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Travel

Singapore: Too Perfect?

I’m trying to write all these thoughts out before too much time passes so that the details are still clear in my memory. Today is July 29th and we are 11 days into our 5 week trip through Asia and Australia. So I guess all of this word vomit is 11 days old.

We left Chicago on the 18th on a flight to Singapore, with a layover in Korea. Our first flight from Chicago to Korea was glorious… meaning we had the seat next to us empty. There’s nothing like sitting cross legged without butting your neighbor with your knee on a fourteen hour flight.

After a 2-hour layover in Seoul, we had one more flight to Singapore. Why Singapore? I’m an airport geek. I love watching YouTube videos about airport features, and apparently, Singapore is #1!

We stayed at the Yotel at the Singapore Airpot for both nights. It’s fine for a layover, but expect to be stepping on the toes of anyone you happen to be staying with. I didn’t get get any photos of the room, but I assure you that one photo would have captured it all. Also, there’s no real divider between the bathroom and bedroom, so I hope you’re comfortable with your roomie.

Moving on… we arrived around 1am and decided to have a little walk while it was empty. The Jewel, which is the part of the airport that the Yotel is in, is a brand new addition to the Singapore Airport. It was opened this past April and is essentially a massive mall attached to the airport with an indoor forest and waterfall. It’s pretty spectacular, especially at night when no one else is around.

Around 3am we finally fell asleep, and woke up the next morning to explore Singapore! Singapore has been intriguing to me ever since watching Crazy Rich Asians. Was it really that rich? Was it really that manicured? After 24 hours there, I can safely say that I don’t have an answer for the first question, and a definite yes to the second one!

Driving out of the airport into the city, you couldn’t help but noticed how well maintained everything was! Every bush, flower and tree we passed was in pristine shape. Garbage on the road was nowhere to be found. It seemed almost too perfect.

Our first stop was to a hawker center, or Singapore’s version of a food court. The one we went to was called Lau Pa Sat. When we got there, we walked around and saw about 100 different food stalls selling a variety of food. We finally settled on a serving of Kaya toast, which is toast with a spread of coconut milk and eggs (something that Singapore is known for) and a plate of char sui, which is Chinese barbecue pork. In all honesty, neither blew me away.

After eating, we walked over to Gardens by the Bay. Along the way, we found an Ayurvedic shop called Ega Juice Clinic, which sold pressed juices, as well as goods based on your Ayurvedic type. The woman at the shop was so kind and explained the concept to us, which we both found incredibly intriguing. She gave us some soap for our type, and a couple of quizzes to determine what we leaned towards. (For anyone interested, I’m a Vata).

After drinking our juices, we finally made it to the Gardens by the Bay. While there, we explored two of the conservatories – the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest. Both were beautiful! It was incredibly hot, so we didn’t explore much of the outside – although we did get an obligatory picture.

After exploring the gardens, we headed back to the airport to explore the Jewel some more. The taxi driver along the way gave us an interesting insight into what it meant to be from Singapore. Singapore was established in 1965 when it broke off from Malaysia. Singapore is a city-state that is only slightly larger than the city of Chicago, yet it is an economic hub. Essentially, they have limited natural resources, due to their size, but have made a name for themselves in finance due to their political stability. The taxi driver was incredibly excited to talk to us about the Jewel, and rattled off all kinds of facts, such as how many stores they had and the exact date of it’s opening. Clearly, the launch of the Jewel was a source of pride for those from Singapore.

The Jewel has no shortage of delicious food, but what few may know is that it also has several restaurants which have received Michelin stars! That night, we ate at Putien, whose other branch had earned a Michelin star in 2016. The restaurant specializes in Chinese food that is sourced from the best regions in China.

Bian rou – dumpling soup
Roasted bitter melon
Cold Pork Trotters Jelly
Seaweed with mini shrimp
Braised bean curd
“100-Second” yellow croaker

In all honesty, I wasn’t blown away by the food but it was an experience. Most of the Chinese food I’ve had in my life has come from either Joy Yee or Panda Express so I was glad to get have some real Chinese food. The best dish would probably be the dumpling soup. Interestingly enough, the wrapper isn’t made of flour but of pork meat! #keto

With that, our 24 hours in Singapore came to a close. My thoughts? It was beautiful, but almost too perfect. It kind of felt like that scene in Passengers where they’ve built a garden in the space craft. I’m grateful to have visited, but in my opinion, one day was enough to get the gist of Singapore. For anyone visiting, take some cash out for the hawker centers, but everywhere else will accept credit card. Taxis are extremely reasonable as well!

