Beetle House LA | Hollywood, California

If I extend my hands and exclaim “IT’S SHOWTIME!” with extreme gusto, would you have any idea what I was referring to? Come on! Come on! You know. Black and white pinstripe suit. Green, mossy hair. He’s got terrible manners. Likes things in threes?

It’s BEETLEJUICE….BEETLEJUICE….BEETLE….scared you there, didn’t I? Don’t worry. No calling the undead here.

What if I told you that this universe does not just exist in the movies? That there is a place fully Tim Burton-themed where fans can high-five with Edward Scissorhands, sing along with Jack Skellington, and get personally victimized by wise-cracking Beetlejuice himself? What if I told you that there were actually two? Yup! There is one in East Village of New York City and the one I went to in Hollywood.

Hollywood (or Hollyweird as some people affectionately call it) seems to be the perfect setting for Beetle House LA. It is located about a block away from the famous Pantages Theater on Hollywood Blvd. It is a tourist-filled area, so do not be surprised by the amount of people who might be there.

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Here Lies Betelgeuse

My two cousins and I decided to make our visit on (what better night?) Halloween. My birthday also happens to be the next day, so we decided to celebrate it there. You might be thinking “Why would someone want to spend their birthday at a place so strange and unusual?” Well, readers. I, myself, am strange and unusual. See what I did there? 😉 Disguised as Minnie Mouse, a butterfly, and female Beetlejuice/Beetlejuice’s androgynous girlfriend/half-assed Beetlejuice (I honestly have no idea what I was), we left the world of Hollywood behind and entered into Tim Burton’s imagination. You are greeted with a florescent purple pumpkin sign encouraging you to “Come As Your Are”. Huh, guess we shoulda ditched the costumes.

Right by the “Come As You Are” sign

After climbing the stairs, you are engulfed in a cacophony of Danny Elfman songs and costumed patrons cheers-ing their “Big Fish” bowls. There are references to pretty much every film at every angle. I found it hilarious that you couldn’t even really tell who actually worked there and who was just dressed up for Halloween. It took me about 15 minutes to even realize that the Edward Scissorhands quietly standing in the corner was actually an employee and there for photo ops (and not just some anti-social wallflower).

Inside the main restaurant

True to LA-style, we were really late to our reservation. Parking was a bitch, ok? Especially late at night on Halloween. Luckily the hostess was able to fit us in and we were led into a separate area where the restaurant is. It is parallel to a stage where we saw Beetlejuice starring in his own comedy hour and, after, a bearded lady showed feats of strength or breathed fire…or something. I was too busy geeking out at the surrounding decorations, to be honest.

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Edward Burger Hands

Despite the multiple courses, Beetle House has a pricey menu.  It is $40-45 complete with 2-3 course meals, which will include an appetizer, entree, and dessert. I ended up choosing “Cheshire Mac & Cheese” (which had hints of truffle – which is this foodie’s favorite), “Linguini Todd” (a not-so-subtle homage to the singing razor-yielding Benjamin Barker), and a free sorbet with a candle in it for my birthday. I don’t think you can go wrong with Mac & Cheese so I was very pleased with this creamy dish. However the linguini, even though paired with clams, came up short. The proclaimed “Meyer Lemon Beurre Blanc” sauce was completely bland for my taste. What they might lack in taste, it is made up for with creativity. My conclusion about this place is that you are not paying for the quality of food, you are paying for the experience and for the actors.

We had a special moment when Catwoman stalked up to our table. “Oooouuu, my favorite snacks,” she declared, licking her lips. My eyes went big and my mind went to dirty places before I realized she was talking about my cousins who were dressed up as the mouse and a butterfly. (Doy, cats eat those!) They informed her it was my birthday and she excitedly made it over to my side of the table.

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I looked down at my phone and said I didn’t even realize it was only a minute until midnight! Catwoman made some small talk to help pass the time, asking what our favorite Tim Burton films are and if we were from LA.  20 seconds goes by…30…40…it felt like forever before the clock stroke 12. She hilariously broke character and said, “That was the longest fucking minute of my life! Have a Happy Birthday!”. And, true to her catlike form, she sauntered away to greet her next customers.

“Everyday is Halloween” here, so don’t feel obligated to visit only on a spooky holiday. I don’t know how crowded it is on a regular night, but it was pretty packed on October 31st. Be prepared to be blocked by people taking pictures – but you should not expect anything less from a Tim Burton fan in a Tim-Burton themed bar. Just have fun!

