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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Awesome Austin - Part Deux

As promised, Part Two of my Austin trip!

Sunday, May 24th

Coming off a crazy party night on Sixth Street we weren't feeling too well this morning. We made the hungover decision that Mexican breakfast sounded amazing and found ourselves walking into El Sol y La Luna at Red River Street and 6th St. I had an omeletto while my boyfriend ordered the Huevos Rancheros. I wish my headache/stomache had allowed me to enjoy it more but it tasted like it would've been good if my tongue didn't feel like cardboard. The atmosphere was cheerful, the decor colorful, and the service homey.

From there we took a cab to the University of Texas to see my mom's alma mater. The campus is HUGE. I definitely wouldn't have commited to walking across it had I known. We desperately tried to find a way up to the top of the infamous Tower but apparently tours are only available during the school year. The Tower was the site of a snipping incident and a suicide and has only been open for the past couple years after being closed due to these tragedies.

We lost interest and wandered down to the football stadium and store. The store was filled with pictures of the Longhorns brutalizing the Trojans during the National Championship. It made me want to throw something heavy through the front window so I had to be removed.

Next up was Guadalupe Street which is the home base to buy all things college. There was a yummy frozen yogurt shop where you could create your own dish! There were also some cute boutiques but nothing really caught my interest.

Originally, we had chosen Austin as our Memorial Weekend destination because it coincided with the annual Austin Wine Festival. Once we got to Austin we found so many things to do that we weren't sure we wanted to drive all the way out to where the festival was being held (it's not near downtown). But at this point we had sort of run out of things to do and our hangovers were finally subsiding so it was time to start drinking again. We hailed a cab and headed to the festival.

In retrospect I am SO glad we did. I think the cab was about $40 which is definitely steep but not as expensive as we were expecting. Keep in mind, if you ever go, you can take the metro there but it takes awhile and we are very impatient. The wine festival was awesome and had a wide range of great wines. It has actually converted me to drinking white wine which I used to look upon with disdain. They also had this slushy made with peach flavored wine that was so refeshing and delicious. Eventually it started to rain so we packed back into the cab and went back to the hotel.

For dinner we tried to go the famous Stubb's BBQ restaurant but apparently they close early on Sundays. LAME. So we ended up on Sixth Street at Casino El Camino, famous for burgers. I'm learning that every restaurant in Austin seems to be famous for some type of food. The restaurant was really crowded and first come first serve for a table so we ended up in the outdoor patio, which we actually preferred. The place reminds me of the vampire bar in True Blood. It's dark and smokey with low red lighting and strange tribal drawings on the walls.

I was trying to be open to new foods so I ordered the Amarillo burger with roastes Serrano chiles, jalapeno jack cheese and cilantro mayonnaise. It took forever to get our order but when it came we were happy to see that the burgers were gigantic! Unfortunately, after one bite my eyes, noses, and mouth started watering from the searing hot peppers. You would think that four years of working at Albertsons in the produce department would have taught me the difference between Serrano and Anaheim peppers (although in my defense they look EXACTLY the same). It ended up being so hot I literally couldn't finish my burger. Luckily, the fries were amazing and not hot so I just filled up on those.

To see the full menu click here.

After dinner, we decided to go to Speakeasy, a bar meets concert venue meets club. The bottom floor contains a bar and a stage area, the second floor is more like a landing that looks out over the stage, and then the roof is an outdoor club. We were pretty exhausted and hungover AGAIN so we just sipped beers from the landing and watched some of the music acts that were playing.
I was literally falling asleep in my Heineken so we decided to call it a night.

Monday, May 25th

Today is our last day in Austin and boy have we taken full advantage of our time here. We decided to spend the remainder of our morning before heading to the airport at Cafe Crepe. Run by real life French staff the crepes are both authentic and legit. It took FOREVER to get them though which was kind of annoying. The taste was almost worth the wait - my strawberry, fudge and vanilla ice cream crepe was the perfect breakfast.

It was also the perfect end to the trip.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Awesome Austin - Part One

This blog didn't exist back during Memorial Day Weekend so we're going to go back a few months so I can tell you all about my trip to Austin, Texas. Eventually will have domestic information but for now you can read about it here.