See the similarities?

When we woke up the next morning, we boarded a flight to Seoul, South Korea… which is where I will pick this blog back up at (soonish). Side note – Singapore is one of those airports where you can’t bring water past security, however you can bring empty bottles and fill them up before boarding. Just in case any of ya’ll are into hydration like we are.

Things We Did and Ate in Rome (in Pictures)

This post is delayed but this week has been busy, so it is what it is. Plus, I’m sure there is not a single soul on this earth who has been waiting at the edge of their seat, so it’s all good! We started our trip off with several days in Rome. It was nice, but that’s all. I will say – Rome has some delicious cheeseboards though. I think the more we travel, the more we’re learning that cities aren’t really our jam. We live in a city. A nice, big, crowded one. When we get away, we crave the outdoors. I digress. Keep scrolling for some photos (and words) about Rome, in no particular order!

Our First Roman Meal

When we first got to Rome, we headed straight for our AirBnB to drop our luggage off then headed out for our first *true* Italian dinner. We didn’t head far – the restaurant La Forchetta d’Oro was right across the street from us! The prices were reasonable and the food was pretty good!

Bruchetta
Seaweed salad
Beef carpacio
Cuttleink pasta
Tiramisu

That pretty much ended our first night. We wanted to take a walk to see the Colosseum at night, but the rain wasn’t cooperating!

The Macro Museum

While Rome is know for their classical art, we ventured out to the Macro Museum. I’m a huge fan of modern art. I think it’s just so much more fun than painting of sad old people and bowls of fruit. Call me uncultured, that’s fine. Unfortunately, this museum was a bit lackluster. There weren’t all that many exhibits. On the bright side, it was free.

Ten bonus points for having a super modern bathroom

The rest of that day was rained out. We had bought tickets for a hop on/hop off bus, but the rain stopped us from hopping off. Eventually, we got dinner, and called it a day.

Checking Out the Colosseum

It wouldn’t be a trip to Rome without a visit to the Colosseum. I strongly advise getting tickets in advance. We went pretty early in the morning (8:30) and there was already a line of probably a few hundred people trying to purchase tickets.

Is it terrible that I wasn’t super impressed? Okay, the fact that they built a thing like this back then is cool, but IDK. It was just a building.

Roaming Through Trastevere

We also explored this neighborhood called Trastevere. It was filled with boutique shops, coffee, and all the cheeseboards you could want. In our three hour visit, we consumed three cheeseboards.

They have a cool hill in this neighborhood you can walk to and get a view of Rome from above!
This place was excellent! Check out Donkey Punch if you’re looking for a delicious meal!
La Prosciutteria

A Roman Cooking Class

We also participated in our first ever Air BnB experience: PASTA MAKING! We took this class and learned how to make several types of pasta. Making pasta was much easier than I had assumed it would be!

The finished product!

Overall, Rome was nice, but that’s all I can say. It didn’t blow my mind or anything like that. We ate some good charcuterie and saw some old buildings. Perhaps if we were history buffs it would’ve been more of a dream come true, but in all honesty, it was just a tad bit overrated.

Where You Should Eat in Fiumicino, Italy

Spring break this year was spent in Italy. We visited Rome and Naples, the glorious cities of treasures as all the travel blogs say, but in all honesty, the most spectacular place we visited was a ten minute cab ride from the airport. Continue reading to see (pun intended – there will be lots of photos) why you should eat in Fiumicino, Italy!
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Fiumicino is not Rome. It’s a town that people live in. The menus are not all in English and there aren’t tourists everywhere. Fiumicino is a fishing village, which you will see as you walk through. There are fish stands, seafood restaurants and boats galore. After spending a week in crowded Rome and Naples, it was a relief to be able to walk down the street without a waiter standing outside promising “authentic” pizza and pasta. Because it’s a town that isn’t necessarily catered to the tourists, the prices are much more reasonable as well!

We came into the town simply searching for a meal. We were staying near the airport, and wanted one last meal in Italy. We were not expecting to be blown away by this little town, but alas, we were.