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Happy Halloween!

Stay weird.

Sincerely,

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I went hiking in Georgia! | Panther Creek, Georgia

Let me start out by saying that I do not have a great relationship with the outdoors. Mother Nature and I? You can call us acquaintances at best. She is like that one friend you text every so often and declare, “OMG, we have to hang out soon!”, but then you almost never do.

Admittedly, I would like to keep it that way.

There are lot of trails in Jacksonville. We have visited a good number of them, but they do not propose much of a challenge. The land here, much like a 9 year old girl still begging Mom for a training bra, is flat…flat…flat. However, our neighboring state of good ol’ Georgia had much more to offer us. So my boyfriend and our two friends headed out to conquer the Georgian trails.

Panther Creek  is about an hour away from Athens, Georgia (home of the acclaimed Georgia Bulldogs, if you like college football). When it comes to parking, it is easy and cheap to get a spot. You leave your money envelope in a payment box by the entrance. The lot is only across the street from the trail, so you simply have to cross to begin your hike.

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I had never been on a real hike before. You might be able to tell that by my lack of hiking boots (I wore my brand new Nike Frees, which I totally clayed up by the end of the trip) and my flimsy blue backpack from college containing only two bottles of water. Can I get a #n00B??? I would definitely make different choices if I could go back in time. Like, maybe not wear all black in the middle of a humid Southern summer…

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I stayed at the back of the group the whole time, as I did not want to get in anyone’s way. “I’m slow,” I would say, as I ushered them in front of me. While everyone was marching forward, I was lagging behind, filming things and taking in all the sights. There was a lot to see! Along the way, we came across various plant life, moving creeks, small-scaled waterfalls, and people’s campsites (ugh, people actually sleep in the wild?). Even the occasional scary looking bug and evil looking snake. Typical nature stuff…but definitely not something you see everyday. Unless you live in the woods…which my boyfriend was planning to do…

It was a 3.5 mile trek to our destination, which was this beautiful waterfall. I was getting really tired of going uphill then downhill, around the corner, under this log, all while holding on for my dear life and avoiding getting bit by mosquitoes. So seeing this natural oasis was a huge relief for me (and my poor feet). A lot of people were lounging around, swimming, enjoying snacks – and I was more than happy to join them.

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Playing around in the waterfall was definitely the highlight of the trip.

The moral of the story is that, even though I successfully completed my first hike, I am completely out of shape. The walk back (another freaking 3.5 miles) was BRUTAL! I clearly remember screaming expletives when we took a wrong turn and had to backtrack by literally climbing up a freaking 10 foot dirt mound. I am getting angry thinking about it again! LOL. I honestly do not even remember how I got back to the car. Miracle. Alien abduction. Who knows?! I was just relieved to be sitting down again.

My First Hike (3)

CLICK THE PICTURE ABOVE TO SEE A VIDEO ABOUT OUR HIKING ADVENTURE! 

I was happy we got to experience this with our friends. Would I do this again? Yes. No. Maybe so. I’ll let you know when the time comes 😛

Sincerely,

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A Guide to Savannah, Georgia

It was news to me that Savannah is only two hours away from my home in Jacksonville. My lack of geographical sense was made transparent when I admitted that I thought Atlanta was actually closer. As always, you’re wrong, Tiffany. Atlanta is really about 5 hours away. I will buy a map one day, I promise. Armed with this new knowledge, I suggested a weekend trip to my boyfriend. The plan was set…

img_0771I have always wanted to visit “The Hostess City of the South”. My imagination took me to a place that was a combination of St. Augustine and New Orleans. After walking those wobbly streets myself,  I can say that I was not far off in my assumptions. The rounded corners of the architecture reminded me of the those standing in The French Quarter. The grey beards of Spanish moss hanging off the haunting branches of Savannah’s trees resemble those planted on St. George Street. It made me happy to see pieces of these two places I love waiting for me in a new location.

But do not me wrong, readers! Savannah is in a league all her own.
Keep reading if you are interested in seeing how we spent our weekend in the good ol’ south!


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In my opinion, the best way to see this city is on foot. Parking isn’t as bad as other places I have been before. But to make it easier on yourself (especially for those who cannot parallel park – *raises hand*), I say to either stay somewhere in the heart of downtown or Uber from your hotel in Midtown. You also have the option of hailing a pedicab, who I have heard have great personalities and unique local insight, or hopping on a trolley to enjoy a day-long tour. But I still stand by my recommendation of going about it all on foot. Each street and square has a personality of its own. After doing some research, I learned that Savannah’s buildings canvas different styles of architecture: Gothic (my favorite), French, Italianate, Grecian, and, of course, Georgian. I found that to be surprising and beautiful! No two buildings look exactly alike.

The picture above is the route we took on foot! Did you know TripAdvisor can track your movements like that in a Travel Timeline?! Kind of creepy, but kind of awesome!

 CHECK OUT MY MAP OF MUST-SEES IN SAVANNAH 

What We Saw:

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  1) Forsyth Park
(Drayton St & East Park Ave, Savannah, GA 31401)

Who doesn’t love a good fountain? You can find this one on the perimeter of Forsyth Park. We actually made this the starting point of our journey. We parked in a neighborhood near by and began walking from there. This park is big! It is the site of many couples having picnics on the grass, families going for a weekend stroll along the moss-canopied sidewalks, and tourists coming to take the typical fountain picture. Here I am in this picture trying my hardest not to look like one those tourists…But it’s not working with that blue backpack on, is it?

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2) Historic Downtown

As stated before, the architecture of Savannah is a mixing pot of different cultural influences. As you can see from the picture above, each house takes on their own character. It is like a free museum of houses for the curious passerbys. I can only imagine the interesting people who live in them too! Because of course only the most sophisticated, artistic, and compelling people can inhabit them, right? Or, you know, it could just be your Grandpa Joe…but he is cool too.

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3) Squares

Chippewa. Wright. Pulaski. Madison. Chatham. All interesting names for five out of 22 (there used to be 24!) squares you can mosey upon. They all have similar feels with the looming trees and park benches to rest on. But they all have a different focal point. It could be a statue of a famous historical figure (don’t ask me their names!) or the site of a classic movie (does Run! Forrest! Run! ring any bells?). They make for great meeting spots! “See you at Franklin Square at 4?!”

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Lean with it, rock with it.

4) Colonial Park Cemetery
(201 Abercorn St., Savannah, GA 31401)

Ignore that huge wedgie in the picture. Did I just bring attention to something I shouldn’t have? Yeahhhh, let’s bring our attention to the headstones. Eyes up! This is a famous cemetery that is usually a pit stop on most Savannah ghost tours. It is closed at night, so I would make a visit when the sun is out. Its inhabitants include some famous historical figures (who are you, Nathanael Greene?) and victims of the Yellow Fever outbreak in the 1800’s. On any tour you take, you will learn that Yellow Fever has a lot to do with Savannah’s deadly history. Stupid mosquitoes!

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5) River Street

It is a collection of touristy gift shops, bars, and restaurants – all with a view of the Savannah River. I liked the rustic architecture that surprisingly homed all these commercial stores! This was my favorite part to walk around during the day. Lots to see and find. I honestly do not know if there are people who live in those upstairs quarters or not, but it appears to have habitable balconies (someone let me know if you have the answer!). Fair warning that it gets a little rowdy at night. I would keep this in mind if you are traveling with the youngsters. Open container policy + belligerence do not equal an attractive outcome.

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6) Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
(222 E Harris St, Savannah, GA 31401)

Awestruck! This is THE most beautiful Catholic church I have ever been in. It is adorned with masterful works of art. Even if you are not a religious person, you cannot help but be moved by the sheer magnificence of it all. Feel free to take pictures of the architecture, but just be respectful of those adorning the sacrament. I attended Sunday mass at 11:30am – there were lots of people in attendance.

7) Boneventure Cemetery
(330 Bonaventure Rd, Savannah, GA 31404)

Have you ever been to a cemetery and gotten lost trying to find a specific grave? You might think any cemetery is big, but I have one for you that will trump the rest. Boneventure Cemetery is located about 20 minutes away from the historic district, adjacent to the Wilmington River. I recommend first stopping at the visitor center to get yourself a map! Yes, a map of the cemetery. It is so big that they even have an electronic registry  that documents every single plot in this location! The place is huge, to say the least.

Although picturesque, the statues and monuments can only be inspiration for any frightening nightmare. They may be pleasant in the morning, but I can only imagine the sinister glances they give you when the sun sets. It is so inspiring that the classic book The Garden of Good and Evil used this cemetery as a setting for its story. But if you are looking for the famous “bird girl” statue from the book’s cover, you will not find her here. She is located in a art museum now!

