We only had one drink because we had to catch an early train the next morning.

We spent Christmas day drinking sake and skiing!! It was a challenging day and when I finally made it down the mountain (after an hour and a half), I needed comfort food. I thoroughly enjoyed udon (or maybe it was soba) with vegetable tempura (there is a more legit name that I'm forgetting), an Asahi tall boy, and a real ass Coca-Cola. It was the most rewarding meal. 

For Christmas dinner, we traded our normal Italian Festa dei sette pesci tradition for a feast of Japanese fish meal while wearing our yukatas (casual kimonos). I came to really enjoy the meals that we were eating at the Japanese inns. Fried fish, raw fish, miso soup, pickled vegetables. There were slight changes to each menu, depending on the region. I absolutely love Japanese breakfast. More fried fish, cold vegetables, tofu with bonito, seaweed salad, eggs, beans! Plus a coffee with chocolate to finish.

                                               KANAZAWA GOLD LEAF ICE CREAM  

                                               KANAZAWA GOLD LEAF ICE CREAM

 

We spent about 4 days in Kanazawa and absolutely loved it! There was actually a 10 page article in Air Canada's December issue of En Route about this up and coming city. This is where we learned about Kanazawa's rich history of gold leaf. There are castles, temples, shrines, and a geisha-tea district. We stayed very close to the train station, which was a helpful point of reference while we were walking around. 

After touring the Gold Leaf Museum, where I bought myself a tiny gold spoon and was given complimentary tea with gold flakes, I had to indulge in ice cream wrapped in gold leaf!! Consuming gold leaf really validated all of my years drinking Goldschlager. 

Our first night in town we came up on a ramen spot where the only options were spicy or not spicy. It was chicken and included a chicken meatball. Ramen restaurants are like diners. Get in, slurp your noodles, and get out. No camping, especially when there is a line wrapped around the building. People are so accommodating and will hurry up and eat, so you can eat next. Keep that in mind the next time you are lolly-gagging at a table! 

Later that night, we went to karaoke and indulged in nomi hodai (all you can drink). Needless to say, the night ended with kombini snacks and the next day began with coconut water. Coco water tastes slightly different in Japan, but it's ability to cure a hangover is just the same!

We skipped Tsukiji Fish Market while in Tokyo (the biggest wholesale seafood market in the world!!) While in Kanazawa, we spent some time at the Omi-cho Market, which according to Enna was a way better experience because it wasn't as packed. Going to the market with my Grandma was a childhood pasttime, therefore I was in market heaven. I had mackerel on a stick, an octopus croquette, fresh pineapple, and the most sought-after delicacy, UNI! We had been searching for uni all day and I was the happiest sqirl to find this, fresh out the shell for only 1000 yen. 

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There was a kaiten (conveyor belt sushi) restaurant in the market but the line was insane for lunch. We wanted to go for dinner, but they were closed plus it was raining like crazy. We asked our taxi driver to take us to the closest kaiten and he totally sent us to a secret locals spot. It was such an experience! Each plate has a different color, which determines the price. I was so blown away by self-service matcha! Water spickets at the bar! Calling orders via microphone! As you can see, I had 8 plates plus clam miso soup and sake in a box, of course! 

Ikura (salmon roe) is my all-time favorite piece of sushi. Paired with my favorite beverage, I was blissed out.

We just happened to walk past a vegan macrobiotic restaurant while trekking to Kanazawa Castle, aptly named Los Angeles. A small-ish menu, we opted for the 3 course lunch. This included a salad, a ginger burger, and a muffin (I chose yuzu.) There was a delicious clear drink that had ginger bits, I have no idea what it was! I may never know. Plus I had roasted rice coffee for the first time and the flavor is so robust and unique. I can't speak enough about how impeccable service is in Japan, everywhere! Their culture of hospitality is so genuine and accommodating. 

Later that evening, we spent the night in a ryokan, where we relaxed in the onsen and had dinner served to us in our room!! Can you believe that entire meal was only 2000 yen. After we finished, the staff came to our room to clear our dishes and set up our beds on the tatami mats. Staying in a ryokan is an absolute must while in Japan! 

After Kanazawa, we traveled to Osaka and didn't have much planned. We set out to find the Gudetama Cafe, which was on the 7th floor of one of the many malls tethered to Osaka Station. A lover of all things Sanrio, the Gudetama Cafe was SO KAWAII. I love James for enduring experiences like this. I enjoyed a delicious udon dish with soy milk and shrimp paste. This was the first time we used the Google Translate photo option to translate the menu. We had a latte for dessert and honestly, I would have ordered everything if James would have let me. 

We took a day trip to Nara, where we had our first vending machine ramen experience. We were wandering down this cute lil street, trying to find food. James literally followed a scent to this spot. There were only two dudes working and they were slinging noodles with the quickness. I never saw one single vegetarian/pescatarian option in these machines. No biggie. The broth was always delicious and I would just give James the meat.

Our AirBNB in Osaka was centrally located to many things.  The subway station was across the street, next to a cafe where I had soy matcha lattes and James ate hot dogs for breakfast. There was an izakaya style restaurant downstairs called Wa-Ta-Mi, which apparently has many locations throughout Japan. They had an extensive menu that included delicacies like horse sashimi. I opted for smelt roe, salmon belly, and sparkling sake! The kombini was next door, so got ice cream to eat in bed but forgot spoons! Chopsticks will do the trick, if you're in a bind. 

I am OBSESSED with black sesame. I love how nutty and earthy the flavor is. Black sesame seeds are the perfect addition to my daily avocado toast. During our 2 hours wait to get into the Naritasan Shinshoji temple, there were many vendors along the way, so you could pop out of line and get a nibble. This cone was probably my favorite thing that I ate in Japan. 

Real talk, I was super hungover on New Year's Day and my morning consisted trying not to barf oranges and green tea. When I finally got an appetite, we indulged in jaga-bata, which is a grilled potato slathered in butter. We made it more decadent with mentaiko mayo and hot sauce. It cured me along with a Metz cola. While in the temple, there was festival style food, where we had lots of food like ikayaki (squid on a stick) and french fries topped with nori. 

On our last full day in Tokyo, we had been shoppin' til we dropped and got a lil hangry. After a failed attempt of finding tempura at the mall food court (there were 2 floors), we hopped on a train to Harajuku and hoped for the best. The streets were packed and we turned down a lil side street where we found a tiny restaurant with open seats! There were pictures of a calico cat everywhere! The mackerel set was only 1200 yen yet the chef apologized for raising her prices due to the crowds.

Late lunch = late dinner which means we missed out on getting a bucket from KFC. We had a light snacks at the izakaya near the karaoke spot. In hindsight, I should have eaten a lot more to balance the nomi hodai whiskey-gingers! We survived karaoke and I woke up still turnt the next morning. It was for the best because I was feeling goofy. We had KFC chicken biscuits after checking out of our Airbnb. Honestly, I am so fascinated by American fast food around the globe, I had to check it out. The chicken was tempura fried and the biscuit was sold separately. The most delicious morning after breakfast!

Our last meal in Tokyo was ramen, of course! Every ramen spot that we went to was different from each other, which is so fun. We walked into this one spot and nobody was eating. Moments after sitting down, we knew something was up. Enna says it's rare to see people just sitting around and not eating! We quietly dipped and found a gem around the corner. It was a perfect last meal. The quail egg/ double egg was a nice touch. I so needed the protein! 

THE REAL MVP OF JAPAN

The most incredible thing about Japan is that there are vending machines EVERYWHERE. Literally on every block. There was always green tea and water but the variety of food and drank was endless. Rice crackers with anchovies, sparkling apple soda, HOT CORN SOUP. If you were lucky, you might roll up on a beer or cigarette machine. While you might hunt miles for a trash can, there was a machine on every block to fulfill your every desire.

I don't really want to think about all of the gazillions of plastic bottles that go into filling these machines, so lets talk about how there is basically no litter in Japan!!! There is no litter in Japan. 

Our mission in Japan was to eat and we did exactly that. I cannot think of one meal that I disliked. The Japanese diet consists of mostly plants, fish, and vegetables, which might be the key to why people live so long!  I always felt energized after every meal, never uncomfortably full. Since we've been home, I have incorporated more Japanese cuisine into my current diet. I've been making my own miso broth, eating more buckwheat noodles, and turned my matcha game to 100. Japanese food is a lifestyle and I'm about that life! 

#BUDDHABLESSED: An exploration of Buddhism

I have always been fascinated by religions. Maybe it was my Grandma's devout Catholicism or the Baptist Vacation Bible School I once attended as an eight year old. In college, Enna and I both took many Religious Studies courses. We learned about the spectrum of religions, however, we are both pretty drawn to Eastern traditions. Is it because we are both Earth signs? Not to mention, during my last semester at VCU, I took Intro to Buddhism and other religious studies courses to get my minor in the subject. While planning this trip, we were both interested in exploring Buddhism more. The two major religions in Japan are Buddhism and Shinto. I was excited to immerse myself in Japanese Buddhist culture for two weeks.

