I'll Follow You Anywhere

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An eccentric melting pot of French, Spanish, African and Caribbean cultures, New Orleans is unlike any place in the world. It modestly boasts a one-of-a-kind blend of architecture, food and language, and definitely has a way of making an impression.

The French Quarter mostly caters to tourists, but this doesn’t mean that you should avoid it. Bourbon Street is literally always a party, and great for people watching and some casual car-free debauchery. At night you can take in a ghost tour, and with the city’s dark past, it’s a must whether you believe in spooky behaviour or not. When it comes to hearing authentic jazz (the genre was born here) it’s actually unavoidable. Talented street performers of all ages are known to casually bust out a full brass ensemble, and you’ll have no choice but to stop in your tracks and take it all in. Other notable areas outside the Quarter (and you really should explore outside the Quarter) are Frenchmen Street, Bywater and the Garden District, all accessible by foot or adorable wooden streetcars.

A city famous for it’s libations, there are a TONNE of cocktail options in The Big Easy. Also, don’t forget that New Orleans is a magical place where you can openly carry drinks wherever you go. You can even pop into a bar and ask for a beverage in a “go cup” and be on your way. As for the food, expect simple southern dishes and lots of seafood. Famous for gumbo, jambalaya and beignets (delicious little powdered doughnuts), the diverse historical roots of the city are heavily reflected in the cuisine.

The people of New Orleans celebrate funerals with a brass band parade, and I think that’s the perfect representation of the spirit of the Crescent City. No matter what you choose to do here, whether you want to stay in the Quarter and party, or venture out to Tremé and see the road less travelled, you will be absolutely surrounded by the one thing that New Orleans serves up like no other – Southern hospitality.

Scroll down to see the full list!

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Sips //

Cane & Table
Latitude 29
Bacchanal Wine (Pick a bottle of wine and some fresh cheese, and head out to the backyard party)
The Spotted Cat
Tiki Tolteca
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop (The oldest operating bar in the US)
Apple Barrel
Compère Lapin
Three Muses

Snacks //

Atchafalaya (Truly incredible garden-fresh Bloody Marys)
Elizabeth’s
Killer Poboys
Stanley
El Libre
The Old Coffee Pot
Café Du Monde

Stay //

International House Hotel
The Old No. 77

For the next visit //

Green Goddess
Pizza Delicious
Kermit’s Tremé Mother in Law Lounge
The Country Club
Mimi’s In the Marigny
Algiers
Tremé

I'll Follow You Anywhere

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When I first booked a trip to California with no concept of when I’d be back, I really didn’t have much of a plan. I had someone to stay with of course, and there were loose talks of visits with friends and family, but the truth is when I boarded that plane I had no idea where my travels would lead me.

In the end, no plans could’ve covered everything that I managed to see. I didn’t just go to California, I went all over California, from horse riding on the beach in Sonoma to driving through the Red Woods of Big Sur. I went to an 80s’ dance party that’s hidden inside a vending machine, I met some of my Instagram idols for a casual brunch, and I saw more parts of the state than most people who actually live there full time.

I was feeling pretty satisfied with my adventures by the time the last leg of my time in the sunshine rolled around, but then Kelsie came to visit and introduced me to the magic of Hotwire.com. Full disclosure: I am AWFUL at bargain hunting, but even I got into this site. You can basically play hotel roulette! We downloaded their app on a sleepy night in LA and before we knew it we’d scored a room at The Ace in DTLA for a night! It was the ultimate staycation, and after a night of dancing at a local disco bar (please go to Honeycut next time you’re in town!) we decided to try our hand at finding a few more hot rates.

We ended up booking a crazy spontaneous trip to San Diego, a city neither of us knew ANYTHING about, and in the morning we were off in our Hotwire car rental to find out what we’d been missing. It turns out the answer was a lot – so much in fact that one night was nowhere near enough. San Diego is lush, right on the water and filled with adorable local gems and swoon-worthy spaces. I wish we’d had more time to see everything on our list, but there’s always time to book another last-minute vacation with Hotwire, right?

