C'est Christine is my little slice of the internet to talk travel, lifestyle and twenty-something struggles. After stints living in France, Australia and NYC and lots of travel around the world, I currently live in San Diego with my husband and pug.
It seems like Of the moment posts were the only thing that people really missed sooooo…here I am! Even though they’re pretty quick and easy, I don’t think I can quite commit to doing them once a week but I am going to try and pop in here monthly or quarterly and share a few of the favorite things that I’ve discovered and enjoyed over the past few months.And in terms of upcoming travel plans and exciting things: I have a few work trips to New York City that I am very excited will coincide with peak cherry blossom bloom, one of my girlfriends is having her bachelorette party in San Diego (aka: tacos, yoga, beach, and I can sleep in my own bed, so I am STOKED), and I finally booked my birthday trip! We’re going to Belize (my 42nd country!), and I’m so excited for laid-back beach vibes and some jungle adventures and all of the rum punch.
I’ve been very committed to keeping my Goodreads updated and the best part of this sabbatical has been how much more time I have to read. The top five books I’ve read so far this year: Girls Burn Brighter (truly kept me 100% engaged from the first page until the very last sentence, and there are not very many books that can say that), The Sympathizer (the tale of a double agent in the Vietnam War that keeps you guessing–what is right and who is wrong?), There There (one of my favorite types of books–so many stories that all interconnect in unexpected ways, and also a portrait of an underrepresented community I didn’t know much about), Dopesick (non-fiction about the opioid epidemic that is so eye-opening and devastating) and My Absolute Darling (this book is NOT for everyone and it is very intense and disturbing but also one that I could not put down). Honorable mention to Heartburn, which is Nora Ephron gold! I’m also about to start Conversations with Friends, and I’m very excited because it comes highly recommended by so many people and I loved this podcast episode with the author.
The things I’ve been wearing over and over again, together and separately: this EverlaneJapanese Go-Weave V-Neck tee (easy to dress up for work, down for weekend), a pair of Everlanewhite jeans (at $68, they fit, they’re flattering and if I spill something on them as I inevitably will, I won’t be devastated), the softest and coziest millennial pink Aritzia teddy bear coat, and Madewell mules that are truly so comfortable and so flattering and go with everything. In terms of jewelry, I’ve loved the brand Mejuri for a while: super simple gold pieces that are perfect for everyday, and pay for themselves easily in cost per wear. I also just discovered Cleo earrings, which are super fun and bold!
Earlier this year, I went to Palm Springs with some girlfriends and felt so much lash envy! It felt like I was the only one out of my friends who didn’t have lash extensions…until one of my friends said that her lashes were real, just the result of regular applications of Grande Lash serum. I immediately bought some and have been using it religiously for the past few months, and I have seen such a difference! My lashes seem legitimately longer and fuller without mascara, and when I use my same standard CoverGirl mascara that I’ve used since high school, they are luscious.
A few other beauty products that have worked their way solidly into my routine in 2019: Glossier Boy Brow (I feel like everyone hyped this for a while and I thought I didn’t need it because I naturally have pretty thick, dark brows for better or worse buuuuut this really helps tame them), The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid (really helps with overall skin hydration), Elemis Pro-Collagen products (really leaning into anti-wrinkle things as I go into my 30s) and RMS Living Luminizer (which is subtle but really lovely for a highlighter).
And for things to help my skin that aren’t being put on my skin: I’m obsessed with Vital Proteins Collagen Creamer (although it only mixes in hot beverages, so I have to figure out a new solution for iced coffee weather!) and Ultimate Omega fish oil (another strong recommendation from my facialist since the fatty acids in fish oil can apparently help minimize blackheads!).
Spring! The greatest of seasons! It’s been a magical time for me: I got to see the poppy superbloom before it became insanity and the ranunculi at the Flower Fields in Carlsbad and FINALLY the cherry blossoms in peak bloom in Washington DC.
It’s hard to know where to start, where to begin again. Nine years ago, I pressed publish on the first post on this blog, and for the past three-ish months, I haven’t written a thing. It’s been the longest that I’ve stepped away from this space since I was 21 years old: it’s been a constant through entry-level jobs and promotions, breakups and a wedding, moves around the world and across the country. I wondered who I would be without this slice of the internet to define me, without this place to deposit my photos and adventures and thoughts.
The reality is I haven’t missed it—or perhaps more accurately, haven’t had time to miss it. The unexpected change of early 2019, the thing I couldn’t have predicted when I decided to put blogging on the back burner: my company was acquired by Spotify in early February, a $230 million move that rocked and sent ripples through the podcast industry. My sales territory expanded, and suddenly there was a whole new corporate structure to navigate. I’ve always been upfront about my desire to keep a day job, to not only have a steady source of income and health insurance but also a form of validation that isn’t tied up in the words that I write or the experiences that I choose to share on the internet. And although I still take pride in my ability to strike a work-life balance, the reality is that with increased responsibility comes increased responsibilities.
And although I spent plenty of time working, when I think of how I spent this sabbatical: I read so many books, in a sunny backyard hammock and tucked into bed and with a pug on my lap. I filled a sunroom with plants: delighting in the act of turning one plant into many, of discovering a sense of meditation in the regular watering. I planted a vegetable garden, worried about how to make our fruit trees thrive. I woke up before sunrise to hike up mountains, and then watched the sunset over the ocean. I logged 10K steps a day, went to Pilates classes, spent a month without alcohol or sugar.
I drove up the California coast with a best friend, admiring the opulent architecture of Hearst Castle and the stunning scenery of Big Sur. We celebrated our second wedding anniversary with fish tacos and margaritas in a sleepy Mexican surf town, and then celebrated my in-laws’ 50th wedding anniversary in the apartment where my husband grew up on the Upper West Side. I frolicked (responsibly) in fields of poppies and ranunculi, and stood beneath the cherry trees in full pink-popcorn bloom along the Jefferson Memorial.
I don’t know if I’ll ever have the time, energy or desire to write here like I did in my early 20s: I was a different person with different responsibilities, and the internet was a different place. Stepping away reminded me of how much I love to do all of the things, just to do them and not because I want to write about them.
All of the blogging rule books (and my SEO expert husband) will tell you how important consistency and frequency are when it comes to a successful blog. But that’s maybe the greatest freedom that all of those other responsibilities have given me: I’m still going to be able to pay the bills (and book the flight, and read the books) without this blog being a success.
I think I’ll be back sometimes–if I have something to say or a special place to share–but probably never as much as I once was. Here’s to hoping the future is filled with just as many adventures, but maybe a little less time behind a screen.
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!!!
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:
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!]
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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?!
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!
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.
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!
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.
“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.
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!
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.
“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.
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..
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!
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!
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!
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.
“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.
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.