On our first full day, we traveled to the Bōsō Peninsula and hiked up Mount Nokogiri. The elevation was not super high (1,081 feet) but it was steep as hell. We planned to hike up the mountain and ride the ropeway down, however, it was unreasonably windy and the service had been disabled. We trekked all the way to the top, where we had an incredible view of the Tokyo Bay. We could even see Mount Fuji in the distance!  Afterwards, we hopped back on the trail and saw the 1,500 statues that depict 'arhat', or mortals who have attained enlightenment. 

We finally made it to the Nihon-ji Temple, where we had the pleasure of viewing the largest stone figure of a Buddha in Japan. I had been referring to the statue as Daibutsu, which literally means 'big Buddha'. The 31 foot granite figure depicts Yakushi Nyorai, the healing Buddha and you should notice the container of medicine in the Buddha's lefthand. 

At the temple, I bought incense for 100 yen and began to cleanse myself before I prayed. I also bought corn soup because there was a vending machine and we were starving. A little Japanese lady helped me light the incense because I wasn't really sure what to do. Enna suggested throwing a coin with a 5, as it is a lucky number, possibly because there are 5 precepts? (I can't remember, oops) She also told me to say my name (in my head), so that the Gods knew who was praying. 

Hiking to the viewpoint and around the mountain was free, but in order to see the statues it cost 600 yen for an adult. While I wasn't sure my glutes were prepared for hiking Mt. Nokogiri, I am so glad that we spent our first day in nature. The Chiba countryside was so relaxing and I longed for its tranquility once we were in the bustling cities. 

While in Kanazawa, we spent a rainy day museum hopping. D.T. Suzuki was a Japanese philsopher whose speciality was in Buddhism, Zen, and Shin. His writings played a major role in the introduction of Zen Buddhism in the West. It costs 300 yen to enter the museum as it is rather quaint and minimal. He spent his career spreading the knowledge of Mahayana Buddhism, while also translating Buddhist books into Japanese. He and his wife dedicated their lives to Zen Buddhism. I was pleasantly surprised to notice that his wife, Beatrice was American. A passage that he wrote after her passing totally made me cry.

There was a reading room where you could get comfortable with many of Suzuki's books. There was a contemplation space that overlooked the Water Mirror Garden. It was lightly raining this day, which made the view even more picturesque. Throughout my Buddhist studies, I had never heard of D.T. Suzuki, so visiting his museum was a great learning experience. He lived a wonderful life and it is honored in the most beautiful way.

Celebrating the New Year is very popular in Japan. At first, I was nervous to travel during this time because this is when many Japanese people are off from work and visiting their own families. Many businesses are closed and sometimes you can't even take money out of an ATM. Luckily, we did not run into these types of issues around New Year festivities. 

While the Japanese New Year follows the Gregorian calendar, they also follow the Lunar New Year, which normally falls at the end of January/early February, correlating with the first new moon of the year. 2017 is the Year of the Rooster and the cock was widely represented in many ways around the country.

New Year's Eve in Japan isn't midnight kisses and champagne. When the clock strikes midnight, many Japanese will already be at the temple, ringing the bell 108 times. We rented a beach house on the coast of Chiba, so we could partake in hatsuhinode, the first sunrise of the year. We partied American style and we popped a bottle of sparkling rose on the beach at midnight! We rolled out of bed and were convinced the Sun would be hiding behind clouds the whole day. However, she came thru!!! I couldn't believe we even joked about polar plunging. It was amazing to see the coastline fill up with people who wanted to honor the first sun and it's goddess, Amaterasu. 

After barfing fruit all morning, I was pretty certain I was going to turn into dust on the hourish train ride to the temple. I was thankful for vending machines that had Metz (Japanese cola) and festival style food vendors that allowed to us to pick and choose what we ate. My personal favorite was jaga-bata, which is a grilled potato that we lathered in butter and mentaiko mayonnaise. We waited over an hour just to enter the temple, but there were vendors and shops the entire way in. I got black sesame soy milk ice cream, a wooden Buddha charm from the Capsule, and saw a Shiba Inu being carried like a baby. As we entered the temple, I began to fell really emotional. It might've been my waning hangover, but seeing hundreds of orderly people just waiting for their chance to pray was such a beautiful sight. I loved seeing entire families bringing Grandma and their toddlers to continue cultural traditions. We got to go inside of the temple and witness Buddhist priests perform the Goma fire ritual. It was such an uplifting experience!

Fire symbolizes the wisdom of the Buddha and they use wood to symbolize human desires, which they burn as it is the root of suffering. Enna's backpack also got blessed in the the fire ritual too. After the ritual, we bought some talismans for family members and indulged in festival snacks. We ate french fries with nori and squid on a stick! 

My appreciation for Buddhism certainly flourished during my trip to Japan. After we hiked Mt. Nokogiri, we experienced a fortunate series of events, which we joked and kept saying #BuddhaBlessed. However, as the trip went on, it felt less like a joke and like actual blessings. I never said I didn't believe, I just wasn't sure what religion I identified with. As life's challenges arise, I am certain Buddha has be on the right path. Each year, I have become more dedicated to personal development, which includes reflection and self-awareness. I want to get more involved with the community and hope to deepen my knowledge of Buddhism here in Richmond. 

If anyone is interested in learning alongside me,  please let me know ! 

HOW TO BEAT JET LAG LIKE A JUDY

According to Merriam-Webster, jet lag is defined as "a condition that is characterized by various psychological and physiological effects (such as fatigue and irritability), occurs following a long flight through several time zones, and probably results from disruption of circadian rhythms in the human body." For as many time zones that you cross, I heard it can take up to that many days (or atleast half, depending on the direction) to overcome jet lag! 

Our recent trip to Japan was my third time crossing the International Date Line (IDL). I have been flying over oceans since I was 9 months old (I went to Hawaii a lot; #humblebrag). As I've gotten older, I get slightly anxious flying over oceans. In 2011, I got acupuncture before and after my trip to the Philippines. Not only did it soothe my worries, but it also helped reset my digestive system upon my return. This time around, I opted for floatation therapy! Ever since Vitality Float Spa opened in my neighborhood, we have been hooked! 

If you're not familiar with floatation therapy, you relax in about 12 inches of water and about 800lbs of salt! The water is supposed to be the same temperature as your body, so it is pretty easy to stay comfortable. There are soooo many benefits of floating; stress relief, enhancing creativity, reducing pain and so much more. I like to float as a way to enhance my meditation practice and I like to pretend I'm in the Dead Sea. Plus, I read that 1 hour of floating is equivalent to 4 hours of rest! I floated the day before we left as a way to get my mind prepared for the flight. I did not sleep a single wink on our flight from Toronto to Tokyo and we left at 10am on Wednesday. After a 14 hour flight + IDL, we arrived at 5pm on Thursday. After going thru customs, eating dinner, and heading back to our friends apt, we didn't get to sleep until 1am! I never felt affected by jet-lag during our trip. On our first full day in Japan, we went on a strenuous hike. I felt like the fresh air and being active really helped me not feel exhausted. We stayed pretty active on the rest of our trip, so there wasn't much time to feel tired.  

During our trip, I suggested that we book massages and floats for the day after we got back. We weren't leaving Tokyo until 6pm on a Tuesday. Not only did I wake up still drunk at 9:30am but we checked out of our AirBNB at 11am and had a full day of trekking around before heading to airport. Once again, I did not sleep a wink on the 14 hour flight home. Then I had a panicky moment when we accidentally went thru Canadian customs and exited the airport during our layover in Toronto. We arrived in D.C. around 8pm on Tuesday (time-travel) and then we had to drive close to 2 hours back home to Richmond. By the time we unpacked our souvenir haul and remade our bed it was 2am, which is 4pm on Wednesday in Tokyo. After a few hours of sleep, I woke up at 6am, feeling so alert! I managed to fall back asleep until our 12pm appointments. I got a massage with cupping, while James floated. Then we switched. We ate a late lunch and I slept from 4pm to 7am the next morning. I might have had an herbal sleep aid to get me to sleep. ;)

The next day I was signed up for a VA Bloggers meetup at PlankRVA. The event was scheduled for 6pm but by the middle of the day, I was losing steam. I totally felt like bailing and I'm so glad that I didn't because I had so much fun! PlankRVA is Richmond's first MegaFormer studio that uses the Lagree Training Method for high-intensity, low impact total body workouts. The workout was tough but exhilarating. I swear that the endorphins brought me back to life! I felt energized and from that moment on, I haven't felt a twinge of jet lagginess. I went back to work 2 days after our trip and commenced life as usual. I normally wake up around 8:30am but have been waking up slightly earlier, which has been great for having breakfast before James goes to work! 

