Viva Las Vegas

Las Vegas, a place where you can travel the world, yet remain on a strip. This past September (which was perfect weather), I accompanied my parents, and their friends, for a four day getaway.

We did NOT rent a car, but we did take advantage of the shuttle services, monorails, lyft or uber (whichever wasn’t surging at the moment…,) and the occasional taxi cabs.

We stayed at the Rio, which wasn’t as I remembered it to be, but it did OK. Every morning, we took advantage of the overpriced coffee at the Starbucks downstairs because there was no free coffee in the room (also, they charge you $0.75 for iced tap water!) The Rio isn’t on the strip…but isn’t too far away either. At that time, Rio provided a free shuttle every 30 minutes that drops you off to the strip. However, we didn’t have the time or the patience to wait each time…so we would either grab a cab or a lyft.

What parts of the world can you reach from the strip? Well, lets start at the U.S. You can go to NYC, and see the Brooklyn Bridge, have a bite of their famous burgers in Shake Shack, ride their roller coaster, and then head over to Europe. You can get a piece of these European cities: Paris, Venice, and Rome. Then head to Africa by going to the Luxor and feeling like you’re in Egypt. By the time you’ve ventured through at least three of these countries, you’ll feel exhausted and would want to retire to the comfort and coolness of your hotel room.

If you desire to venture off the strip, there is the Hoover Dam, that is about 50 minutes away. Hoover Dam has been featured in many movies such as San Andreas, Transformers, and Fools Rush In with Salma Hayek and Matthew Perry. Definitely worth checking if you’re tired of the same scene.

Another advantage to Vegas is, it’s also not too far off from the West Rim portion of the Grand Canyon. The West Rim belongs to the Hualapai (WALL-uh-pie) tribe, and isn’t part of the national park. That being said, the West Rim is still a beautiful and unique experience. We were able to see Eagle Rock and get on the Skywalk. It was truly a Magnificent experience! (I can share more about the details of the West Rim on a separate blog post.)

Overall, Vegas is a great thrill! You don’t have to be into gambling or casinos to enjoy the place…because no matter what you like, you’ll find something for yourself in Vegas!

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Sweet Treats from NYC

Part II of my list of food places to try in New York are sweet treats. Whether it be doughnuts, cookies, or rice pudding…here are my faves:

  • Momofuku Milk Bar. Who thought someone can be so happy with cereal and soft serve? Its like comfort food on another level. And, don’t even get me started on their crack pie…
  • Doughnut Plant. I’ve always been a fan of tres leches and theirs is a must try! A few others to add to your box: Peanut butter and banana cream, vanilla bean, red velvet, crème brûlé, Peanut butter and blackberry jam…heck, just try everything!
  • Rice to Riches. If you grew up with a Filipino mom, you know what chocolate rice is. Rice to Riches is just that… but better! There are other things added to the rice other than chocolate. They have rum raisin, french toast, mascarpone, banana coconut, and the list goes on and on… Sample a few to taste what you like because it is filling and not so cheap. Then reward your belly with some yummy goodness!

I hope you get to try at least one of these three places, and let me know what you think. I have other places I want to try that I have not ticked off…such as, Levain Bakery, Cookie Dō, and others. Always gotta have a reason to come back to NYC.

New York Food List

Prior to the trip, I had this list of food places I wanted to try. I got through most of it…and wanted to share it with you:

  • Russ & Daughter’s – A great New York bagel experience. I had a Plain bagel with Lox and Scallion Cream Cheese. Yum!
  • Julianna’s Pizza – Granted, I was pretty full already from my burger at Shake Shack…I just had to try a slice of their Buffalo Mozzarella pizza. It was delicious!
  • Shake Shack – To be completely honest, I had reservations about this place. I mean, California has some pretty legit burger joints that I’ve already tried…But, disappoint it did not! I truly enjoyed every bite of my Smokeshack burger.
  • Sabbia, formerly Baita, in Eataly’s rooftop. A little overrated for the food, but the experience was wonderful. Beautiful rooftop and great drinks!
  • Katz Deli – one and done! Meaning, one visit for me is sufficient enough…the food was meh! And the lines are crazy! To top that off, you must keep your eyes peeled for a table to be vacated, and once you find one, hope no one else grabs it before you.
  • Smorgasburg – A great place to try a variety of different foods. Eat your heart out…literally!
  • Yuji Ramen- A new take on ramen. Its all seafood base. Unique yet surprisingly good. Also, a tiny hole in the wall place, so be prepared to be in close proximity with strangers.
  • Chelsea’s Market – A wonderful place to people watch, listen to live music, shop, and eat great tacos! Yup, I had tacos and quesadillas at Los Taco’s #1 and boy were they delicious! I had the carne asada taco and the adobada especial…I highly recommend trying them!
  • Pies & Thighs – A good option for some southern food. A nice plate of chicken and waffles to make you feel that nice southern comfort; and don’t forget that smoked pork collards.

After going through this food list, I want to do an 8 mile hike or longer. Happy Noshing!

A dog loving place-Santa Barbara, CA

This post is long overdue…regarding that one weekend in Santa Barbara, California.