Special thanks to @ellistracy for all the amazing local tips! Best Instagram tour guide ever!

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Where we went:

Pigment // Kelly from Studio DIY told me this is the best store in the world, so I went in with ridiculously high expectations, and I was still totally blown away. Just go, save up a lot of spending money, and go!
Communal Coffee // This is a coffee shop that sells floral drinks, floral toasts, and actual flowers! It’s incredibly well decorated, the staff is lovely, and the back patio may be actual nirvana.
Native Poppy // Nestled within communal coffee, this place knows their blooms! They also sell a curated collection of stationary etc.
La Puerta // A great spot for cheap margaritas and delicious guac in the heart of downtown. Make sure you time your visit around their numerous “happy hour” times.
Taco Surf // cheap, simple, and delicious. We highly recommend taking your food to the beach for a picnic, regardless of the weather.
Balboa Park // Perfect for a sunny stroll, this park has incredible flowering trees, an epic cactus garden, and SO many gorgeous museums.
Cafe Gratitude // One of my favourite vegan spots in California, this was actually the most gorgeous location I’ve visited yet, and the food was divine as always.
Seal Beach // We saw tiny baby seal pups lazing on the beach! This is reason enough to make this spot a stop in our books.

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For Next Time:
Fairweather
Pendry
Kindred
Ironside
The Madison
Bracero Cocina
Fleet Science Centre
San Diego Natural History Museum
Holy Matcha (not quite open yet!)

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Special thanks to Hotwire for making all of our spontaneous vacay dreams come true!

I'll Follow You Anywhere

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I’ve been all over California thanks to a West Coast upbringing and parents who love to chase the sunshine as much as I do, but there are a few cities I have yet to revisit as an adult and really experience. As the years ticked by, San Francisco remained one of those unexplored sections of the state, so when my friend Tegan invited me to come stay with her in the heat of The Mission I couldn’t say no.

What started as a short visit to one small city quickly snowballed into a total exploration of Northern California, from Tahoe to the Sonoma Coast, but for now I’m just going to focus on SF itself, because seriously, it’s AWESOME all on its own!

With the help of Tegan, some newfound local friends, and a lot of blog research, I managed to hit an almost outrageous number of amazing spots in the Bay Area, and like most trips I still left with a list of places to visit the next time around.

From vegan sushi and flaming tiki drinks to abandoned bath house ruins and sprawling beaches, here’s what made my must-see list in the city of pastel houses, hills, and expensive toast (seriously, they love fancy toast!)

Scroll down to see the full list!

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Sips //

Trouble Coffee
Tonga Room
Sightglass Coffee
Pagan Idol Tiki Bar
Samovar Tea

Sweets //

Mr. Holmes Bakehouse
Bi-Rite
Dandelion Chocolate

Snacks //

Shizen Vegan Sushi
St Francis Fountain
Leo’s Oysters
Souley Vegan
Tartine
Flour + Water

Shops //

Voyager
Le Point
Cove
Little Paper Planes
Heath Ceramics
Case for Making

Adventures //

Sutro Baths
Walt Disney Family Museum
The famous Painted Ladies
Mission Cliffs Climbing Gym
Love Story Yoga
Urban Putt Mini Golf Bar
Fisherman’s wharf
Ferry building
Burnell heights Hill
Land’s end park
Ocean beach

On the list for next time //
Garden Creamery (vegan ice cream shop that opened right when I left!)
Academy of Sciences
Conservatory of Flowers
Alamo Theatre
Mt. Tam Hiking
Baker Beach

I'll Follow You Anywhere

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I’d instantly grow a nose like Pinocchio if I was to say my sister and I have always been close. With four years and a lot of personality differences between us, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing, but I’m pleased to report that we seem to grow closer the older we get. Maybe we should blame it on the alcohol…

My sister, a talented restaurant employee, loves her drinks, and wine is right at the top of her list. She always has something to teach me about this Chardonnay or that Estate blend, and once I realized how close to Napa I’d be while staying in San Francisco, I invited her down for a couple days of sister bonding and sipping.

As expected, she said “Yes way Rosé!”

