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galle

we spent three whole days here.

our trip, as was unanimously agreed by all three of us, was all about food and relaxation. and that’s exactly what we did. we went to good restaurants, slept, swam and played mono deal.

all of us have v hectic city jobs and this trip was planned to get away and come back rejuvenated.

galle was just the perfect place for that. it has numerous good restaurants and spas. some of the ones we liked the most were, the closenburg hotel poolside bar, peddler’s inn pizzas and the amangalla hotel restaurant.

we also enjoyed just walking around the fort area and visiting its boutique shops. we ended buying some fun {a.k.a hippy} clothes, curios and lots of bath and body products at the spa Ceylon.

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^^ lunch at amangalla was gnocchi, sri Lankan chicken curry and watermelon salad ^^

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^^ can’t remember the names of the drinks but every drink we tried was SO good {but hard on the wallet} ^^

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^^ us. outside amangalla ^^

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^^ view from our table at the closenburg hotel. unfortunately we forgot to take pictures outside the pool area {signs of a really good time} but its a MUST go ^^

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^^ galle fort sunsets ^^

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^^ pesto pizza at the peddler’s inn cafe^^

sri lanka

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two of my friends and I took a short weekend trip to sri-lanka last month.

we went back and forth a lot before finalizing the destination. since we had just 4 days and it was only the three of us.

we short-listed galle, which is in the southern province of sri lanka, as our base because of its beautiful beaches and old Portuguese fort town vibe.

BUT the highlight of our trip was by far the amazing villa we stayed in {pictures below}. I cannot recommend this place enough. it was small {just three rooms}, served amazing breakfast, had a cozy vibes and we almost had the place to ourselves completely.

on our last day we left for Colombo early {our flight back was from here} and spent the day in Colombo – which to me was quite the surprise. I did not expect to enjoy the city so much. it was a short but wonderful few hours in the country’s capital.

 

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^^ the beautiful villa we stayed in, which was about a 10 minute tutu ride to galle fort area. it looks like a homestay but its a hotel with the friendliest staff. and a small restaurant – which serves food all day ^^

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^^ this is where we sat all day lazing around playing mono deal and eating and drinking when we weren’t outside ^^

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^^ the breakfast area – I love how everything in the villa was so open and minimalistic ^^

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^^ our room – yes that’s an open bathroom, it was  slightly awkward walking in to this, considering we were sharing a room between the three of us, but we figured out our bath plans soon enough ;) ^^

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athens

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athens, a stark contrast from the rest of the places we visited in Greece, has its negatives and positives.

few parts of the city give you a slightly creepy vibe. something about it makes you feel unsafe. but then some parts are just so beautiful  that you can’t believe that all these parts belong to the same city.

more then 50% of Greece’s total population lives in athens. you can tell, athens is v. crowded. and filled with people of different ethnicity {which isn’t really the case elsewhere in Greece}.

we didn’t get much time here but managed to see quite a lot of the city {courtesy the sweetest lady taxi driver we met at the port, who offered to take us around the city in a day, at a fixed cost. I have her email address – for any one planning to visit Greece soon}

we visited the acropolis, the placa, temple of zeus, chapel of st. George, the national library, the supreme court, monastiraki square and the Olympic stadium.

we got v lucky. the sky was an amazing unforgettable blue that day and all the pictures we took – turned out so well.

