NYE in LV

NYE in LV

SD to LV? Two weekends in a row of road-tripping? Shocking, I know 😛

No, it’s been awesome! Being able to spend quality time with my closest friends has been amazing, and ringing in the new year with them in LV was quite the fun experience.

On the Friday evening of New Year’s weekend, my friend J and her aunt drove over from the San Bernardino area to pick me up. I was grateful she was able to drive all the way, but I felt so sorry for my friend driving all those miles!

It took forever to get out of SaMo on a Friday night (of course), but we made it out by 7pm. We stopped in Moreno Valley to pick up J’s BF, and then from there drove into mountain town. J’s aunt offered to buy us some pizza to bring back to the abode. We reached her place close to 10pm, chowed down on some pizza purchased from a place reminiscent of a 90’s pizza parlor, and cuddled with Missy & Sissy before going to bed.
 
Missy & Sissy were my friend's aunt's cats, BTW.
Missy & Sissy were J’s aunt’s cats, BTW.

I didn’t want to rush J the next morning since she was super exhausted from driving already. As a result, we were on the road closer to 11:30am. It also took us forever to get down the mountain, but we had just finished having breakfast/coffee so we were full up on our energy reserves 😛

We came across some interesting road signs.
We came across some interesting road signs.

It took us forever to get to Las Vegas—pretty much seven hours. At least we were able to see the sunset over the desert and watch the moon appear as we drove down back roads. 

Cozy 'bnb and moonlight
Cozy ‘bnb and moonlight
 
We were extremely hungry by the time we reached Henderson, a suburb of LV where our AirBnb was located. We had a little bit of difficulty figuring out how to check in, but we were soon able to put all three of our heads together and figure it out lol. The room was super cute, cozy, and keenly decorated. It was much better than I expected! 
 
After checking in, we immediately drove out for dinner. We found a local Greek food franchise that wasn’t too far, and we were able to unanimously agree to have dinner there. 
 
The Great Greek
The Great Greek
 
J’s BF never had Greek let alone Mediterranean cuisine at a restaurant before, so I was happy to help by explaining the menu. He and J got gyro-based meals, while I was glad to find a falafel wrap option on the menu. 
 
Falafel wrap with all the fixins
Falafel wrap with all the fixin’s
 
Our food came out lightning-fast, but we didn’t question the speed since we were ravenous. My falafel had the perfect texture of a soft filling with a crisp breaded exterior. And there was the perfect amount of tzatziki and hummus. The random pepper I can’t explain…
 
We retreated back to the BNB after dinner since the three of us were exhausted from sitting in a car all day (lol). C, my friend who had moved to Vegas over the summer, was busy that night picking up her cousin and taking care of errands so we agreed to meet with her the next day. 
 
 
The following morning, we met C and her cousin for brunch. She insisted that we go to Black Bear Diner, a Nor Cal staple that has slowly made its way to the desert over the years…
 
I definitely needed some coffee, some water to stay hydrated, and went for a veggie omelette with home fries and a toasted english muffin. Everything was delicious, but I could only stomach everything but the english muffin, to my dismay. 
 
Black Bear Brunch
Black Bear Brunch

After brunch, the six of us drove beside the 15 to make a pilgrimage to some candy-colored rocks in the middle of the desert. I’m not joking…

Seven Magic Mountains
Seven Magic Mountains

Apparently it was an art piece installed sometime in 2016, and I learned about it through its random appearances on my Insta feed. The doubt on my friends’ faces about “what” we were visiting immediately disappeared as we got closer. It was a gorgeous display up close as well as afar for panoramic shots.

Inspiring smaller structures.
Inspiring smaller structures.

I saw some idiot kick the smaller rock structure, but besides that random guy, everyone else seemed genuinely happy by the art piece, which was probably the intention of its installation all along.

After that little excursion, our group hopped back into the car and drove to the BNB. My friends and I got ready for the rest of the late afternoon/evening, and then went back to C’s house for finishing touches, haha.

We took J’s car to the Strip, and miraculously found parking in the parking garage of Planet Hollywood after driving around in circles for almost an hour. I didn’t care too much since we had all night. Haha!

The Strip
The Strip

J was DD and I don’t drink, so we made the perfect sober management team for our crew :P. C and her cousin immediately went for tequila shots. Her cousin was a mess about one hour in (as expected), but C managed her inebriation better. It was also my first time walking in four inch heels because I thought when am I ever going to have the chance to do that again? Lab? LOL no…I did quickly learn that packing some flip flops is a necessity if I dare put myself through the torture of heels ever again…

Soon enough, everyone was getting hungry and I had spotted Shake Shack across the street. We slowly made our way over there trying not to get lost in the crowds. The place was packed, and I was shocked because out of ALL the places on the Strip, this one restaurant had to be crowded?