There are so many ideas of how to beat jet lag. Sleep, exercise, holistic healing, and so much more.

How do you recover from traveling? Listen to your body and find the best way that works best for you! 

Weekend Trip to Lydia Mountain

Virginia is such a beautiful state and I am reminded of this every Fall. I have lived in this state for 15 years, but have not spent much time in the Virginia mountains. We're so lucky to have the Shenandoah Valley right up the road. Our friends got married atop Lydia Mountain in Stanardsville, VA and we were so excited to be invited. After weeks of rain, our friends were blessed with a beautiful, sunny wedding day!  

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I had been dreaming of this Camel Turtleneck Dress from Mod & Soul! I'm obsessed with it and will be wearing it all season. Whatever Forever Patch by Sara M. Lyons. Pamplemousse by La Croix.

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I'm not much of an antiquer, but James is. As soon as we crossed into Gordonsville, VA, there were antique stores everywhere! We were doing really well on time and I got a wild hair and wanted to check out a few stores.  

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The Green M&M is my spirit animal. While I was checking out some rooster S&P shakers, James pointed out the M&M display behind me and I could not even believe this Green M&M Fortune Teller!!!! Best $10 I ever spent; so glad we decided to stop. 

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Slightly sad that I did not take this home.

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Changing my nail polish while we wait to check in.

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This dude can find a spot to fingerboard anywhere.

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James and I, serving Fall Wedding Realness

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Beautiful origami made by the Bride! 

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Pre-Ceremony Lydia Mountain

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Love is in the Air!

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Andrea with our flower haul that Hilary was so gracious to share with us.

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Stanardsville. Virginia

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Exploring the property

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Lunch on the porch !

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Bye Bye, Lydia Mountain

#MANCRUSH MONDAY: Olympic Babewatch

Here at Luscious Judy, we have no qualms with objectifying attractive men. For us, the 2016 Rio Olympics were two-weeks of viewing pleasure. We've been sending each other texts, snaps, and instas of some of our favorite Olympian babes, so we compiled a list of our top 8. (In no particular order) 

BRUNO SCHMIDT, BRAZIL, BEACH VOLLEYBALL

In the words of the great Kevin Federline, POPOZÃO. Would love for this gold-medalist to toy all his thang on me.

KEVIN MAYER, FRANCE, TRACK & FIELD 

BONJOUR, MONSIEUR! This silver medalist decathlete is giving me male model realness. I wouldn't mind spending one night in Paris with this homme. 

MIR SAEID MAROU FLAKRANI, IRAN, MEN'S VOLLEYBALL

Men in gym shorts.....need I say more? This Persian Daddy is dreamy AF and there just aren't enough pictures of him on the Internet!!! 

DANELL LEYVA, USA, MEN'S GYMNASTICS

The reality is that I've been thinking Danell was a butter face but his uneven bars free style got me thinking otherwise! I know Adam would love to balance on his beam.    

WAYDE VAN NIEKERK, SOUTH AFRICA, TRACK & FIELD

This South African shorty brought home the gold for his country. During the apartheid era, his mother never got the chance to compete for the South African national team. The most amazing victory! We luv a (fine ass) mama's boy. 

RHYS HOWDEN, AUSTRALIA, WATER POLO

Let me just say that the Australian swim team of the 2000 Olympics truly set my standard for beautiful men. This tall drink of water carries on that legacy....

MATHEUS SANTANA, BRAZIL, SWIMMING

I mean.....the Speedo doesn't lie. 

JIMMY VICAUT, FRANCE, TRACK & FIELD

Break me off a piece of dat asssssss. 

P.S. Ryan Lochte, you are a douche lord. You're the type of guy that we would give a fake number to at a bar. Also, who goes platinum before going to the swimming pool???

DÍA 5: MIERCOLES

Savory breakfast vibes are always my favorite. I could eat this everyday.

MIERCOLES: Today we were heading to the community of Chuicutama. During our CARE meeting the previous day, we heard of a woman named Manuela. She walked 8 hours to get a meeting with AMA! On our ride to this village that lives at 11,000 feet, I couldn't imagine walking to/from this destination. We turned off of the highway to enter unpaved roads down into the community. I was thankful for the sunshine and lightly clouded skies. Lupe said that we could see all six volcanoes at once from this point. This picture certainly does not do the actual breathtaking views any justice. 

 

In addition to supporting midwifery, AMA also builds safe stoves in communities across the highlands. There are many negative effects to open fire cooking, in addition to the amount of time that it takes. Upper respiratory infections are so common amongst women and children. Manuela wanted a stove built in her community, but she got something better. A community center! It was election season, so roads were getting paved for political candidates to come thru and campaign. 

The bone-setter, Don Marcario led an information session on medicinal plants for our team and the other women in the K'Iche community. He mentioned that Mayan medicinal plants are inexpensive with no secondary side effects but it might take longer to feel results. 

Use the Hacedera root to make a hot drink that purifies the blood. Boil the roots of barbech and swish the paste for toothace relief. Sabila, or aloe is great for open wounds and burns. He mentioned blending it into water for stomachaches or gas, which is something that I have been doing. ;) Llleva Buena looked a lot like mint, but was great for fighting bacteria in the stomach. Boganbila flowers cure sore throats and coughs, add milk and cinnamon for a delicious tea. Saliciato roots are used for inflammation and the scent was very reminiscent of Vick's vapor rub. There are two types of tobacco, puro y monte. One is used as an analgesic  while the other leaf is used to set bones. I am not gonna lie, my mind started to wander at this point, but I was still taking notes. The last thing he passed around was manzanilla (chamomile). I know this flower gets mad love but I have never paid it much mind. Guatemalas love their chamomile and it has so many wonderful properties! Also an anti-inflamamatory, makes a great tea, and can be found all across the mountainside. 

He then offered adjust people in the audience who might've had an issue with their huesos. I took a hilarious video of our awesome team leader, Janett getting her ankle adjusted. Everyone reported success after their procedures, with no additional pain. I was mesmerized every time a cloud rolled thru. I overheard my housemates, "It's crazy that the clouds are passing by." "Isn't that just fog?" "Isn't a cloud, just fog?" #deep. I wanted to believe that we were that high up in the sky that clouds were passing us by!

To the right of the community center was the local water source. Throughout the course of the day, I witnessed numerous women coming to wash their clothes, blankets, and dishes. I know it's culturally insensitive to take a photo but it was such a beautiful sight to me! There were two men on the mountain tending to their crops, the entire time that we were at the community center. (6 hours) Two black sheep were snacking and chilling for awhile, I wanted to pet them but they weren't feeling me. Occasionally, people would walk by toting a stack of wood or leading a caballo. Down the road to the left of the community center was the school. As we walked to check it out, we came across children leaving for the day. We tried to chat with them but they did not speak Spanish! We walked up to a clinic that had been built, there was one man sitting in there reading papers and shot records on the wall from 2013. We were mostly just happy that it was open. 

Lunch was on location this day;  rice and beans (you guessed it). an apple, and a Chiky. However, there were greens in our beans and a nice addition of queso fresco! Other than a lil' sour cream with our black beans, this was the first time I had cheese all week! It was mild yet tangy. After lunch, we would get to experience the Temascal, which is a Mayan sweat bath, led by the midwifery students. There are many reasons a person would seek out a sweat bath. Cleansing the soul, healing body parts, or preparing for birth. The healer uses a handful of leaves to create steam in a cinderblock structure. A Temascal is fundamental during Indigenous birthing rituals. We went in as pairs and there were two midwives in the sweat bath as well. I was happy that there was a light cloth over the opening because I did start to feel claustrophobic and this after I bragged about doing hot yoga. The smoke added a new element. Typically during this service, midwives will massage the breast of a woman to help aid in the lactation process. Everyone on the team was expecting a boob massage but sadly, none of us got any. :( The process lasted about 10 minutes, I wished it was longer. The dreary weather and sprinkles of rain added a nice touch as we wrapped up the session.

It was a long trek home, in the rain, down a muddy road. Magarito reversed down a hill like a boss. We popped by the soccer field where our engineering housemates were building a retaining wall. The girls tried to rally a crew to go out on the town, but I was spent, so I promised to go out the next night. 

Check out my complete Guatemala album on Flickr!

DÍA 3: LUNES

LUNES: We started this day exceptionally early, 6:15am for spinach omelets and 7am departure by chicken bus to Concepción Chiquirichapa with midwifery students and other women from the community. I witnessed children eating cotton candy outside of school at 7:20AM ;( AQ' AB' AL is a special day in the Mayan calendar, it symbolizes renewal of energy and is a day of hope for a better future. 

