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In the fall of last year, I was overwhelmed. I was traveling for work almost every week, a series of short flights that required early wake-up calls and long days of meetings. My skin was breaking out, my body felt bloated from too much eating out and not enough working out. David and I were still figuring out how to make a house our home, what to prioritize on a long list of improvements–some necessary, some desired, mostly expensive. I had “write a blog post” on my to-do list almost every day, but it never got done: there was endless laundry to do, emails to send. When I did have spare time, I wanted to sink into my bed, escape into a book, gulp a glass of wine. I felt guilty about not writing more: I had traveled to new countries, explored new spots in San Diego. I had posts I wanted to write for this blog, pitches I wanted to send for other publications. I could pull together a haphazard end-of-week post, but nothing more. Instagram felt more and more like a chore, and like a chore I was failing at.

I unloaded all of these complaints onto a friend, and she suggested: why not a sabbatical? It immediately resonated. I’ve been doing this for almost nine (NINE!) years! I’ve written 1,226 posts (!!!). I’ve written countless words and resized many photos and created social media post after social media post. But I’m not ready to officially quit blogging–not yet, at least–and I never wanted to just…stop posting. I don’t like that sort of ambiguity.

The reality is that when people ask what I do: I say I work in ad sales. When they ask what I love: to travel to new places, my dog, to read a good book, unexpectedly colorful things, beach days and sunrises. Blogging is almost a shadow identity: it’s something I do, but almost nothing I proactively bring up (David, my mom, my best friend: “and she writes a great travel blog!). Part of that is because it’s always been secondary: as a source of income, as a priority. I’ve watched friends who started around the same time as me (or after) lean into blogging and Instagramming as a profession, and really succeed. It induces jealousy, while simultaneously making me very glad that I am not reliant on an algorithm or my face needing to be photogenic for a steady paycheck.

For the past several years, we’ve done a sober January. Last year, we added in a no sugar component to our month of no alcohol. It’s always a nice reset: we end up feeling happier, healthier, more energetic. I crave healthier things, I wake up more refreshed.

This year, I’ve decided to take a break from blogging for the first three months of the year. I already deleted Twitter and Facebook from my phone (which has improved my mood, productivity and outlook considerably), and I’ve decided to just…not force myself to write more, post more, pitch more. I don’t want any more blogging-related items on my official to-do list.

That’s not to say I’ll never share or never write. I’ll still be on Instagram, although I’m not going to force myself to post as regularly as I sometimes have in the past. I’m also going to share a favorite old post each week, things that you might have missed if you haven’t been here for the whole nine years–so don’t be afraid to check back. And I’m actually hoping that this “break” gives me the space I crave to feel like a writer again. I want to write more, and write better, and write in more places.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous, if I felt like this wasn’t a strange shifting of identities. I worry, I think: but who am I without these things? What will I do with all of this clear-headed free time, without those end-of-day glasses of chilled white wine and evenings huddled over my laptop? What will happen if I go somewhere and don’t write about it, if I don’t have a post to share with a friend who’s going there soon?

I’m not sure. But I’m excited to find out.

And as always: thank you, thank you, thank you. This little slice of the internet has always been so good to me. Although I’m very ready for a break, the main reason it took me so long to decide to do it is because I always love sharing posts that resonate with people. So please don’t forget about me!!! 

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C'est Christine by Christine - 1M ago

All in all: 2018 was a very good year. I went to three new countries (Slovenia, Japan, Estonia), which fulfills an ongoing annual goal of mine (three new countries, including one birthday in a new country–something I’ve managed to keep up since moving to New York City in 2012). I explored more of California and Mexico, went back to London and Paris, spent plenty of time in New York City. I did well in my day job. We celebrated at friends’ weddings, held friends’ newborn babies, warmed friends’ new homes. I published a book (!). My husband and I bought a house (!).

This year felt like a giant whirlwind, one that I don’t know if I’ve been able to properly slow down and appreciate quite yet. I didn’t totally accomplish my new year’s resolutions: I still feel like I need a healthier daily schedule (my daily meditation habit has totally slipped), and despite taking some Spanish lessons, I still can’t hold a conversation. There are still so many more places to go to for the first time, and ones I’d love to revisit, and things we want to do to the house. Although I’m very much looking forward to 2019, here’s a quick recap of the highlights of 2018:

San Diego

Overall, 2018 really cemented how happy we are with our decision to move to San Diego. We discovered hiking trails and surf spots, became loyal to certain coffee shops and fitness studios, and showed off our favorite places to watch a sunset or grab a fancy cocktail to out-of-towners. And, of course, we bought a house! We’ve been enjoying settling into our new neighborhood and tinkering with updates to the house and yard. [A weekend guide to San Diego, if you’re interested!]

