Bachelorette in NYC?!

As soon as we rolled into Manhattan and fell onto the city streets, I turned to Aspen and said “we just went to New York for the weekend. Who the fuck do we think we are?”

We both laughed.

One of my college friends just got engaged! I wasn’t surprised to hear Aspen was getting married because I knew she’d been dating her man for a few years. In fact, she once asked me if I knew what love was (you can read my response here).

I was surprised to know she wants me to be part of the royal court (aka in the wedding). Of course, I obliged. Do people really turn down the request to be a bridesmaid? Rude, lol. We’re a month away from the wedding; the bridesmaids and I just pulled off a cross-country bachelorette weekend – borderline psychotic, inevitably worth it.

The entire bachelorette getaway was a surprise. All my engaged friend knew was “pack a weekend bag, bitch.” I sent Aspen’s plane ticket to her fiancé, who dropped her off at the San Diego airport, informing her of the destination before she entered the security checkpoint (Aspen told us she cried tears of joy when Pat revealed the location). We fell asleep on the redeye and woke up in New York City.

The 2 hour ride from JFK to our bnb, just West of Times Square, felt like 2 minutes! For the short time I’ve been alive, it never ceases to amaze me how time passes so quickly when you’re catching up with old friends. Even still, I’m continuously amazed by friendships that are tested with distance and time apart, but remain as strong.

We met up with the other bridesmaids in Hell’s Kitchen for famous NY bagels. I’ll tell you what, Cali be making some small ass bagels if you see what they’re baking in New York. After, we mosied on down to SoHo for custom made lipstick.

Have you heard of Bite? I’m not really into girly shit, but this is a pretty chill experience if you have a love for lipstick. You sit at this beauty bar and the lip ladies mix colors for you to try on. You test as many colors as you fancy; then, they melt the color of your choice into a custom—made stick.

I’m not a big beauty gal, but I do love me some cafes. How hipster do I sound? One of my favorite things being in cities is visiting adorable coffee shops. Joe & The Juice was next on our list (not because it was on the itinerary, but because we have caffeine addicts in our group that needed to stop for a latte). I discovered Joe & The Juice is actually a Danish brand and they serve coffee and freshly pressed juices.

We burn more daylight walking the streets and end up at The Plaza Hotel for afternoon tea. What’s the best way to get trashy later? Acting classy now. I can’t remember whose idea was mini sandwiches and petite desserts, but the scenery is beautiful. The main purpose of the trip is to treat the bride like a queen and this atmosphere accomplished that mission.

Once back at our flat, we knocked out. The place is definitely a vacation rental, minimalist, pure white, accented with brightly colored pop art; 2,000 square feet of 42nd floor views of Manhattan, the Hudson, and Jersey shore. 2 bed, 2 bath, 5 girls, and 1 reason to celebrate.

When we woke up from our afternoon naps, we celebrated indeed. The bars we hit are known for cocktails and open air patios. Bar SixtyFive is, you guessed it, on the 65th floor of 30 Rockefeller Plaza. PhD, next on the list, is located at Dream Downtown. If there’s one thing I can promise about NYC, it’s endless amounts of class and rooftop views, views, views.

What else can I promise about NYC? Pizza. The night led us to a high-scale pizzeria; we ordered 4 thin crust, too delicious, we order 2 more. I can’t really tell you what happened after that, but I know we didn’t crash until 5am. We woke to the morning sun shining bright through our midtown windows. A few hours later (the amount of time it takes to get 5 girls up, dressed, and out of the penthouse) we headed for breakfast at Chelsea Market.

Chelsea Market, although crowded, is definitely a place to check out for unique eateries and shops. I ordered a vegan salad (in desperate need of fiber) but the rest of the bride tribe ordered food at Creamline, which took so long that we convinced a server into giving us 2 White Russians, 1 beer, and 5 glasses of rose for free, for the wait. By the time we finished our food (and the booze) we stumbled through Chelsea Market window shopping (or, in my case, real shopping). Lingerie shopping was next on the itinerary, but I didn’t buy anything of that sort.