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^^ Athens is also the city of graffitis {I haven’t read this anywhere but its what I would call Athens otherwise} there seriously is not a place other than the famous monuments which is not covered in graffiti ^^

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^^ this is the view from a really cool rooftop bar we went into inside the hotel A for Athens ^^

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^^ fancy blingy pants i bought at a shop on the road. I really really love them ^^

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^^ the most amazing dinner at our hotel restaurant, the grecotel pallas Athena which only didn’t top the list of our favorite meals in Greece coz A and I had a silly argument throughout the meal. I cant even remember why!^^

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^^ the good parts of Athens^^

also since this is the end to all the Greece vacation posts- I feel the need to conclude with how A always somehow manages to win people over in all the trips we do together. it’s so v strange but every time I travel with him I see the impact he leaves behind. it may be a conversation with the taxi driver in Athens or an old lady we met at the ferry who we played uno with, but when we say our good byes they are always so emotional {and that has so much more to do with A than I} he always manages to strike up an interesting conversation and talk to them about things that matter to them. there’s so much I learn from him even after all these years.

something I always want to remember when i’m mad at him about silly things.

on vacations and Paros

Vacation is so often cast as a luxury now … a bourgeois game of Instagram tagging and food photos. But for me, in Sifnos, I came to know it as the time in the year when you find not only rest, but also the strength you need to meet your work and your life when you return to them. In the years since, it’s been hard to be an American writer and take vacations like this. But I would never want to live the other way — without them — again

excerpt from an interesting article on new york times I read the other day. its about a writer who visited a remote Greek island and on the writer ‘learning’ to take a vacation.

don’t get me wrong. I vacation like how most people do. Instagram tagging, food photos and the works.. visiting the most popular islands and making sure I cover them all even if I end up spending as little as two days in each.

no way of vacationing is right or wrong. but i would want to try it the other way next time. rent an apartment. for a month or two even. go some where unpopular. read books, draw, paint or cook. explore the city/island/village. like really explore. go to places that aren’t necessarily touristy.

the closest we came to doing that in Greece, was at Paros. Adi and I both read about the island online. we didn’t know of any one who had visited there, before we made our bookings. but the pictures looked stunning and so we took a shot at it.

and to be honest, before our ferry ride from Santorini to Paros we almost contemplated cancelling and staying back in Santorini for a few more days. all our friends were going to be staying back longer and we did love our time with them.

but the bookings were done {non-refundable} and so we went along.

boy, am I glad we did?! it was the surprise element of the trip. I still remember walking into the main street of Naoussa, Paros from our hotel up in the hill. I had to stop walking just sink it all in. everything was so picturesque in Naoussa. there were ducks, cafes, octopuses and boats. all of a sudden. out of nowhere. and there was this buzz. {not loud or touristy like in Mykonos but just quiet local buzz}

we ended up eating Italian that night {finally we had had too much of souvlaki}. after dinner we walked around the cute little town and then headed back to our hotel, sat on the deck and talked. a lot. under the stars. that moment, it was all SO perfect – that we made a pact to come back. maybe on our 10 year anniversary. but this time with family and friends.

the next day, I wanted to book a boat and explore the caves in anti-paros, but eventually we decided to stay in and explore the island instead. we took a local bus to parikia. walked around the town. prayed at some churches along the way. bought some nic nacs and then spent two hours eating brunch and chatting with a local greek at a bar in parikia.

at night we made reservations at one of the most famous restaurants in naoussa {or all of Paros, as we learnt later} called Yemeni. we got a table which was lucky because apparently they are always booked out and you need to make  reservations weeks in advance. we tried the beetroot truffle risotto, zuchhini flower balls and stuffed mushrooms. and washed it all down with a bottle of local white wine for dessert they got us a chocolate cake with ice cream {which we didn’t order, it was on the house}. it was by far our best meal of the trip.

we headed back to Athens the next morning with such a heavy heart. if I had to redo my vacation in Greece, I would have definitely spent a lot more days exploring Paros. this island,  there was something magical about it.