Where We Ate:

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Zunzi’s – 108 E York St, Savannah, GA 31401

My coworker, who is originally from Savannah, suggested this one. She mentioned that there are two separate locations: a sit-down version and a take-out one. The update, which we quickly discovered, is that the sit-down restaurant is officially closed. Located near Oglethorpe Square is this self-proclaimed “eclectic takeaway” food joint. The long line outside snakes into a tiny room where there are workers taking your order deli-style. They are famous for their sandwiches here. So I suggest giving that a try! I got “The Conquistador” with smoked sausage and was really happy with my choice. Some advice would be to get the special sauce on the side. It is a big sandwich so it might take you a while to finish it. If you get the sauce on the side, you decrease your risk of a soggy sandwich. Learn from me!

There is a covered, outdoor seating area around back.

Side note: Cover your kid’s ears, parents! Shouts of “Shit yeah!” fill the air. What’s a motto with you?!

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Treylor Park – 115 E Bay St, Savannah, GA 31401 

We attempted to eat at this place twice! I was trusting the TripAdvisor reviews and very eager to eat somewhere trendy and new. The first time was on Saturday night, after fighting our way through drunken patrons of the various River St. bars. The wait was 45 minutes and we could barely fit through the door. You know what that means? “You want to go to McDonald’s?”. We tried again the next afternoon around noon.

When my order of “Treylor Park Nachos Grande” came out, my eyes went big! If you see the picture, you can easily tell that this is a small order of fries for a giant! It was a mountain of french fries topped with sprinkles of eternal happiness (and carbs). Oh, and I freakin’ love truffle sauce… I ate it by myself because I am a glutton, but I highly recommend sharing that with a friend. Other suggestions would be to get the Grilled Cheddar Cheese with a spicy coleslaw or the Ahi Tuna pizza!

Is a Ghost Tour worth it?

No.

 

 

 

*silence*

 

 

 

 

Still here? Not enough of an explanation? Haha! Alright, alright, I’ll explain…

Let me start out by saying that I am an avid believer in the paranormal! I am no skeptic and will gladly entertain any ghost stories you have to tell (everyone has one, right?!). Despite my enthusiasm, I was disappointed with the tour I went on. Don’t get me wrong, this is not because of the tour guide or his efforts. I just … wasn’t scared. I knew we wouldn’t be going inside any of these haunted locations, so I don’t know what I was really expecting. If you are a follower of shows like Ghost Adventures or Celebrity Ghost Stories, you are already familiar with terms like “EVP” and “anomaly” and “voice box”. You’ve been creeped out enough by their stories! I guess what I need is just to do my own investigations of known local haunts…but God knows, I am too chicken to do that!

At places like the Colonial Park Cemetery, there is a possibility you will run into other ghost tours trying to see the same thing your group is. I can imagine the competition felt by all the tours offered in town! It is a bit annoying when two tours are trying to talk over the other one. If you still want to experience it for yourself, I would recommend Afterlife Tours over all the other ones. No costumes. Just a normal (as normal as a paranormal investigator can be haha) guy, his iPad filled with paranormal evidence, and knowledge that you might not have about Savannah and its ghostly past. He said that soon his tour will offer the chance to spend a night at the haunted brewery! So that sounds like a cool option for future visitors!

Download the Savannah ePass to get some $$$ off this tour!

What I Wish I Had Done:

  1. Wormsloe Historic Site: I am a huge fan of picturesque areas with borderline creepy trees. Wormsloe fits the bill on this front. Unfortunately, we didn’t make this place a priority because 1) it was a bit too far out to fit into our schedule and 2) there is an entrance fee. We went to Boneventure Cemetery instead.
  2. Stayed in Historic Savannah: Our hotel was in Midtown, about 10 minutes away from historic downtown. This is very convenient (and cheaper, I’m sure)! But
  3. Taken a Pedicab ride: I’m the first to admit it: I’m lazy. Walking around Savannah takes it toll on you, alright? Taking a pedicab would have been a nice relief on the soles. I heard the drivers are incredibly entertaining too.
  4. Tried Huey’s On The River: I love seafood. Love it! But my boyfriend? Nope. “It tastes like the sea,” he says. *shake my head* Huey’s has amazing reviews, as it mixes New Orleans style cooking with the delicacies from the ocean. I wish I could have indulged!
  5. SCAD Museum of Art: Art is an important part of Savannah’s culture. You see SCAD’s name plastered on almost every street downtown! But I never got to visit the actual museum. Maybe next time!

