on my walk
but today I
and took just
on my walk
but today I
and took just
I’m not a scientist, but I’m almost positive something chemical happens in my body when I find a place I truly love. The silly, floppy kind of love. While yes, I have a tendency to set one foot down in a city and declare that I’m staying forever, the electric sensation of being in love has happened with only a few of those cities… and now I’m adding Budapest to that list.
Budapest is enchanting. All the romance of Paris, without the grime (sorry, not a Paris fan…). I was floored at how quickly Budapest became my reality, a reality I adjusted to like nothing I’d ever adjusted to before. I fell into a rhythm of knowing I’d learn something on every single street we walked down. Ever a fussy eater, I simply accepted that I’d never know what the heck I was ordering at any given meal because Hungarian is very, very hard. It was that kind of love, all in one day.
Our Contiki itinerary gave me just one day in Budapest, but that was all it took.
In the morning, my friend and I walked over a mile from our hostel to the Széchenyi Baths, in which we floated about blissfully with people from all over the world. Probably a mildly gross concept, which we ignored, as time became nothing but a fleeting concept once we started splashing around. It took everything we had not to just stay there all day.
We lapped the city at least three times. We passed by St. Stephen’s Basilica, hunted down a Costa Coffee (True American northeasterners; we had to have the coffee. Costa is a British chain. We found one in Krakow, too. Get an iced latte if you do ever find one. I’m ashamed by my inner American, but I do love iced coffee.), tried on the iconic embroidered Hungarian shirts in Nagycsarnok, the Great Market Hall, and stopped in one of Budapest’s adorable cafes (full recap on that here). I think that was what I was most bummed about; there were so many cafes to try, and 24ish hours or so was not enough time to try them all. That, and there’s a big emphasis on vintage clothing and thrifting in Budapest. My carry-on sized suitcase hardly allowed for that either (I may have a slight shopping problem, which was very evident once we got to Italy.).
So no, I don’t actually have a house in Budapest (yet…), but Budapest now has home in my heart. For me, revisiting places internationally tends to happen on a “this opportunity fell into my lap” kind of basis, but I’m breaking that pattern with Budapest.
I could never let all those cafes and vintage stores go untested anyway; I just might need a bigger suitcase next time…
In 2012, I went to Italy for the first time with my family, and I hated Venice.
Right after I’d graduated from high school, my sister and I begged and pleaded to go abroad, and my foodie parents selected Italy. We all loved the food and the culture, but not one of us was big on Venice. It was July, and therefore it was hot, dark, crowded, and confusing. We stuck to St. Mark’s Place for almost the whole day.
On Contiki’s Eastern Trail, we got to spend one whole, incredible day in Venice, which completely changed my perspective.
We were set loose upon Venice with zero plan. My friend and I opted out of the trip’s additional activities for Venice in favor of others at different stops on our trip, but our own personal wanderings gave our fellow travelers a little something to be jealous of.
We picked just any cafe for lunch, mostly because we were ravenous by the time we arrived in Venice, after being squished on our bus all morning (There was a lot of being squished on the bus all morning on our trip, but I kind of love the whole mush-pile tour bus thing? Long bus rides are for deep thought, finding yourself, and unintentionally cuddling with whoever ends up sitting next to you… or for taking intense, mouth-open kind of naps. Whatever floats your boat… because Venice. OK, I’ll stop now.).
Afterwards, we took a lift to the very tippy top of Campanile di San Marco (Eight or nine euros for a breathtaking view. No, I did not cry, but it was definitely one of those “this is actually my life” moments in which I got dangerously close) and very carefully navigated the warped floors of Basilica San Marco to avoid any ankle-breaking. We then spent the afternoon happily lost, souvenir shopping and treating ourselves until we could no longer find any justification for our purchases. We followed the yellow and black signs from Rialto Bridge to Piazza San Marco and back again, before making ourselves at home along the Grand Canal with our loot and two Aperol Spritzes. It was my favorite afternoon of our whole trip, and probably one of my favorite afternoons ever.
We did dinner in reverse and started with dessert, because when you find what you’re looking for in Venice, you do not walk away because you’ll never find it again. Gelato is acceptable for any meal anyway, right? Our backwards dinner were some of the best things I ate, which can be found here.