Mexico City

Without a doubt, one of my favorite trips this year was celebrating our first anniversary in Mexico City. We absolutely loved CDMX: it had beautiful (and colorful!) architecture, incredible food (at all price points), a wide variety of museums and cultural activities and a very dog-friendly hipster neighborhood. It was one of the coolest, most vibrant, most affordable and most pug-friendly cities I’ve ever been to. It quickly got on our short list of places that we would love to go back to, again and again.

Exploring more of Mexico

Exploring more of Mexico was high on my priorities this year, since it was our first full year of living in San Diego (just a 20-minute drive to the border!). We went craft beer tasting in Tijuana with friends and wine tasting (in a bubble!) in Valle de Guadalupe. Both trips made Mexico feel so much more accessible (even with my poor Spanish skills) and reinforced how much I love traveling here: the country is so big, with so much diversity in culture and food traditions and landscapes. I still feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface, and look forward to do checking out more places in 2019 (current debate: Puerto Vallarta or Cabo San Lucas?!).

Annual girls trips in So Cal

Even though the weather didn’t quite cooperate for our girls weekend at Torrey Pines (out of all of the weekends to rain!), we still made the most of Jillians’ time in town. I got to show off some of San Diego’s cutest shops and most photogenic coffee and cocktail spots, and we got plenty of ocean views and relaxation in as well. This was our fourth annual weekend trip together, and I’m so grateful that we’ve continued to make it a priority–even through babies, job changes, and cross-country moves! I also had my second annual girls trip in Laguna Beach with two of my best friends, another weekend getaway that is always so much fun and I’m so thrilled continues to be a top priority. 

Lots and lots of New York trips

Whenever people ask me if I miss living in New York City, I can honestly say that I don’t: it’s so much more fun to visit, and I’ve been lucky enough to visit A LOT this year. From a weekend girls trip with Aly (my BFF and former Brooklyn roommate!) at the peak of cherry blossom season to a few work trips to being back for the holidays: I have gotten my fill of the key NYC carbohydrates (bagels, pizza, spicy chicken sandwiches from Commodore!) and had plenty of opportunities to catch up with friends.

The magic of Slovenia

The place that most surprised me this year was certainly Slovenia: I expected to like it, but I didn’t expect to LOVE it as much as I did. All of the brilliant turquoise water, the castles in the middle of lakes and churches perched on mountaintops, the cobblestone streets and colorful architecture: everything felt like a fairytale. It was also the first big solo adventure I’ve done in a while: I loved driving alone through the Slovenian and Italian Alps, being able to to stop whenever the heck I wanted to stop and drinking a glass of wine while reading a book with, quite frankly, one of the best views of my life. 

Family time in Jackson Hole

We spent a week with David’s extended family in Jackson Hole over 4th of July week, and I totally fell in love with Wyoming. It’s easy to forget how beautiful the landscapes in our own country can be: you truly don’t have to go far to experience such natural grandeur. It was a pretty low-key week that ended up being so rejuvenating: lots of hiking, BBQing and taking in the epic views at Grand Teton National Park.

A mother-daughter trip to Nashville

Although my mom and I have traveled together to France several times, it’s been a while since we took a trip just the two of us–so I was thrilled for the opportunity to travel to Nashville with her. It was her first time ever in the South (and first time drinking sweet tea), and it was really fun to explore a new city together: I’d also wanted to visit Nashville for such a long time! We especially loved our night at the Grand Ole Opry and popping along the different shops, street art and restaurants on 12 South. 

Japan

Japan was the #1 place both David and I wanted to go for a long while, but it always seemed so far away: an impossible trip to make happen in the midst of weddings, moving and all of the everyday life things that seem to add up. We bought our tickets for a September trip on New Year’s Day (a new tradition, perhaps?!) and made it happen–and I’m so glad we did. Even though it rained a lot more than we anticipated, we absolutely loved our time in Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara and Osaka–and I’m already scheming on how and when we can go back.