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^^ view from our room in hotel papadakis. the best part of visiting a non-touristy place are the hotel prices. ;)} ^^

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^^ some more hotel pics^^

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^^ downtown Naoussa^^

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^^ first Italian meal in Greece. I think my favorite thing to do during a vacation is walking from one restaurant to another, reading their outdoor menus and eventually choosing the one you liked the most :) ^^

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^^ brunch at acute bar in parikia ^^

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^^ greek goodies I bought at the local store in parikia. as you can see, anything with olive oil – and I had to buy it ^^

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^^ dinner at Yemeni, our favorite meal in Greece ^^

 

santorini

Santorini was the expected highlight of our trip.  we had a wedding to attend, and A was meeting his university friends after a v. long time {the last time we met them was at our wedding in Mumbai in 2015}

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we spent three nights, three days here at a quaint colorful hotel Aquavatos at Kamari beach. although, not as popular as the well-known fira and oia, Kamari a.k.a. the black sand beach was one of my favorite places on the island. all the restaurants we tried here {at least 3-4 different ones} served excellent food. also, it’s home to some of the best bars I’ve seen {special recommendation: mango bar}

the day we landed, A had a bachelor night to go for and I, a hen party. the bride’s sister had planned it so brilliantly. we were about 15 girls, all from different parts of the world {when I say different I really mean it. we covered austria, phillipines, america, united kingdom, india and nigeria} the hen night started with some wine tasting at a winery. the venetsano winery in particular. this was where I first experienced the infamous Santorini view. i’d seen SO many pictures but nothing could prepare me for that. I still don’t think I could ever get over that VIEW.

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we tried four different kind of wines all locally made accompanies with some tapas. it was very chilly and at some point during the tasting they had to give us blankets to cover up.

our next stop for the hen night was a restaurant in fira, blue volcano {semi decent food and v cute waiters ;)} I ate chicken souvlaki {no surprises} we watched the sunset there. and just when I thought the views couldn’t get better, they did. that’s the thing about Santorini, every part of the island takes you by surprise.

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the night ended at the tango bar. and if you ever go to Santorini, this is one place you wouldn’t want to miss . the views from the bar were something else. so were the cocktails. and the people and the vibe. that night event though i was with a group of girls I had never met before, we got home when the sun came up. one of the best times I’ve had in greece.

… and then we spent almost all of the next day in bed {no surprises}.

at night I forced myself to get out. even if it was without Adi. i went with the bride and a group of her friends to an open air theatre in kamari {a first for me} and we saw king arthur under the stars with a glass of wine and LOTs of popcorn. my ultimate movie experience.

 

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the wedding day

adi and I started the day early. we went on a small cruise ship to nea kamini {an active volcano}. on getting there, we had to trek to the top of island near the crater. Adi has always been so fascinated by volcanos and I cant remember the last time i saw him this excited about anything. he may have picked up atleast 20 volcanic rocks during the trek up to the crater, to take them back home to Mumbai.

after the trek to the top and back down, we got back to our little boat and on to the next stop: the volcano hot springs. highlight: we had to jump from the boat into the warm waters of the volcano spring. the mud by the shores of the island is said to be therapeutic and we rubbed the volcanic mud all over our bodies. aah. I need to go back just to do that again.

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that evening, back in Santorini, we attended the most beautiful wedding ceremony. at the santos wines winery.

it was a Christian wedding {one of my firsts} between an indian boy, born and brought up in London, and a Pilipino girl, born and raised in austria. the wedding was a beautiful mix of different cultures getting together. that, right there, was what made it so special.

after the wedding we went to the theros wave bar for the reception and after party. and for some more wine and dancing.

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mykonos

Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” - Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky.

I cannot emphasize the importance of travel enough {especially when you are working a 9 to 9+ job like mine}

travel has the power to change you. change your perspective on things and just generally help you look at everything around you more positively and with less judgment.

about two weeks ago, we started our trip to Greece with Mykonos {i won’t count the few hours we spent in Athens before we caught the blue star ferry to Mykonos, because all we did was sleep.}

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opting for ferries {cruise ships?} for our internal travel was one of the better choices we made. the waters of the aegean sea are so breathtaking and what better way to see it than by boat? you also pass by a whole lot of little islands on the way, each one with its own charm.