We truly enjoyed this spontaneous weekend trip because we realized how dog-loving Santa Barbara was. We drove down on a Saturday and spent the remainder of the day at Arroyo Burro Beach. We are keen of that beach…and let me tell you why! First, there’s a section for dogs to be off leash (East of Slough,) and another section for dogs on leash. Second, there’s a self service pet wash station by the parking lot, as you exit. It was so convenient and affordable for us to have a great time with our dog, and bring him back to the hotel not smelling like a wet, filthy rag.

Our hotel, Kimpton Canary Hotel, was extraordinary! Great service through and through. They allow pets, especially one like ours, who weighed in at 120lbs. They made each one of us feel welcome, including Brutus. The hotel also houses a great restaurant, Finch and Fork, to have your special date night at. The hotel also boasts a beautiful rooftop pool that overlooks parts of Santa Barbara. Great area to lounge and have a few drinks.

The hotel is also conveniently located near many shops and other restaurants. The hotel lends you their bikes or you can walk. We walked since we had Brutus with us, and there were many places that offered outdoor seating. One such place was Tupelo Junction Cafe. Although the seating outside was limited, the hostess was very friendly and accommodating to let us know when the table would be available. We didn’t have to wait very long.

Overall, Santa Barbara is definitely one of those places that we would love to visit again and again because of their dog-loving ways. Its a place I can see us bringing Brutus to time and time again, without having to worry if he will be accepted because of his size or his breed. Its also one of those places that keep you interested because its not stodgy. Santa Barbara will always have something to offer… for just about anyone.

My Reasons for You to Visit Guam

Yay! I finally got my charger back and now I’m ready to type away…

So, naturally a portion of my heart will always love Guam. It’s where I was born, it was where I was raised, and majority of my family and friends still live there. That is reason enough for me to keep coming back. However, for those who don’t have family nor friends there, this is why you should visit Guam:

  • Gateway to Asian countries or the United States..depending where you come from. Guam is 3 hours away from the Philippines and Japan. There are direct flights daily with various air carriers. Guam also has a direct flight to Honolulu, Hawaii. Although, Guam is a U.S. territory, it is safer for U.S. citizens to travel with their passports instead of their Driver’s License because some of the connecting flights to Guam are from International countries. For non U.S. citizens, you may need a Visa to enter Guam, depending on your country of origin.
  • Shopping. Guam offers an array of affordable fashion and high-end boutiques ranging from Calvin Klein, Nine West, Coach, Kate Spade, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors to Louis Vuitton, GUCCI, Prada, CÈLINE, CHANEL, and Hermès. Not only is the selection optimal, but I also discovered that prices are lower in Guam than it is stateside. For example, the LV Favorite MM is listed online in the U.S. as $985.00. It is sold in Guam for $900. Also, the popular bags, such as the Speedy and Neverfull, are made in France or Spain, whereas stateside these bags are made in the U.S. itself.
  • People. Guam is a melting pot of different ethnicities and cultures. Many Filipinos have migrated to Guam from the early 60’s to the 70’s and made Guam home. I am a  product of a Fil-Guamanian home. My parents are not indigenous to Guam, and therefore, I don’t call myself a Chamorro, but I am definitely Guamanian. There are also a handful of Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, Micronesians, and Middle Easterners that have made Guam home. Because there are many ethnicities on island, you will find that local people are friendly and welcoming. With that being said, don’t try to claim the island as yours or give someone the staredown, because you’ll be creating enemies instead of friends.
  • Lifestyle. Every island I’ve ever been to, has a much laidback approach. Guam is no exception. Everything runs on island time. And that could be a good thing or a bad thing. However, the hustle and bustle of city life does get old and sometimes you just need to slow things down a bit…and Guam is all too familiar with that. Also, Guamanians and Chamorros are not big on brands and fancy clothes (ironic considering we have a huge selection of high-end stores.)  You can walk into any store with flip-flops, t-shirt and jeans and be treated the same, or even better, than the average tourist.
  • Food. Now because the island is a melting pot of different cultures, you will also find a variety of different restaurants and dishes. Many places have been influenced by the local market. For instance, Jamaican Grill, which from the name of it denotes that it serves Jamaican food, however, you will find local favorites like red rice and chicken kelaguen. The McDonald’s on island serves portuguese sausage and rice. And, you will discover many other restaurants that offer local favorites with outside influences.
  • Beaches. White sandy beaches for miles, which is all public property. Guam boasts a number of different beaches all around the island that offers a variety of sea life and sand life. You will also find lots of beach space ALL to YOURSELF.
  • Tax Free. Although in line with shopping, this is a reason in itself. No sales tax! I love going to Wendy’s and paying only $.99 for a Junior Bacon Cheeseburger or shopping at Ross and finding an awesome dress for $19.99 and paying the actual sticker price with no tax added…Love it!
  • Warm Weather. Winters give me cold feet..literally and figuratively. I dream of defrosting in a white sandy beach, with a moscow mule in my hand, and the sun setting before me. This works if you have warm weather around you… and you’ll find plenty of that in Guam. Typically weather ranges between low 80’s but expect humidity. That is island life..

So, I hope I have convinced you enough to go and take that plunge and visit the beautiful island of Guam! If you do, don’t forget to make some friends along the way…and tell them that IslanderinHeels sent you there.