We bought more pizza before we heading back to the penthouse, carbs before a comedy show. Funny enough, the troop imitated Aspen and one of the bridesmaids during the improv. One of our bridesmaids got too fucked up from day drinking, she missed out on the clubs. But, so did we. What I learned about NYC clubs is there’s a very high price to pay to get in. Most clubs require reservations, bottle service, or a set tab, which is whatever the bouncer decides, on any given occasion. We learned this first hand, at 1 Oak, which is famous for celebrity appearances (I think the Kardashians were literally there last month).

We don’t mind passing up clubs because I did a fair amount of research on cocktail bars in midtown. Dear Irving was the chosen joint, which I particularly liked because of the unique “rooms.” There are 4 different ambiances in this spot, which I think is geared toward being a speakeasy.

I’m glad we made it to a cocktail bar instead of a dancing club. This intimate setting and chatting about marriage, is more impactful than losing brain cells some place I most likely won’t remember the name of. We spent our final night discussing love and how our lives have changed from love’s affects.

We ate breakfast at Gotham Market, around the corner from our apartment. 2 bridesmaids already left for the airport. Me, the maid of honor, and the bride head to The Highline, where Laura is staying at The Jane hotel one final night, before flying back to Cali later in the week. We spend our final hour at the hotel bar, reflecting on the weekend.

Overall, the last 3 days reminded me that time apart doesn’t necessarily mean that friendships are lost; real friends never really fade out of your life, even if you don’t speak on the daily. We also reflected on marriage, “kinda a big deal,” sacred ceremony, love and matrimony type shit. When you’re with someone that makes you certain love is real, you marry them.

I am so excited for Aspen’s wedding.

Salt Lake City, UT

The last time I was in Salt Lake City, I must have been 12 or 13 years old. My father took us there on vacation, I don’t remember much about that vacation other than swimming in the Salt Lake. We went to a touristy beach area, which seemed a bit desolate, probably because the day felt sort of gloomy.

I remember the weather being warm despite the sky being overcast. The water wasn’t necessarily warm, but swim-able. We could walk distances from shore and the water never came above our waists. Brittany taught me how to make a flotation device out of my shirt by tying the bottom and sleeves in knots and holding the neckline tight, trapping a small pillow of air inside (if, in case, I was stranded overboard and needed this survival tip in the future one day).

We played at the edge of the lake as preteens do. I cupped water in my hands and brought it up to my face. My father told me the only living organism able to survive in the lake is a certain type of brine shrimp, because the water is so salty, nothing else is able to thrive as they do. When I looked closely, I saw them, little red creatures swimming – literally – in the palm of my hands! Brine shrimp are interesting lil buggars; I believe they’re the same creature dubbed as “sea-monkeys,” but if you’ve never seen one, they’ve got a flexible spine, thin as a line, with a feather-like body, the entire being no larger than a grain of rice.

And that was the extent of my memory of Salt Lake City. Until last weekend.

I happened to be in town for a music festival, which allowed us to do some exploring during the day, since the show was during night (feel free to read about my festival escapade)! The only fact I remember about Utah from American history class in high school is the state is majority Mormon, since that’s where all the Mormons migrated (for a reason I can’t remember, but historical enough to end up in high school history textbooks, I guess).

jFaull travel tip #11: Using rideshare allows you brief periods of time with locals to get the inside scoop of the land, while getting where you need to go.

One of my bestfriends, Malyks, and I met in Salt Lake, our planes landing within five minutes of each other. We didn’t rent a car, so we took Uber everywhere, which I almost prefer. JFaull travel tip #11: Using rideshare allows you brief periods of time with locals to get the inside scoop of the land, while getting where you need to go (find my first 10 silly travel tips here). Why is this ideal for traveling? You get answers to causal questions, or The Know on local secrets and hidden gems, without having to spend too much time with strangers. Using rideshare is private transportation and better-than-traditional-travel-research bundled in one.

One of our first Uber drivers suggested hiking since there are loads of trails on the surrounding mountains. I looked out the backseat window to the hills on the edge of town. I speculated the low lying mountains would require an hour or 2 to summit (at my current fitness level haha). Unfortunately, Malyks and I were prepared for the festival, not to hike; thus, didn’t pack any sort of workout attire.

