I'll Follow You Anywhere

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New York City is like a tattoo – one time in the chair, and you’re left only wanting more. There is way to much to do for just one sitting – it’s truly impossible even if you run all day, every day, from start to finish.

I used to pop down all the time – after all, NYC is so close to Toronto, and once I had tasted a nibble passing through on an overnight road trip at age 20, I wanted nothing more than to devour the entire apple. After a lifetime as a West Coast girl with no New York minutes under my belt, I started packing trips in whenever I could, each time leaving with a list of places I still hadn’t found the time to see.

It’s been a few years since my last NYC visit and I can’t really tell you why – I suppose my last relationship really halted my usual travel spontaneity, and though my ex and I had plans to hop a plane a few times, we just… never got there. For some reason coming back from California, New York was the first word on my lips: I suddenly just really, really needed to go. A couple friends happened to be down there already, so though I had just returned from LA and had yet to move my apartment from the old spot to the new, I booked a ticket. If not now, then when, right? I had put it off long enough already.

This trip to New York was unlike any of my previous adventures. For one, I stayed in Manhattan instead of Brooklyn, and though I loved the bustle I think Williamsburg is definitely a bit more my pace. I also somehow didn’t step foot on a train over all three days! Travelling above ground helped me fill out my internal map of the spaces I passed through, but it was strange to be in that particular city without taking any transit.

Because this trip was so different for me, the whole city seemed more foreign than ever before. It was so quick, and over far too soon! In short, there’s still a lot that was missed on my list, and a whole bunch of new spots piled up as I wandered new neighbourhoods, but not to worry… Johanna and I already have another trip booked for the beginning of April!

Scroll down to see my NYC #pastelhunting picks!

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Where to Eat + Drink //

Sel rose
Cafe Henrie
Pietro Nolita
Cha cha Matcha
Le Bain (better in SUMMER)
By Chloe
Sweets by chloe
While we were young
Lucky bee
Catch
Dirt Candy
Jack’s Wife Freda

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Where to stay //

Dream hotels
Standard hotel
Ace hotel

Where to Shop //

Mansur Gavriel Pop Up
Acne Studios
Chloe Soho
Miu Miu Soho
Matter
Apiece Apart
Catbird

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Where to Primp //

Paintbox nails
Lush spa
Drybar

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Still on my hit list //

Bisou
Pucker
Tacombi
Seamores
Snow Days
De Maria
Baker and Co.
Dudley’s
Orchard Grocery
Dovetail
Modern Love
Pizza Beach

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Dear DiaryI'll Follow You Anywhere

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As expected, almost every conversation I have right now is shaped by the same question: “How was LA? It looked AMAZING!” Every time I wish I had some sort of Eat Pray Love-esque story to share, an all consuming tale of triumph and growth and figuring out exactly where I’m supposed to be. But amongst the many tough things I’ve learned as of late, life is not like the movies (or romanticized novels loaded with privilege for that matter).

Anyone who follows me knows how tightly I cling to the fairytales I grew up with, from the aged stories of Jane Eyre and Scarlett O’Hara to Snow White singing “Someday my Prince Will Come”, but I’m starting to doubt I’ve been on the right track. Somewhere, something has gone awry. I worked so hard to build my life into the dream I’d always imagined – I climbed so quickly to such great heights and when I reached the top I guess I looked around and realized how alone I was up there.

This past three months I truly lived my life to the fullest. I did so much in such a short time, more than many people do over a decade, from learning how to shuck oysters on an oyster farm, to crashing into a patch of rocks on a rented surfboard (oops). I rode horses on the beach, went snowboarding through a forest of fresh powder, walked for hours on end through mysterious neighbourhoods and forced myself to be brave and make new friends whenever the opportunity arose. I learned how to eat dinner alone at a restaurant with only a book to keep me company. I fully quit smoking, switched to a 100% plant-based diet without looking back, and mastered new ways to deal with my anxiety and depression without the help of medication.

I also learned that no matter where you are or who you surround yourself with, your issues don’t just stay behind when you hop a plane. It’s a hard lesson to learn, and one that I’ve failed to accept so many times, but something about being on the other side of the continent and still facing a lot of the same problems made me question where the root of the issue was actually growing. It’s no surprise I found the root close to home – it was always within me.

