My First AirBnB Experience + Review

DSC03499
The sweetest touch outside our AirBnB

Although AirBnB was been around since 2008, I feel like it’s popularity has only peaked within the last couple of years. Or maybe I’ve been under a rock and you all have been using it this whole time?! Either way, it’s a new concept to most people. This past November, my closest cousin and I planned our first trip together to San Francisco, California. Only about a 1.5 hour flight away from Los Angeles!

This was my first time in The Bay. We didn’t really have a set itinerary, but we definitely knew that we didn’t want to spend a fortune on a hotel. Did you know that the lowest price I could find for 1 night at a 3 star hotel was nearly $300?! Say what?! Say NO! That’s why we decided to give AirBnB a shot. And I am SO happy that we did.

 

To tell the truth, Shaun and Kurt’s place was always the top of my list. How could it not be with the presentation they had on the website? From it’s stylish furniture, spacious room, and free cable, there really was no resisting it. The only thing holding me back was that it was located away from the action of San Francisco’s downtown area, about 30 minutes, in Bayview. But, after talking to other hosts and weighing multiple pros and cons, we landed right back on S & K’s doorstep.

From SFO, we took an Uber (also my first time using this) carpool for about $17 to Bayview. The neighborhood is nothing too extravagant, but it is in a fairly good part of town. It is a really cute 2 story blue building with a gated, private entrance. A big pro is that Shaun and Kurt give you your own 4-digit key code to get into the gate and your room! No hassle with managing key exchanges. There is a neighboring room for other tenants on the other side of the patio, but they were far enough that we never ran into them.

DSC03500
Queen Size Bed + Free Coffee & TV
DSC03501
Clean bathroom with walk-in shower and extra shampoo too

Based off my 4 C’s of Confidence, here is how I’d rate the place:

CLEANLINESS: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Not a speck of dust left. You never would have known that another tenant had ever stayed here! Seemingly clean sheets and immaculate bathroom – that’s really all I can ask for.

COST: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

For two nights, we spent $274 in total. That is with service and cleaning fees included. Much better than 1 night at a hotel closer to the city.

COMMUNICATION: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

I communicated mostly with Kurt through text and he would always respond very quickly! He answered all my questions about their place amicably. They have a binder with information about the history of their neighborhood, tourist spot, random recommendations, and transportation options.The BART was really easy to use and there is a bus stop very near the home. It is about a 10 minute walk to the stop.

COMMUTE: 🌟🌟🌟

As stated, it is about 30 minutes away from all the tourist spots. It could be a good or bad thing depending on how close you want to be to the traffic. It was very easy to hop on the BART or hail an Uber from their location. But keep in mind your budget!

Be sure to sign the guestbook they leave for their tenants. Take a picture of what I wrote and send it to me – if you ever end up staying!


 

Click below for a link to Shaun & Kurt’s amazing AirBnB! Tell them Tiffany sent ya!

DSC03498

6oq3g412h9jgnreqpvw

Pink Pitchers in Boys Town – Chicago Day 3

Considering the enervating walk of the previous day, after breakfast, we decided to explore closer to home. “Closer to home” meant limiting ourselves to the Lincoln Park area. Yet somehow we ended up on a 40 minute walk to Wrigley Field, passing through Boys Town. Boys Town was where we were planning to spend our night – and we may or may not have visited some naughty shops and some vintage shops along the way too. Tsk tsk, readers.

Anyone remember the movie Rookie of the Year? Oh my gosh, that was my shit back in the day. I remember in 5th grade we were allowed to watch movies during recess and everyone’s first choice was ROTY. Come on, you remember, it’s that movie about this pre-teen boy who injured his arm and subsequently gained some kind of awesome reflex (which sounded like a stretching rubber band when he was winding up) that made him the best pitcher in the state. So good that he was drafted by the Chicago Cubs! Since then, Wrigley Stadium had been some kind of “go-to” location for me. The setting for a favorite childhood film.

So passing by it was kind of cool. Even cooler was that there was a Cubs game actually going on! Walking through the neighborhoods, you’d see a sea of blue and red jerseys herding towards the stadium. Ironically I don’t enjoy the game of baseball too much (and neither do my friends), so it makes sense why we didn’t attend the game. It was so exciting to see the stadium packed and fans eager to watch their beloved Cubs. Even if we weren’t among them.