Shake Shack NYE
Shake Shack NYE

Going by how my first experience at Shake Shack was, I got the Shroom Burger but instead of the fries, I opted for a cup of vanilla soft serve. The burger didn’t taste as crisp and warm as the one I had in LA back in the summer, but it was suitable for some quick fuel to help me stay up till midnight, haha!

Ironically, we didn’t do much walking after that. In fact, C and J gave in to the pain of their heels and bought some flip flops at a gift shop. I gritted through the pain, but did not protest against sitting down at a dining hall by one of the casinos. C’s cousin was pretty drunk by the time it was 8, and despite being the oldest from all of us, he was the most immature and held us back since C felt like she had to keep an eye on him. We made the best of it though, and had fun people-watching and making jokes.

Chillin' till midnight
Chillin’ till midnight in one of the dining areas // midnight fireworks

C’s BF planned to meet up with us later that night, and when he showed up around 11, our entire group migrated to the center of the Strip to get closer to the fireworks. At this time, my feet were getting to the point of numbness and so C laid down a plastic bag on the sidewalk so I could take off my shoes. Such true friendship, haha. J wanted to leave before the fireworks started since she wasn’t particularly a fan of fireworks, and I didn’t mind taking off either since it meant we would beat traffic. Even though we did leave early, we were able to see the fireworks as we drove back to Henderson.

 
The next morning, J, J’s BF, and I met C one last time to drop off some of her things and give her a hug goodbye. Before hitting the road, we had another desert-worthy diner breakfast at Our Families’ Country Cafe.
 
Our Families' Country Cafe
Our Families’ Country Cafe

Besides having Greek our first night, my time in Vegas had been marked by eggs and burgers…at least I was getting my protein in?

Inside
Inside – classic diner setting

There wasn’t much variety in terms of vegetarian-friendly cuisine, so I got a plate of sunny side eggs with home fries, and some slices of rye bread that happened to be lightly buttered.

Eggy breakfast
Eggy breakfast

Due to the previous evening’s events, I wasn’t surprised that I scarfed everything down so quickly. We even stopped for snacks at Albertson’s before really heading out on our way.

Our trip back was less harrowing than Friday’s trek, and I made it back to LA at a decent hour. I said my goodbyes to J and her BF, and then immediately unpacked so I could get back into my routine. I did have to go back to lab the next day, but my productivity levels were at an all-time high after a fun-filled weekend of celebration 🙂

How did you ring in 2018?

Shake Shack Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

SD with the Bestie

SD with the Bestie

E has now left the country, and while I’m going to miss her company so much, I definitely wanted to spend some stress-free time with her before she left. Hence, a weekend trip to San Diego was in order.

She’d been wanting to go there for a while, so I was glad we were able to make it happen. Since I had my sister’s car until the 26th, I was able to drive us down without having to worry about public transit.

It was about a 2.5 hour drive, and we made it into the area around noon. We tried setting our sights for the Point Loma Lighthouse, but ended up just north at a veterans’ memorial.

Views from the memorial // an old-school ship with sails in the disance
Views from the memorial // an old-school ship with sails in the distance

A local who was walking around told us that the lighthouse was actually a little bit west of our current location, so we decided to get back in the car and drive closer. We ended up the entrance to the Cabrillo National Monument, but had to turn around since their credit card machiene wasn’t working and we didn’t have cash in $5, $10, or $20 denominations. The sign outside stated they accepted cash and credit so we thought it was unfair, but we moved on.

Old Townj, San Diego
Old Town, San Diego

Instead, we drove into town from the coast, and found ourselves in Old Town SD, a huge market that housed a collection of street vendors, gift shops, and restaurants. E did some souvenir and gift shopping, but eventually we both were hungry enough to sit down to a late lunch.

Old Town SD Shopping
Old Town SD Shopping

Many of the restaurants featured Mexican cuisine, so we hopped on over to Miguel’s Cocina which was at the corner of a block we were approaching.

Miguel's
Miguel’s Cocina

After informing the waitress we were vegetarians, we were advised not to have their queso dip since it was cooked with chicken broth. As a result, we munched on complimentary chips and salsa. We even got complimentary guacamole since we couldn’t have the queso…score! Haha.

Lunch Spread
Lunch Spread

Between the two of us, we had fresh fajita veggies, veggie enchiladas, beans, and rice. It was all flavorful and delicious, but also quite filling. To-go boxes were pretty much mandatory for us.

After lunch, I asked E where to next. Most of the museums and exhibits were closing soon, so maybe something in nature (and that was free) made the most sense.

We drove back to the coast, this time to Sunset Cliffs Natural Park.