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we stayed at a cute little all-white hotel on paradise beach called the Paradise View Hotel. the positives – its right by all the beach clubs {about a short 2 to 5 minutes walk, depending on the beach club}, there’s a bus stop right outside the main gate {with a bus taking you to mykonos town coming in every 30 mins}, amazing views of the beach and a beautiful hotel pool and jacuzzi easily accessible from all the rooms. the negatives – none really.

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my favorite part about mykonos was mykonos old town. the white winding streets you see on all the greek postcards and movies, the windmills and of course, little venice. you could spend an entire day walking around old town. it’s also great for shopping {not if you’re me though. A would give me the worst look every time i even entered a shop. So lets just say i didn’t get to buy much in greece other than a few nic nacs to take back home for everybody}.

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^^I would also recommend having a drink at one of the beautiful bars in little venice. we selected the coziest little bar with outstanding views of the old town and the sea ^^

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^^For meals – we pretty much ate only souvlakis. you can tell from the different pictures of the all the souvlakis we tried. our favorite, by far, was the souvlaki at souvlaki story in mykonos old town^^

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^^after much coaxing I also managed to convince A to accompany me to the tropicana beach party. i’m pretty sure he was glad we went. we had a blast. the music, the people and the view were all on point!^^

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we had a v short stay in mykonos. there’s still so much more i would like to do. but that we can save for our next trip back to greece, because i am pretty sure we will be coming back :)

carmel, monterey and the big sur

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during our trip to SF, we spent a long weekend traveling to  carmel-by-the-sea and monterey, driving by the big sur!

it was such a memorable weekend and was the first time that our entire family was together at one place – along with its’ newest additions {leheir and my brother’s wife to-be devika}.

we spent 5 hours driving from SF to Monterey. more than usual, as we took the big sur route and had brunch halfway at a beautiful restaurant by the coast.

we stayed at a hotel in monterey. the houses/ air B&Bs’ in carmel were all booked out by the time we got to planning our trip due to the long weekend.

we got lucky though as the hotel was right by the city center and a two minute walk away from the wharf. all the good restaurants were close by. there was also fair going on right outside the hotel lobby with the cutest little shops and food stalls.

we spent sunday at carmel. had brunch at a beautiful french restaurant {which btw serves the best chocolate mousse ever} where we celebrated leheir’s 4 month birthday and then did some dolphin spotting at the carmel beach. we may have seen at least 20 dolphins, which were all v close to the shore. it was breathtaking and to think we almost decided against going to the beach!

we also spent an entire 40 minutes trying to get a good picture of the entire family, on mom’s insistence.

looking back,  i know now that these are the little moments life gifts us…that keep us going and make all the long work hours, the tough times and the distance bearable.

*vegas*

i’ve been to vegas before. but around 8 years ago. it was a different time then. and one thing i’ve realised during our weekend there is  ….. i’ve grown up!

we didn’t do pool parties or clubs {except if you count the 30 mins we spent at tao at the venetian on saturday night}.

this trip was more about the casino. and food. good food. signs of ageing???

we were there for just two nights and one day.  we stayed at the pallazo {which is connected to the venetian} and it was a good choice as it’s right where all the action is. thanks arjun, for insisting on not staying anywhere else.

we spent the entire first night casino hopping. it was A’s first time and we wanted him to experience vegas the way one should experience vegas.

our favorite casino that night was the cosmopolitan. we ate late dinner or should i say breakfast? at their open restaurant called the henry.

the next day we visited the seven {or is it six?} pools our hotel had to offer and then went off for some more casino hopping. got our caricatures made and ate at this amazing restaurant called beauty and essex.

we slept that night at 11 pm {!!} and it was our last night in this crazy city. that’s when i knew that i was getting old. my body can’t handle anymore what it could earlier.

we spent our last morning in vegas at the bouchon bistro. and it was the best breakfast i’ve eaten yet. we ate the beef burger {for him} and the sandwhich du joir {for me} he had the expresso martini and i had the bellini.