What was for lunch, you ask? More deep dish? No. More cupcakes? Thankfully, no. Even better! Delicious … grilled … frickin’ …. cheese from a joint called – wait for it – Cheesie’s. In Jacksonville, we have this popular food truck with specialty grilled cheese. It’s called “The Happy Grilled Cheese” and they post over social media where there truck will be visiting next. Specialty grilled cheese means that they’re adding bbq, mac & cheese, various meats, shoot, anything you can think of.

It’s expensive, but you feel happy afterward. That could have been the beer though.

We chilled out the rest of the day by watching Bob’s Burgers and prepared mix drinks45db01e7815b388a17c883f9278bd3e6_400x400 that we would divulge in before going out on the town. Boys Town, to be exact. This was one of the things I was most looking forward to before getting to Chicago. The only bars I have been to are filled with either sloppy frat boys or brooding hipsters, nothing too indelible. But a gay bar? No, I have never stepped foot in one before. And frankly, I was super excited! Jacksonville has openly gay individuals, of course. But, nowhere near as open as in Boys Town!

I wore a blood-orange-maxi-dress (NOT with heels, but my gladiator sandals, because my feet were killing me mind you. And, remember, that Boys Town was nearly a 30 minute walk away) and my hair in a twisty-bun-thing. Elena said I looked like a Grecian goddess, which I will totally take. I was excited to go out and dance! (*cue Dane Cook* “I JUSS WANNA DUNCE!”) We spent a lot of time at a bar called Roscoe’s Tavern – we danced on stage and the music was bumping the whole time. Oh, it was so much fun! So much better than any other bar experience I have had – no weird, nasty guys creeping on you. Rather, it was cute gay guys telling you that your outfit was on point or that they love your hair! Like, what?! The night started slipping away after we had our second pink pitcher of alcohol. Let’s just say that the walk home was a memorable (or can we say that?) one! Such a fun time with my friends who I have never gone out with before. If this picture below doesn’t summarize the whole night, I don’t know what will.

11703151_10153553137334009_1877000291991054343_n

I have a story to tell. It was my most favorite, most memorable part of the night. In the center of the bar, there was this beautiful asian girl donning a tight, red dress with the highest pair of stiletto heels I had ever seen. It was after she waved to a group of onlookers, that I looked back and saw those same heels heading into the boys bathroom. We all looked at each other like, “Yeah, girl!”. Girl was a boy in drag! Don’t you hate it when they look prettier than you?! Haha. Anyway, later that night, I go into the girls bathroom to break the seal, and LO AND BEHOLD, it is the SAME girl from earlier. I sidled next to her as we both washed our hands in silence. She turned over to me, touches my shoulder and says, “You are so pretty! I absolutely LOVE your dress.” It was when I responded with, “Thanks, girl, you too!” that she wiped her hands, made her way to me again, and blew me a kiss. Like, I could feel her breath in face. I cornily pretend caught it and smiled as I watched her sassy-walk right out of the bathroom. I will tell this story whenever I get the chance.

Danny told us the normally 30 minute walk home took us about an hour. My Grecian goddess look turned into a wet-mess. And we went to sleep in the living room.

Successful night.

What are your favorite going-out memories? Ever gotten a little crazy in a city that wasn’t home? Let me know all about them!

Sincerely,

o9ijgc3usple2q8sdzmp

Walking 12 miles and Wishing I Knew How to Ride a Bike / Chicago Day 2

I had prepared myself to walk. It is a big city, that’s what they do there. But I was not prepared for the journey I would take on this day. When we first arrived in Chicago, Danny texted Elena saying, “Tell Tiffany it’s really easy to get around on bikes! We can take trails…we can take them downtown…we can…”… At that point I blacked out. Ride bikes?! No one told me we had to ride bikes! Panic set in.