Our first stop was Indispensa Bistrot. Indispensa is an adorable restaurant with a beautiful menu.

My husband got the steak coated in zucchini and I had the salmon. Both were phenomenal!

Keep in mind that Fiumicino is a fishing town, so the seafood is fresh and tasty! This was hands down one of the best meals we had in Italy. Their drinks were excellent too. I had a negroni, which got my drunk way too fast, and the husband had red wine, which I recall him liking!

After our meal, we went down the street to Le Moko Cafe, where we had coffee, beer and a charcoal croissant! The owners were friendly, the prices were reasonable and the coffee was strong.

Next door to the cafe is a vintage shop, Vintage 77, that you need to visit. Prices were reasonable and the selection was beautifully curated. My husband walked away with an Italian silk button down for 15 euro!

We then continued to walk through the town. Lining the streets are small boutiques and shops, selling clothing and home goods. We wandered into some fish markets and oohed and aahed at the prices of wild caught salmon.

After an hour or two, our stomachs wanted more food and we stopped in at Tarumbo. There, we got the meat and fish samplers, which were an excellent deal! They included a board of food, as well as a drink! For 25 euros total, we ate fresh seafood and drank beautiful mojitos.


After this, we wandered a bit more – partially to see more of the town and partially to work up more hunger! Eventually, we wound up at our last stop of the night, Uniti nel Gusto! If you visit, you must order the seafood sampler. For 25 euros, you can sample six of their delicious seafood dishes! I promise that A) you will not be disappointed and B) you will be quite full!

Okay – I lied. I said that was our last stop but it wasn’t. We couldn’t end our trip to Italy without one last cannoli. I don’t recall the name of the pastry shop, but it was delicious. They had an assortment of mini and regular pastries, all under 2 euro! We got three mini pastries: a cannoli, a fruit tart, and a chocolate puff, and all of them were delicious!

As you can see, Fiumicino is a delicious little town. If you are visiting Rome, take the ten minute cab ride over and be prepared for some delicious seafood and authentic feels!

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Travel

48 Hours in New Orleans

I don’t drink. Parties give me mad anxiety. Bedtime for me is around 9:00pm. NOLA sounds like the perfect place for me to visit, right? Scrolling through Google flights one morning, I found flights for $100 roundtrip and I was sold. A few months later and we were off!

Usually, I plan trips out. I have color coded Excel sheets, highlighted copies of Lonely Planet and dozens of websites bookmarked. This trip was an anomaly. The day before the trip, my friend and I still had no clue what we were going to see or do. All we knew was that we’d be eating copious amounts of beignets (which I finally figured out how to pronounce correctly: ben-yay).

We took a flight out late Friday night and arrived in NOLA around 1am. We promptly found our AirBnB and passed the feck out. The next morning, we put together a rough plan of what we were going to do and got to it. We did the same thing the next day. Instead of going through every last detail, I’ll give you the highlights of what we fit into 48 hours in NOLA (other than the 8 episodes of Yummie Mummies we binge watched at night). 48 hours was a perfect amount of time to spend in NOLA. The weather cooperated, we were not stuck in snow or cold and the food was on point. I would say it was a successful trip!

#1. New Orleans Holocaust Memorial

While browsing online, I found a beautiful Holocaust Memorial. It wasn’t out of the way of other sites we were visiting, so we set out to visit it first. After a half an hour of walking through the city, we came to the site, and this is what we found…

Me, with what should be the Holocaust Memorial

Unfortunately, the panels that were part of the memorial were down for renovation. So while this is listed as #1, it was kind of a fluke. If you are interested in seeing the memorial, it said it would be up in the next few months!

#2. St. Louis Cathedral/Jackson Square

After not seeing the Holocaust Memorial, we wandered towards the St. Louis Cathedral, which is in Jackson Square. The energy from Jackson Square could be felt a mile way (okay, more like a few blocks away but tomatoes tomatoes). You hear Jackson Square far before you see it and when you see it, you’re blown away by it. There are people everywhere – dancing, singing, playing music, and selling their art work.

St. Louis Cathedral is known for being the oldest cathedral in North America. It was founded in 1720 and still used today!