London

I managed to squeeze in two trips to London this year, taking advantage of flight deals to and from London to catch up with good friends before hopping to other places in Europe. After six visits to London, I also finally wrote a post on all of my favorite places in the city. I especially loved experiencing the fantastical world of sketch and the delicious food at Dishoom, wandering through the pastel-colored facades of Notting Hill, and going for a proper afternoon tea at the Ritz.

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Two great things that I did in my reading life in 2018: the first was using Goodreads. Even though I’m still not a huge fan of the interface, I’m surprised by how much I love tracking the books I’ve read. The yearly goal-setting and tracking taps into my inner competitive nature, and it also makes it so much easier to remember and recommend previous reads. The second was committing to buying a book whenever I pop into an independent bookstore to browse: not only does it support local bookstores (and help them stay open so that I can continue to pop in and browse), but it also results in a new book and a new bookmark (win-win-win).

I also did a lot of great reading this year! I wanted to share a few of the best books I read this year, not only to inspire some reads for yourself over the holiday break or in the new year…but because real-life books are also such a good gift! I obviously vote going to your local bookstore (most of them do great gift-wrapping!), but if you’re tight on time or want to ship directly to someone on your list, these are also all Prime-able.

I’m a devoted fan of WWII historical fiction, but what I didn’t realize until I read Pachinko was how Euro-centric almost all of the books that I read were. Pachinko is an incredible multi-generational tale of Korean immigrants in Japan.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies is a personal tragedy set in the confines of an unaccepting Ireland that’s impossible to put down.

A family saga that tackles the innate and unexpected struggles of a first-generation Muslim-American immigrant family, A Place For Us is a layered character study that reveals several perspectives on where things went wrong.

Castle of Water is a moving, harrowing, love-filled take on being trapped on a desert island.

From page 1, An American Marriage is completely captivating look at a relationship, and it’s also an eye-opening look at the reality of racism today.

One of the best true crime books I’ve ever read, with such an interesting glimpse into the world of solving cold cases: I’ll Be Gone in The Dark was especially compelling for me since so much of it took place in my hometown.

I remember the description that convinced me to immediately buy The Good Daughter: “Law & Order meets The Good Wife.” As a devoted fan of both shows, it did not disappoint.

A thriller that seamlessly combines the secret worlds of the CIA and North Korea: Star of the North.

For sports fans, city-planning enthusiasts, US history devotees, Oklahomans (or just about anyone, as I do not fall into any of those categories): Boom Town lives up to its subtitle of “The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, its Chaotic Founding… its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-class Metropolis.”

The Hate U Give is a YA novel that’s a worthwhile read for all ages.

The Great Believers is a heartbreaking and humanizing story of the AIDS crisis in the gay community in the 1980s.

Easily the most enthralling nonfiction book that I read this year, Bad Blood follows the unbelievable rise and startling fall of Elizabeth Holmes and startup Theranos. A must-read for those in the tech industry.

And of course, if you adore your pup or have a pet parent on your list: might I recommend Dog Mom?!

What was your favorite read of 2018?
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One thing that has been on my list since we moved to San Diego: I wanted some nice photos of the three of us (aka me, David, Gert) in our new city! In other words, I wanted some photos of us that I could hang in our house that weren’t from our wedding and also didn’t feel super weird and staged–but it’s one of those things that is super easy to keep pushing off.

We finally set a little something up with my friend Kristina, and I am SO glad that we did! Not only am I dying over all of Gert’s hilarious facial expressions, but I’m also really happy to have a little slice of our life captured at golden hour. We took them at Scripps Pier, a beach where we go a lot for David to surf (while Gert and I walk or read). Moral of the story: get the nice photos taken, even during the non-special events. Those are the everyday moments that I want to remember!

Looks

Aritzia is forever one of my favorite under-the-radar go-to’s for super versatile items, especially now that I discovered there is a store in San Diego. I always head there for tops that can work for meetings OR weekend OR a nice dinner out: they’re usually flattering, in a variety of colors and not too expensive. I picked up this sweater and wore it for photos, and then immediately for a work trip the next day, and I basically want to wear it for every day this winter.

Eats

We visited my parents in their new retired life in Arizona last week (which is awesome by the way: it’s like college for adults!) and one of the first things on our family to-do list: making homemade raviolis from a family recipe! It’s a pretty labor- and time-intensive process, so it’s helpful to have a couple of extra sets of hands. We make enough that we can freeze a bunch of batches, and then we packed several bags to bring home with us: it’s so nice to have some homemade dinners, ready to go on busy days!