I was in Austin for about three days so I will be telling my in two parts.

Today's blog is Part One:

Friday, May 22nd

We arrived relatively late at night in Austin and took a taxi to the Hilton Austin at the corner of 4th Street and Neches. It is the perfect location with Sixth Street two blocks away! The rooms were really nice with a tasteful southern charm to the decor and plenty of space to sprawl out.

It was pretty late so we strolled Sixth Street looking for something late night to eat. We came across Daddy's Bar & Grill.

The inside of the Bar is a pretty standard bar when you first look in. There are a few flat screens, a couple arcade games, and tall picnic-like tables to sit at. But, then you walk up to the bar and see an array of amazing local brews to choose from and you realize you have just walked into BEER HEAVEN.

Then they serve up a menu chalk full of the fattiest, drippiest, sauciest dishes from jalapeno poppers to chicken wings to "The Coronary," a 1/3 lb. burger covered in cheddar, monterey jack, fried pickles, double bacon and ranch dressing. Heartattack is definitely an appropriate name for it. I personally went with the "Tex Mex" which was a burger with guacamole, cheddar, chopped tomatoes and onions. It was finger-lickin' good.

To see the full menu click here.

After clogging our arteries, we ventured outside into the craziness of Friday night on Sixth Street. If I went based solely off outfit choices I'd say the streets were filled with cowboys, frat boys, and hookers. I felt sorrily underdressed in flipflops and a sundress and wished I'd brought my Boobs-Ass-Legs outfit so that I could fit in with the other girls.

We were waaaay too sober to join in the fun at 12am in the morning so we headed back to the hotel.

Saturday, May 23rd

We woke up this morning to crowds of people headed for brunch and hoped desperately that we would beat them out for a table at the Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill a couple blocks down the street from the hotel.

Moonshine is a really beautifully decorated building that is definitely what you would expect of a bar in Texas. It literally oozes rich mahogany and sunshine and smells incredible even from the patio. The brunch menu ranged from Grilled Jalapeno Breakfast Sausage to Cornflake Fried Chicken Tenders. It was clearly going to be another artery-clogging day.

Having eaten the "California Diet" of greens, soup, and fat free [insert food item here], I tried to find something on the menu that wouldn't make me feel ten pounds heavier. I opted for the Stone-Baked Pizza with goat cheese, artichokes, and roasted garlic which was soooooo good. Goat cheese, artichokes and garlic are literally three of my favorite foods so there was no way I was passing it up.

You can see all their menus on the website at

After brunch we headed down Cesar Chavez St to South Congress, which is well-known for its shopping and of course....more food. The shopping was relatively pricey and not really to my taste so we didn't spend much time in the stores. We did pictures of all the strange food options that line the street in little trailers and stopped by a puppy adoption fair.

From there we backtracked to Barton Springs Road and walked towards the famous Zilker Park. Along the way we passed Sno-Beach, a trailer on the side of the road selling snow cones. The Texan heat and humidity was reaching an all-time high for the day so we gave in and decided to order one.

The menu featured almost 50 different flavor options but I went for a half-in-half lemon/raspberry. They handed me the biggest snow cone I've ever seen. And it was like no snow cone I have ever tasted. Unlike the kind you get at Dodger games or the county fair (rock hard pieces of ice with flavoring dripped over it), these snow cones were made of the softest shaved ice. It was like eating flavored snowflakes and was strangely filling. It also took our internal temperature down a few degrees so that we could continue our walk.

We continued on our way to Zilker and in doing so passed some of the more famous restaurants in Austin including Shady Grove which was my mom's favorite restaurant back when she went to college at University of Texas. I desperately wanted to eat there but we were still digesting our brunch.

On the last stretch to the park we crossed a bridge over a small stream that leads from the Colorado River to Barton Springs Pool. This is a popular area for kayakers to enjoy a sunny day drifting down the stream. It's also super fun to bring a floating cooler of beer. We decided we would definitely be doing this tomorrow.

Finally, we made it to Zilker Park just as the sky opened up and the rain started to come down. The one feature the park seems to be missing is something to stand under when it rains, so we sprinted back towards the row of restaurants for some cover. After calling a taxi to take us back to the hotel, we passed out for a much needed nap after so much walking.