Another Uber driver suggested we visit the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, which has a fine dining buffet on the 10th floor and a 360 view of the city. I absolutely love restaurants on top floors and who doesn’t appreciate a good view?! However, the restaurant opened at 5:00 pm, the same time as the festival grounds. We decided The Roof would be top of our list the next time we were in town.

Speaking of restaurants, I believe it was the same Uber driver who also told us about Lion House Pantry. The story goes something like this: Brigham Young was a famous guy (Mormon, no doubt), who also happened to be the governor of Utah. He had a lot of wives and a lot of children and they all cooked and ate in the same place. This place was known as The Cafeteria. So, this is sort of a historical landmark, which had been preserved, and is now – ironically – a restaurant for the public! I found this to be so incredibly fascinating that I was actually really bummed we didn’t have a chance to eat there. If you wanna check it out, you can visit their website here.

Now, I know you’re wondering, if I didn’t do any of the things I just mentioned, what the fuck did i do? LOL. Let me tell you. We did visit Temple Square, gorgeous place really. There’s a temple in the middle of town that’s beautifully detailed, surrounded by an open garden. We weren’t the only ones. There were countless families there, dressed in their best, taking photos in groups and in couples, because each family was celebrating a wedding.

After walking around Temple Square with our jaws dragging along the ground from witnessing the beauty, we went to the Saturday Market downtown, which was quite impressive. Vendors were selling almost everything imaginable: jewelry, knives, art, honey, trinkets, you know, the usual commodities you see at street fairs. We bought essential oils, homemade lip balms and lotions. There was a stand with peach samples, we couldn’t resist. The sliver of peach we tasted was so sweet and juicy, we picked out 2 for breakfast the following day.

We spent the rest of the afternoon on an outdoor patio of a cute bar called Lake Effect. We sipped sophisticated cocktails and caught up on life. See, Malyks recently moved out of state and there’s so much to converse about, as we’ve been getting used to this time apart, growing older, and adjusting to the transitions in our lives. It’s an interesting feeling, the one where your close friends are no longer is close vicinities and accepting that, as we age, we separate physically, as our lives lead us in different directions, down roads alone or with the company of significant others.

Sunday morning we took our time packing up, preparing for our separation and departure. Malyks was flying back to Colorado and I was flying back to Cali, it felt like our last supper. We headed to Gracie’s to get a drink (or 3) and some food. Gracie’s is a dope joint, with a second floor balcony, to soak up some vitamin D and booze. I suppose we ended up dining roof top, didn’t we?

I know there are other cool spots in Salt Lake City we didn’t have a chance to hit, but with the brief period of time we had, I’m stoked we saw what we did! I’ll have to make another trip out there to experience the rest the city has to offer.

What awesome or unique things have you done in Salt Lake City, UT?

Anchorage, AL


Brittany and I procrastinate. A lot. But, trust me, no matter if you procrastinate as much as we do, you can still plan a killer vacation by following a simple process!

The first step is to lock down dates & book airfare. Not gunna lie, it seems like planning family vacations is the hardest with everyone’s schedules. My advice is to never underestimate the time it’ll take to agree on travel dates LOL. When booking airfare, (my sister’s favorite tool is the Hopper app; mine is Skyscanner) we aim for the cheapest non-stop flights. (Side note: there aren’t any non-stop flights going from SFBA to Alaska, so I determined flights by departure and arrival times that were best suitable. Which also sucked, my options were limited, I had a three hour layover in Sea-Tac and landed at 2 am in Alaska).

Second, accommodations can be secured. Most of what we wanted to do and see was in downtown Anchorage so we looked closest to city’s center (side note: I originally wanted to stay in a B&B for a home-y, family experience, but most were booked up since it was the week of 4th of July. So, I expanded my search to hotels, and eventually reserved a vacation rental through TripAdvisor, although Airbnb seems to be most popular these days. I also use Homeaway, which is most similar to Airbnb, sometimes the cost is cheaper).

After these steps are complete, the actual planning can begin! We start by mapping out an itinerary. This important when you’re traveling with people who have different interests. Any tool can be used to jot thoughts down, but my sister and I use Google Sheets for easy access and sharing between the two of us, before sending it to the ‘rents. We included a number of activities and suggested days when each would work best. Some activities on the spreadsheet are bound to get kicked off and replaced by cooler things (we didn’t make it to a baseball game, dry dog sled, or various other tours).