Reads

I was on a lot of planes and in hotel rooms this week, so I got a good amount of reading done! I absolutely spend through A Double Life, which is a sophisticated mystery I did not want to put down. It also made me want to read Flynn Berry’s first book, which apparently won a bunch of awards! I also read Human Acts, which follows the student uprisings in South Korea in the early 1980’s: a tragedy that I knew absolutely nothing about, and is incredibly sad to reflect on. I’m reading The Great Believers right now, and it’s one of the few recent books that has totally captured me from the very first page.

Words

“Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.” -Mary Oliver

This weekend, I’m in New York City! My company holiday party was last night, and I’m looking forward to doing all of my favorite NYC-y things: a New York Pilates class, catching up with girlfriends over wine, and a big walk down Fifth Avenue to see all of the holiday decorations. 

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I listened to this episode of Without Fail a few weeks ago, where Alex Blumberg has a conversation with Ron Johnson (the designer of the iconic Apple stores), and one bit of of it has really stuck with me. Ron is talking about making kindness a priority in company culture: “You know the only one who’s making a choice here is the one that chooses kindness. If you’re smart that’s a gift. If you’re a great athlete that’s a gift. Kindness is a choice.”

The reality is that I’m not always the kindest person in the world: I like things to be efficient, and done well, and to move on schedule and on par with my expectations. I can get in moods that are tough to shake. And yet, thinking about kindness as a choice the past couple of weeks has been illuminating: at a few annoying-but-not-horrible moments (flight delays! customer service problems! etc!), it’s reminded me to take a moment and be kind to the other humans in the situation. An especially nice thing to keep in mind going into the holiday season, with stressful situations of all kinds upon the horizon!

Reads

Since discovering Tana French last year, I’ve devoured all of her books and was eagerly awaiting her newest. I just finished The Witch Elm, which came out last fall, and despite some negative reviews, I really liked it! I don’t think it’s the best of hers (The Faithful Place is my favorite, FWIW), and I was a little bummed that it didn’t have the same thread of connection that her earlier books shared–but it’s a solid mystery read with a satisfying conclusion.

Eats & Drinks

We’ve had a string of rainy days in San Diego (no complaints, especially now that we have a garden!), but when we were back in our old neighborhood during a downpour, we decided to take advantage of the chilly weather: a perfect excuse for a hot bowl of ramen! We also tried a little hack that our friends recently recommended: taking Underbelly to-go, and then enjoying it next door with an IPA at Modern Times.

Words

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” – Soren Kierkegaard

This weekend, we’re visiting my parents in Arizona! They retired outside of Phoenix earlier this year, and we’re looking forward to seeing their new life AND getting lots of snuggles with Annie. 

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When I told people that we were going to Estonia, the most common response was: where?! And to be completely honest, I didn’t really know exactly where Estonia was located until I looked a little closer at a map when I was scheduling flights. And the reality of its location didn’t really sink in until we arrived: the country borders Russia and Latvia and is just south of Finland and east of Sweden across the Baltic Sea. So much of the food, architecture and design felt far more Russian or Scandinavian than the Eastern European I expected–and the days were also just as short and cold as you’d expect in a Scandinavian or Russian winter! 

One of the main reasons that I wanted to visit Tallin was because of its beautifully-preserved medieval city: the entire walled Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The second reason was to experience my first European Christmas market. Another fun fact about Tallinn: it has more startups per capita than any other European city, and Skype was invented here! It didn’t disappoint: I loved wandering around the ancient cobblestone streets, drinking glogi (mulled wine!) under the Christmas tree in the town square, and eating all of the delicious food. One thing I will say upfront: although it was so festive during the holiday season, I would 100% recommend visiting in summer or shoulder seasons over winter. I was dying to experience the 24 hours of daylight and enjoy all of the lush forests that surrounds the city, but then again, no surprises that I’d rather not be somewhere cold, ha! Just another reason to go back…

What to Do

           

Stroll around Old Town…

Honestly, my favorite thing that I did was just wander around the walled Old Town: it felt like you had been transported back in time to hundreds of years ago. I’m such a sucker for those narrow cobblestone streets and Gothic architecture: it’s all wonderfully preserved, and it felt like a fairytale city!