For those that know me, it’s common knowledge that “Tiffany can’t ride a bike.” It’d go something like this: “Hey, want to take our beach cruisers out on 4th of July….oh, wait, that’s right, you can’t!”. It goes from “Oh, I am so sorry for you!” to “LMFAO, WHAT A N00B!”. Haha, it’s okay, I take it all in good fashion. 20+ years of jokes kind of get old and my feelings don’t get hurt that easily anyway. Perks of having a family that jokes around all the time; you don’t take anyone too seriously.

Even though they probably both held secret grudges (not so secret on Danny’s part, he jokingly let me have it with snide remarks about my two-wheel fears), we walked. We walked everywhere. Because I do not live an active lifestyle, I have no clue how I did it! Apparently iPhones have a Fitness app that counts how far you have walked and how many steps you have taken. My phone was in my purse, so I don’t think it was totally accurate, but it counted 25,000+ steps in 10+ miles. Regardless, I felt really bad that I had to be the bitch that kept everyone on foot.

What We Saw in Downtown Chicago

DSC03352I will have to say that Chicago’s skyline is pretty incomparable. If you didn’t know, I have a thing for skylines. Some people may argue that they all look the same,but they absolutely don’t! Yes, they are just a bunch of buildings lined up together. But can’t you see the difference in height? In color hues? In the way the sunsets peek through? Take a look at LA’s skyline or New Orleans’: totally different! Plus, Chicago has those two spikey thingys poking out from on top of the John Hancock building. That’s freaking hilarious. They look like antennas! Anyway, this was my view as we were walking down the long ass trail to downtown. We passed by this large body of water with artificial waves and sand attached to it, or as they like to call it a “beach”. I am from Florida, so I have to be a little partial to the real salt air and seashell-ridden sands. But, hey! I will give it to Illinois. They make do with what they got. There were girls in their bikinis attempting to tan and boys playing frisbee. Closest thing to the real thing that you can get, I suppose!

Downtown Chicago was how I imagined it. Bustling crowds attempting to make their way through the maze of skyscrapers. There were a lot of department stores and a lot of people coming out of their doors with more bags than they could carry. As I watched everyone scramble across the city and cross eachother’s paths so quickly, I found that it was difficult to tell between who were real Chicago inhabitants and who were the tourists. I don’t know if that is a good thing or a bad thing.

I will say I give props to every pedestrian crossing the busy streets. I second guessed myself every time I had to cross. Danny was so good at predicting when lights would change, he always bravely put his foot forward and trekked across that road as if he owned it. I never gained that confidence, so I always just blindly followed him. Probably not a good thing because there came a point when I wouldn’t look right or left and just trailed after him like a baby following mother duck. Death for the followers.

Where We Ate in Downtown Chicago

IMG_7746
Genuine Chicago Deep-Dish

When you think of a signature Chicago food, what comes to mind? Yep, deep dish. We went to Pizanos on Madison Street for my first taste of Chicago pizza. Back home in Florida, on Thursdays I have a group of friends that always goes to a pizza place called Al’s for dollar slices and beers. I sent them a picture of my meal, not entirely sorry I was missing out on our usual dinner together. “Having a slice for you here in Chicago”, I texted.

However, I am not going to lie I was not super impressed. It’s funny because we actually originally ordered a thin-crust pizza but, because the waiter was new and confused, we got a deep dish instead. So we take what we are given! If you don’t know what deep-dish pizza entails, it is actually exactly what it sounds like. Chicago-style pizza is known to have high edges and a thicker tomato sauce. To most, that sounds like a party! But to me, a lover of hand-tossed or thin-crust with light tomato sauce, it wasn’t that enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong though! I like pizza as much as the next person! Imma nom-nom-nom that up faster than you can say “Yo, get away from my plate”. But I didn’t like how doughy it was. Just not a great aftertaste. Tell me if anyone out there agrees with me. If not, I am okay standing alone.19520749379_39e353f4cf_o

19711947541_8f0894af3e_o
Ever seen a Cupcake ATM? Who needs money?

For dinner we had the very-healthy Sprinkles Cupcakes. I don’t remember why we didn’t have a real meal. But I think it had something to do with the fact that our feet hurt SO bad, we had to sit down and soak our feet for a good portion of the night. I remember getting home and being like “What is walking? Why do we do this?”. We probably were like “Getting up is required to get food? Naaaaaaaah.”