Sincerely,

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Map of Savannah Must-Sees

Note: This map is based off my own personal itinerary. You will see options for historical sites and restaurants.

Need a little know-how?:

  1. Savannah is best seen on foot. Wear some comfortable shoes!
  2. For those who don’t want to walk, there are a ton of trolley tours and pedicabs available
  3. Parking is pretty easy (on a regular weekend). There are metered spaces, but it wouldn’t hurt to park on the outskirts of downtown and walk. I would recommend taking Uber from your hotel to avoid the hassle.
  4. Download a Savannah ePass for some extra savings (I got $4 off my ghost tour with it!)
  5. Make a weekend out of it – 2 days is the perfect amount of time to visit
  6. Beware the “fiances”: there are Bachelor and Bachelorette parties galore. And they can get pretty obnoxious. (But goosfraba I tried to tolerate it because I knew they were celebrating something great).

Savannah

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My First AirBnB Experience + Review

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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.

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Queen Size Bed + Free Coffee & TV
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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!

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Japan 2016 / Preliminary Itinerary

Japan 2016

Take out your list. What is your number one for must-see destinations? Most people wait until they retire to even start marking things off. Me? No husband. No kids. I’m ready to start now! I have crossed #2 and maybe #165 (it’s a long list, sue me!) off there. But…my mind can’t escape that elusive “Number Freakin’ One”. And, for me, that is “The Land of the Rising Sun”. That gorgeous country whose beautiful culture has enraptured me my imagination since childhood.  Ask any kid who grew up with Miyazaki films (for me it was Totoro)! They most likely feel the same way. (And, yes, I was part of the Sailor Moon/Pokemon generation.

I am ELATED to say that the dream is becoming a reality. I already have plans (and approved time off, thanks job!) for a 2 and 1/2 week vacation to my dream destination. Yes…*breathe a little*…it is within my grasp now.

So, I write this entry in the hopes that any Japan-natives, Japan-lovers, or Japan-constant-travelers will help a sista out! Please read the questions below! I would appreciate, in addition, any sort of advice you can give me.

OCTOBER 2016 – NOVEMBER 2016
Based off a suggested itinerary from japan-guide.com, I have created a “rough draft” version for my trip.

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***UPDATE*** I have changed my itinerary almost entirely. Instead of flying in and out of Tokyo (which allows for back-tracking), I will be flying into Osaka and out of Tokyo. See the updated itinerary below, with detailed options for my day. -tbh 08/18/16

QUESTIONS FOR THE EXPERTS:

  • Does this seems realistic?
  • *** I AM SO INTIMIDATED BY THE TRAIN SYSTEM – Is there anyone who could help me?! I plan to get a JR pass too. ****

  • Would a 14 day JR Pass work for me or should I splurge on 21 day pass?

Other questions:

  • Should I rent pocket wifi? I will definitely be utilizing Hyperdia, Google Maps, etc.
  • Since I will be going in end of October, I heard the fall colors will be in full effect? Out of the cities I have listed, do you have recommendations to see the autumn colors? Take pictures?
  • What are your experiences with AirBnb or hostels? I do not think I can afford to stay in nice hotels, so I am willing to go this route. Any recommendations?
  • I would like to visit a ryokan. But I heard that it is harder to book as a solo female traveler. How true is this? Any ryokan recommendations?
  • I want to experience rural Japan (which is why Takayama is on my list). I think I would like to rent a bicycle and travel through the fields, etc. Is this safe? Would you recommend a bike tour?

Experiences I would like to try:

  • Maid cafe / Themed cafe
  • Ghibli Museum
  • Mount Koya (ok for solo female traveler?)
  • Sumo Wrestling
  • Traditional Ryokan
  • Traditional Onsen

I am sure there are more questions that I need to ask… but this is what is on the top of my head. As I said, I am very open to ANY suggestions and recommendations. Thank you for reading.

Sincerely,

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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.

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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,

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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

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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

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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.

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Ending the night with a feet soak

Here’s to bike-riding. Cheers.

Sincerely,

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Rooftop Railroads & Comfort of Old Friends / Chicago Day 1

If a friendship lasts longer than 7 years, it will last a lifetime.