We woke up and perused the internet looking for a good restaurant for dinner. Lately, I've been really into Spanish Tapas so we went with that genre and convienently just such as restaurant was located about eight blocks down the street.

On our way to the restaurant we passed Congress Bridge to see the infamous flying bats. Literally, as the sun disappears below the horizon, thousands of bats emerge from under the bridge and take flight in massive clouds. If you've ever watched the T.V. show, LOST, they make a mass that looks JUST like the Smoke Monster. Apparently, the clouds they create are so dense that they get picked up by radar as rain clouds. I have to say that I was pretty skeptical when I heard this was a major passtime of tourists in Austin but after seeing the spectacle I, too, am now a believer. Note that they are only around mid-March through November. You can even join the Segway tour that spots here along the route.

Watching the bats had made us late for dinner but they honored our reservation anyway. We arrived at Malaga Tapas Bar and were seated near the front windows which gave me an excellent view of the restaurant. The restaurant glowed from the soft lighting creating a very romantic atmosphere.

The menu was amazing and we ordered everything from meat to tuna to chicken. My favorite by far was the
Queso de Cabra Frito con Miel - four goat cheese cakes that are breaded and fried and then served with sweet red onion marmalade and honey. All the dishes come on these little stacks so they don't clutter the table. The wine list is also incredible. We chose to go all out and ordered two of the wine flights: The Spanish Flight and the Blanco Flight.

To learn more about this restaurant or see their menu visit

After dinner we decided to party on the infamous Sixth Street. We started off at the Library Bar near Trinity and 6th, then barhopped around there until we couldn't see straight anymore. The second bar we went to I think was called Cheer's Shot Bar and was my favorite by far. There was an upstairs roof area with a dance floor. My boyfriend even serenaded a lucky Bachelorette with the old BSB favorite, "You Are My Fire." He grossly misrepresented the lyrics but she was too drunk to care. We finally ended up at the Blind Pig Pub (can you tell why we choose this place?) which sadly was dirty than the USC 9-0 even to two drunks so around 3am, we stumbled home and passed out.

The Library

Cheer's Shot Bar

Blind Pig Pub

To see all the bars on Sixth Street visit this site and click on the maps in the left-hand column of links:

For Part Two of this awesome weekend, check back tomorrow!

Unlimited Flights on Jet Blue for a Month

Yes, that's right. Jet Blue picks the busiest month of my life and then taunts me with unlimited flights. For $599, you can fly on any flight any time as much as you want between Sept. 8 and Oct. 8. This might be the first time since the recession started that I wish I was unemployed (just kidding to my boss if you are reading this)! Anyways, have fun galavanting around the U.S. without me :-(

For more information:

Thanks Zack for the heads up on this special!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hotels for South Africa Trip

Below is a little information on the places we will be staying while in Africa.

Cape Grace Hotel - Capetown, South Africa

The Cape Grace is situated on the West Quay of Cape Town's Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. It sports beautiful view of Table Mountain and the Harbour. Built in the French historical style, each room features a lounge area, luxury bathrooms, and French door that open out to majestic backdrops. The Waterfront area has everything from international restaurant to boutiques.

Royal Livingstone - Livingstone, Zimbabwe

Located along the banks of the Zambezi River and is set deep amidst the trees. Each building has sprawling porches and the main hotel has a lounge, restaurant and bar. The swimming pool actually looks like it is a part of the river near the hotel. The swimming pool literally looks up at Victoria Falls. Supposedly you can even feel the spray!

Dulini Lodge - Kruger National Park, South Africa

Dulini Lodge is located within the Sabi Sand Game Reserve and is one of the best
game viewing areas in South Africa, especially for leopards. The property features six stone cottages each with a private deck and pool. Large windows ensure great views of passing wildlife just yards away.
Each cottage has a unique look and have outdoor showers!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Livin' like a Wynn'er

I have finally arrived home from yet another crazy weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada. We booked two nights at the new Wynn casino, Encore, which is an AMAZING hotel. A little known secret... if you book with Southwest Vacations (i.e. book hotel and flight together) you get a cheaper rate AND they will upgrade your room to a suite (if available). They don't actually tell you this, you just randomly show up at the reservation desk and, voila, a sick view and a huge room.