 

Adelino, a Mayan Priest and Anthropology professor would lead our Mayan ceremony on the sacred mountain of Po'píl. The Mayans are very connected to nature and astronomy, which I am also very into. We were told to bring offerings to the ceremony, offerings of the elements. (I acquired a stack of corn husks, however, I was prepared to offered rose quartz that I brought along with me!) 

There were six big candles that we began the ceremony with. Red, Black, White, and Yellow...all colors of corn, we stood in each direction and pray to the N,S,E,W before lighting these candles in our fire. Blue represented the Sky and Green represented the Earth. I was one of six volunteers to hold these candles. I held Yellow, which is the color of the South. It represents the energy of life and is used for health, protection, and helping adults. Yellow is related to the water elements, as well, as plants and seeds. Yellow is directly connected to material things and material manifestation. We offered so many other things, like tobacco, chocolate, seeds. We prayed for abundance, opportunity, loved ones who are no longer with us (which is where I got highly emotional). 

The ceremony lasted quite awhile, we lit so many candles, practiced rituals by the 13s, shared a bottle of moonshine, and at the end, prayed for those who never expressed gratitude for what the have. It was emotionally enchanting and draining, all at the same time. For the entire duration of our ceremony, there were three women engaging in their own ceremony nearby. By the looks of the three chickens they sacrificing, they were seeking healing for someone who was sick. As soon as we finished, it started to rain. This seemed to be a theme throughout the week, once we were done with our business, then it would rain. Perfect timing, always.

We had lunch at CODECOT, the facility where las comadronas receive their training. I learned during this event that my trip is paying for 28 midwives to attend a 2 year training. Maternal mortality rates are incredibly high in Guatemala, especially in rural, indigenous communities. 29% of indigenous women give birth in a healthcare facility. Access to medical facilities is not always easy and with 20 Mayan languages, language barriers can often present problems. Training midwives within their communities is so important.

In their 2 year program,  the students will learn about Mayan medicine, prenatal care, and mental health. They will spend 6 months at a local hospital for their clinicals. Often times, midwives are not recognized by Western hospitals as medical professionals. We heard stories from many of the comadronas about how they came to find their destiny as midwives. Dreams of hands, flowers, ducklings, and 'receiving a baby' were a few symbols that the students saw as a calling to midwifery. The psyche of the midwife is so important and they promote self-care. Not only do midwives take care of the mothers throughout their pregnancies, but it is the duty of the comadrona to detect and protect bad energies of guests who come around the babies, this idea is known as Mal De Ojo

Many of our presentations had to be translated from Mam or K'Iche to Spanish to English. I was proud of myself when I was able to understand the Spanish translation, which was pretty much all the time! 

After our long day, we walked through Parque Central to XelaPan, a panaderia that I heard be compared to Panera, except I didn't see any bread bowls. I loaded up on pastries, chocolate with sprinkles, a powdered doughnut filled with black bean paste, and a period cupcake. My housemates went to the bank next door to exchange money but the banks in Guatemala pretty much won't take currency smaller than a $50 or $100 bill. When they did accept $20s or $10s, they had to be perfectly crispy and not folded/torn whatsoever. I didn't have this problem because I exchanged my currency before my trip BUT consider this information, if you plan to head to Guatemala anytime soon. 

After spaghetti and split pea soup, I went to bed at 8pm. This bedtime would be pretty common during my trip.

Check out my complete Guatemala album on Flickr!

DÍA 1: SABADO

From June 4-11, I was on a global service trip in Guatemala. On behalf of the VCU Institute of Women's Health and the Highland Support Project, the trip was geared towards Midwifery & Health; Marrying Mayan & Western Medicine. I had already applied to another study abroad program, when this trip popped up and I knew this was the trip that I needed to go on. While I am not in the healthcare realm, I have a passion for women's health and reproductive justice. I was looking forward to learning more about Mayan culture and hopefully getting the chance to practice my Español.

We were preparing for a cool, rainy week in Guate, so I packed lots of sweaters and socks. Since I am an American Airlines AAdvantage member, I was looking forward to checking my bag for free and not having to deal with it. In true ME fashion, we left a little late to the airport and there was a detour on the interstate. I was thoroughly freaking out when I was checking in at the kiosk and saw that the opportunity for checked bags had been closed. I had no other choice than to bring it as my carry-on, I remembered that I had liquids over 3.4oz in my checked bag and continued silently melting down. I made it through security with no problems, ran to my gate, where they were checking everyone's bags at the gate because our plane was super small anyway. A win for me! 

BIENVENIDOS A GUATEMALA

My team consisted of 8 members from VCU, we were traveling with a team of 4 engineers from Randolph-Macon College and our fearless leader, Luscious Lupe. While waiting for everyone to arrive, I ate a PB&J and Chiky, a chocolate covered cookie that would become my favorite snack. A popular Central American treat! Outside of the airport, I observed scores of missionary groups. A bunch of dorks in matching t-shirts, if you wanna know my real opinion.  Their presence was making me feel weird and I couldn't explain why. (I figured it out later in the week.) 

Once our team was complete, we climbed into our Turismo bus and set off for Panajachel. Guatemala City was full of McDonalds, Dominos, La Casa Del Waffle. Everywhere I looked, there was American fast food. It was grossing me out. I was excited to see some graffiti and a rather attractive man, riding his bike through the city. Also, I saw a man on a motorcycle, do the sign of the cross while at a stop-light, then moments later, I saw a motorcycle crash. (Not the same biker)

Let me just say, there was no shortage of things to look at for our 3 hour ride to Pana! 

Hotel Kakchiquel: View from my window. 

Our time in Pana was strategic: the elevation is about 5,240 feet and we needed to acclimate, as we were heading further into the Highlands for the week. After checking in, we had dinner at El Patio, just a few blocks away from our hotel. Renowed for their Pepian, a signature Guatemalan dish, made with pumpkin and sesame seeds, It was our first meal as a team!  Pepian is essentially Mayan curry with a Spanish twist. Served with tamalitos and hibiscus tea, it was muy delicioso! After dinner, I bought some Gallo cerveza for a nightcap. Can't beat 10Q (1.31USD) for a tallboy! 

Needless to say, I slept very well. 

Check out my full Guatemala album on Flickr

JUDYS IN MIAMI

This year, my birthday fell during a hectic time of year. It was right between final projects, exams, and an out of town wedding. Despite it being my 30th birthday, I wanted to keep things super minimal. That's my vibe for my 30s, simple and chill. However, about a month before my bday, I had a moment and decided that we needed to go out of town. I had an exam on May 5, so it had to be somewhere quick! Naturally, we chose MIAMI.

I have always had a love affair with this city. Adam and I used to dream of moving there for the summer, roller-skating in hot shorts down Ocean Drive. Of course, I love the weather and the international flair. Every time I visit, I feel more at home. We are so lucky to have a friend who lives in SoBe (ahem, South Beach) and he was gracious enough to let us crash with him DURING THE WEEK. If you don't know, weekday partying is the way to go. 

We left Richmond late Sunday night and would arrive in MIA around midnight. The best part is that's when people start going out! I knew if we were up for it, we could grab a drink as soon as we got off of the plane. Except Mother Nature had our own agenda. April showers brought flight delays and we were grounded in Charlotte for awhile. (Cheap flights = not direct) Luckily, the entire airport was grounded, so we didn't miss our flight. It was only about 1.5 hours late. Kyle was a champ and still picked us up and even had tacos waiting for us. SO SWEET.

The next morning, I woke up next to my new boo, Sosa. Whenever friends stay with us, Gypsy will sleep with them and I get jealous. Being on the receiving end of a doggy host is so wonderful and I wish I could've brought him home with us.

Monday was a great weather day, we saw rain in our future and wanted to take advantage of the beach. First, we got to-go margaritas from Bodega South Beach. Check out their cool bathroom that looks like a port-a-potty.

Somewhere between 9th & 15th? I can't remember. I was so hellbent on putting this temporary tattoo on my chest and this was the only picture I got! It's pretty fierce, if I must say. I relied on Coola Suncare to keep me protected before and after sun exposure! 

After the beach, we hit up some Coronas at Mac's Club Deuce. I just watched the Parts Unknown episode where Anthony Bourdain chills here, so I felt pretty cool. It's the oldest bar in Miami and Mac owned the joint for 52 years! (He passed in March at the 101 years old!) We kept it divey and hit up Lost Weekend for pitchers and truffle fries. 

Babes asking KeyKey for snapshots

James is a finger boarder. He has been for our entire relationship, but he's gotten real serious about it, as of late. So here we are walking home from the beach and he needed to film a trick. I usually stand by and roll my eyes. Good thing I had a colada to hold me down. Check out his YouTube channel, if that's your thang.