I found myself exceptionally sad as we boarded the little charter boat back to our bus, as I watched Venice disappear behind us, and as our bus driver drove endlessly around a roundabout so we could finish singing along to a playlist our group had curated. It was a day I’d only heard other travelers tell stories of. One that never felt like it’d ever be mine, and in such a place I had so disliked years before.
But it was mine, and it was pure magic.
LIM College tends to get lost in the sauce in the Hunger Games-esque battle that is New York City universities. With major players like FIT and NYU, it’s easy for it to go unnoticed. I personally don’t know anyone who goes to LIM, but I did get well-acquainted with their resident café, Pickler & Co.
The small café is a sandwich counter and a coffee bar snuggled inside of one of LIM’s Midtown buildings. There’s one big table, about eight chairs, three stools facing the old-fashioned windows, a classic sandwich shop menu, and that’s it.
I ordered a Chicken Tender Wrap: lettuce, chicken fingers, cheddar, honey mustard and a whole wheat wrap. The three people ahead of me and the two behind me (All actual adults on their lunch breaks, for some more context…) ordered exactly the same thing. It was the same kind of sandwich my college best friend and I used to get after a particularly bad week or a tough exam. A kind of comfort food, I suppose, except most of the food in our college cafeteria was one step above, if not equivalent to literal plastic (Admittedly, some days the nostalgia takes hold and I actually miss it…?). Pickler & Co.’s was the real deal.
In the name of a real review, I ordered a coffee too (Really channeling my inner university student here because that would make it my second cup of the day, whoops?). Nothing crazy, just an iced coffee, but a good one. So good, in fact, that I entertained the idea of revamping my mini top coffee shop list. You have a choice to flavor it, if that kind of thing suits your fancy. I’ve been told September means pumpkin-flavored things are socially acceptable again. This one was Caramel…
Thanks, Pickler & Co., for taking me back to my NYC student roots for a hot second. I can’t possibly think of a better use for my lunch breaks.
Pickler & Co.
216 E 45th St
New York, NY 10017
So for the remainder of my D.C. weekend, my cousin and I tried keep ourselves under control. Health food is one of my favorites, so I was totally not opposed when my cousin told me there was local health food café I needed to try before heading back home.
I expected a really tiny place with the usual suspects on the menu: smoothies, salads, and weird substitutes for meat. I was completely wrong. True Food Kitchen is located in what is known as the Mosaic District, an up-and-coming recreation area in VA. It’s a massive restaurant with huge windows, ample seating, and a super expansive menu. Totally floored is an understatement.
From pressed juice cocktails to sweet smoothies, I had so much trouble picking a drink that I sent the wait staff away from our table upwards of three times because I couldn’t make up my mind. I shied away from the matcha, a sister to green tea, because if you ask me, I honestly think it tastes like dirt. Many of my cousins, however, could drink it all day (To each his/her own…). I got a Rise & Shine smoothie. It was a much prettier, much more delicious combination of sea buckthorn, coconut milk, honey, pear, carrot and ginger. Though I didn’t really know what buckthorn was, my smoothie tasted mostly like a creamsicle and I don’t think anything will ever sufficiently match it.
It just got more epic from there. My healthy, amazing-looking spin on lasagna came in a skillet, while my cousin munched on vegetarian miso lettuce wraps (which I tried and found to be surprisingly awesome, by the way). The only thing different about my lasagna from the average lasagna was that the pasta was spinach noodles, and True Food uses ground turkey instead of red meat. You also don’t feel like you might explode after eating it. Otherwise, it was just as good, if not better, than any regular lasagna I’ve ever eaten. Most menu items function in the same manner. Though some get pretty vegetarian-y and a little exotic, most items simply swap out an unhealthy ingredient or two and replace it with something less awful for you (Never fear, meat-eaters and gluten-lovers, not everything on the menu lacks protein and carbs!). Win, win, win all around.
True Food has even revolutionized dessert. My cousin insisted that we had to get the flourless chocolate cake, which was a stellar choice. I’m pretty sure it’s made with just almond butter and cocoa. It also comes bathed in caramel sauce with a healthy scoop of vanilla ice cream (both of which happen to be entirely gluten-free and vegetarian…). Like, what? My mind was just blown, and my taste buds are thrilled to pieces. Can I live here?