#3. BANKSY (cue fangirl)

The film Exit Through the Gift Shop was released while I was in high school, and we watched it during English class. The film put Banksy on my radar, and made me dream of the day I would see one in real life. When I found out that there was a Banksy piece in New Orleans, I fangirled -hard. Banksy came to NOLA in 2008, post-Katrina, and left about 14 pieces scattered around the city. The rain girl is the only piece left! Many had been sold, or unfortunately, destroyed. The piece that remains is covered in plexi-glass, but you could tell that people had attempted to spray over it. Seeing the piece was almost surreal, and absolutely a highlight of the trip for me!

#4. Studio Be

This spot surprised me. It wasn’t on my mind, I had no clue what it was. I was searching on Saturday morning for cool things to do (actual Google search), and stumbled along the website for Studio Be. Studio Be is the studio for the artist Brandan Odums, a popular street artist in NOLA. His gallery is open to the public from 2pm til 8pm, and it is SO worth checking out. It’s near the Banksy piece, and the walk between the two is filled with piece after piece of street art.

The actual studio is in a large warehouse, with four or five massive rooms. Each room is filled with paintings, street art and other pieces that centered around the artist’s learnings over the years.


If I could take my students to see this gallery, I absolutely would. This was a true highlight, and I was so lucky to have stumbled upon it! It was beautiful, but above that, it was powerful.

#5. Cafe du Monde (and an assortment of other beignets)

You can’t go to NOLA and not eat your weight in beignets. Cafe du Monde coffee is something that I had grown up on – a mix of coffee with chicory for flavor. However, Cafe du Monde beignets were not something I had had before.

So… how were they? They were everything good in the world, fried into a little ball then slathered in sugar. The first beignet we had was at the original Cafe du Monde location in Jackson Square. The line to be seated was long, but the walk through line was even longer. We got seated, ordered beignets and a coffee, and watched our life change before us. They were magical. After trying those, we tried several other spots around the city. None could compare to the ones we had at Jackson Square in Cafe du Monde.

Disappointing “biscuit” beignets

#6. Magazine Street

On our second day, we walked over to Magazine Street for brunch at the Broken Egg Cafe (note: not worth it). When we got their, it was a 45 minute wait, but thankfully Magazine Street was ahead. Magazine Street is a street full of cute stores that seemed to be popular for tourists and locals alike. As we waited for breakfast, we wandered through the stores. The area was lively, but not in a drunken Bourbon Street way. If you have some time, this was a cool area to explore! There seemed to be an enormous selection of food around as well!

While we were there, there was a parade being held, in honor of feeling sad about their team not going to the Super Bowl

#7. Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden

While I was in Texas last month, we visited a sculpture garden that ended up being a highlight of the trip for me. NOLA has a similar garden in City Park, an enormous park on the north side of the city. The park is also the home to the Museum of Art and the Botanical Gardens. The sculpture garden had some beautiful pieces, however it was not very spread out. You could see all the art in less than ten minutes. This spot is worth checking out, especially if you are a a fan of modern pieces!

Another reason to get your booty up here: they have a Cafe du Monde food truck! While the quality was not the same as the OG cafe in Jackson Square, it was a welcome sight to have more beignets! The coffee there wasn’t great or fresh, but the NOMA museum cafe made a great latte!

#8. ALL THE STREET ART!

If you can’t tell from this post, or from previous travel posts – I LOVE ART. Street art, in particular, strikes my fancy. New Orleans was a city filled with it. You’d see pieces on alleys, on store sides, heck, even on people’s homes. It made walking through the city fun – as if we were on a treasure hunt.

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#9. Mardi Gras World

Mardi Gras in New Orleans sounds terrible for me. I don’t like crowds or drinking. Parades aren’t fun when you’re 4’11”. However, Mardi Gras World was worth checking out. The tour is set in the factory that creates many of the floats for Mardi Gras parades throughout the city. It gave us a much better understanding of why Mardi Gras is so big in NOLA, and an insight into just how much planning, preparation and money goes into them! It was fascinating to see the various stages of float preparations and the array of floats they had. Tip: Groupon had tickets for about $10 less!

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We ended our trip yesterday, with a 6:00am flight home, which called for a 3:45am wake up call. Silly me talked myself into thinking our AirBnB was haunted and got approximately 2.5 minutes of sleep. Now I’m back in rainy, dreary Chicago, tired and reminiscing hard on those damn beignets. My advice: go to NOLA. You’ll leave feeling inspired, and well fed.

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