Day One:

After getting in Friday, we head straight for the Encore club, XS. This club is currently the hottest club in Vegas and thanks to some finessed name-dropping we went straight to the front of the line. The boys still had to pay cover but at least we weren't going to stand outside all night (I've never seen the line so long!)

For those of you who haven't been to XS yet, it is everything you could ever want in a Vegas club. It has a centrally located dance floor to ensure that all the bloodthirsty guys sitting at the tables have a full view of choice meat, multiple fully-functioning bars, and a relatively short line for the girls' bathroom. But the best part? The club opens out into the daytime pool area complete with "cabana tables" that you can purchase for less than the ones indoors. If you are lucky you can usually just chill in one until someone comes along and kicks you out.

And the final kicker? You can play Blackjack INSIDE the club at the cabana out by the pool. In five minutes we hit three Blackjacks resulting in the minimum being pushed from $25 to $100. We walked away with $250 profit - I love Vegas.

Our night ended with one of the group passing out on the bathroom floor, another almost getting kicked out of the club, and a third spilling his entire drink down the front of a guy three times his size (whoops). Thankfully we all made it out alive.

Day Two:

Fast forward a couple hours when I woke up feeling relatively refreshed and ready to begin the day off with a giant pool-side daiquiri. We decided to go to the pool at the Wynn as opposed to Encore because there are more chairs, so the odds of getting one at 11am is higher. This also brings to mind another highlight of the Encore casino. As the more exclusive of the two you get special privileges like using your room key to get into either pool and charge to your room from either building. It makes life sooo much easier!

Upon arriving at the Wynn pool, we attempted to jank some of the "reserved" chairs. We made it about an hour before one of the attendants told us we had to pay. Being normal, cheap-skate girls we haggled him down from $400 to $300 for one of the daybeds (can fit four people) and four chairs. There were 8 of us, so for guaranteed chairs next to each other plus free water and Gatorade we only had to shell out 30 bucks each - totally worth it. Three daiquiris, 98 degree weather and lots of topless women later I passed out face first into bed for a 30 minute nap before our dinner reservation.

For dinner we went to Encore's premier steak and seafood restaurant, Switch. Aptly named since while dining the decor of the restaurant changes. There are three different looks that involve changes to the ceiling and the walls. It's also accompanied by mysterious music and lighting.

The food itself was incredible. I had the lamb chops served in a cherry, onion, red pepper sauce with Yukon gold mashed potatoes. My boyfriend rocked the 12oz filet sans sauce which it didn't even need. Unfortunately, I can't comment on the extensive wine list seeing as how I was downing ice water as fast as possible to counter my growing mid-evening hangover.

The next few hours were spent playing BlackJack and Roulette - I made about $16 - not great. We then began another round of prepartying in our room while watching my favorite Pixar classic, Nemo. I forgot how great that movie is! From there we migrated to the Wynn to meet up with friends and found ourselves taking ridiculous pictures.

On to Tryst where yet again our name-dropping got us in the door without the line. The place was packed with people! I seriously have never seen so many people in a Vegas nightclub on a non-fight weekend. Many Jagerbombs later we were dancing shoeless in the middle of the club around a growing pile of purses and shoes.

Around 3am, we had the bright idea to head to, yes, the Rhino. For those of you who aren't slutty guys it's a stripclub. The last time I went to a Rhino stripclub was in downtown L.A. I found myself surrounded by dirty old men watching fat girls trying to climb poles. And I was relatively sober. So, I was pretty prejudiced against these types of places when we piled into the free limo that would take us there.

Who knew stripclubs could be so FUN!?? We had front row seats and the strippers were really nice? I guess that's their job right? In addition (for all you boys reading this), the strippers were very good-looking should you ever find yourself looking for a late night activity. I was thoroughly entertained. In fact they literally had to drag me from the place around 4am.

Luckily I was appeased with a McDonald's hotcake breakfast... three steaming hotcakes that somewhat masked the smell of stripper smoke wafting around me. Unfortunately, I only made it through two before I found myself passing out in a sitting position. I guess at 6am it was time to call it a night.

Thank you, Vegas for yet another unbelievable trip!