Image from iOS (10)

The advantage of living in southern California is that a weekend escape feels like somewhere completely different. From San Diego, I could be in the mountains to the East, in Mexico’s buzzy Valle de Guadalupe sipping on wine, or eating my way through Los Angeles to the North in a few hours more or less.

At Joshua Tree National Park, two hours from Los Angeles or San Diego by car, desert vibes are in reach too.

To get there, head East on I-8 toward Palm Springs and take CA-62 toward the high desert.

There are several entrances to the park, which requires an entrance pass for purchase at any of the visitor centers.

Accommodations vary, from your standard Holiday Inn, to camping in the park and a spectrum of basic to desert chic Airbnbs. We stayed two nights in a charming red casita (an Airbnb – rent it here) near one of the park’s three entrances, meaning we were conveniently located less than 20 minutes from the park.

We traveled to Joshua Tree in June, or the beginning of the area’s off-season. Though, with an estimated 3 million visitors predicted for the area this year, Joshua Tree is on track to becoming a year-round destination–despite the heat that hammers down on you by 9am.

Due to rising summer temps, the park ranger at the visitor center counseled against the four-mile hike I bookmarked. Instead, he recommended a number of shorter nature walks to complete before the afternoon became too brutal. Had we visited in the fall or winter, I’d be inclined to book at least three nights in Joshua Tree to complete longer hikes, or to even camp one night (max, because I’m high maintenance like that) in the park.

Below are some photos from the weekend:

Image from iOS (11)

(Cholla Cactus Garden, late afternoon)

Image from iOS (12)

Image from iOS (13)

Image from iOS (8)

(Part of our Airbnb in Joshua Tree)

Image from iOS (9)

(Sunrise breakfast at our Airbnb in Joshua Tree)

Image from iOS (14)

(Corned beef and hash brunch at Crossroads Cafe in Joshua Tree)

Advertisements

Image from iOS (5)

Inspired by the format of a recent travel guide I wrote for New York magazine, and the steady stream of questions from friends, family and acquaintances, I’ve compiled a list of articles, a Netflix documentary and a podcast episode to listen to as a (mostly food-focused) primer to Cuba.

From what I’ve heard, and subsequently experienced first-hand, Cuba is a complicated country. Before traveling to Havana, I consumed anything that would provide even a fraction of context to help me understand a place worlds and decades away from my life in southern California.

Read the rest of this entry »

Image uploaded from iOS (28)

Postcard from: Viñales, Cuba

The Western town of Viñales is elemental, even more so after having spent several consecutive days roaming the lively streets of Havana; all crumbling concrete and precarious structures.

Moody clouds made good on their threat and rain would eventually drench the valley during our day trip. My Keens squelched through mud and side stepped puddles.

The air was grassy, earthy, pure.

In contrast with the mangy dogs and cats in Havana, we watched chickens strut around on unusually long legs and horses swish their tails as they rode past us in a caravan, led by their human counterparts.

Three piglets scampered across our path as we pulled in and out of the organic farm where we’d have lunch and tour their eco-friendly cultivation practices.

Lunch on the farm was a backyard bounty of vegetable soup, fresh chopped salads, roasted chicken and pork, mounds of sweet potato and taro, and the ever-present beans and rice.

Image uploaded from iOS (29)

As if being surrounded by expansive fields and farm animals weren’t enough, the red and white checkered table cloth of our communal table seemed to say,

“You’re definitely in the country now.”

It was a welcome type of social networking that can be hard to come by in urban, technologically connected environments. From a privileged, American perspective, it felt luxurious.

Image uploaded from iOS (24)

Waikiki beach from an ocean-front room at The Modern Honolulu

Back in San Diego from: Honolulu

I’m recently back from Honolulu where I did a lot of observing and listening to locals in preparation for an upcoming story. Growing up on Kaua’i, Honolulu meant the land of Ala Moana (shopping mecca), stopping in at Liliha Bakery for Coco Puffs or Bubbie’s for mochi ice cream and whirling through an array of high school gymnasiums and musical performance venues as part of my high school extracurriculars.

Now, viewing the city as an adult and through the lens of a visitor looking to participate in local culture beyond Waikiki, and thanks to this recent writing assignment, I have concluded that Honolulu is one of the most interesting, dynamic and multi-cultural American cities right now.

For example, the food–to locals, food has always been a central component of Hawaii’s social fabric, but these days it seems the shift to strengthen the farmer/chef relationship and a growing demand for local, organic produce is reviving and reshaping palates and providing economic opportunity.

I noticed this type of collaboration across industries, from the entertainment scene to the fashion world. I’m really excited for this piece to publish because I think many will come away from the article with a completely different notion of what Hawaii is about, and how cool Honolulu can really be, if you only took the time to do your research. In researching this article, I certainly did.

Image uploaded from iOS (25)

Golden Hour in Waikiki from Azure restaurant at The Royal Hawaiian

Image uploaded from iOS (26)

Kalua pork everything please, like these Spring Rolls at Hideout on Kuhio Ave.

REI photoshoot

Read the rest of this entry »

IMG_1046

Lisbon

A literary thank you letter to Ana, my Airbnb host during my summer in Lisbon last year, who did so much more for me than provide me with a comfortable stay just steps from Parque Eduardo VII. It turns out, I’d be one of her last guests, and I’m glad I made the cut.

I grew up in your kitchen, though we were acquaintances at best. I fumbled to light your gas stove, rummaged for the appropriate pots and pans to perform my pedestrian alchemy, burned my toast and attempted what you would characterize as a winter stew. It was the middle of summer in Lisbon, but it was one of the few things I could make by memory.

The sound of your espresso machine punctuated the a new day. Your ritual; two shakes of cinnamon and espresso downed in two gulps.

Read the rest of this entry »

TCP_ParkGuell_Barcelona

Barcelona

From the depths of my dreams, the insistent chime of my iPhone alarm signaled that it was way too early to function. A quick look at my messages suggested that it would be easy to deviate from my the mission.

“I don’t know if we’ll make it before then. Should we just go another day?” the proposition tempted.

Read the rest of this entry »

the curious passport-galaxy taco-alina mendoza photography-0667

Photo: Alina Mendoza, ARoseTravels.com

When it comes to tacos, Southern California can’t be beat. From street corner food trucks, to that go-to shop with a generic sounding name and unflattering fluorescent lighting, and fancier establishments elevating a casual favorite, San Diego boasts what seems to be an endless number of tasty options.

To help wash it all down, an ice cold beer seem like the natural selection.

However, what if I told you that wine is as good of a pairing for tacos as beer? As a taco enthusiast and self-proclaimed dark beer gal, this subject is unfamiliar. On the other hand, the San Diego-based experts I spoke with below make it their job to navigate the world of wine pairings, and they’ve got the rundown for uncorking the best grapes to match your taco habit.

Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: