Travel Tuesday: Munich, Germany


I know I fall in love easily – but in Munich, Germany, I fell hard. By the end of my first day in this sprawling, clean-cut, surprisingly green city, I was googling jobs and housing prices because I was about 80% ready to move there. It really was that damn cool.

As a German myself, I felt like Munich captured all of my favorite things and activities in one beautiful, well-planned city. Here’s a few of my favorite Munich things….

The Trails

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I loved Munich’s spider-web system of forested parks, tucked into every available nook, cranny and corner throughout the European/art/industrial-style city.

I went on a 7 mile run through the Oktoberfest grounds and found path upon path that crossed a city street and led me into a suspiciously forest-like trail to yet another city street and yet another forested trail and felt like I could just run to my heart’s content.

 

 

The Bikes


It was wonderful that a big and busy city like Munich had, on every single street, lanes for cars, a lane for bikes, and a lane for walkers and joggers. That’s the other thing I loved – the bikes. People rode bikes everywhere and to seemingly every type of thing. I saw people lugging groceries home from the farmer’s market, in heels and crisp office attire and suits casually riding home with friends. I saw baskets packed with baguettes and wine, stopped in the park for an impromptu picnic.

The Beer Gardens 

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These very magical things called Beer Gardens are so cool, and so, so German. They’re outdoor bars with big, wooden tables and benches tucked into large, gorgeous parks. Some serve gigantic portions of beer and homemade pretzels (yes, please!) while others offer German ice cream, donuts, or a full dinner spread. The gardens were packed with tourists and locals alike, and everyone seemed so settled and relaxed. It’s been a dream of mine to down a glass of beer bigger than my face in the middle of a beautiful park, and alas, it has come true. Thank you, München!

The Surfing

YES, you read that right.

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People surf – yes, with a surfboard and wetsuit and everything – on the river that winds its way through the city. It seemed that the river mouth at this particular nook of the park created an artificial wave, which could be hopped on and ridden with a surfboard. We walked past it without realizing what it was, and were drawn by the crowds of onlookers and very out-of-place gang of barefoot teenage boys, surfboards in hand, that flocked off the bus.

When I saw the surfing, I totally freaked out. This is when the google research for my future relocated to Munich began. Biking, running, surfing, garden-beer-drinking – what more could a girl want? I mean, really?


The food was equally amazing, but will have to wait for another post, because I have too much excitement and way too many pictures.

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Travel Tuesday: Mt. Olympus Hike


I expected to be writing a super cool post about my awesome travels around Europe with my family, which I would be getting back from just about now. Instead, I didn’t go anywhere – the Europe trip I’d been looking forward to all year became the Europe trip that wasn’t. My mom tore her Achilles tendon, my sister had knee surgery, and my dad injured his kneecap – all within a week. Apparently, this trip just was NOT meant to be.


Seriously, that really did happen. Don’t believe me? My sister sent me this of all of their boots chilling at home together in collective injured non-travelness.


Since I can’t travel, I decided to cram some extra adventure into my life on the island – in the form of beach time, hikes, and  a spontaneous trip up to North Shore. My favorite adventure, though, was a wet, cold, slippery hike up Waahila Ridge Trail to Oahu’s Mt. Olympus peak.


It was one of those hikes were everything went wrong; we left too late, picked the worst possible weather, and struggled to slip and slide up muddy slopes. Mt. Olympus usually offers stunning, panoramic views of Oahu’s south and east shorelines, but it was so cloudy we couldn’t see a damn thing. In fact, it felt as if we were walking on mist itself, the ridge breaking out just above the crown of the clouds.


It was freezing cold and we drudged through mud and sideways, slightly torrential rain. We got to almost the top and the rain picked up so much that we were climbing up a river and were forced to turn back. It was nearly impossible to grab onto the ropes, since they were slick with rain and wet and mud.


We left so late in the day that we walked back the last third of the ridge in the dark. I slipped and fell on my ass half a dozen times on slick tree roots that I couldn’t see because the sun had set and were out of light and luck.