Sunset Cliffs
Sunset Cliffs

Our timing was impeccable, and the views were perfect as the sun was setting.

Gorgeous views
Gorgeous views

E mentioned out loud that it would be the perfect place for a guy to propose. Someone overheard this and couldn’t help but speak out in agreement.

Rocky Shores
Rocky Shores

I was feeling super tired, so we decided to call it a day after walking around and checked in at our hotel. After getting settled in, E went to town with getting my make-up done (for fun) and we tried to watch a movie without falling asleep in the middle of it. Then we talked until we were completely exhausted and fell asleep, like the typical twelve-year-olds at a sleepover we were, haha 😉

Cozy
Cozy

We took our time getting ready the next morning, and beat the crowd to the free breakfast downstairs.

At around 10am, we took off for downtown.

Downtown SD
Downtown SD

Honestly, there’s not much to see in downtown…or in SD in general. I’ll admit that I probably wouldn’t be the best person to hire to advocate for SD, as I find it a pretty boring city to begin with. It’s like a beautiful and sunny San Francisco, and yeah, maybe a good place to work, raise a family, or retire, but to me? It’s just too boring, haha 😛 !

E did some more shopping, picked up some gift bags at CVS. and then we were off to our next location—the San Diego Botanic Garden, that was actually located in Encinitas.

San Diego Botanic Garden
San Diego Botanic Garden

Again if I’m being honest, the visit was a waste for us So Cal residents. Many of the plants featured in the garden could be seen all over the southern region of Cali, and I even recognized some from our campus! Still, it was an entertaining walk, and we found intriguing items like this Alphabet Garden:

'Stop and Smell' Alphabet Garden
‘Stop and Smell’ Alphabet Garden

P was for Pomegranate and E was for Elephant’s Foot, LOL!

After that little trek, we slowly headed back north to LA. We did make a stop in Newport Beach, I guess because we didn’t have our fill of ocean views??

Newport Beach
Newport Beach

These piers start to look the same after awhile, but the ocean views never get old. We walked for a bit and then made our way back to the car. It literally felt like a warm summer day and I had to turn on the A/C when we got back in the car…and it was Christmas Eve, what even is this weather?

After I dropped E off, all I wanted to do was sleep! I was still in active recovery mode so no runs were on the schedule. I was able to turn in early for the night, and sleep for most of Christmas Day after a long morning walk. It was definitely a sweet weekend with one of my dearest friends, and—I’ll make sure of it—many more adventures to come.

What was your Christmas weekend like?

Miguel's Cocina Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Welsh Country

Welsh Country

Going into this Europe trip, I honestly didn’t think much of Wales as more than where my cousin and her family lives. We used to live in the U.K., and we actually did visit Wales when I was younger. I remember having a shirt from Wales with a bunch of cartoon sheep on it. It was one of my all-time favorite t-shirts.

On a Friday morning, we caught the Great Western Railway (GWR) from Paddington Station. It was easy to board, except we had to make it exactly on time. It’s not like Amtrak where they’ll wait for an extra fifteen minutes after the actual departure time before leaving…

At Paddington Station
At Paddington Station

Fortunately we caught our train, and settled in for the three hour ride. I was asleep for most of the ride (of course), but when we got to Wales, everything looked so bright and cheerful compared to the dreary gray and smoggy London we left that morning. I’m not sure why, but I just felt happier looking at the scenery. Signs in Welsh started popping up as we made our way through the Cardiff station.

When we saw our cousin, we immediately went into hug mode. It had seriously been SO long (like seventeen years…). She and her husband picked us up, and we made our way back to their house.

Welsh Land
Welsh Land

The roads, highways, rolling hills, and architecture is the houses were so amazing. It was like walking through a suburb with a strong Medieval history.

Our cousin had lunch prepared, and afterwards she, my sister, and I went to pick up her younger daughter from primary school. Imagine a peppy and petite Desi girl short enough to be five, but is actually eight, with a thick Welsh accent and that’s Little M. She came out in her uniform, saw us, and became very bashful. Her mom was like “Oh, so now you’re quiet!” She did open up to us soon enough though!

At home, we met my cousin’s older daughter, who I’ll refer to as Little P. She presented herself as quiet, but was very polite. We were all then introduced to Muffin, the baby of the family.

Just look at those adorable eyes...
Just look at those adorable eyes…

Apparently, her sibling won the title of “Best Pug in Wales”. Go figure.

The plan for the evening was to go for an hour drive west to the cliffs in Swansea. The car ride was absolute fun since the girls were so full of energy. They took a particular liking to my sister, especially Little M.