Personally I’m not a wine connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination. I like my trashy strawberry margaritas, simple whisky sours, and when I have to purchase wine it’s almost always ENTIRELY based on great label design. My sister Sierra couldn’t be more different, so we both weren’t really sure what a trip from Napa to the Sonoma Coast and back would look like for the two of us. Luckily, California wine country is a seriously magical place, and like a field of mixed grape vines turned picked and processed into a delicious blended wine, we too gained body and depth under the right conditions. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt as close to my little sister as I did those days chatting about tasting notes (she made fun of me for using “Sandalwood” as a descriptor) and nights giggling in the hot tub with a bottle of bubbly.

I guess just like a good vintage Merlot, we only get better with age.

Scroll down for our California Wine Country must-see stops

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Where we stayed //

White House Inn:
Located just around the corner from downtown Napa, you’d never guess this massive white Victorian mansion is open to the public, never mind a place you can stay over! It was love at first sight when we walked in and saw the crystal chandeliers, polka dot carpets, lush plant life covering the grounds, and of course the swoon-worthy pool and hot tub nested among lemon trees. The complimentary breakfast was divine, the service spectacular, and the sheet sets so soft it was actually impossible to get yourself out of bed. Top it all off with in-room fire places and eclectic furnishings, and you have the boutique hotel of every blogger’s dreams. Why would you stay anywhere else?

Timber Cove Resort:
I have a theory that whether you survive the breathtaking and TERRIFYING drive up the Sonoma Coast past Jenner or not, you’ll always end up at Timber Cove Resort, because it quite possible might be heaven on earth. I don’t have enough words to explain how deeply I adored this place. Record players in the room and bedside ocean views, sunsets like you’ve never seen and a massive fire pit on the cliffs by the sea. Everything from the forest green fabric on the couches to the minimalist copper light fixtures was any design-lovers dream, and the staff was so friendly it was like being home (a new, improved version of home that is). Don’t miss the in-hotel restaurant Coast Kitchen, or the awesome horse riding down the coast (more on those below).

Where we ate //

Archetype This spot is serious blogger dreams, and I can assure you once you cozy up in the sun room by the fireplace you’ll never ever want to leave!
Oxbow Public Market A plethora of cute local goods and delicious flavours, don’t miss this adorable building just outside of downtown Napa. Our favourite stall was the Napa Distillery!
Hog Island Oysters Get a tray of oysters and learn to shuck them yourselves! It’s one of my favourite new skills, best practiced beachside of course.
Coast Kitchen Though it was technically the hotel restaurant at Timber Cove, it was so much more. This delicious fare is worth the drive even if you can’t stay the night at the resort!

Where we sipped //

Tank Garage Winery By far the most youthful, design-forward winery on our route, we couldn’t get enough of the creative labels and limited-edition blends at this gas station-turned wine shop

Domaine Carneros Classic Napa beauty in all it’s glory, we highly recommend the sparkling tasting menu, best served with a side of sunset views.

Cru at the Annex Brand new to the Napa scene, this space was incredibly beautiful (complete with faux stuffed white peacock and love locks to sign) and the artisan popcorn pairings are a must!

Stag’s Leap Winery The history at this place was truly overwhelming, and I don’t know if I’ve ever been so enchanted by a tour of any space like I was Stag’s Leap. Originally purchased as a wedding gift from husband to wife in the 1890s’ this property had Northern California’s first outdoor tennis court, swimming pool, an underground speakeasy during prohibition times, and a “moon garden” filled only with flowers that bloom white to reflect the moonlight. Even more special yet, a corner of the winery is still filled with original vines of all varieties, and every year the wine maker blends the entire corner of the vineyard into a limited edition red that honestly tastes like heaven. Definitely a must-see!

Extra fun //

Horse n’ Around trail rides There is nothing I adore more than exploring a new place from the back of a horse, and Horse n’ Around really made our riding dreams come true. The staff was incredibly friendly, the horses so well-behaved and lovely, and riding along the beach with the waves crashing beside us is a memory I’ll never ever forget. Make sure you check them out when their new ranch opens shortly!