Yet, somehow, it was insanely fun and memorable. How is it that the worst times are often remembered as the best?
  

Travel Tuesday: Stratford-Upon-Avon, England

Although I love writing and literature, I was wary about traveling to Shakespear’s iconic birthplace, Stratford-Upon-Avon. I pictured a cheesy tourist trap in the American sense, with tacky gift shops and crowded photo op’s. What we discovered after a gorgeous, idyllic drive from London to the (DIRECTION) was something entirely different.

Despite millions of visitors, Stratford-Upon-Avon hasn’t lost it’s unique, small-town charm. There’s cobble stone streets crammed with tea houses and shops, their awnings giving way to traditional apartments above. There’s rivers running through the heart of town, adorned with swans, wooden riverboats and framed by cobblestone bridges and riverside restaurants with water wheels.

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Travel Tuesday: British Butterfly Garden

   

Shakespeare’s birthplace offers many charms, from sleepy riverboats cruising down cobblestone-flanked rivers to fairy-tale cottages and windmills dotting the town’s outskirts. My favorite part about the picturesque Stratford-Upon-Avon wasn’t high tea. It was the breathtaking butterfly garden that I could’ve wandered around in for hours.  

   
The butterfly sanctuary is a haven for humans and insects alike. There’s iguanas lunging lazily on the netting above and gorgeous plants of every kind shoved into every possible space. Although indoors, the garden is lush and welcoming. Even the butterflies (which are literally everywhere) barely flinch as you walk by and inch closer to check out their unique beauty.

I absolutely adored this place. Butterflies were landing all over us, and even would walk onto our fingers from a nearby leaf without the slightest hesitation. There were all kinds of shapes, sizes, colors, and patterns, each gorgeous in their own right. The energy inside the garden was peaceful, precious and overwhelmingly special.

  

    
 

Travel Tuesday: Windsor Castle

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England is a magical place – equally modern and ancient, the old and new co-existing with castles aplenty. Although I’ve seen my fair share of castles, there’s something special about a castle that is still used as a private, royal residence. In fact, part of Berkshire, England’s majestic Windsor Castle was shut off because in anticipation of the Queen’s arrival.

Like most castles, Windsor Castle is overwhelming first, and incredible second. It amazes me that mere humans erected such gigantic, well-built structures that are still standing in their medieval might.

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The castle is obviously self-sustaining; inexplicably thick walls surround the ‘neighborhood’ contained inside. There’s St. George’s Chapel, a gorgeous gothic church in its own right; the gold-plated, ornate State Apartments; the endless green courtyards and brick and stone that comprise the rest.

Taking photographs inside the buildings is forbidden, as a means to protect the 11th-century oil paintings, hand-carved weapons and gold-gilt walls. We did take quite a few outside of the castle and around its courtyards and cobblestone walkways that capture the mere size and magic of this place.

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Travel Tuesday: Vegetarian in London!

Eating animal-free on the go can be troublesome stateside, but in Europe, it’s a cinch. Even in London, I was amazed by the plethora of plant-based choices at pubs, mom & pop’s, hotels and the like.

Warning: If you’re vegan, it’s a whole different story. Cheese, butter & sometimes eggs are prevelant in meat alternatives. All of these choices are sans-meat, but not all are vegan.

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My first (& one of my favorite) vegetarian meals was at a local pub, recommended by the concierge at our little hotel. There, I immediately spotted vegetarian bangers & mash, a meat-free take on classic English fare. The plate featured yummy veggie sausages (the “bangers”) atop a pile of mashed potatoes & peas. I’m not a huge fan of peas, but the English seem to put them on everything – whether they be mashed, creamed, mushy, or firm. I think I’ve officially hit my lifetime limit of peas. Anyways, I loved that I got to try some English food the veggie way, particularly at the very first pub we went to!

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Thankfully, beer is always a good choice anywhere in the world 🙂 Our trip was off to a really good (animal-friendly) start.