Drive to the cliffs
Drive to the cliffs

We parked near a lush green cliff and saw sheep not too far from us. The girls jumped out and ran manically towards them and the sheep bounded just as fast. It was a funny sight for sure. Near the cliffs was The Worms Head Hotel/Pub, we found a table out back, and ordered some plates of garlic bread and chips.

chipsandfries
Garlic Bread & Chips

Little M was adorably hyper, and would not stop chatting. We couldn’t help but laugh, even though her parents told her to calm down a bit for the consideration of others. I could see others were smiling though.

We didn’t go down to the cliffs, but we walked for a bit after, down a gravel-packed trail. There were a bunch of dogs, and the girls had to pet them all. When we got back to the car, it was almost 8pm but we just had to stop at Verdi’s Ice Cream before going home.

Verdi's Ice Cream Parlour
Verdi’s Ice Cream Parlour

Verdi’s was by the water, near a dock with a bunch of boats.

Mumbles, Swansea
Mumbles, Swansea

It was getting chilly, but it wasn’t too cold to deny ice cream. My cousin recommended the Turkish Delight ice cream, and I eagerly jumped at the chance to try a new ice cream flavor. It ended up being a winner for me.

Turkish Delight Ice Cream
Turkish Delight Ice Cream

The ride back was more quiet, since the girls fell asleep, but drive back while the sun was setting was a gorgeous sight indeed. Watching Wales turn down for the night only emphasized to me how magical this place was.

This weekend was certainly going to be a great one.

Have you ever visited Wales?

Verdi's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Her 21st

Her 21st

Last weekend’s events were spectacular. I am so grateful for being able to visit my sister on a milestone occasion—her 21st birthday!

cakkkkke
Slice of chocolate birthday cake. Can’t pass up a slice in celebration!

I wanted to maximize the time I spent with her so much that I took a night MegaBus so that I could get to Oakland by 7am that Friday morning. From there, one of our besties who also didn’t want to miss out picked me up, and after getting coffee we drove 3 hours to Fresno!

My sister couldn’t contain her excitement when she knew we were close. She skipped class (haha) so that we could all have lunch together at Taqueria Don Pepe.

don_pepe
Taqueria Don Pepe

It was incredibly hot outside (pushing 100s!!) but they had a small, shaded patio where we could sit down and enjoy our lunch. My sister and I both got vegetarian tortes while our friend got enchiladas (despite talking nonstop about her taco craving for the 3 hours I drove with her, lol).

don_pepe
Pickle bar, small interior

The torta was made with a soft but toasted hoagie roll and filled with refried beans, good ol’ avocado, tomato slices, onion, and shredded cheese. My friend seemed to like her enchiladas, but she actually got bored mid-plate and started talking about splitting fries with my sister from Dog House Grill next door!

veg_torta
Veg torta anyone?

We went shopping for a bit afterwards at Target, and then came back to my sister’a dorm for some rest before heading out to dinner.

filling
Everythannnng in here

My sis and friend spent forever doing their makeup, and opened a bottle of wine to drink before we left. I was “designated mommy” since I don’t drink, so I let my sis enjoy her new-found freedom with alcohol. She’s actually probably the smartest person I know when it comes to drinking safety…she did her research and did not go crazy at all. She told me she stayed hydrated and drank only after eating something substantial the night she had her first drink, on her actual birthday. Obviously I’m bragging now because I’m such a proud older sis.

After they had their fun, I drove us all to The Cheesecake Factory because my sister had a giftcard she wanted to use, and because I had never been to TCH!!

lol
The Cheesecake Factory on a Friday…so busy!!

We had to wait about 45 minutes before we could get a table, and when we were taken to our seats we came across a server who was scrambling to set up our table. It was the most awkward thing ever, as it looked like he was literally playing musical chairs with silverware. We stood there in polite silence, but were all actually thinking what the…

drinks_chips
Sis and friend’s drinks…I helped myself to chips and guac.

We ordered A TON, and I ended up reprimanding both ladies for it afterwards because we needed up taking four boxes home. We devoured a whole bread basket, shared chips and guacamole, and my sis and friend ordered huge plates of burgers with sides. My sis got a side salad that she didn’t even touch because she got the kale salad appetizer. I tried the mozzarella flatbread, and while it was crisp and creamy from the cheese, it was not the most stellar thing to cross paths with my tastebuds.

pizza
A sub-par flatbread pizza

After dinner, we walked through the mall for a bit and then drove back. We finished the night with the Bratz movie (just to make fun of it, and it was unsurprisingly the only thing we could all agree upon) and I was the first one to fall asleep.

I woke up the next morning to squeeze in a 6 miler, but as soon as the ladies woke up, we for ourselves ready for an eggy brunch—Fresno style!

Do you drink?

What was your first alcoholic drink ?

Taqueria Don Pepe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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