I woke up this morning not remembering where I was. Oh, and with my leg splayed over my friend who doesn’t like to cuddle. Over dinner the night before, we all discussed what our strange sleeping habits are. I assured her that my only weirdness is somehow ending up diagonal in the night. But, much to her chagrin, I was wrong. I apparantly also inadvertently trespass on other people’s space! When we woke up, I asked her how her sleep was and she responded coyly with “Danny’s bed is super comfortable…..oh, and, you lied, you ARE a cuddler.” The smile on her face had meant she was taking it graciously though. I gave her permission to kick me next time. That usually works.

Our home for the next 4 days would be on the bottom level of a 3 story apartment in Chicago. Even though my phone displayed that it was 7am, the room remained pitch black. I pondered on how this was possible for a while, but upon looking around the room, I realized there were no windows. So weird! I did sleep well though, having recovered from the night before. Danny’s boyfriend Chris had cooked us an amazing meal for dinner (ending with some rum-soaked peaches topped with homemade whipped cream for dessert. Only I didn’t taste any peaches, if you know what I mean). The only home cooked meal I have had for a long time.


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Flashback to when we first arrived at Midway International Airport: it actually was not a struggle at all. From Jacksonville, it was an easy 2 and 1/2 hour direct flight! What I was most worried about was using the trains. Or, as tourists from smaller cities know them, dreaded public transportation! I was already preparing myself to get lost in the subway. I tried my hardest not to look like a tourist. But it is hard not to when you are constantly looking around and jumping at the sound of every stop made. All I kept thinking was “Well, at least I have a change of clothes! Ugh, this luggage is heavy. No! Not more stairs! I wonder if they have any restaurants in the trains for the tourists who get lost on their journeys?”. Obviously I was confident. Per Danny’s directions, we took the Orange Line to the Brown Line. If you know what I am talking about, good for you. I am glad I had Elena with me because what I was imagining was a kid drawing literal orange lines and brown lines on the sidewalk. I don’t know what to do with that!

When we finally made it to Danny’s street, I was in awe of how cute it was! If you don’t count the constant clattering of the train tracks (which eventually turned into white noise), it is an incredibly quiet area. If Danny’s blinds weren’t open, I wouldn’t have had any clue that other people choose it as a route to their destinations. I couldn’t wait to make our home in a real Chicago abode.

I had expected to eat well in this city. If I had a shitty time or didn’t enjoy any of the architecture, I could live with that. But if the food was subpar? Take me back home. My first taste of Chicago was at a taco joint called…”Taco Joint” on North Halstead Street. And…it…was…GOOD. Ever had a salmon taco? Me either. But I had a delicious ceviche taco! We paired it with a beer-mixed drink called “Traditional Red”. We were disappointed because there was no wine it in, having thought we ordered a SANGRIA. But, when I read the menu again, I realized it said SANGRITA. So it all makes sense now.


My dad would be proud of my Modelo. It was a spicy wake-up call!

One thing I will say about Chicago is there is FREE STUFF EVERYWHERE. Literally, the minute we walked into the FREE zoo, there were girls handing out FREE cans of Red Bull. It just so happens that all of this was taking place in a FREE country! Kidding. But I could not believe that the zoo was free: there were no gates, no entrance fees, and no one to check your tickets. It wasn’t a small, janky zoo with sad looking animals either! They had rhinos, penguins, polar bears, meerkats, and a lot of other exhibitions that the Jacksonville Zoo does not have. And I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to enjoy a zoo without sweating your face off in 90+ degree weather!


Located on North Clark Street. They are open most days from 10am – 5pm.

When the night winded in, we headed over to Chris’ house. Two words: Bachelor Pad. To the max. He had a chalkboard wall adorned with business plans and a list of “Places to Go”. In the bathroom, there was a makeshift lamp made out of an old wine bottle. It was so revealing of his lifestyle. More importantly, the man can cook. We were entertained with a cute ass cheese plate for an appetizer, sausage and brussell sprouts, and a salad that we had all made with love. Fresh from the herb garden on his rooftop. We spent a lot of our time out there – shucking corn, cutting tomatoes, and trying to differentiate between this green leaf and the other. “This one is rosemary … or sage….or….kale? I don’t know put that in the salad.” Despite our uncertainty, the salad was scrumptious. Didn’t even need the drizzling of a balsamic vinegar dressing like I usually like.

My first night in Chicago can be summarized into one, simple statement: there is more to explore. The aching in my feet from that initial day would not compare to what would play through into the rest of my trip. I say I wanted to explore, huh? Well, I got my wish…

Stay tuned for Day 2.

Sincerely,

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Close to Home / Jacksonville, FL

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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?
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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!

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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,

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