Monday Night: we hit up Lincoln Road. Ladurée for macarons (Pink Champagne before dinner), Shake Shack for burgers, and Melissa Shoes for window shopping. 

The next morning, I took a solo walk to Under the Mango Tree, per the recommendation of my girl, Welsy. I knew the dudes would not be interested in my need to visit an organic juice bar. (They went to Rice House of Kabob) It was a solid 20 minute walk, I listened to a podcast and enjoyed looking at the real estate options. The staff was super-friendly and the interior was very welcoming. I ordered a Turmeric Latte and Superfood Bowl. They have a nook in the back where their produce lives and I enjoy a few moments of serenity. 

Wynwood Walls were on the agenda for Tuesday. This is the Arts District of Miami. I have heard it be described as the Williamsburg of Miami. Urban murals and graffiti are flourishing in Richmond, it was so great to see a concentrated area just dripping in art. Kicked off our lil' tour with Fafi!

Incredible.

It started to drizzle and we ducked into Wynwood Brewing Company for cervezas and Connect Four. I especially loved seeing a Trina mural. On Tuesdays, Wood Tavern has free tacos from 5-8! They have a permanent food truck inside of the bar and you can get two tacos at a time, I highly recommend the portabella tacos. Wash 'em down with a Chile Tequila, for the ultimate experience. I was DELIGHTED that there was photo-booth. You all know, I love a damn photo-booth. I could've spent the entire night in there AND you can swipe a card for your pix. After the bar, we hit up Total Wine for rosé & gose. We ordered a margherita pizza and chilled all night with KeyKey's neighbors.

We were leaving Miami around 5pm on Wednesday and wanted to get some last minute thangs in. We went to La Sandwicherie for lunch, per the recommendation of my bb, Makiko. It's right across the street from Mac's and they are open from 8am-5am. I got the Tropical sandwich (Avocado, Mozz, Papaya, Mango, Pineapple, etc) and a VitaCoco to bring me back to life. 

We took a Lyft to MIA Skateshop, where we had the most insane driver. He was cracking me up! Told us about the HotelTonight app to get baller rooms for cheap to impress women, then suggested looking in the trash at the bank for receipts with high balances to give out your phone number. We arrived at our destination and he turned off the meter to finish his story. OH PAPI! The shop was super chill, nothing for the ladies. There was a cool pair of Adidas swim trunks but they didn't have James' size. :( 

Only in Miami will you find Dom Perignon locked up in a convenience store fridge.

I had to get my last Colada in before we left. 

Originally, I had said that I wanted to ball-out for one dinner and pop a bottle of champagne. We didn't do either of those things and I wasn't disappointed.  We kept it pretty simple and still had a fantastic time. I learned that Miami doesn't always have to be clubs & bottle service. Kyle showed us all of his MIA Life Hacks, which are key for ballin' on a budget. Thank you being the most wonderful hosts! We had a great low-keykey time and I can't wait to visit you dudes soon. 

The only picture we took together in MIA.

!Adios Miami!

LUSCIOUS GUIDE TO RICHMOND

LUSCIOUS GUIDE TO RICHMOND, VIRGINIA 

I was beyond thrilled when one of my best Judys, Adam, decided to spend his 30th birthday here in Richmond, Virginia! He lived in Richmond while we went to college at VCU, but moved away shortly after he graduated in 2008. He decided to come to town for five days; his longest trip in six years. So much has changed and I couldn't wait to show him how much more fantastic Richmond is these days. 

The three original Judys pose outside of our home base, Purple Haus. We all spent years hanging around this Fan house, drinking and smoking away our early 20s. We started the blog in 2010 as a way to keep each other in touch with things like music, fashion, and cats. I like to think of it as the pre-cursor to group texting. Unfortunately, Noel still doesn't have a smart phone, so he couldn't even be in the chat anyway.

Adam is cumming home! Enjoying a stroll down Floyd Avenue.

Adam got in around midnight on Friday night. James ordered an Assante's pizza for us and we popped a bottle of champagne. Needless to say, we weren't feeling 100 when we woke up on Saturday morning. The only cure was gonna be brunch at Joe's Inn! Not like 'brunch' but straight up eggs and toast and pitchers of mimosas. Back in the day, we spent sooo much time at Joe's Inn. I don't even wanna think about how many cups of coffee I've had there. It is a Richmond institution and on the top of my list of places to bring out of town guests. 

James and Adam. After our meal, we popped over to Shields Market to rehydrate with VitaCoco and samples of Barefoot Bucha. This is my favorite market in town; such a great selection of cookies, ice cream, and booze. 

We started to head West and hit up Addison Street for some light shopping. I can't believe it was my first time going to Yesterday's Heroes Vintage. I'm so glad that Noel pulled the trigger on this Epcot Center sweatshirt. 

Adam picked up this beautiful ring on the left.  Yesterday's Heroes Vintage.

Disco naps are very necessary for long lasting fun.

We caught our second wind and hit Akida for Japanese cuisine.  This is my most favorite place to get sushi! Consistent food and service. Hands down, the best lunch special in town. We split a bottle of Sparkling Sake because duh. 

Y'all know I love that roe.

It was pretty cold this weekend and we were on foot, so we stuck around Carytown. Because nothing says after dinner drinks like margaritas at Don't Look Back

Adam's leather jacket got a lot of attention everywhere we went! A guerilla comedy troupe dropped into the bar and couldn't help but include it in their routine. 

SUNDAY: SEE JUDYS TAKE WILLAMSBURG 

I had class on Monday, then took forever getting ready, so we hit Carytown for a late lunch and wine. Can Can is my absolute favorite restaurant in town; one might say that I'm a regular. We split a carafe of rosé and Adam got his Croque Madame on. While I'm trying to stay away from red meat, this is my number 1 burger spot. What I truly love is the ambiance of the restaurant. As soon as I walk in the door, I am instantly bourgeois. My #1 restaurant destination.

We are those people talking self-timer selfies while waiting for our entrees. Not pictured: our bread basket. 

Of course, I had to bring Adam to Elements Beauty Shop! I probably bought a bar of soap! 

I always have time for a trip to For the Love of Chocolate. I can always find a delicious treat in this candy shop! (P.s. It is waaaay better than the candy shop in Williamsburg).  

I had just been thinking about chocolate rocks and they have them! Also, we tried many different malt balls. The maple was no good. :( 

Adam used to work at Need Supply; so of course we had to make a cameo. Next, we hit World of Mirth and Mongrel; two of my favorite places to waste time and money. Adam picked up some gifts while I bought greeting cards, of course. Sugar & Twine is a newish addition to Carytown. We needed that 5pm pick me up. Thai Coffee for me; soy cappuncino for Adam! 

Unfortunately, my hunni James got food poisoning this night, which totally ruined everything. Just kidding, Adam and I ordered food from 8 1/2 and sat on my couch for a really long time. I wanted to hit Sabai for a cocktail but it was sooooo cold. We were also being v fiscal. 

The next day, we went East on a tour through Shockoe Slip to Church Hill. We went to Libby Hill Park and looked at the city! We were happy the sun was shining.

It took f-o-r-e-v-e-r  to get through town. 'Taking a detour' was our theme for the day.

Confederate Booty.

Stroops Heroic Dogs opened a few days before Adam got to town. I am not super into sausage or hot dogs, but it was good reason to head to Church Hill. The texture of the hot dog was so special. Not like anything I've ever had before! This is the Oaxacan Mole Dog; orange glazed pork belly, squash butter, pepitas, queso fresco, and cilantro. Adam got the Classic Corndog. We enjoyed Housemade Apple Chamomile soda and jumped across the street to check out housewares at Era Vintage.

Is there anything more decadent that getting oysters with friends. I honestly believe that Rappahannock has the best happy hour in town. Cheapish oysters, prosecco on tap, and a $5 signature cocktail. There is always a seat at the bar and the staff is super friendly. 

Old Salts

Argentinan Highball: Fernet and Coke

Saison for Dinner

Cheers to 30, Adam! 

We ended up having too much fun at Saison and we missed dessert at L'Oppossum. (The trouble of partying during the week). Not sure why we didn't have a backup dessert plan, sorry Adam! I owe you a birthday cake! Instead we hit up Saison Market for wine and chocolate bars to bring back to our hotel room. 

If you haven't noticed, we had been chillin in the Arts District because we were spending the night at the Quirk Hotel! This is Richmond's very first boutique hotel! I work downtown and have watched the evolution of this building. It all began with Quirk Gallery, which is now connected to the hotel. Very chic. Everything is fresh, minimal and pink.  Plus, we got a discounted rate for bringing in a Ledbury shirt at check-in. 