Do you have any experiences like this? Let me know in the comments.

11215734_10153551347914009_3729762942350804059_n
Ending the night with a feet soak

Here’s to bike-riding. Cheers.

Sincerely,

o9ijgc3usple2q8sdzmp

Close to Home / Jacksonville, FL

DSC03321
Gazebo in San Marco

I had to get to work at 4 am yesterday. I know, I know, the thought of hearing  *AAHH AAHH AAHH* (my best alarm clock impression) in the wee hours of the morning ensues torturous feelings inside you. How do you think I feel? I do it once a month! Twice a month, if you count my weekend shifts. The funny thing is that after the initial thought of “Ugh, I would rather walk through fire than hear that incessant beeping again”, once I am up, I magically gain 1000 pp of energy. I am awake and alert. Ready to face the day. So ready that, instead of jumping into bed after work for a well-deserved 100 hour nap, I decided to make the 35 minute drive to my one of my favorite sides of town.

I just moved into a new place this month, so I am on the hunt for a coffee table. I have not had any luck on craigslist or SwipSwap, so I decided that the antique shops in Riverside might be a cool place to check out. Besides, I was in the mood to play a little “I Spy” in the disarray that antique shops are bound to hold. Who doesn’t like looking at random shit?! A pair of old binoculars, weathered bell bottoms, a haunted rocking chair… You never know what you are going to find!

An angry sumo wrestler, ready for a fight

When I got off at noon, I texted my Dad to join me for lunch. At dinner the night before, he had mentioned that he had a craving for sushi. As fate would have it, we ended up eating Mexican instead. Much to his disappointment.  But tomorrow is a new day! And since I knew of a great sushi place in the area I thought he’d enjoy, I invited him. So we met up to eat some raw fish at the small joint called Sumo Sushi”  on Park Street.

Let me tell you, I am a HUGE sushi fan. There is something special about that bit of sticky rice blanketed by seaweed. Give it to me regular, raw, or fried – any shape or form makes my taste buds quiver! (Can your taste buds quiver? My anatomy classes say no. But my sushi-eating says otherwise.) Sumo Sushi has an awesome lunch special too. Choose from a list of sushi rolls and get 2 rolls + soup/salad for $8.95. What a steal! It came to us fresh and served on a bamboo slab that was dressed with a green leaf that my Dad and I could not decide was real or not. It was a nice touch, regardless. Try the Jaguar Roll: a fried (so healthy!) roll with eel and cucumber. My heart!

With our stomachs full, we headed over to the first antique shop of the day. If you’re looking for shops of this kind, Riverside is the place to be! On Park Street, there is a literally a whole strip of them. And right down the road, in 5 Points, there are some more to peruse. You can fill your whole day at each shop and they all had something different to offer. I personally base my level of enjoyment by how organized the place is. Are there so many booths that they have to be assigned numbers?  Is there random stuff slewed all over the place? Do you have to hold your purse close to your side to avoid knocking over a big pile of something-something? If ththekeye answer is “yes” to any or all questions, then I LOVE it. The messier and more packed-to-the-brim it is, the better!

While I was looking for my coffee table, my dad was curious about skeleton keys. He never told me exactly why, but I can see why he was so interested. I love keys. Especially the old, rusty ones that you can imagine unlocks only secret passageways or boxes filled with treasure. Have you ever seen the movie The Secret Garden? There is a scene where Mary Lennox finds an old music box. Inside the tiny drawer was a skeleton key that, of course, she finds unlocks the secret garden. That scene always resonated with me because of how antiquated the key looked; the movie revolved around that and the secrets it unlocked.

Why can't parents take normal selfies?
Why can’t parents take normal selfies?
DSC03317
I love finding things I match with.