we finished the meal with beignets {which were a.m.a.z.i.n.g.}

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^^ where we stayed. i got one word for you: location!^^

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^^ the strip is always buzzing. even at 5 am ^^

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^^ A’s reaction was v similar to mine, when i first walked by the faux venetian canals inside our hotel. he was quiet for a whole 5 minutes absorbing it all in^^

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^^ monkeying around in the hotel lobby after 1 too many drinks. isn’t it just the best thing in the world when your husband and twin brother get along like a house on fire?^^

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^^ lunch at sushi samba and one of my favorite pictures of arjun till date ;) ^^

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^^ trying our luck at the slots one last time before leaving vegas…. what’s going on? we look confused ^^

IMG-20161017-WA0016^^ and that’s a jackpot! a 20 dollar worth jackpot ;) ^^

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^^ pictures with the cops. a vegas must do ;)^^

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^^ hotel lobby pictures. just about every corner in our hotel lobby was so breathtaking we couldn’t help but pose for pictures all over the place ^^

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^^ brunch at the bouchon ^^

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^^ expresso martini for him and bellini for me ^^

some more of SF

here’s some other places we loved in SF. some of them may be v touristy {but we love those too!}

palo alto

we visited palo alto around 2-3 times during our visit. it’s close to where my sister stays and it has some really good restaurants. it’s also home to stanford university which has one of the best campuses in the country. two restaurants we visited and loved were reposado and tacolicious.  both mexican coz we LOVE mexican.

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^^ the set lunch menu at tacolicious that day was green salad, grilled vegetables and chicken soft taco, refried beans and rice ^^

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off the grid at fort mason centre

it happens every friday night from 5 pm to 10 pm at fort mason in san francisco. until October 30th. there are around 30 food trucks, 3 bars and live music. each food truck serves new and innovative cuisine.

i had a blast. and must have eaten every cuisine there is. mexican, lebanese, chinese, brazilian you name it, we ate it.

pier 39 and china town

pier 39 has the quirkiest shops. they have a pet shop with the cutest pet accessories, a lefty shop dedicated to lefties! {which is pretty cool and fascinating if you were a lefty like me}. they also have some cool places which are great for people watching.

china town is great for 3 dollar ‘san francisco’ caps and exotic varieties of green tea. oh and the MURALS. they were REALLY good.

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^^ that’s me in a LOT of pictures. poor A. consequences of him having  a phone with a better camera ;p^^

burma love

burma love at mission for burmese. specially their tea leaf salad and the samosa soup. both available in vegetarian..

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SF

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my brother told me that locals call the city SF or san francisco. not ‘san fran’ or ‘frisco’. which is all just tourist talk (guilty!)

he also told me that if he was asked to close his eyes and imagine one place, his happy place, he always thought of dolores park, SF.

that got me thinking about what my happy place would be? now that i’m back in mumbai and back at my work desk, if i had to close my eyes and think of my happy place, i’d say it’s san francisco.

not just because it’s beautiful or has great weather throughout the year and a crazy good vibe, but more because  it’s where my family is. and where i now feel most at home outside of mumbai.

we shuttled between my sister’s house in emerald hill {which is about a 20 minute uber drive away from the main city} and my brother’s house in beach street {which is bang in the city centre}, so we had the best of both worlds.

some of our favorite things to do in san francisco …

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(1) Walk the golden gate bridge and visit sausalito.

it seems almost cliched {so much that A refused! i had to eventually drag him..}. but it was the perfect san francisco experience. we got lucky as it was sunny the day we chose to walk the bridge and not too windy. the weather was just perfect.

it was a long walk from my brother’s house near the marina, but it was worth every step. once we crossed the bridge and reached the vista point, our feet were tired and we uber-ed it to sausalito.