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Just like in the States, ethnic food is an easy way to garauntee that delicious, healthy & plant-based abound. In many cousines, veg dishes aren’t just an accident or tossed in the menu to appease vegetarians – they’re main dishes, delicacies and staples. One of my favorite things on the entire planet is Lebanese food, and local spots were dotted all along London’s quaint streets. I feasted on a Batata Harra wrap, a spicy mix of diced potatoes and sautéed veggies, creamy sauce and hummus. It was so delicious I honestly almost cried! I love pairing spice with creamy, and this wrap was cheap and totally blew my mind.

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Thankfully, we were wise enough to order some baba ganoush, an hummus-type dip made of cooked eggplant, oils, tomatoes, onions and spices. Ours even featured some pomegranate and bell peppers, alongside homemade Lebanese pita bread. Yum!!

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As if the meat-friendly meal couldn’t get any better, it totally did. Every table finishes off with a plate of fresh fruit and varieties of Baklava. Each one was so insanely delish that we were fighting over the crumbs like little kids. My favorite was the one in the back with green filling – an uber-yummy pistachio delicacy.

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Another English staple is the crispy, greasy, fried fish & chips – with, of course, a side of peas. I was stoked to find two different pubs that served up a vegetarian-friendly version. The fish filling is made of a certain kind of cheese, which sounds really odd – but the thick texture of the cheese and fishy seasoning were surprisingly close to the real deal. Again, if you’re vegan, this wouldn’t have been an option, but it’s still a welcome gesture that it’s even offered.

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English tea time: a beautiful, adorable, and necessary food-related experience while on the British isle. Tea time was quaint, cool, and a total blast – and eating meat-free was a cinch. My sandwiches came with peeled grapes & brie, and were arguably the best little sandwiches on the menu. I’m totally going to make these at home, tea party or not. The second tier (you work your way up) was filled with yummy scones and clotted cream, followed by some super-sweet little desserts. If you’re vegan, again, tea time would be a toughie.

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We also stopped by an adorable little French cafe on the river outside of Windsor Castle. We feasted on warm bread, a beautiful pea & pumpkin soup (there’s the peas again!) and this delicious, flaky pastry stuffed with goat cheese, olives, and ratatouille. Yea, you read that right. I’m salivating just writing about it – the flaky pastry and ratatouille combo blew any soup & sourdough Stateside experience out the window.

IMG_0405American airports are known for being crammed with overpriced fast food and mile-long Starbucks lines. To be fair, they have been getting a little better with their food chocies, but still pale in comparison to every experience I’ve had in Europe. The UK was no different – we found ourselves starving & overtired, struggling to pick what and where to eat. Since we were also nearly out of money, we popped into a convenience store and found an awesome combo deal for a drink, wrap & snack. I chose this insanely good wrap and a side of edamame & hummus, coupled with an all-natural, no sugar added ginger rootbeer. Why don’t we have this many healthy, affordable options in the States??

I had an amazing time in England – I honestly can’t wait to go back! And, of course, eat more food 🙂 happy travels!

 

 

 

 

Travel Tuesday: Headed to London!

  
Right now I’m frantically packing for my flight from Los Angeles to London in a few hours. I’ve spent the last week in California visiting my family and doing all the touristy things: eating In-N-Out, hitting up Disneyland, eating Mexican food and doing some awesome beach camping (which, I promise, will be up on the blog soon!)
  
During my stay, my Dad and I have been vigorously training for our upcoming marathon in October. Thankfully, we were able to match pace perfectly (blame it on the genes) and get in some great runs before we take a week or two off while we’re in London with my sister.

I’m beyond excited to conquer a new country. I’d trade anything to be wandering around a European street right now with an espresso in hand and cobblestone under my feet. Thankfully, that will be my reality in a few short hours. I feel so blessed to be able to travel, and have a family that loves to travel with me.

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London’s going through a bit of a heat wave at the moment, so I’m packing tons of mid-length dresses, a few leggings, a single warm jacket and my trusty combat boots and a pair of Birkenstocks. Dresses are seriously the b-e-s-t thing to travel in because they don’t get wrinkled, they’re light and easy to carry, and can be dressed up or down for any situation. They’re also easy-peasy to clean! When it comes to packing, I keep it easy and light (:

Stay tuned for lots of updates on our trip to London! And more California adventures when I’m back from my trip and can catch my breath 🙂 Happy travels & lots of love!