True Food has tons of United States locations, listed here. They’re also opening a whole bunch of new locations in the next few months, including one in my home state.
My body is so ready.
True Food Kitchen
2910 District Ave #170 Mosaic District
Fairfax, VA 22031
… With yet another city where the weather sucks about 75% percent of the time and the people have some degree of a bad attitude, but are we really surprised?
My friend and I declared it a mini-vacation, left our laptops in our rooms, and traded NYC for Boston for the weekend. We kicked it off with two (exceedingly awesome) seats to Ed Sheeran’s first and only US stadium show at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA on Friday night (things we’ve been counting down to since literally June…). He is nothing short of incredible live; it’s just him, a loop pedal, and his guitar. To top it off, it was my first night ever in a stadium, and the very first time I’ve ever seen a crowd of just iPhone flashlights light up an area with 50,000 people in it, as if someone had turned the stadium lights on. The night was breathtaking, and for the girl who’s always thinking about her next trip, there was nowhere else I would’ve rather been at that very moment. It was the kind of show that leaves you saying, “Give me five or ten minutes collect my jaw off the floor, and regain my cool, if that’s at all possible” (It’s not. I had no composure for most of the show and most of the evening afterwards, he’s THAT GOOD).
And when we woke up the next morning and had finished recapping the night 700 times, we headed off to spend the afternoon in Boston. Boston was adorable. Having only ever really been once before at about age 11 (I don’t think this summer counts…), this was a treat. A purely walking city, I set one foot down on the cobblestone street and knew Boston was much more my speed than many places I’ve been recently. I fell hard and fast for the stately buildings, the harbor, the history, the flawless weather, their new Primark, and the extensive use of the word “wicked” to describe everything but the Broadway show. I know the perfect autumn breeze doesn’t last forever, but I feel like the New York-meets-London-meets-Copenhagen vibe might. Someone had basically taken all my favorite parts of some of the world’s best cities and stuck them all together, leaving me wishing I had more time to explore (as always…).
I’m aware that most of my posts about cities are more like love letters than anything else, but nevertheless, it felt good to be back on better (less total and complete meltdown?) terms. I’m already planning another visit to really get my hands on everything. Who knows, Boston could be my next big move…
I have to admit that sometimes I have this really bad habit of failing to leave the borough of Manhattan when I’m at school.
Not today, though! I had an interview in Queens this afternoon, forcing me out of my Manhattan bubble and onto a Flushing- bound 7 train. I did, however, completely overshoot how long it was going to take me to get to my interview, which was around the corner from the Queensboro Plaza station.
I ended up being over an hour early, so I decided to find a place to just kind of chill for a while. I learned here that for some strange reason, there are no Starbucks in Queensboro Plaza. I resorted to just taking a quick, 2-block radius lap of the area, and stumbled upon RESOBOX.
I was immediately drawn to their precious red porch chairs and what looked like, from far away, small colorful buoys hanging across the windows. Upon entering, I discovered that they were not buoys, but rather knitted stuffed animals. They covered every wall in the store.
The owner (curator?) was standing behind the counter when I entered. His name is Takashi, and he explained to me that the little animals are actually amigurumi, which translates to “stuffed animal” in Japanese. Creating amigurumi is a custom of those who follow animism, and is considered an art form.
He let me know that the space in which I was standing is actually a Japanese cultural center. RESOBOX has been open for about three and half years, and the artwork that is on display changes every few months or so (the amigurumi have been a big hit, so they have been up longer, and will be up until the end of March). All of the artwork on display is for customers to appreciate and is for sale.
RESOBOX is also a cafe. I purchase a pretty delicious, relatively mild iced green tea, and fight the urge to cuddle with everything. Takashi told me that the exhibit started with 4000 amigurumi, all of which are handmade by 144 different artists from 32 countries around the world, and they have sold approximately 1000 of them since. Not going to lie, they’re pretty darn cute, and I really wanted one.
The owner is a really sweet guy who will answer any questions about the work on display (He also let me pay for my tea with a credit card even though it was well below the minimum, so thank you, Takashi!). He let me in on the next exhibit to go up at RESOBOX, which will be a photo gallery.
Note to self: Leave Manhattan more.
41-26 27th Street
Long Island City, NY 11101
Website: http://resobox.com/ (Cafe menu, hours and social media can be found on the website!)