Lobby Art

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Elevator Selfie with our complimentary cider.

FYI, pups can stay at Quirk for a small fee. I considered bringing Gypsy, just because!

 COULD IT BE ANY CUTER??

The bathroom was loaded with Nest Fragrances. Pure decadence.

The cutest snacks that I did not consume. The fridge was stocked with Devil's Backbone Gold Leaf Lager, which happens to be what we bought at Saison Market, so we're pretty cool. The room had a noise machine (that we forget to use) and a Keurig. Despite my environmental concerns, that k-cup saved my morning. 

The only photo of Adam's birthday sweater. 

Noel brought these fun lenses that Adam was snapping pix with. Hotel party! 

Namaste.

Checking out!

Adam got a fortune fish and constellation dish towels for his birthday.

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Last stop of the trip: Perly's. This was one of those times when my hangover got worse throughout the meal. I was being incredibly indecisive and immediately regretted my order. However, everything was gonna be okay because the matzo ball choice is forever delicious. I drank 5 cups of coffee, while Adam had a coke. He hit the road and I had to go to work. 

There were so many places that we didn't get to visit while Adam was in town. (L'Oppossum, Heritage, Black Hand, Sweet Fix, and more!) I made such a long list but I was trying to be super cool and flexible; so I didn't try to control the situation too much. Next time, we will need more sweets in our life. Adam, I'm sorry we didn't have anything sweet!

I love entertaining out of town visitors. Richmond is turning into quite the travel destination and there is always something fun to see or eat.  I can't wait until my next guest comes to town. I hope you got a lil inspiration from this post! 

 

JUDYS TAKE WILLIAMSBURG

Adam and I took a day trip to Colonial Williamsburg while he was in town from New York. We used to love hitting up Williamsburg while we were in college. Just pop in while en route to Busch Gardens. Fun fact: he went to high school in Williamsburg, so it was truly a walk down memory lane. It had been years since we had both visited and it's always nice to stop in. Unfortunately for the weather, it was cold and rainy. We found an umbrella in my car and powered through Merchants Square! 

Colonial Fire

Real time

Shoes.

For The Best Virginia Weed

Bad Judys.

Horse & Buggy

Virginia Trees

I don't really fux with jelly beans but I appreciate the champagne selection.

I mean....is this the best name they could think of ?

Lovely decor at the Williamsburg Cheese Shop 

I wish I could remember all of these cheeses! There was one that was made with Chimay beer and it had a super burnt rind. Adam was not a fan, so I tore it up. They were so incredibly delicious, especially with a side of Viognier. I have a new appreciation for dried fruit. I am typically not a fan, but the figs were super tasty. 

We made it to the Williamsburg Salt Spa! Ideally, you are not supposed to eat or drink at least 2 hours before your float tank appointment, but....wine and cheese don't count right?

Not pictured: the Squirrel and the Camel Salt Lamp that I wanted to purchase. Everything was 20% off! 

If you are not familiar with the float tank trend, it's poppin' off. Our friend Makiko originally put me on to this unique sensory deprivation experience. I was initially allured  because I heard it could "heighten your senses." I was initially buggin' because I was concerned about drowning, However, the water is only about 10 inches deep and highly-saturated with salt water. Ain't nobody drowning! 

Adam and I had our own private rooms. You have to shower before you enter the tank. Then get totally naked and hop in! Once in the pod, you can control the lighting and music. In fact, the session doesn't even start until you start playing with these settings. Naturally, I opted for the magenta lighting; there are so many colors to choose from. Or you could go full disco and have the lights change ORRR you can black out your pod. I chose to keep some lighting on in the room because I didn't enjoy the blackout. I think Adam did though. At the beginning of the session, I kept my pod slightly open. Initially, I wasn't able to relax  probably because wine, so I closed it completely. The condensation began to drip on me and that is so not chill; so I kept it propped up. I was so thankful they had a floating neck pillow available. It was mad relaxing. 

After I finally got comfortable, I just closed my eyes and pretended I was in the Dead Sea. Adam said that as soon as he finally relaxed, the session was over. For me, I kept wondering when the session would be over. It seemed like it was lasting forever! After the session was up, I showered and contemplated stealing a salt rock that was on display. I think it's a bad move on their part to have clients pay before their appointment because I totally would have bought a ton of stuff. Since I had already paid, I just wanted to high tail it out of there. 

Floating in the tank was like getting a full body massage without having another human touch you, it is so damn great. My skin was UBER soft for about a week. I can't wait to float again!

How else do you celebrate ultimate relaxation? A trip the Yankee Candle Flagship Store! 

So Luscious. 

Faux snow every 4 minutes.

Post Float Tank Yankee Excursion Wheat Grass Shots

We went hard on cheese plates for the day. This is when I learned that Adam is not really down with blue cheese; I was vibin' on some caveman blue. Float tanks, cheese plates, 

Wedding Vibes: #cortezinthewoods

If you've been following the blog, you know that I have had five weddings to attend this year. I have been chronicling my life as a destination wedding guest; it's so fun! My fifth and final wedding took me to Colorado! I had never been before and was super pumped to visit. I have been raised as a beach babe, but am trying to explore more mountain vibes. It just so happened that the wedding fell during the same week as my reading days, so I didn't have to miss school! My dear friends from NYC, Seattle, and L.A. all flew in for this wedding, so love was truly in the air. 

I recently read an article that discouraged people from taking 5am flights, but it is my favorite way to travel. Early as hell and totally worth it.  Before we left, I remembered that I had a piece of tiramisu in my fridge and didn't want to leave it there for 6 days. So I ate it on the way to the airport and thought of my girl, Tiramisu for Breakfast

 Andrea made us travel pillows stuffed with chamomile and lavender. What a peach. I can't sleep on planes though, especially when there were three children crying the ENTIRE time from CLT > DIA. 

Welcome to Denver. James farted on the escalator. 

I recently watched an episode of America's Book of Secrets about the Illuminati, which discussed the conspiracy theories surrounding the Denver International Airport. Very interesting, if you're into that sort of thing. I was looking forward to seeing the freaky murals; I was not disappointed.

I could not understand the weather in Colorado. Andrea and I changed 5 times on our first day. Sunny, then shady, then hot as hell, then freezing. I don't think I packed properly. 

We were obsessed with this kombucha. I'm pretty sure I had one every day that I was in Colorado. Upstart is made in Boulder. Still a very small company & they only have four flavors. Rosebud was my favorite. 

Cherry Creek Trail, 24.6 mile pedestrian & cycling trail that runs through the city. There were so many cyclists and I wished I had my bike. James and Andrea were content chillin' on the rocks, but I was feeling anxious as hell, so I ran 2 miles. I felt totally cool exercising on vacation. Then we saw these happy pups, frolicking through the water.

We walked through the Capitol Hill neighborhood where we picked out our dream homes, took pictures of every VW van, and spotted an RVA sticker.

We stayed with an old friend from high school, who took us to HopDoddy for burgers. James is still talking about the ahi tuna burger that he had. Afterwards, we walked to 1UP, a barcade that has pinball and video games galore! Andrea set a PR for Galaga and we were paitently waiting to play Tetris. James spent about $15 playing Attack from Mars. This is about the point where our long travel day caught up to us. It was about 9pm, so I'd say we did pretty good. We finished the night off with oyster shooters and rosè. 

The next day, we hit up Wax Trax while waiting for Lauren and Makiko to arrive. I am not a record collector and can often get bored. However, I was loving their miscellaneous section. There were records on how to train your bird, dance for your sultan, and know more about your astrological sign. I was into it.  

Not pictured: the most perfect & delicious vegan curry cauliflower croissant from Pablo's Coffee

How to Belly Dance For Your Sultan

When in Denver......

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 Girlfriends in Denver Botanic Gardens. We got the peep the infamous Corpse Flower behind a glass case. A few highlights were the Deborah Butterfield: The Nature of Horses exhibit and the Bonsai area. 

Deborah Butterfield

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After the Botanic Gardens, we hoofed it to WaterCourse Foods, Denver's Original Vegan restaurant. One of the best meals that I've had in a while. Cauliflower 'wings', Cauliflower 'fried chicken', a Cubano, Kombucha & Champagne, and a Raw Key Lime Tart for dessert.

Then I accidentally got an UberBlack and a dude in a tux drove us home in an Escalade. Still bummed on that. 

THIS IS WHAT JUDYS DO. Face masques and gossip and take selfies while watching Bad Santa.

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Our last stop before leaving Denver, Cheeba Hut. A marijuana inspired sandwich restaurant where you can get Dorito nachos as a side or Kool-Aid to drink. Somehow, we got a free order of pretzel nuggets too. I got the Bikini Bottom and it was dank. Then we got a parking ticket. 