…and the hipster neighborhood of Kalamaja

It’s definitely a different vibe from Old Town, but I do recommend getting out of the city center at least once. It’s a lot less touristy once you cross over the medieval wall! We loved the laid-back restaurants, bustling markets and cool home boutiques in Kalamaja, which is one of the younger, more hipster-y areas. On my note about visiting Tallinn in the summer: I especially loved an area that was full of picnic tables and container bars and fairy lights. I can only imagine how much it comes alive on a long, hot day! 

The town’s main square

We visited in late November, and the main square had already been taken over by the Christmas market! There was a giant Christmas tree and stage, and stalls selling mulled wine and sausages and all sorts of hand-woven scarves and socks and hard-carved wooden trinkets. 

See a view of the city

For a lovely view of the city’s red rooftops and towering church spires, head to the Kohtuotsa viewing platform. It’s super accessible and easy to find–and free!

Enjoy all of the colorful doors

The most unexpected highlight of Tallinn: all of the incredible doors in Old Town! They were so colorful and intricate: such a nice little detail that really set certain residences apart.

Admire the Orthodox Russian cathedral

One of the things that made me realize how close Estonia is to Russia: the towering Alexander Nevsky Cathedral that’s located right across from the Tallinn parliament building. I loved seeing the cupolas pop up over the surrounding architecture!

Where to Eat & Drink

First and foremost: THE BROWN BREAD. I don’t usually like brown bread very much..

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One of my favorite part of long flights is being able to catch up on movies (thank you Delta for having an incredible array of in-flight entertainment options): I like to watch a mix of new releases and classics that I’ve never seen, as well as revisit some of my old favorites. On one of my many flights this week, I rewatched The Devil Wears Prada: that movie MOVED me when I was a freshman in college.

One of my biggest dreams in high school and college was working at a fashion magazine in New York City. It was part of the reason why I ended up majoring in journalism! It’s still something that I’m surprised I never pursued further, although I realize now that I got the parts of the dream I really wanted: life in a big city, the chance to write. It also reminded me of how much I used to love fashion: I feel like the pressure of Instagram (always needing a different outfit, the need for perfection, etc etc), coupled with working from home and living in a more laid-back city, has made me back away a bit from really leaning into fashion. But watching the movie really reminded me how much I love it, so maybe there will be some sort of new year’s resolution lying in there!

Podcasts

I’ve been loving The Cut on Tuesdays podcast, and I especially loved the How Robin Roberts Gets It Done episode this week. It was so motivating to hear her infectious positive attitude, and I also loved how much she credits playing sports for her persistence and success. She also mentioned doing transcendental meditation, which was a good reminder of how much I need to figure out a way to work it back into my schedule—no matter how “busy” I feel like I am!

Eats

I was back in Brooklyn for a few days of work this week, and it’s always so nice to be back in my old neighborhood—even if it was extremely chilly! The fun part of this trip was going to a couple of restaurants that were on my list to try the entire time that I lived in New York. I biked by Olea just about every day that I lived in Bed-Stuy and always thought it looked so cool (and there was always a crowd at weekend brunch hour): I finally tucked inside and discovered it has delicious Mediterranean food. The “eggs in purgatory” were spicy and decadent! And the healthy and homemade drink options at baba cool—CBD lattes, dirty homemade chai and golden turmeric lattes—are the perfect way to level up your morning bagel order. Just bummed I didn’t try out either of them sooner!

Reads

I’ve been taking advantage of my several flights this week to read some good books. First, the incredibly thought-provoking Small Great Things (which a reader recommended when I wrote about diverse books). Before We Were Yours is one of my favorite types of writing, where it juxtaposes historical fiction with modern day: it also focuses on the early, and often dark, days of adoption in the United States.  And, of course, I’m so thrilled that there’s a new Tana French out! There’s rain forecast for this weekend in San Diego, so I have very grand plans of snuggling up with The Witch Elm and a cup of tea.

Words

“Being optimistic is like a muscle that gets stronger with use. Makes it easier when the tough times arrive. You have to change the way you think in order to change the way you feel.” -Robin Roberts

This weekend, I’m thrilled to be at home in San Diego—even if the weather is a little wetter than we’re used to! My big goal is to finish painting my home office and to wrap up my Christmas shopping.