{P.S. uber is the best thing to have happened to us this trip. we used it for all our travel. it’s convenient, quick and reasonable cost wise}

sausalito would turn out to be one of my favorite places in california. i’d heard a lot about it from friends and family and so i went there with high expectations. but it still managed to pleasantly surprise me with it’s little city charm.

sausalito also happens to have one of the best views of SF city. it’s dotted with tiny outdoor cafes and restaurants by the pier which are all worth visiting just for the view.

we ate at the napa valley burger company. we didn’t try the burgers {silly us} but the guacamole we ordered was great. just the way i like mine.

we took a ferry on our way back to the city and i’d recommend it just for the view of alcatraz up close.

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^^ some pictures of sausalito {looking back i wish we’d taken some more!} and the guacamole at napa valley buger co.^^

(2) DOLORES PARK!

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i have this annoying habit. every time i meet a local at a city i’m visiting i ask them what their favorite place in the city is. i always get such fun and different answers. places i’d rarely read about in a travel blog, guide or magazine. this visit, 5 out of 6 times the answer was – dolores park.

my brother in law insisted we go on a saturday afternoon and so we did. after that we returned on wednesday afternoon and then thursday afternoon ;p. so you can guess how much we loved it.

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(3) North Beach

north beach is in the north east of san francisco adjacent to chinatown, russian hill and fisherman’s warf. we visited north beach by chance. we were googling “closest in-and-out” {a must visit for all cheeseburger fans} and found one there, adjacent to chipotle. we ended up staying way longer and went back at night to check out the bar scene. which btw is awesome.

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north beach

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^^ we took our burger to go and ate it at an outdoor bench close by^^

so many places that i might have to continue this in another post.!!

san francisco

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the last time i went to san francisco was eight years ago. i was there for three days. with friends. it was such a great experience. i’d never seen a city like that before. the vibe was just so different. laid-back yet inspiring.

looking back i always felt i didn’t get enough of ‘frisco’. i wanted So more of it.

then.. a few years later my twin brother moved there. and last year my sister and her husband moved there too. so now, me going there again was inevitable. but the thought of sitting in an 18 hour flight made me delay this much needed trip for months/ years(?)

i booked my tickets the day leheir was born. literally just a few hours later.  my much needed incentive.

i leave in three days. A leaves tomorrow. he booked an earlier flight. we will also be going to las vegas and carmel.

but what i’m most looking forward to is holding…

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this cute little baby. she’s going to be three months the day i land.

can’t wait to see her beautiful face up close. and give her a million kisses.

el ain sokhna and the 6th of July ;)

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i am thankful to have found a husband like A. i got lucky. i always tell friends how i feel he’s a lot nicer than what i am {if that’s even possible ;)} he is my best friend, career advisor, partner and the most fun roommate. but what i love about him the most is knowing that seeing me happy, makes him the happiest. i hope and pray that it always stays this way.

he doesn’t care about birthdays the way i do. the childish girl in me loves celebrating birthdays as if i was still 18! and that’s something i plan to over come. soon. he doesn’t get it. at all. but he will always comply. because he knows how important it is to me.

this birthday we spent in el ain sokhna in egypt. it’s merely a 1.5 hour drive from cairo and i’d recommend anyone who visits cairo to make sure they drive down to el sokhna. we stayed at ashraf’s vacation home right by the beach. we spent the entire day swimming in the red sea. literally. we reached the beach at 8 am and swam and drank and ate till the sun came down. then we came home had a chicken and quail barbecue {i tried quail!}  and went back to the beach until midnight.

to bring in my birthday ashraf has invited his neighbors and friends for dinner and drinks and they got me an ice cream cake and sang happy birthday in Egyptian. i was so touched and got teary. i did not expect the cake. nor did i expect people who i had met merely 5 days ago to go out of their way for me.

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^^ my favoritest egyptians !! mark and seline^^

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^^ the clear waters of the red sea^^

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^^ my husband’s attempt at taking my picture. he always manages to goof it up somehow ^^

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^^ which is why i resort to selfies during vacations!^^