Salida is about 2.5 hours southwest of Denver. What a gorgeous drive. The town is known for 300 days of sunshine, I hear. Salida is tiny and quaint. There is a grocery store, a few thrift shops, a few restaurants, and a liquor store. What else do you really need though? They have the best murals!

Possibly the best mural I have ever seen.

Freeky Deekies

While in Colorado, I learned about 14ers. A 14er is a mountain the meets or exceeds an elevation of 14,000 feet or more. Colorado is a hub. My latest fitness goal is to climb a 14er. Maybe next Summer? Mt. Elbert is the highest point in Colorado as well as the Mississippi River drainage basin. It was also the name of the cabin where we stuffed 10 friends to share 1 bathroom. The most important fact is that there was a hot tub! It was only an 8 minute drive from the meadow where Erica and Princess got married! The meadow was incredible. It felt like we were the only people on Earth. There were atleast 10 pups running around the entire day and I thought I'd have a good chance at being protected from a bear. 

The north fork of the Arkansas River

Coffee in the Hot Tub 

Cortez in the Woods! 

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Waiting for the brides! 

Among many other things that are cool about Colorado, you can self-unite your marriage! The whole event was so completely them. From Princess posing with her bb gun,then running down the meadow to the ceremonty site. My favorite part was when Princess said they could do anything because they like the same pizza toppings. 

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The Ladies of Mt. Elbert

Billy, Princess, and I have always been a squad. Why didn't the 3 of us get a picture? :( 

Goat Wadi Meadow

Cutting the cake with an ax, very fitting.

Jeff & Dana taking a hammock nap

Billy getting his swerve on.

Mrs. & Mrs. Cortez

We ended the night around the campfire. When the Sun is shining, Colorado is beautiful. Once it goes down, it's cold as hell, especially at 8,000 feet. James joined a freaky drum circle and there were fire dancers. Needless to say, we were geekin' out. We got in the hot tub after the wedding and it was magical. 

The next day, we drove to Manitou Springs to stay with our friend Eddie. It was about 2 hours northeast. We did A LOT of driving in this little trip; we saw so much of the centennial state.  

Roadside Photo Op! 

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The crew! James doesn't hard style, in case anyone was wondering.

We took a spontaneous drive to the summit of Pike's Peak. Needless to say, the entire way up I was tripping out and my palms were sweaty. It was cold as hell and I was wearing shorts. Makiko had to buy a couple of blankets. I think Pikes Peak should be my first 14er.. 

Are we on Mars? 

Pikes Peak Summit

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Freaky Santa at the bottom of Pikes Peak

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Full Moon in Manitou.

Popped into the Royal Tavern for beers. We got ID'ed everywhere in Colorado, btw.

Manitou has 8 natural springs where you can fill up! We got magnesium water to help us sleep better.

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Manitou Springs Penny Arcade

Lauren won, OF COURSE.

No trip is complete without a photo booth picture. There was no way that our big heads were all going to fit in the booth, so this was our next best option. I totally hate my facial expression. I told everyone mugshot and then I went full goofball. This machine only takes quarters, FYI. Thanks Billy & Caitz for putting us onto this photo booth. 

I had such an amazing time in Colorado.  Catching up and traveling with my friends reminded me of our younger days and I savored every moment. I can't wait for more trips with my framily. Maybe it was the altitude, but I swear I felt my heart opening while were in the mountains. I was beyond thrilled to witness the marriage of one of my best friends. Erica + Princess, you are perfect. Thank you for inviting me to your new home and showering us with love! 

NYC

 I don't get up to New York City as often as I would like, but love any excuse to head north. Our girl, Enna, was in town from Japan for two weeks. She was in Virginia and wanted to make a quick trip to NYC before heading to Seattle to see our Judy, Lauren. Isn't she such a jet-setter? The timing could not have been more perfect. It was the weekend after I had finished my Summer internship and before my Fall semester began. Being in the city with my dearest friends was the best way to celebrate. 

I swore I would never take the Chinatown bus again, but how could I deny a $35 bus ticket? I felt a lot safer riding the bus during the day and I have to say Eastern bus has really upgraded their vibe. Now, they have seat belts! We left Richmond around 7:30am and got to Chinatown around 3:45pm. 

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First stop, Lost Weekend for coffee. NYC is not the first place that I think of when it comes to surfing, but my perspective changed over the course of the weekend. This coffee shop doubles as a gallery for surf prints and quality Japanese products. They even sell surfboards! If my eyes were closed and I woke up in this shop, I would have never think I was on Orchard Street between Hester & Grand. Pop in for an americano or iced green tea.

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Makiko took us to her dumpling spot, Prosperity Dumpling. The line was out the door when we walked up to this hole in the wall. And the people never stopped coming! How can you beat $2 for dumplings? 2 orders of dumplings between 3 gals and we were satisfied. Although, my ass couldn't handle the sriracha.

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$2 for all of these dumplings!! 

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I was so happy to see my Judy in crime, Adam. I am loving his new apartment building, but more importantly, THAT VIEW. A reunion calls for sparkling rosè on the roof! 

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Proof that Adam and I are cosmically connected. We were talking about snacks and I mentioned that I wanted to try the turmeric-coconut-lime pepitas from Moon Juice Shop and he revealed that he brought some treats from California for us to try!!! Not pictured: the bag of Lay's Southern Biscuits & Gravy that we devoured.

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After relaxing, we went back to the Lower Eastside for dinner at Mission Chinese Food. I've heard so many fab stories about this spot and was super pumped to check it out. I was instantly loving the decor. Red cozy booths, round tables with lazy Susans, vintage style menus. I felt like I had been transported to 1965. Just like the rest of the world, I am obsessed with matcha right now. So, I had to order this cocktail made with matcha, prosecco, & melon.

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Love my Tauro sista

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I didn't take very many pictures of the food because I just wasn't trying to be that person! Plus, it was v dark in there. I know this doesn't bode well for the blog, but let me just say that we ordered an entire duck that had been roasted in clay. Enna got to hammer it open. 

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I was so excited that our Sunday plan was to hit up Rockaway Beach! I can't believe it only took about an hour to get there.  We popped into this tiny pizza shop where men were speaking Italian, I loved it. I knew it was authentic when other Italian speaking customers started coming in. My two slices are the Spinach & White pizza. So decadent and gluttonous, but when in Rome inspired pizza shops right?

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Minutes after we got to the beach, we noticed a crowd forming. Someone had apparently caught a 4 foot sandbar shark. The lifeguard assured us that it was harmless, but seeing its fin swim away was scary enough to not make me wanna get in the water. Eventually, we popped over to the surfer side of the jetty, where swimmers aren't allowed. Everyone was so much more attractive on the surfer side, DUH! We sat through a rainstorm, debated going to Spa Castle, and then opted for a sandy train ride home.  

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Protecting myself from lip sunburn with Zinka. 

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A day at the beach is exhausting. We had to power through.

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The only photo that I took while at L'Oreal.

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Powershopping before heading back home. 

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A quick trip to Juice Generation! Sea Buckthorn is a Himalayan berry full of essential fatty acids, including omega-7, which is key for collagen production, hair, skin, & nails. Activated Lemonade, just like the rest of the world, I am obsessed with activated charcoal. I don't have many chances to consume this in RVA, so I savored every sip. This is great for detoxifying the system. I hope this trend makes its way down South soon! 

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No trip to NYC is ever long enough. I can't wait to go back soon! 

Travel Guide: Key West

Oh Key West, how I love thee. Five years ago, I took my first trip to the Florida Keys. I have always had an aversion to the Sunshine State and my expectations were pretty low. Needless to say, I had an wonderful time; in fact, I fell in love. It is more than tourist bars and crappy souvenir stores. There is so much history, beauty, and fun on this tiny little island.

WARNING: This is a gigantic photo post. You will enjoy looking at it. 

Getting to Key West: you can fly directly into the Key West Airport, which is about the size of my house. Beware of the bumpy landing as they're trying to land a plane on an island that is 4 miles long. And you can to see the freaky Conch Republic family. I wouldn't have it any other way.

 

Or you can fly into Miami or Fort Lauderdale and take U.S. 1 all the way to the Southernmost Point of the Continental United States. It's about 3ish hours, unless you hit traffic. You will cross over many bridges, including the infamous Seven Mile Bridge. It's a fun trip, but I'll be honest, I don't ever want to do it again. 

Cruisin' around Key West, as close to Cuba as I'll get for now. Key Lime on a Stick! My favorite block in Old Town recently got a rainbow makeover. And I was gifted a reusable tall boy can for a week of walking around with alcohol! 