Patrick’s Taffy A sweet colourful stop if you’re heading down the coast back to SF!

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Things we want to try next time //

Napa Valley Aloft Balloon Rides (our ride was cancelled due to wind)
Boonfly Cafe
Domaine Chandon
Nickel Nickel
Gott’s Roadside Diner

A special thanks to the Visit Napa Valley and Timber Cove Resort

Dear DiaryI'll Follow You Anywhere

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I don’t really know how to write this post without sounding like a brag, but I have to be honest: life is really, stupidly good. It’s not just the sun, and the beach, and the comically fresh avocados… it’s the ability to go for a run every day without piling on layers, to order something vegan at any restaurant you desire, to make friends who take you to LACMA and rock climbing gyms and comedy shows because that’s how people hang out here. It’s a feeling of freedom that escaped me for too long.

Yes, I’m romanticizing, but in all fairness this place has been total bliss for me. I went vegan the day I touched down, have finally fully said goodbye to the disgusting world of cigarettes, and feel more in shape than I have in months. Sunshine and fresh veggies are the best medicine money can buy in my books, and coming down to California to escape some of that Toronto winter doom and gloom back home was just what the doctor ordered.

As I write this I find myself in San Francisco for a few weeks, a brand new place that I’ve never really explored! So until I get my bearings and can formulate a list of SF faves, here are my favourite NEW findings from L.A. this past month:

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Otherwild // If you were ever looking for housewares with boobs all over them, look no further. Seriously though, this Los Feliz shop is filled with perfect feminist finds and queer goodies. I wanted to buy the entire inventory (rainbow stairway included).

Shojin // Not only is Shojin a totally vegan sushi restaurant tucked away in a mall in Little Tokyo, but it also happens to be the best service I’ve ever experienced. If you want to feel like a princess and try the most creative fish-free Japanese dishes around, this is the place for you.

Shop Belljar // Stocked with RAOP favourites like HKM and Samantha Pleet, this lovely little store of amazing pastel finds is right next to Otherwild, so prepare to leave the block with a seriously dented wallet.

Go Get Em Tiger // A popular brunch and coffee spot in both Larchmont and Los Feliz), this cafe is perfect for a light meal, a tasty beverage, and lazy outdoor lounging (unless you go on the weekend, then you’ll be fighting for a seat all morning).

Eric Buterbaugh Perfumes // If you’re walking down Beverly Blvd. and come across a Nirvana-like garden with an undeniably delicate and distinct floral scent, you’ve found Eric Buterbaugh’s space. Part gallery, part perfumery, this gorgeous building is full of unexpected sensory delights, and if you think floral scents are outdated and boring, get ready to think again.

Tenoversix // An endless array of local art, dreamy housewares and wardrobe essentials await within this pastel heaven.

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Juice Served Here // Simple and to the point, this LA juicery has some crazy good combos. We recommend “Tropic Thunder”, “The Pixie”, and/or “Pearl Punch”… if you have to choose.

Bar Bandini // Cozy and crowded, this tiny dive bar in Echo Park makes for the perfect place to get close to someone new. Try the 101 Cider House “Cactus Red” if you’re not sure what fancy craft beverage to order – it’s hot pink and delicious!

Super Smash Buns Food Truck // The best late night food delivery of ALL time. We ordered the Vegan Quesedilla, Masala Fries, and Rose Lavender Lemonade and basically had a collective meltdown over the goodness.

Cliffs of ID // Rock climbing is rapidly getting big everywhere, but it’s REALLY big in LA. All the cool kids are doing it, and on top of being a fun way to make friends it’s also a SUPER hard workout!

Erin McKenna’s Bakery // I’ve been a massive fan of Erin’s Vegan, gluten free goods since first discovery her original bakery in NYC a few years back, and seeing her shop in Larchmont was like bumping into a deeply missed and oh so sweet friend. This is also the only place I know of that makes vegan black-and-white cookies, which just so happen to by my all time favourite!

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Still on my list to see…
Sweet Fin Poke
By CHLOE
SQRL
Little Pine
Block Party
Sage
Clifton’s
Donut Friend