A Wishing Tree

Sadly, I didn’t find the coffee table I was looking for. But I wasn’t sweating it because of the fun time I had with my Dad. I had intended to make it a solo adventure out to Riverside, but I am glad I had a partner to enjoy it with. When he left, I decided to drive down the road and continue checking out 5 Points. What is 5 Points? Well, it is what it sounds like: 5 roads meet up in one intersection! We all have to yield to each other, which does get kind of annoying and scary, but we all make it to the destination one way or the other. 5 Points is filled with trendy restaurants, fancy boutiques, and “artsy fartsy” stuff to boot. I live closer to the beach and the crowd is way different here. Ignorant people would describe it as the “home of the hipsters”. Those same people would describe my part of town as the “frat boys” or “beach bums”. I hate generalizations! Every area is different, yes. Different people. Different surroundings. Different experiences. I like my side of town because I love the beach, the laid-back attitude, the convenience. But I like Riverside because of it’s eclectic charm, good eats, and animated habitants. I highly recommend people step out of their borders and enjoy the other side of the fence. You won’t regret it!

How did I end my day, you might ask? With a delicious ice cream cone (chocolate with strawberries mixed in – not my favorite, but who can deny ice cream on a scorching Florida day?) from Marble Slab Creamery. Heads up: on Mondays, they give double-stamps on the reward cards. I am not going to lie, it was difficult taking this selfie without looking like a chump. I will admit I own a selfie-stick, but I am very afraid to use it in public. I am not one to care what other people think, but it does bother me when people stare while I take selfies. So, to be slick, I always set my camera on auto timer, run over to another area at a good distance, casually look coy as the flash goes off, run back, and pretend like nothing ever happened. What? What was that light? No, not a flash! No, I didn’t take a picture of myself! Mind your own beeswax! (See an example of that in the first picture of this blog). Skillz.

I’m an ice cream eating pro!

IMG_4132

Tell me about your favorite parts of your town! How do you sneakily take selfies? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you.

Sincerely,

o9ijgc3usple2q8sdzmp

A Special Touch

A homemade burlap wreath for my new place. It was a shame when I realized I didn’t match it to my welcome mat. Plus, I still don’t have a hanger for my door. So on my closet it rests for now. Have you ever made one? What kind of crafts do you enjoy?

Sincerely,

Resonate

It is hard to put things into words sometimes, huh? Have you ever experienced something so significant, to the point of awe-inspiring, that you take it upon yourself to share it others… but it just can’t be expressed the way you want it to? I think that is why a lot of blogs fail. They cannot eloquently put into words why they are choosing to write about this topic. I used to read my entries over and wonder, “Why should I post this? Why would anyone else care about this?”. It would boggle my mind why more people weren’t escalating with excitement or asking me more questions. I want to help people understand why I am so happy about this thing so badly.

But I have learned that some things are just a (as the annoying expression goes) “you had to be there” moment. I would rather have a person truly share in my elation than blankly nod their head in a blatant misunderstanding.

I have learned that some instances are meant to resonate with you, and you alone. And that is okay.

I sent a letter to one of my favorite pen pals, Mari, about a trip I took to New Orleans earlier this year. I wrote about every aspect of my visit with a diligent hand. I knew she shared the same curiosity about this famous city that I had once had, so I chose to share all my experiences with her. I included a short copy of a couple pages here, I hope you enjoy:

IMG_0009

IMG_0010

“Wandering the streets by myself and at my own pace was surreal. I took in everything and appreciated the opportunity to even be in such a cool place. I had an attraction to the stoops in NOLA. For some reason they beckoned me saying, “Tiffany! Come sit down on me!”. So I obliged. There was this one building – I don’t know if it was a restaurant or hotel, but it was so big and had tiers of balconies on it. There were a lot of plants and garden statues to veer at. I decided to sit down on a stoop across the street and enjoy the view. As I sat down, I noticed how quickly people were walking by. But, amidst the crowd, they’d be others in a restaurant uniform or a man carrying a saxophone case that had a bit of a slower pace to their walk. That’s when I noticed that the people rushing by were the tourists. I got odd looks from them as they walked past me. But I didn’t care, I was too busy enjoying the building in my gaze. Next to the garden statue of a fat cherub shooting an arrow, a bubble machine started spewing out tiny bubbles. How fun! As I enjoyed the floating, there was a loud slam from a door on the 2nd balcony. It was 4 guys, clearly drunk, and they stumbled over to the side of the balcony and started yelling at passerbys. They used beads as way to grab peoples attention, as if their incessant yelling wasn’t enough. I took that as my cue to leave. My favorite moment ruined by some drunk guys. Go figure.”