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Confession: I’ve been to London six times, and I’ve never been to Kensington Palace, Tower Bridge or Westminster Cathedral. Other than my first time in London (a one-night jaunt from Paris with my mom when I was 19, where our main priority was a proper fish and chips!), my trips have all been to visit friends who live in the city. It’s been more about catching up over cocktails, strolling through their neighborhood markets and popping into the cutest boutiques.

I do try to experience something new each time I’m in town, whether that’s a museum, a neighborhood or a particularly photogenic café I’ve spotted on Instagram. But I mostly prioritize catching up with good friends, and lean on them to show me their favorite spots in their city. Luckily for me, they’re generally up for adventures as well! Although this is by no means a comprehensive guide to London—I’m sure many “tourist must-do’s” are missing—these are a few of the best things I’ve discovered, and the things I go back to do again and again.

What to Do

One of my favorite things about England is that most of the museums are free! It makes it a lot more appealing to pop in for a bit of culture, even if you don’t want to spend all day there. And in a city that’s often gray and drizzly, the museums can be a wonderful warm escape.

My personal favorite museum is the Tate Modern. Located on the Thames, it has an excellent permanent collection and a giant airy foyer that’s often host to incredible experiential exhibits. And it’s free! I like getting there right at 10am on a weekday and spending an hour wandering through before it gets crowded. Bonus: there’s a rooftop deck with a great view as well!

The V&A Museum is all about art and design, housed in a sprawling 19th-century Victorian building. Its collections are made up of more than 5,000 years of creativity and innovation in fashion, architecture, furniture, photography, sculpture, jewelry and more.

The British Museum is home to many treasures from around the world (aka the British colonial empire), like the Rosetta Stone, Egyptian sculptures and Athenian sculptures. To be honest, it’s not totally my cup of tea: I prefer modern art to artifacts, but it’s certainly one of the greatest array of cultures and collections on offer.

No matter the season, Hyde Park is a wonderful breath of fresh air in the middle of the city. Although it’s a gorgeous sprawling park with lakes and tree-lined paths and lots of dogs frolicking, the most interesting part is Speakers Corner, where just about anyone can literally hop up on their soapbox and engage passersby in discussion.

Tucked away behind Kensington Palace, the Sunken Garden are a gorgeous example of a proper English garden. Best to experience in spring and summer!

My deep and abiding love of Ferris wheels requires that I recommend the London Eye. The best view of Big Ben and the Thames!

And for an adrenaline rush with a view, ArcelorMittal Orbit is the tallest slide in the world! Located in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (about a 20-minute tube ride outside of the city), it features a skyline view of London in addition to a 40-second ride of vertical glee.

And of course, you must wander through all of the pastel facades of Notting Hill! Perhaps my favorite neighborhood in all of London.

Where to Eat & Drink

There are a few quintessentially British foods that are worth experiencing: namely, a fancy afternoon tea, fish and chips at a pub and a Scotch Egg. I also try to eat as much Indian food as possible whenever I’m in town!

One of the places that came most highly recommended—and which I always make a priority as one of my first meals in town—is Dishoom. It’s a trendy Indian-inspired restaurant with several locations throughout the city, and the ambiance is as warm and welcoming as the food is delicious.

Sketch is one of those spots that seems more designed for Instagram than for actual food and drink consumption, but it’s actually tastes quite good. It’s famous for its afternoon tea in the Gallery (make reservations in advance!), but all of the meals and all of the rooms are fantastic.

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We’ve spent this week in London and Tallinn, and it has been such a delight! Despite the very short days and cold temperatures, we’ve had a lovely time catching up with friends and indulging in so much delicious food. This is my sixth-ish trip to London, and I’ve especially enjoyed going back to so many of my favorite spots AND feeling very confident navigating the Underground. And Estonia has actually been on my list to visit for a while, and the cobblestone streets and colorful painted doors have totally lived up to my medieval fairy tale expectations.

And although it’s still Thanksgiving week, I’ve totally gotten into the Christmas spirit here: everything is so festive! I loved seeing the giant Christmas tree towering over the market of wool sweaters and mulled wine in the Tallinn town square, and I was dying over all of the insanely intricate decorations on the London shopfronts. A big task for my plane ride home on Sunday: get my Christmas shopping lists sorted in advance of Cyber Monday! On that note: don’t forget to take advantage of 25% off AND free shipping over at Union Wine Company through Monday with code CHRISTINEWINE25!