Not to say there’s anything wrong with me, just the way I go about my existence. I’ve always believed in the good, that doing the right thing pays off and loving those around you will only build more love in this confusing and messy world. What I failed to notice was the shortcoming of basic human nature: for the most part if someone is given too much too soon, they’ll question how far they can run with it. I’ve done a terrible job of protecting myself, of valuing myself and of keeping in touch with reality – even if it isn’t as sparkly as I’d like to imagine, there’s value to having one foot on the ground, even if you’re a dreamer.

In conclusion, my trip was absolutely amazing, beautiful, extraordinary, and more than I ever could’ve hoped. It was also painful, raw, riddled with tears and struggle – more than I ever could’ve planned for. I think I left on this trip thinking it would just be a fun adventure, an escape from the cold of winter and the cold in my heart, but the most valuable thing about my time away turned out to be learning to actually work on myself, by myself, without any of the crutches, comforts, or support systems at home. Instead of staying so busy with events and friends that I buried my heartache and shortcomings, I spent days making lists of how I can improve myself and build off of the mistakes I’ve made. I sent letters of forgiveness to break down old anger. I made some big, hard, life changing decisions based not on my fairytale mentality, but on real tangible happiness and mistakes.

I’m going to cut this off here, because if I don’t I may NEVER stop, and no one loads this page for a full on novel. More coming, a LOT more, but for now this is the best trip summary I’ve got. If you’re somehow still hungry for more, there’s a fun roundup of some of my favourite LA learnings below, and of course a list of new favourite spots to see:

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A few takeaways before I go on and on for DAYS //

Care About Self Care // I’m really bad at taking care of myself. I forget to eat, to sleep, and some days I actually have to remind myself to breathe. California was a slightly different pace, where slowing down is celebrated and long lunches are best served on the patio with fresh squeezed local juices. I was constantly training myself to STOP WORKING and enjoy the scenery, to take a walk in the sunshine or take the afternoon off to visit a museum. In and around Valentine’s Day I went the whole nine yards, with a massage at The Now Massage, and honestly this place deserves an entire post of its own. The team is AMAZING, the massage so life changing, and the space is pure bliss. Don’t think, just go – you won’t regret it (and warning, you’ll likely come home with one of their gorgeous signature candles.)

More isn’t More // a major point of stress for me while travelling was everything I had lingering back home. For those of you who don’t know, I’m downsizing to a shiny new condo in response to our ceiling at #thepastelpalace COLLAPSING while I was away, and living out of a suitcase really made me realize how little I actually need in my space to live a happy life. Now that I’m home I’m shedding like crazy for Spring, leaving the extra weight behind and only bringing forward the bits and pieces in my life that truly bring me joy.

Scent Therapy // Scents can be totally transportive, so when I get lost in my mind or overwhelmed by the bitter winter cold I spray Le Labo Santal 33. Well known just about everywhere, I found Santal was particularly beloved in Venice Beach, in fact it was basically inescapable, so the two almost immediately became intertwined in my mind. A whiff of this stuff and I’m instantly back with my toes in the sand, sipping wine and watching surfers. Some might call it wearing perfume, but I prefer “scent therapy”.

Take a Moment to Meditate // All over California, especially in and around LA, folks kept reminding me to just ~chill~ and it wasn’t till I arrived back in Toronto that I started to listen. Sometimes the best things can’t be forced, and taking time to slow down and just be in a moment has had a really positive impact on daily existence. I’ve been using Headspace since I got back, and I’m loving their little lessons (“Not everything is about achieving! Just be present!”) plus simple guided meditation sessions that made it easy even for someone who never sits still (aka me).

Appreciate What you Have // I found myself complaining about Toronto a whole lot while I was away, and finally someone pointed out “you know, I’ve never met someone who has something negative to say about that city.” It struck me that maybe my issue wasn’t with Toronto itself, but with the version of it that I found myself living in. I started to restructure my thoughts, analyzing the negativity and taking into consideration what I might be able to change. By the time I got home I was shocked to find I wasn’t riddled with anxiety and sadness shivering in the cold – I was stupidly excited to get my life going here! So far it’s been nothing but good, even if I’ve had to shelve my summer dresses for the time being.

Van Leeuwen ice cream
Flowerboy Project
The Social Type
Twig and Twine
Moonlight Rollerway
by chloe
Donut friend
Flounce Vintage
Sokerbit
Kettle Black
The Springs LA
The Broad Museum
Galcos Old World Grocery
Block Party
Ysabel
The Row
Honeycut
SQIRL
Fonuts

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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