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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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

Dear Diary

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One of the hardest things to navigate as a blogger is where to stop, how much to share, when to block people out and when to let it all out. In a lot of ways blogging is about living your best life, especially a sparkly happy little blog like mine, so being real about the shit you’re going through can often seem nearly impossible.

That said, I think as bloggers we have a unique responsibility to share our pain, to let others know that they’re not the only ones questioning why life can be so hard and how to get through the next week. I try to be as honest as I can when it comes to daily posting, but the fact of the matter is, in a lot of ways, my life and my brand bleed together, and it’s become harder and harder to stay honest in recent months.

Sometimes, things are just too sad to say out loud, never mind write down. But I think it’s important to talk about what I’ve been going through the past year and a half. To hold myself accountable and ensure it never ever happens again.

I used to think I was invincible. Confident and strong with rock solid values and a great sense of self, I pictured myself as my own little planet with all of the mess of the world orbiting, but never actually touching me. I was happy with myself, my life, my friends, and everyday I woke up feeling, well, blessed, for lack of a better word.

But then something happened, something I can’t really explain in a logical way. In short, I let someone take my magic. I promised to protect it, and I failed. Despite all of my self value and strength, I ended up in an emotionally abusive relationship.

2016 taught me a lesson – no matter how successful and sparkly you are, how strong and full of conviction you feel, it is always possible to fall victim to abuse. If you let the wrong person in, it’s surprisingly easy to lose yourself, and honestly it was a terrifying feeling. There were days where I barely made it out of bed, days where I refused to call my mom because she’d sense something wasn’t right, and so, so, so many days spent crying in restaurant bathrooms. And yet I stayed, and the longer I stayed the more guilty I felt for letting myself and my loved ones down. It was a special circle of hell that I never imagined I’d find myself in, and no matter how I tried to convince myself to get out while falling asleep each night, each morning I went right back to the same toxic routine.

By the end of November this year, I had nothing left. I was a shell of who I used to be, and the sparkle others had once told me could light up a room was gone from my eyes. In my world, crying was received not with support and love, but with anger and punishment. I was too emotional, too over the top, too depressed and not “chill” enough. I was too much for him to handle, I was “stressing him out” with my feelings. No matter how hard I worked to be less sensitive and to act exactly how my partner wanted, it wasn’t enough, and the more I tried to be his ideal, the more I realized that didn’t really include any of the traits that make me… me.

I started to doubt everything – my passions, my job, my personal style, even my sanity. He wanted me to “just be normal”, to dress more basic and to stop caring so much. So I tried everything I could think of – I stopped bleaching my hair so it would grow longer like he wanted, I started waxing, I bought black and grey clothing over baby pink. I stopped letting my dog sleep on my bed. I vacuumed obsessively to try and erase any trace of hair so he’d want to spend time at my house. I loaded up on antidepressants to try and be “happier”. I stopped working out (until he pointed out I was getting “bigger” and eating too many treats), stopped seeing friends unless they were the friends he wanted to see, and worst of all became a bitter, judgemental, negative person that I had never ever been. He once pulled over his car and made to look at myself in the mirror as I cried hysterically, his voice beside me saying “Look at yourself, this is how you look every day.” The person in the mirror was someone I no longer even recognized.

On some of the darker days I didn’t know if I’d make it out of this whole mess alive. Every time he ended things (which was almost monthly) I’d start to feel better, but he’d always find a way to manipulate me back in, though we both knew he didn’t really care for me all that much – certainly not in the way I unconditionally loved him. I was totally trapped, like a robot programmed to follow, and he was happy to have full control.

But a few weeks ago, I finally did it. I got away for a week with my best friend, and of all the people I’d hidden my situation from, I couldn’t hide from her. She saw right through me, and helped give me the power and support to understand how damaged and lost I had become. On the last day of the trip my partner decided to tell me at 1 AM that “I made him the worst version of himself”, and that was it, I finally snapped. I had loved this person harder than anyone before, had showered him with gifts, paid constantly for meals and adventures. I adored his family, fell in love with his friends, and every morning when I woke up at his house I scrambled to clean his apartment for him so he could arrive home later that day not feeling stressed. I was a doormat, a person who lived to serve and only asked for love and commitment in return. And somehow, some way, I made him the worst person he could be?

That night I cut contact. I was paralyzed with fear. How could I be without him when I no longer even felt like myself? My confidence was shot in every capacity, my belief in true love and romance was shattered. No one even knew the extent of what had been going on because I’d hid it in the hopes he’d get better and we could have a happily ever after. I felt like a fool, and it seemed too hard to face the time I’d wasted and all I’d lost.

But over the past few weeks I’ve remembered how much I really do have. All of my friends welcomed me back with open arms and big hugs, and I started to feel inspired by my work again. A dark fog lifted from over my life, and I found everything was still shiny and colourful, just as I’d left it. For the first time in a long time, I felt light again, and that sparkle in my eye got stronger by the day. I even met a few truly magical new people who would change my life for the better in ways I never could’ve dreamt up. With newfound energy, I started making moves: I changed my flights home for Christmas so I no longer had to be on a plane with him. I sent him a final note explaining he would never hurt me again, finally ending things on my own terms. I returned his things and had a friend pickup mine. I apologized to the people in my life who had been affected by my absence and negativity.

And then, I booked a one way ticket to LA. I had always begged my partner to go on a trip with me, offering to pay in full if he’d tag along on an adventure, but he always avoided it, and I grew more and more restless. Now that I’m free I’ll be spending my new year in places like Joshua Tree, Palm Springs, San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, and maybe even Hawaii or Mexico. I’m on a short list to go swim with Killer Whales in Norway. My Staff wants to meet up in New Orleans. The world is literally my oyster, and for the first time since that first date last summer I finally have the dream world that I so carefully crafted BACK.

So that’s that- there are a lot of BIG beautiful changes coming up fast, and I hope you guys are around for the ride. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not just suddenly amazing, I’m human after all. There are days where I still miss him, where I just want to call and ask “why” or “how” he was even able to break me down like he did. What did he gain? Why me? In the end though, I know he doesn’t have anything to say for himself… he never did. So I’ve simply closed the last chapter and started on a new book. I’ve got a feeling this next one reads a lot more like a fairytale.

I wrestled with writing this at first, but in the end I think emotionally abusive relationships are so often glazed over, hidden for the sake of the partner. I refuse to protect someone who did so much damage to my life, and I hope if anyone out there reading this is in the same controlling, cruel situation, you feel the support and inspiration to free yourself too. It’s not your fault this happened to you, it could happen to anyone.

Last Christmas, I gave him my heart. When I got up the courage to say “I love you” he acted as if I hadn’t spoken.

This year, to save me from tears, I’ll give it to someone special.

Cover image via. Pinterest