Reads

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is one of those books that I’ve seen around for the last couple of years, but I honestly kept getting it confused with Where’d You Go, Bernadette?. I finally realized that while I had read WYGB, I hadn’t actually read EOICF–and since my mom was about to read it for her newly-formed retirement book club, I decided to join in as well. It was not at all what I was expecting, but it was a really well-written and intriguing read! Perfect for holiday travel if you need something easy to pick up.

Podcasts

I’m listening to Slow Burn, season 2 right now and it’s incredibly interesting. The Clinton-Lewinsky scandal happened when I was in elementary school, so although it’s been constantly referenced throughout my life, I didn’t totally understand what was going on when it it took place. This has been such a deep and intriguing look into the politics at the time and the affair itself.

Words

“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.” -Love Actually

This weekend, we’re in London catching up with friends before flying back to San Diego! I can’t wait to be reunited with my pug and that So Cal sunshine! 

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One of my greatest travel superpowers is being able to sleep well on red-eyes and long-haul flights: it’s a skill that my husband deeply envies, and one of the things that makes it a lot easier to me to travel often.

Most of  the power rests in the routine: I swear by drinking a liter of water before I board, one glass of white wine and a movie with dinner, a sleep aid with dessert, and popping on a sleep mask until breakfast is served. However, I do have a few products that I take with me on every red-eye and long-haul flight that enable me to rest and relax: all together, they make a huge difference. p.s. all of these are great gift options for any frequent fliers on your list!

Foot Swing

You know those handy little foot stools that pop out from the seat in front of you on train rides and make such a huge difference? This is a $20 item that enables you to set up that same experience on every flight you take. It’s so simple yet SO genius: I’ve used it on my last few long-haul flights, and have been blown away at what a difference it makes.

Eye Mask

My mother-in-law gave me this luxurious eye mask, and it’s become one of my must-have travel items. I also use most nights at home! It’s really plush and comfortable, and completely blacks out your surroundings. It is on such a different level than the free ones that the airlines provide and definitely worth traveling with. That said, I also discovered these self-heating aromatherapy eye masks in Japan and I’m totally obsessed with them. They magically heat up (just like those little hand-warmers you can take skiing!) and the warmth of the mask, plus the lavender scent, really helps put me in the mood for sleep.

Sheet Mask

Hydration is huge on those long flights, and I have zero shame about rocking a sheet mask once the cabin lights dim. The Deep Hydration option by Dr. Jart is one of my favorites, although you have to take a pretty YOLO attitude about wearing one in flight: I figure the odds are pretty good I’ll never see my fellow passengers again!

Compression socks

Compression socks are another thing that only cost $20 but can make such a big difference in your flying experience. They help maintain blood flow and can reduce swelling, which is huge when your legs are in the same position for hours on end. I also really like traveling with them: I tend to walk around 20,000 steps a day when I’m traveling in a city, and compression socks can keep my feet and legs feeling energized on those long days.

Sleep aid

After dinner on a long-haul flight or as soon as I board a red-eye, I usually pop one ZZZQuil: two leaves me feeling a little groggy, but one is just enough to send me to sleep. I also really like Hum Nutrition’s Beauty ZZZZs: I actually use these more when I’m at home and have a super early flight the next day. I have a tendency to have trouble falling asleep and then wake up a lot during the night when I’m worried about missing an alarm (even though I’ve never actually slept through an alarm or ever missed a flight!) and these can help me sleep a little sounder before a long day of travel.

Noise-cancelling headphones

The Bose QuietComfort 35 noise-cancelling headphones are definitely splurge-y, but man, they are so good. The experience between wearing them and not is really like night and day. I use them all flight long to block out the noise of the airplane, but when I want to go to sleep, I’ll turn on a classical album or the Spotify Evening Chill playlist to relax.

Neck rest

Although I always try to sit in a window seat when I fly, having a neck rest can also be a big part of sleeping well on a plane. I especially like this one: it’s super soft, easy to inflate and deflate, stores itself away in a nice little bag and only costs $10. That said, it can be a little tricky to find the right position while also using big headphones!

Face oil

No matter how long the flight is, I try not to wear makeup when I’m flying so that I can slather on some face oil. I keep a bottle of The Ordinary’s Rose Hip Oil in my carry-on bag and put it on right after I board: it’s super hydrating without being too heavy.

What are your best tricks to get the best rest on long-haul flights?
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