Travel Tuesday: It’s an Addiction

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When life gets tiresome, stressful, and feels like a never ending cycle of work and chores, there’s one thought that comes into my head: I need to travel. Somewhere. NOW.

For me, this happens about every six months. That seems to be my tolerance for the daily grind. Call me spoiled, but I’m just not built for 40-hour work weeks and health insurance plans and car payments and everything that keeps me grounded to this earth. As much as I love having roots here in Hawaii, I never let them stop me from spreading my wings.

Which is why now, sitting at my desk at work, that same thought won’t get out of my head.

I really really REALLY need to travel. It’s time.

884d3e40f31003d2ca6fd2e00a269461Despite my incredibly low (and by low, I mean non-existent) funds, I’m planning a trip to Turkey and then Ibiza in a few months. I don’t care if I don’t have money to eat while I’m there – the one thing I’ve learned about traveling is that most of the struggle is just getting there. The rest usually takes care of itself.

Now that I’m planning this, though, I’m taking a long, hard look at my life. I do love my nice apartment, my new (to me) car, and the structure and stability that staying in one place brings. But the comfort provided only matches part of who I am – and certainly not my true self.

I’m seriously considering jetting off and working abroad for the next few years. I’ve taught English in Cambodia, and only need a few certifications to be fully qualified to do so long-term. I’m young, single, and can easily set my car & bills to be taken care of. Yes, I absolutely adore living in Hawaii. But after such a tough year, I’m thinking it’s time for a change.

For now, I’m hitting up friends and researching my options. Travel is something I truly love – and while Hawaii is certainly its own paradise, I can’t help but seek it out in other corners of this earth.

Till next time,

Nikki

 

Travel Tuesday: Turkey Wanderlust

1a046049e66dd95e56978a1c002f280eLet’s talk about Turkey – no, not the kind you likely overate last week. Today’s Travel Tuesday post is about the country of Turkey, a majestic republic bordered by the Black, Aegean, & Mediterranean Seas.

Rich in beauty steeped in history, this colorful country has been a long-established keystone of global trade, power & politics. Modern day Turkey is no different, serving as an irreplaceable bridge between East and West, the old world and the new.

Going to Turkey – Istanbul in particular – has always been on my bucket list. I’ve had many dreams lately about stepping foot in this place, an alluring mix of cultures, languages, cuisines and histories.

When I find out a good friend of mine is hopefully (fingers crossed!) studying abroad in Istanbul next semester, I was almost more excited than she was. Which naturally translated into many hours spent pouring over Pinterest in anticipation of a visit.

The architecture, the art, the churches and mosques – oh my! And the FOOD. Don’t even get me started about the food. (Turkish coffee, falafel and baklava for one, please!)

If any of you guys have ever been to Turkey, I would absolutely love any advice/must-sees! For the rest of you, here’s a little wanderlust for the week 🙂

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Travel Tuesday: St. Vitus Cathedral

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St. Vitus Cathedral is about as medieval and gothic as it gets. Nestled within the Prague Castle Complex, its numerous spires & towers shoot so high above the walls that it’s often mistaken for the castle itself. Looming eerily above the city, surrounded by the enormous Vtlava river, and cloaked by a stormy sky & encircling bats, St. Vitus certainly looks the part.

St. Vitus is a massive structure of stone arches, gargoyle-adorned spires with all-seeing eyes and fanged mouths. It’s gigantic doors give way to stained glass enamored walls that reach endlessly up to cathedral ceilings. As a mere mortal, I felt about the size of an ant inside it’s stone clutches.

To the left, there’s a two-story jade and ivory organ, dotted with gold and hundreds of pipes; the upper walls and ceilings are decorated with endless crests for the many kingdoms that called Prague Castle home. Completely untouched by both world wars, St. Vitus is one of the city’s grandest, dark treasures.

I can’t wait to go back. I can’t wait to go back. I can’t wait to go back….

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