Note: Traveling with family can be interesting (to say the least). I personally believe that an itinerary with gaps between long activities is best. This allows down-time to rest (and get some personal-fucken-space) for a brief period before you tackle the next endeavor! Admit it, travel is exhausting – even when it’s supposed to be vacation. Sit back, relax, and take a damn chill pill.

The actives we decided on did not disappoint!

Anchorage has a number of street markets on the weekends. Sunday morning we went to the market downtown and shopped around. There were loads of vendors selling what street faires do: dip seasoning packets, souvenir socks, parkas, backpacks, knife sets, kids toys, jewels and gems, canvas paintings, engarlened prints. I bought locally sourced Chaga mushroom, which is a “superfood,” high in antioxidants and a host of other vitamins and minerals. Fireweed is a popular type of flower in Alaska, I sipped fireweed lemonade and shared a salmon quesadilla with the fam. That afternoon we went to the Anchorage Museum. Brittany was most excited for the Smithsonian floor, which had loads of amazing artifacts from different Inuit tribes across the state. By the time dinner rolled around, we were on a tram, being pulled up the face of a mountaintop, to the Alyeska Seven Glaciers Restaurant. Almost as breathtaking as the view, is the delicious baked alyeska dessert, which they set on fire at your table.

Monday we woke early to get on a train to Whittier. They ask that you arrive an hour early at the train station, which was a fraction of the size of the one back home, with a small cafe and a good-sized souvenir shop. The train ride was 2.5 hours north, toward Prince William Sound, where we boarded a ship, for lunch and sightseeing. Yes, salmon chowder, with a side glimpse of orcas swimming on our left. We saw sea otters floating around the sound and floated beside glaciers to watch them capsize up close. Yet, I gotta say, my favorite part was watching the chef pull glacier ice out of the water with a giant fishing net. They took the chunk of glacier to the bar, broke it up, and served cocktails; I ordered a marg with ancient ice. When the train dropped us off back in Anchorage, we went to a downtown bar, Bernie’s Bungalow, for beer, pizza, tuna poke, and nachos.

Tuesday I made breakfast for the family in honor of my father’s birthday. We took a seaplane over glaciers and across tundra and plains. This, by far, was my most favorite activity, because I’ve never felt so small flying over mountains. I never felt so isolated, so in-the-middle-of-nowhere, so insignificant on a planet that is so extraordinary. Experiences like that, where you’re in a small jet plane that seats four, plus the pilot, landing on a freezing cold lake of melted glacial water, murky with glacial silt, to have a picnic miles from anything remotely close to civilization, that change your perspective of the world, really blow your mind. (Side note: if you’re prone to motion sickness, do not eat before / during the seaplane ride. I yakked as soon as we landed back in Anchorage). That afternoon, Brittany and I hiked O’Malley Peak, which I wrote a post on. The ‘rents went shopping while we were on the side of a mountain, and we all reconvened for supper at a nice Italian restaurant.

Wednesday was 4th of July and Anchorage hosts a parade in celebration every year. Two blocks into the parade, I found an information booth to ask where the alcohol booths were, to find out this truly was a family event and alcohol was not being sold on in the perimeter. Which was fine. I settled for a chocolate berry milkshake. After the parade ended, we took a bus tour around the town, stopping at significant places, and did the same on a guided walking tour. Later that night Brittany and I went back to Bernie’s Bungalow, which you can read more about here.

Thursday we packed up, said goodbye to our vacation rental, drove downtown to hit up a few souvenir shops on our way out, and headed for the airport…

jFaull’s Simple Steps to Planning Family Vacations:

1) Begin planning as soon as you can (even if that means procrastinating anyways)
2) Lock down travel dates everyone agrees upon
3) Book airfare based on your preferences (i.e. price, departure/arrival times, etc.)
4) Secure accommodations (i.e. hotel, hostel, B&B, vacation rentals etc.)
5) Discuss activity options
6) Discuss cuisine options
7) Finalize an iteriteray
8) Pack chill pills
9) Leave bar crawling for the last night
10) Have fun!