The Coffee Situation: I am addicted to coffee. I need it to live. When I go on vacation, I have to know what the coffee situation will be. Will my hotel be equipped with a coffee maker and Wolfgang Puck pods? I knew it was going to be a good week; starting every day with a trip to Cuban Coffee Queen. We would order 2 bucci shots (Cuban espresso with cane sugar, in a plastic cup) and 2 iced coffees, no sugar. Their iced coffee comes with coffee ice cubes and it is so damn good. It is tiny counter, that is always poppin'. Later in the week, we discovered the CCQ has a second location down Duval Street, near Old Town. Their second location is way chill; with picnic tables and happy hour. On our last day in town, we indulged in egg & cheese sandwiches(add banana pepper), pressed on Cuban bread. It brought me back to life after a night of karaoke. I'm still dreaming of this sandwich. There is no other place to go for coffee while in Key West! 

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The Coffee Situation: I am addicted to coffee. I need it to live. When I go on vacation, I have to know what the coffee situation will be. Will my hotel be equipped with a coffee maker and Wolfgang Puck pods? I knew it was going to be a good week; starting every day with a trip to Cuban Coffee Queen. We would order 2 bucci shots (Cuban espresso with cane sugar, in a plastic cup) and 2 iced coffees, no sugar. Their iced coffee comes with coffee ice cubes and it is so damn good. It is tiny counter, that is always poppin'. Later in the week, we discovered the CCQ has a second location down Duval Street, near Old Town. Their second location is way chill; with picnic tables and happy hour. On our last day in town, we indulged in egg & cheese sandwiches(add banana pepper), pressed on Cuban bread. It brought me back to life after a night of karaoke. I'm still dreaming of this sandwich. There is no other place to go for coffee while in Key West! 

Two Friends Restaurant has been a Key West staple since 1967. We love to drop in for happy hour. Great drink specials, huge oysters, and the best lobster bisque I've ever had! I love open air restaurants, especially when pigeons pop in for a crumb or two. They have karaoke a few nights a week, which includes a karaoke cam! I was so thrilled that my dress matched this car.

Two Friends Restaurant has been a Key West staple since 1967. We love to drop in for happy hour. Great drink specials, huge oysters, and the best lobster bisque I've ever had! I love open air restaurants, especially when pigeons pop in for a crumb or two. They have karaoke a few nights a week, which includes a karaoke cam! I was so thrilled that my dress matched this car.

On our second day of vacation, we went on the Ultimate Adventure. A six-hour boat tour that started off with parasailing, jet-sking, kayaking, & floating climbing walls. I've acquired a fear of heights over the years and was a little scared that we were the first people to parasail! Especially when the captain of the boat had to show his assistant how to properly assemble our life-jackets. It was pretty fun, but my hands went numb because I was gripping the bars so hard. I'm glad I can check that adventure off of my list! After a few hours of fun in the sun, we had lunch, and took a trip about seven miles out to the only living coral reef in North America. The past few times that I snorkeled, I wasn't feeling it. I either panic or get stung by a jellyfish. I thoroughly enjoyed this trip, probably because I had a noodle. I loved seeing all of the fish, but promptly exited the water when I heard there was an eel. We had such a great day on the boat; to top it off, we saw dolphins on our way back to land!! 

Key Lime Square, Duval Street. (Second Cuban Coffee Queen is located here!) 

Mallory Square is the only place to watch the World-Famous Key West sunset. You can find tarot readers, wooden christmas ornaments, and James' favorite frozen lemonade. It still blows my mind that people will still watch a guy on a unicycle eat fire. I was so pleased to find this Holy Guacamole stand. I was hangry and this satisfied my craving. There is something so special about watching someone make fresh guac. Then we went to my favorite flamingo shop, where sadly, the flamingo wings didn't fit me. 

The day following our Ultimate Adventure, we planned chillin and exploring on beach cruisers. James was having some digestive issues, so we hit up Juice, a new juice bar in the La Concha Hotel. Is there anything that green juice can't fix?

We had to stop by the Hemingway Home. I don't care that the house hasn't changed since 1937, I just love the vibes there. I'm always so amazed at how incredibly packed it always is. We got a picture in front of the pool, which could be a Christmas card contender. I am thinking about looking into a lifetime membership, since we had our wedding there, but for now I think of my entry fee ($13, cash only)  as a donation to the cats. One day, I'll own a polydactyl. Afterwards, we popped across the street to check out the Key West Lighthouse and Keeper's Quarters Museum. ($10 entry fee) It was so cool to have a 360 view of Key West. There was thank you card from Ernest Hemingway in the museum. I was bummed that they did NOT have a pressed penny machine.

We rode our bikes to Fort Zach Taylor State Park aka the only real beach in Key West. Beware, it's rocky, so I highly suggest wearing water shoes. There is also a small fee ($1.50 per biker) to enter, but it is very worth it. The water is so blue and beautiful and you can definitely check out lots of fish. This is great place for a family picnic. James and I set up our double-wide hammock and napped. It was a nice way to relax in the middle of the day.

On our way back into town, we stopped by the Key West Cemetery. It has been around since 1847 and there are atleast 100,000 people buried there. I normally don't do cemeteries but felt safe in numbers. I made sure to not ride my bike on the grass, as we admired gravestones. I was rather impressed with the gigantic conch shell sculpture. 

The next morning after exploring, I woke up feeling miserable. The combination of prolonged sun exposure and happy hour wine finally caught up to me. I was toast before dinner. So remember to stay hydrated on vacation, Judys!!! On our fourth day of vacay, we planned to do stand-up paddle board yoga with Lazy Dog. Minutes before we left, I was barfing Pepto and eating watermelon; I was in bad shape. The only thing that helped me survive were chia seeds. I truly believe in the powers of chia. 

It is a life goal of mine to headstand on a paddle board , but I knew that wasn't happening this day. My only short-term goal was to not barf in the water. It was so cool to see tarpons swimming by as we posed. It wasn't until we got into warrior 2 that I felt unstable and finally fell in. I swear, the first dip really helped my hangy. I know you're not supposed to think during shavasana but I was on the board, looking out in the distance and I spotted my guiltiest pleasure: McDonald's. In that moment, I hoped for a family trip through the drive-thru. On our way back to the marina, our instructor took us through the mangroves, which actually turned out bad for me. Not only was I hangry, but I got stuck in between a mangrove, where I thought a crab was a tarantula. I had a mini-temper tantrum so bad that I opted out of post-paddleboard pictures!! Who am I?? Despite all of my self-inflicted personal drama, it was a really fun day. The only way to beat a hangover is to sweat it out.

For lunch, we went to Conch Republic, one of my favorite restaurants in Key West. It was the very first bar we went to on my very first trip. It is on the dock of the marina and the island vibes are in full effect. PLUS, they have a functioning pressed penny machine. Some fishermen had just returned from a catching loads of mahi. They were nice enough to give my nieces some leftover bait fish to feed the tarpons. The fisherman showed us a blown-up pufferfish in the belly of the fish he was cleaning. 

Our evening activity consisted of a champagne sunset cruise. The boat left around 6:30pm and we rode around til the Sun went down a little after 8. Nothing makes me feel more boujie than wearing resort wear while drinking champagne on a boat.  After the boat cruise, the siblings went out for a night on the town. We were all sleepy and exhausted but we found our second wind!! We walked thru Old Town and had some beers at the Southernmost Point. It's so busy during the day, but v chill at night. We made our way back up Duval for a mini bar crawl. We planted at Irish Kevin's, where there was a 90s cover band! I made friends with a sailor themed bachelorette party and we played ring toss. We bopped across the street for karaoke at Rick's, where the DJ only had 2 Madonna songs. What a disgrace! I had to sing Mariah Carey and our second songs got skipped, so juggalos could sing Pink Floyd. I'm a little high maintenance when it comes to karaoke, can you tell? We shut properly shut down Duval Street and I can't remember the last time I saw 4am. 

Friday was our last full day in Key Key (as I like to call it). We took a leisurely walk down Whitehead Street aka we were walking to the Post Office. We passed the original office of Pan-Am and oh, how I wish I could have taken that airline. 

I love walking out of the front door to see a gigantic cruise ship. We spent Friday AM playing pool bingo, where we did not win a thing! We purchased the rest of our souvenirs and packed the our bags, so we could enjoy the rest of the day. 

We decided that for our last night, we would hit the best drag bar in town, Aqua. I went to Aqua for my bachelorette party and it was incredible. These drag queens are ON POINT. Never in my life have I see a queen do a number with aerial silks. How do you even follow that? Oh, I know, wear a pot leaf dress and sing 'Marijuanaville". Hands down, the best drag show I have been to. It was the most perfect Key West finale. 

Our flight home left at 8am, so we were up with the Sun. I loved these last few moments in Key West. 'Til next time! 

Check out my Key West Flickr Album here